Thursday, December 24, 2015

Reality: Merry Christmas from the pastor's family.

As I stand in my living room on Christmas Eve morning, my children are dancing with scarves to Christmas music, and my husband has been gone since before breakfast.  He will join us for lunch and a quick facetime with family from afar, and then be gone until well after bedtime. That is the life of a pastor's family.

Do not get me wrong, here - I would not change any of this for anything.  I am proud of my husband.  I am happy to share him with a world that needs faithful undershepherds.

We all make sacrifices every single day.  It doesn't matter if your husband works in a factory, in an office, or in the church.  Or maybe you don't have a husband.  The fact is, we all sacrifice certain things.  I think it is important for other people to understand about this life, too.  My sacrifices may be very different from yours, but it doesn't mean they are easier or harder.  They are different.

No, we won't be going home for Christmas.
No, we will actually never be going home for Christmas.
Our home is here with our small family, with our church family, and with our iPad for facetiming.

My husband currently has at least four people in the hospital, one person dying in Hospice, and two other members with considerable needs to serve.  Christmas is a joyful time to celebrate our Lord's birth, and yet it brings with it many griefs.  People die.  People get cancer.  People are lonely.  And when the people God gave my husband to shepherd do those things, he suffers next to them and for them.  That is the heart of the pastor.

"Peter, do you love Me?"
"Yes, Lord; You know that I love You."
"Tend My sheep."
(Paraphrased from John 21:15- 16)

Tending sheep involves more than a service on Christmas morning.  It involves much more than preaching a sermon once per week.  I do not remember the last time my husband did not receive at least one phone call while at home from a member who was in need.  And I have no way of counting the number of calls he receives while in the office.

This doesn't mean I want them to stop calling.  Lord, please give them the courage to keep calling when they need him.  He wants them to call.  He is Called to tend and to feed, and therefore, calling him to tell him how he can tend and feed is important.  He has no greater joy in being a pastor than when he is able to tend to sheep in times of need.

God gives great comfort to pastors and their families in this way.
The struggles are real.  The weight is heavy.  The loneliness is dark.

But the peace in Christ is full.  When my husband brings the Word of God to those in need, it also fills him.  When he is full, we are full.

And so this Christmas, be full of peace.
The peace brought to us in the manger and on the cross.
Merry Christmas from one pastor's family.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Reality: When the pew seems more like a trench.

I hear the phrase "being in the trenches" in reference to raising young children.  I have four kids five and under.  I get it.  I know the trench well - it involves lots of mud, bodily fluids, thrown food, blow-outs, and intense screaming.  The trenches are exhausting.

I think that is what makes the Divine Service with children so difficult.  Where God comes to bring comfort, peace, and forgiveness, we bring the trench.  Where I sit to be fed the nourishment to end my hunger, the trench finds a way of distracting the meal.

But the trench needs that comfort, peace, and forgiveness as much as we do.
The trench needs to be fed that nourishment in Word and Sacrament as much as I do.

So, we trudge on and in the midst of it,
we are reminded of our weaknesses,
we are reminded of our own lack of control,
we are reminded that WE are the trench to God.

The trench where He stooped down and took on human flesh.  The mystery of all mysteries.  God became man.

And because He did this, we are free to bring our trench into the Divine Service where it can be molded and fed.

It doesn't mean it will be easy.  My trench is pretty ugly sometimes.  In my four years of sitting in the trench at church without my husband's help, I have experienced all of the following:

- shrieking screams (not me, although I was thinking it in my mind)
- violent body shaking (also not me, but it has been close)
- infant blow-outs (not me, but ON me)
- potty training pee accidents (not me and NOT on me, poor church floor)
- bottlefeeding (including spilled powder formula)
- breastfeeding (including angrily tossed covers or worse - forgotten covers...)
- banged heads, and elbows, and knees, and every other body part (some mine, some theirs)
- temper tantrums (yes, definitely from me, too, I confess)
- dropped approximately 10,000,000,000,000 toys, crayons, books, etc. (anyone know a toy can roll for approximately 10,000 more feet than normal under pews?)
- a toddler who was a runner (and a mother who was quicker than lightening at grabbing shirt collars)
- a pre-schooler who was a clinger (and a mother who prayed for one moment of no touching)
- inappropriate words at loud volumes (I plead the 5th on who those came from)
- broken beaded necklace that made little pings and rolling bead noises all over the church (don't jewelry makers understand that a necklace must be able to hold the weight of a determined toddler swinging from the make believe vines of Mommy Forest?)
- ripped hymnal pages (ugh, just ugh...nothing like the sound of ripping paper as you think, "OH, no, everyone just heard the PKs rip that hymnal...)
- a few appropriately placed "Amen"s and "Lord have mercy"s (AMEN! and most certainly LORD HAVE MERCY!)
- a couple moments of quiet (THANKS BE TO GOD!)
- an open hymnal on a child's lap (SOMEBODY QUICK, GRAB A CAMERA! You know, before he rips it.)

But through all this I have learned a few things.
Here are my words of wisdom for all you trench-dwellers.

*Note - I am no expert.  If you saw me on any given Sunday, you would probably think, "Where does that lady get off giving advice?"  But it never hurts to share some trench tactics.  So, here you go.

The single greatest thing I have learned over the years is that LESS is MORE.  I used to pack my bag full of all sorts of entertaining gadgets, toys, crayons, snacks, and activities.  The more I took, the more there was to manage.  Now, I take three pieces of gum reserved for sermon time, three one dollar bills for the offering time, and each child chooses one book before we leave the house, and they are responsible for it.  Oh, and one carrier/nursing cover for the baby - the only entertainment needed for her at this time.  If I am attending both of my husband's congregations, I bring one snack bag for each kid for the second service.  Two services?  They deserve a reward, amiright?  The days of being a pack-mule for church are over for me.  And it is glorious.  No fighting over all the stuff, no loud toys banging on the floor or pew, and less weight on my shoulders.

The second greatest thing I have learned is to prepare the kids a little in advance.  It doesn't have to be much.  I happened to be married to the pastor, so I can often find out hymn selections in advance.  If you aren't married to the pastor, I can almost place money on the fact that a phone call to him asking the hymn selections for you to practice with kids would be the single greatest call he ever received.  Singing the first verse over the course of the week really helps them recognize it.  They are so joyful when they say, "Mama, we sing this at home!"  If my husband mentions the texts or sermon to me, I try to use some of those words with the kids.  It helps build their theological vocabulary and gives them something to latch onto during the service.

Third, I have hand signals.  We made them up together.  I can say "turn around, bottom on your seat, close your mouth, listen, stand, and hands to yourself" without saying anything (which inevitably ends with actually making more noise).  Build your own sign language.  And practice it.

My last piece of advice is to be prepared with hidden chocolate at home for when all the tactics end in your loss of the battle.  You will need it sometimes.

Eat the chocolate, and then remember that God doesn't depend on you, your actions, or the actions of your children to do what He says He does in the Divine Service.

He feeds you...He forgives you...He teaches you...

Whether or not you can recall even just one line of that sermon.

Trench on, beautiful mamas and papas.  This trench/pew is one worth diving into.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Reality: Your Arguments Just Won't Fly with Me

I live everyday of my life with a person who was not planned by his birthmother.  I raise, love, discipline, and watch one of these people grow every single day of my life.  I have signed my name to court documents saying that I will continue to do this until he is of legal age (and probably much longer).

So, when you sit behind the safety of your computer screen and share edited facts about how "only 3% of Planned Parenthood's work is abortions," you just simply cannot understand me.

Your arguments just won't fly with me.

My son could have easily been part of that 3% (or hundreds of thousands of babies), and your argument would be, "Yeah, that was his birthmother's choice, but she could have chosen an abortion, too."  Some of you follow that up with, "I am glad she didn't, but it was her choice to make."

I don't curse, but if I did, it would be right here...

Your arguments just won't fly with me.

I mother this child because of the choice his first mother made.  And that choice was not and should never be one between "kill him or have him," but between "choose to raise him or choose the ones who raise him."

She chose to choose us, and never have I ever been so honored.  Adoption is not all rainbows and butterflies.  There is true hurt involved in all parties, but that hurt is one we feel because we love from every side.  And yes, someday my son will know his entire story and he will feel pain with that, but thanks be to God that he has been given a story to know and learn and feel.

And because he has been given that story, hundreds and probably thousands of others have been positively impacted in just his short five years.

He is not just a number - a single life in the hundreds of thousands that could have been a part of a "little" percentage to be thrown around like it is insignificant.

He is a person.
A life.

One that hurts, and loves, and gives, and takes, and sins, and repents, and obeys, and dishonors, and brings joy, and brings heartache, and laughs, and cries, and lives.

And that is why your arguments just won't ever fly with me.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Reality: On Shots and Pee Cups

Today was Solomon's five year check-up at the doctor.  I failed to mention to him that it was going to result in some shots.  I know there is a debate out there about whether or not to do shots and whether or not you should prepare your kids for said shots should you choose to partake in them.

This post isn't anything about that.  This post is about the most hilarious story in the history of ever. So, prepare yourself...

Nearing the end of the regular appointment, no one had used the "S.H.O.T.S." word, and the doctor was headed out the door and said, "Great to see you today.  Just wait here and a nurse will bring in the...well, you know."

Solomon's eyes got huge and turned to me when the doctor left.  He said, "What?  Who is going to bring what?  What are they bringing in here, Mommy?  Mommy?  Mommy?"

Me: "Well, Solomon, a nurse is going to bring some medicine so that you can stay healthy."
Solomon: "Oh, OK, Great!"

Nailed it.

Except that in walked the nurse carrying an empty cup.  She said, "Actually, we are going to need a urine sample before going on."

I laughed, as this was going to be the S man's first pee-in-a-cup experience.  I hope anyway.  I know he hasn't done it for medical reasons, but he is a boy, so he may have peed in a cup before at some point that I thankfully do not know about...


I said, "Come on, Solomon," grabbed the cup, held his hand, and headed toward the bathroom.  When I closed the door he looked at me and said, "What are we going to do with that cup?"

I said, "Well, you have to pee in it."


Solomon: "What? I have to what?"
Me:  "You have to pee in it."

He turned white as a ghost and looked up at me with wide eyes and said, "Mama, is THAT going to be my medicine?"

When I tried to tell this story to the nurse, I couldn't make it through that line.  When I tried to tell this to my mom on the phone on the way home, I couldn't make it through that line.  When I got home and told my husband, I still couldn't make it through that line.  And now typing, I couldn't make it through that line.

"Mama, is THAT going to be my medicine?"

Poor guy.

I had told him the next lady was coming to bring him his medicine, and the next lady brought him that cup.  So, obviously, guys, whatever was going in that cup was clearly his medicine.

The lucky part about the whole thing is that after that, he barely made a peep about his ACTUAL shots.

I mean, things could have clearly been worse than THAT medicine.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Reality: Dear Solomon

Dear Solomon,

Five years ago today marked the day when you were born.  We had lost a child in a complicated adoption world, experienced the death of our first child in utero, and were convinced God was telling us that kids were not a part of His plan for us anytime soon.

Then, there was you.

Many believe your name means "wisdom," and while King Solomon was gifted with wisdom, his name actually means "peace."  Before Solomon was born, King David committed a grievous sin with Bathsheba and bore a child together.  When Nathan confronted King David with the law and his sin, King David repented, but with this sin came the loss of that child.  He mourns this loss greatly and speaks the undeniable and joyous truth of, "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."  Such great comfort has been given to my soul with those few words from King David's mouth.  For our first biological child will not return to us, but we shall meet again.  Following this tremendous loss in King David and Bathsheba's lives, God gifted them with Solomon.  He gifted them with peace.

This is how you got your name, our son.  And while we know that real peace is only found in Christ, we are thankful for the many and various ways God gives earthly peace to our hearts.  You are that, our son.

So, to you on your fifth birthday, peace, son.  May you always know what your life did in that moment for us and continues to do every day God blesses the world with you.  Being a person who was adopted, there will be trials you will face that others do not.  But never for one moment do I want you or anyone else to think that God didn't have a plan for what your life would do in this world.  You were fearfully and wonderfully made, knitted in your birthmother's womb, and given to us.  You were planned, as every single child is - not in the minds of mere humans but in the eternal knowledge of God.  All this was with purpose and meaning.

Every life, no matter the length, circumstances, or worldly success, has purpose and meaning.  Every life is one for whom Christ died on the cross, bringing real peace to the whole world.  You are one of those lives, son.

You, our son, are a gift from God.  Today we thank Him for the plan He had and has in your short-but-going-too-fast life.

Your Mom

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Reality: The Loss of our Pew Mom.

Three years ago this week, my husband had just been ordained and installed, and I found myself alone in the pew with two boys under the age of two.  As I walked in that first week after the ordination, the nerves were flowing.  I made my way up to the fourth pew, a close enough seat for the boys to see but still a buffer from their daddy pastor.  I was thinking to myself, "I hope I don't sit in someone's seat that has been here for 55 years...I hope my kids don't scream the whole time and try to run to daddy...I hope I can make it through this and possibly still hear the sermon. Heck, I hope I don't start crying at this very moment."

As I turned into the pew, a woman from across the aisle stood up and came towards me.  She said, "Would you mind if I sit with you?  I thought you might like someone in the pew with you with those little boys.  I wouldn't want you to be alone."

And so my relationship with Miss Betty White began.  She flew in that Sunday morning like an angel sent to sooth the fears of a pastor's wife with littles in the pew.  For the next three years, with barely a failure, she sat there in that pew with us.  She didn't judge me when they threw fits.  She didn't get discouraged when they inevitably were rude to her about something.  She brought them a little snack bag each week.  She held them on her lap.  She acted as a bookend on the pew when all they wanted to do was escape.  She sang the songs of the faith boldly into their ears.  She held them while they slept.  She held their hands while taking Communion.  She welcomed our new daughter and greatly anticipated our upcoming blessing to join us in that crazy pew.

A woman who had spent her whole life in the church chose to leave her pew, even her beloved SIDE of the church, to venture into a territory unknown with small children.  A unmarried woman with no children of her own found value in aiding me, a woman with an abundance of children.  The family of the church is so beautiful.

Last Sunday, the churches threw a surprise ordination anniversary dinner for my husband.  She walked up to me and said, "I know this is for your husband, but I want you to know it is for you, too.  I love you and the kids so much.  We are so happy you are here with us.  You and your husband are two of my favorite people in the world.  And I mean that."  I was so humbled and honored by her words.  The woman who went out of her way for three years to make me feel included and loved would say this to me?  I needed to say it to her.

I couldn't have known and neither could she what those words would mean to me just a few short days later.  Miss Betty, our "pew mom," as the children refer to her, died unexpectedly this week.  The ache in my soul is great.  The empty space in our pew will be vast tomorrow and every Sunday to come.

During our breakfast devotions this morning, we told the kids.  They have never lost a grandparent, and this is the closest they could come to that type of loss.  Since they are all very young, death is still a relatively unclear subject.  Our oldest said, "Miss Betty died?"  We said, "Yes, Honey.  Miss Betty died and is in heaven with Jesus now."  He just stared for a few moments, and we decided to go on with our prayers.  Today's prayers were focused on our extended family.  When I finished listing the prayers, he quietly said, "And we pray that we get to see Miss Betty at Mt. Calvary again."

My heart broke.

But we will see Miss Betty again, my dear son.
And we get that joy because of what happened on the original Mt. Calvary.
Until then, our dearest beloved Miss Betty, we will be missing you, while rejoicing in knowing that with all the company of heaven, including you, Saint Betty, we are joined at Holy Communion.

And I will smile thinking of you holding the hands of our children during so many Sundays of Communion.  You will hold their hands again, my friend.  I love you.  I miss you.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Reality: When the black church burns...

Back in the height of the Civil Rights Movement, our small black church called a pastor into their midst.  This man was white, like many of their pastors over 115 years have been.  Within a few weeks, a cross was burning in the parsonage yard.  The details of what followed are not important and unnecessary for me to share.  

The point is fire and the church means something real to black Christians in the United States.  

It would be ignorant for us to ignore such an historical and violent truth - black churches were burned all over our country because of the color of the skin of those who attended, white people who loved and supported the people in black churches found crosses burning in their front yards simply because they would not comply with the notion that black people were worth less.

In the past couple weeks, there have been eight fires at southern black churches.  None of these fires have been ruled "hate crimes" (whatever that means, as any fire started intentionally by a person is clearly due to some sort of hate...), but all of them are still being investigated.  Many out there in the social media world have a tendency to act as though it makes a difference whether or not the powers that be designate these as acts of racism. 

The fact is that whether or not they are organized acts of racism does not change the impact on the black community and black churches.  

It is impossible to take away the memories of what has transpired over our tumultuous history.  You can't erase it and think it won't impact people later.  This is not some post to talk about the pros and cons of reparations or affirmative action or any other form of trying to make a level playing field or paying back for past hurts.  

The truth is there is no paying it back.  

The point here is to encourage people to see that even if a lightning bolt started the fire, a black congregation cannot watch their church burn without the memories of what that meant to them and their parents and their grandparents.

Can we stop the lightning bolt?  Of course not.  But we can honor the memory and support those who are hurting as they watch their place of worship be destroyed.  And most importantly, we can stop coming up for reasons why this isn't racism.  

"Could be a black person just trying to get people riled up about racism again."  
(Yes, I may have read the comments section under a news story...forgive me.)  

And what if it was a black person?  Perceived racism is just as hurtful to a community as actual racism.  It still creates fear, hatred, animosity, uncertainty, and a need for revenge.  It still divides.

And yet again, for the people watching their house of worship go up in flames, the cause just doesn't matter very much.  Our society is at a perfect storm moment between heightened acts of racism and a general hatred for the church and what it stands for.  Our black brothers and sisters in Christ are hurting.  

Our pastor, who I happened to be married to, has a line he uses in many of his sermons (I am not nearly as eloquent as him, but this is my best shot) - "Sin divides while Christ unifies; where Satan and sin would have us be separated on all levels - from God and from each other, Christ brings us back to the Father and to each other."  

There is no repaying for burned churches.  There is no repaying for past sins.  There is only Christ.  In Him, we are unified.  And because we are unified in Him, we fall to our knees with them as we watch our churches crumble and pray, "Lord, have mercy."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Reality: I am not Black, but I am Christian and a Person

I am not black.  I am not a white person who identifies as black (apparently you can do that these days).  I AM a white woman married to a white man who has been the pastor of a black church for three years.  We are also the white parents of a black child.  We are also all Christians.

Last night, our church was hosting a summer reading program for community youth followed by our regular Wednesday night Bible study and service.  We were gathered around God's Word just like any other Wednesday around here.  Meanwhile, our brothers and sisters in Christ just south of us were gathered around that same Word.  My church family thankfully went home refreshed and filled with the Gospel; while our extended church family was dealing with the aftermath of a horrible crime against them as people, as black people, and as Christians.  I praise God from whom all blessings flow that those who were murdered in such a fashion are now with Christ, but I mourn for the rest of their earthly families and their extended church families across the country.

Given our unique situation in a southern black church, I just felt the need to talk to all of you for a few minutes - to open my heart and mind in an honest fashion.  I can't say that what I am about to write will be beautiful, but I can say that it will be real.  I pray that these words are accepted as they are meant to be - the mournful thoughts of a Christian woman who has learned so much in the past three years in this black church and community and the past five years with our black son.

For the past three years, I would venture to guess that not a single week has gone by that I didn't have a passing thought and fear about my husband being shot.  Now, this may seem pretty common for a policemen's wife or a military spouse, but for a pastor's wife in the U.S.?  How ridiculous are my emotions that stem from my lack of trust in God?

I fear a racist white person who can't believe the ignorance of that white man who hangs out with black people.

I fear a racist black person who can't believe the audacity of a white man to think he can lord it over black people like that.

I fear anyone who can't believe those idiots think they can raise a black child.

I fear.
I don't trust.
I look at the world around us, one so filled with hatred, and I collapse a little inside.

And you know what?  I may not be black or even identify as black, but I can identify with a little of that life fear.  I can't know what it is like to grow up black.  I can't know what it is like to hear about yet another one of my race's members being shot - by someone of my race or another, with just causes or not.

I can't know.
After three years, I can tell you that I know it so much more than I ever did before; and yet the more that I know it, the more I understand I will never know it.  In so many ways, the black community has many reasons to fear this world and be angry at the injustices.

So, where can black Christians turn for solace from such hate?
Where we all need to turn - Jesus Christ alone.
And that is what makes this current crime so unimaginable to my weak and beaten heart.  For when a group of black Christians joined for the healing of God's Word, they were attacked.  Their color was attacked and their Christianity was attacked.  A doubly horrible hate crime.

Many have questioned why we need "black churches" in our country.  Explaining the history of such a deep rooted issue is not the scope of my thoughts today, but I will say that black churches are not different from many other churches.  We are a community of people who are related, live close, and invite those we have connections with in our lives.  In general for our church members, that involves being part of the larger black community.  So, members are black.  And there is great comfort in knowing those around you can understand your life and fears in a deep way.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that unless it is an exclusive black-only or white-only or whatever-only group that wouldn't allow someone of a different race.  Christianity is for all races and peoples, and our church welcomes all (by seen in the color of their pastor and family).

However, as a regular attender of a black church, I can tell you that the sight of white people is rare and noticeable.  There is an unsaid (and sometimes said) feeling of, "White people don't come back."  This usually holds true, and I don't mean to judge white people for this, either, because as I stated before, there is comfort in fitting in where you worship.  And although I am not privy to any information in the murder of our fellow Christians in South Carolina, and I have no idea if the man who committed this crime had attended before or if he was a stranger, I can tell you that some black Christians throughout the country will be feeling the tinge of fear associated with white strangers for awhile.  Church loses some of its comfort in fear.

But while we can't assure anyone of even a church without racist people, because racism exists in places where you find sinners (in church and not in church), it is the place we find Christ, the One who died for all races.

So, to you, frightened black Christian, know that I may not be the same color as you on the outside, but I do recognize and acknowledge your fears.  They are real on this earth.
Amazingly, what is even more real is Christ's death and resurrection for all sinners, of which I am the chief.

The Church is where you find the forgiveness of sins, the Word, Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the joy of fellowship of believers.  The Church is where you find those who pray for their enemies - even those who murder us for our beliefs or our skin tone.  The Church is where you find your brothers and sisters in Christ.

And only there, you can still find His solace - a peace which passes all understanding.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Reality: Wait on the Lord

In reading an article written about God making us wait for our prayers to be answered, I found myself hoping and anticipating for so much more than what was given.  Feel free to read it to give yourself some context as to what I am referring to, but do not take that as my endorsement of the whole article.

The author begins with this:

"Jesus could have come and healed Lazarus when he was still alive.
Instead, He waited to raise him from the dead when he was already in his grave.

God could have made David become king the day after he was anointed.
Instead, He waited 15 years to rise to the throne, many of those years spent fearing for his life, hiding out and running away from his own father-in-law.

God could have spoken to Moses in the desert about sending him to help free His people from slavery 40 days after he ran away from Egypt.
Instead, He made him wait for 40 long years.

God could have gotten Joseph out of prison one year after he was sentenced there.
Instead, he was stuck in that dungeon for 10 years before he was finally set free.
God could have given Abraham the son He promised him when he was still a young man.
Instead, He waited until he was 100 years old and because of physical reasons would have a more difficult time conceiving at that age.

God could have answered prayers and met the needs of these men of God much quicker, but He didn’t."

While all this is true, the author goes on to use these people as examples of why God is making us wait in our prayer life.  The connotation being that the thing in which we are praying for will eventually come if we keep praying for it.

In fact, what these events from the Bible do is exactly what our prayers should do - point us to Christ.

Everything in human history leading up to Christ's death and resurrection was leading toward and pointing to the Messiah.
When Christ lived on earth prior to His crucifixion, all the moments of His life were leading toward and pointing to Him as true God and Man, the eventual sacrifice in our place.
After His ascension into heaven, the rest of human history still points toward Him.
That is the way we must read the Bible - Christ as the center and direction of all of history.

Are these true stories from the Bible good illustrations of waiting?  Yes.

But they are not illustrations of waiting on our prayers to be answered; they are signs that our prayers have been answered in Christ - the Messiah who came, is coming, and will come again.

When we start to say things like the author of this article does -

"If He is telling you 'no' today, maybe it's because He has a better 'yes' waiting for you tomorrow.
If He is keeping you in the same place you've always been today, maybe it's because He's helping build your faith before you enter your Promised Land tomorrow.
If He is not healing you or bringing you victory today, maybe it's because you will have a greater testimony when He waits to help you be an overcomer tomorrow...
Don't give up just because you don't see anything happening today."

- we make ourselves like God (or like Job's friends), making our will what we are actually waiting for instead of His will, and we turn away from Biblical truths and instead to motivational speeches.

The fact is He may not give us what we desire.  The hard truth is we may feel like we are waiting in anguish for our entire lives.  The earthly answers given to those men in the Bible are signs of Christ and God's promises.  As Christians, we are thankful for their fulfillment as they lead us to Him, but we are not God, and many times our will is not His.

Does this mean we stop praying for our desires?  By no means!

God hears the prayers of those who call on His Name.
God tells us to cry out to Him.
Christ stands as our Mediator, perfecting our prayers as they reach His ears.

We indeed know this to be true; and therefore, we keep dropping to our knees and pleading for mercy.  Not because we know tomorrow may be brighter, but because we know what has already been accomplished for us through Him and who He is for us now.

But I have to admit tomorrow will be better - when He appears and we shall see Him as He is.
Tomorrow will be better - as He may not change the outward circumstance, but does promise to change our inward anxiety into a peace that passes all understanding.
Tomorrow will be better - as we pray for Him to continually reform our will to line up with His good and gracious will. 

These men of the Bible point us to Christ and to the truth that God is faithful to His promises.
That is the faith of those great men.

A faith given by God and sustained by those sinful men and in sinful me who hates waiting.
A faith He sustains until the final day when all the pain and suffering of this life will be gone, and I won't have to wait anymore.
A faith that crumbles inside my sinful body in times of great despair, and yet stands firm with Christ, who didn't wait on me, but died for me while I was yet His enemy.
A faith that brings us to sing as we wait,

"Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Helper of the helpless, Lord, abide with me."
            - Abide with Me, Henry F. Lyte, 1847

A faith that knows that He indeed does abide with me as I wait.
A faith that keeps pointing me and leading me back to Christ so that I know who I am waiting for.

A faith that recognizes these present truths and the ones I await -

I am raised from the dead just like Lazarus,
I will be crowned just like David,
I have been lead out of slavery and will be brought into the Promised Land just like Moses, who did receive his eternal Promised Land,
I am set me free just like Joseph,

AND all this because I have been given the Son He promised just like Abraham.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Reality: I don't enjoy every minute.

"You will never have this day with your children again.  Tomorrow they'll be a little older than they were today.  This day is a gift.  Just breathe, notice, study their faces and little feet.  Pay Attention.  Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today, it will be over before you know it."
~Unrealistic platitude with unknown author

Many wiser (and older) women seem to share phrases, quotes, or memes with similar contexts - your children are only little for a short while, and this time will never come again, so enjoy every minute.

I think there are some really great points about this type of thinking that should be taken to heart as a younger and less wise mother, such as myself.  The fact is I don't often remember to just enjoy my children's curiosity.  I don't relax and breathe through the tough moments.  I actually choose to completely ignore my children more often than I should and more often than I want to.  I don't look at my days as gifts when I haven't showered or left the house...or maybe even more when I haven't showered and yet been forced to leave the house.  I already see my oldest (4) as a grown child, and I have no idea how he got there - his little feet aren't so little anymore.  The time has been over before I even knew it.

There is wisdom in those thoughts.  I need to remember them as I trudge through the monotonous trenches that are raising all littles all the time.


It is unwise to give such advice, comments, and statements without a recognition of the obvious -
Some days and some moments all we want as moms is for it to be over before we know it.
All we want is for them to be a little older than they are today.
Some days feel like the gifts you receive from someone who doesn't actually know you or your desires at all.
Some days are UNenjoyable.

And when we are in those moments, platitudes about how wonderful our lives are now and how much we will miss it someday don't give us hope or encourage us.  In fact, they do the opposite.

Although, even though all my children are young, I am beginning to forget some of the worst days.  Some battles you face as a parent are better off forgotten, and somehow that happens.  You begin to remember those days as a quick passing and remember the good moments - the moments where you were able to relax and breathe and just study their little features and their little minds.  And I truly believe that the older and wiser moms and grandmas who share such quotes are at a place where they have forgotten those trenches and realize that they pass quickly from your mind once they are over.

Those trenches of motherhood were real to them in the moment, too.  We all have them.  And I, for one, am glad to know that even through the trenches, these women remember the joy.  I want to remember all the joyous moments, because they are plentiful.  I want to relish in the moment, and when I have my worst ones, I want to know that someday I won't remember that part.

But I also want to be the older and wiser grandma who looks at my daughter(s) and daughters-in-law and says,

" is HARD, isn't it, honey?  I know.  I remember.
AND isn't it wonderful?  I know.  I remember.  You will, too.
Now, you go get some coffee by yourself while I relax, pay attention, examine their little feet, and relish in the charms of the present."

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Reality: Sex is Better than a Smartphone

At my regular OB appointment for this pregnancy, I was perusing the provided Parents magazine in the waiting room.  This is what I saw in big, bold letters in a box meant to grab everyone's attention:

4 in 10 moms would rather go without sex for a month than give up their smartphone.

This statistic was backed by a Parents magazine survey and article titled, "Millenials Amplified: The Mom Factor."  I didn't look it up or read more into it.  I really didn't need to.

I won't even begin to go into how reputable I believe this type of survey to be, because frankly, it doesn't matter.  The point is that there is a prevalent thinking in our culture that sex isn't really for women and more of a prize to be given to men when they are good.  

This is a harmful and incorrect view of sex.  It harms marriages.  It harms men. It harms women. It harms families.  It harms single people.  It harms society.

So, what do we do?  Well, some pastors write provocative sermons about "40 Days of Sex" or some other eye and ear-catching title, where they tell married couples to have sex everyday for 40 days.  And while I certainly think pretty good things could come from a married couple having sex everyday for 40 days, the point about sex is really lost when we make it a law to be fulfilled everyday.  

Does God tell us to have sex with our spouses?  Yes.  

"The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.  For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.  Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."  1 Corinthians 7:3-5

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."  Genesis 2:24

"And God blessed them.  And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth..."  Genesis 1:28

But does God give us sex with our spouses as a gift?  Yes.

"Let your fountain be blessed, 
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, 
a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love."
Proverbs 5:18-19

Or just read all of Song of Solomon and try not to blush.  A few examples - 

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine."
Song of Solomon 1:2

"Awake, O north wind,
and come, O south wind!
Blow upon my garden, 
let its spices flow.
Let my beloved come to his garden,
and eat its choicest fruits."
Song of Solomon 4:16

The fact is that in this world, we try to make what God gives us as gifts into laws and we try to make God's laws into something that we can pick and choose.  Both of these hurt us and our relationships.  God's laws and God's gifts are equally good, and sometimes one in the same - His laws are gifts.

God doesn't say to us that sex in marriage is for when we feel passionate for one another.  He doesn't tell us it is for only when we haven't sinned against each other.  He doesn't say it is for the days when you aren't annoyed about something to do with your spouse.  

He says you are one flesh.  That one flesh being a law and a gift.  So, the desires of your husband's or wife's heart and body are, in fact, your desires.  

So, if those 4 in 10 women who would prefer to give up sex over their smartphone are single, more power to them.  Thanks for choosing the right path.

But if you are married, I encourage you to put the smartphone down for a little while, maybe even everyday, to be "intoxicated always" (Proverbs 5:19) in your husband or wife.  

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Reality: There is more to pro-life than clicking "share."

Abortion is hands-down one of the sickest atrocities our world has ever encountered.  The killing of human life for the gain of self is a god unlike any other.

It says our lives and our wants are more important than another human being's.

It is the ultimate form of segregation and ageism and sexism and racism and classism and discrimination.

It says a different group of human life is less important.
It says humans who are younger than us are expendable.
It says that if the sex of another doesn't fit your lifestyle, then you can kill them.
It kills way more of certain races than others, and pretends it doesn't happen that way.
It preys on the poor who feel they have no other option.
It tempts the rich who feel they don't want that kind of lifestyle.
It kills the weak or disabled because of fear in caring for them.

It is evil.

We should all be sharing everything we can about how disgustingly evil it is, because group-think matters.  The culture needs to know there is a huge uprising of young and old, churched and unchurched who do not stand for this.  Share and share alike, please.

Click share.  Please.

But we have to take a minute to step back from our easily seated computer chairs and think about what pro-life means in the world.  The statistics are out there - millions of babies are killed all the time...thousands per day.  There is a lot of human life to care for and raise in those millions of babies.

Now, the truth is that many of those children would not even exist if abortion was unavailable, as full-term pregnancies would slow the rate of multiple abortions, miscarriages and stillborn babies would sadly end the lives of some, early death from diseases may occur for ill children, and people's sexual activity choices would ultimately have more consequence and change some behavior.

But that does not and will not account for all the millions.  We have to be serious about more than just hitting a share button about how bad abortion is.  There is work to be done for those women, men, and children who are hurting in unbelievable situations, facing pregnancies with stories that could fill biographies.

Changing a culture's mindset about abortion is vitally important,
caring for that changed culture in its birth pains is a vital follow-up.

Putting our money where our mouth is.  Putting our actions where our shares are.

It means donating funds to pregnancy centers, it means giving to organizations who support families, it means considering adoption and foster care for your family, it means buying a pack of diapers for that single mom you know, it means encouraging that man you know to love and care for the mother of his child, it means giving of your time to relieve burdened single mothers or fathers, it means supporting serious, manageable, and pro-life healthcare options with your votes.

It means a lot of things.  It means loving life - loving in the sense of showing action in caring for it. That is pro-life.

Don't know what to do?  Start here.
Donate money to any of these places:

Bethany Christian Services 
This is the organization we adopted through and they provided counseling and services for the birthmother.

Swaddling Clothes
A great organization providing monthly help to young families.  Just contact whichever location you would like to donate to from the list.  If you are local to them, they take all sorts of gently used items.  If not, they always need money for diapers, formula, or other items.

A Place of Refuge
Read about them.  They are awesome and found in southern Wisconsin.  They provide a home for women facing pregnancies with challenges.

- Ask your pastor about local pregnancy resource centers you can donate to.
- Give a donation to a friend or acquaintance who is adopting.
- Give food to food drives.
- Send an anonymous gift or money order to someone you know who is facing an unexpected pregnancy or a young parent struggling financially.

Just look for opportunities to support life.  Those opportunities are abounding.  And if we get what we want and what is right - the end of abortion - there will be more opportunities to support even more precious lives.  What a joy to be surrounded by such opportunities!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Reality: It is okay to be someone's dependent.

Our culture is obsessed with independence, so much so that the notion of being dependent on another is considered archaic, old-fashioned, and just too risky to handle.  But really it is only considered these things when you are talking marriage, because our culture finds dependence on government, credit and loans, and other various things acceptable and a part of life.  But dependence on a husband?  Oh no.

I admit it can be scary.  There are risks involved.  I am completely dependent upon my husband.  I earn no money, I have no self-provided insurance, I am pregnant with another child, and I don't take out the trash or change cat litter.  My life would be in turmoil should I lose him (and for more reasons than just those).  And I am certainly not only discussing if I should lose him in death.  Because marriage comes with a risk - a risk that the oath made by one can be broken.

But that is a Christian marriage.  We believe we become one flesh when God joins us together.  The risk of marriage is real.  There is a pretty sure 100% chance that you will be hurt at some point, the amount of hurt may vary, but no one escapes some pains of this one flesh union.

But if we really consider what we say when we say "one flesh," we can simply look at how we treat our own flesh.  Our flesh fails us, daily and much.  It aches, it does not perform the way we hope and pray it will, it lets us down in times of need, and it just plain acts like flesh.  But when it does these things, we don't run to the doctor and say, "Go ahead and cut off my arm, because it has really been a pain in my neck...I am tired of dealing with it."  Of course not.  We run to the doctor and say, "How can you help me?  I need my arm.  I am dependent on it.  I need to have a good relationship with it."

And not because it always treated you well, but because it is your flesh...the one God gave you.  You cherish it and fight for it and defend it.  You depend on it.

And you know what the joy of marriage is?
That arm depends on you, too.

Being dependent on someone does not make you less than them.  It does not mean you are worth less in the relationship.  It does not mean you are weak.  It means you understand being one flesh.  It means you take that arm to workouts and doctors.  You wrap it and tenderly care for it when it has hurt you.  You let it depend on you for strength and care and love.

It is okay to be someone's dependent.
Being someone's dependent is my greatest vocation.  

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Reality: I don't know how I do it either.

In the grocery store, at church, at the farmer's market - 

"Are these all yours?  WOW!  I don't know how you do it."

Neither do I, stranger.  Neither do I.

I don't even have that big of a family.  A fourth on the way.  That is certainly on track for what constitutes a BIG family today, but I still know lots of people with more kids than me.  And coincidentally, I don't know how they do it, either.

Our culture has raised us to be pretty large-family ignorant.  We just don't know much about how that kind of unit functions.  We know involvement in every after-school activity.  We know paying for trendy clothes.  We know 10-year-olds with iPhones.  We know 6000 channels at the push of a button.  We know 2.2 children, maybe.

Nothing is inherently wrong with those things.  They just aren't usually part of the larger family language.  Things change.  Extracurricular activities are limited to one passion and the chaos of your own backyard with all your built-in friends (siblings).  Clothes are generally handed down multiple times, even in disregard of the poor little brother in the pink, fluffy snowsuit.  iPhones are replaced with the rule of never leaving the house without at least one more sibling.  6000 channels are replaced by 6000 brothers and sisters!  HA.

OK, I joke in some ways, but it is only funny because it is true.  Our understanding of how we do it with more than 2 kids is like a foreign language.  

And I think that is one of the hardest things about raising a larger family.  It isn't the cost.  It isn't the chaos.  It isn't the questions from everyone else.  

It is the culture shock of the new language.  That is why larger families seem so foreign in society.  They just speak a different language.  One that is pretty much indiscernible by those who have not learned it by living it.  So, when you ask me how I do it, I just look at you dumbfounded.  So many things about my life and my daily routine and my choices and my lifestyle are so far from what they were five years ago, and yet the changes have happened in incremental ways as more children have come.  How do I answer that?  I don't know.  

I don't know how I do it.  
I do know that sometimes I totally rock at it.
I also know that sometimes I totally fail at it.

When we say things like, "I don't know how you do it..." we are usually referencing some terrible event someone has undergone in their life that they are overcoming OR we are referencing what a miraculous and wonderful person someone is in a given job or accomplishment.

Neither of those really apply to my daily parenting.  I am neither overcoming a terrible event or being some saint of a person.  Believe me on that second one.  For sures.

All I am doing is living life as it comes along, one child at a time.  I am learning a new language everyday - one that makes me such a wildly different parent throughout my parenting years.  I am quite sure my future self won't even be able to understand my current self.  

And that is okay.  
I don't need to know how I do it.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Reality: I didn't sleep train, and my kids are ok.

Every once in awhile I get really wrapped up in people's comments about sleep methods for kids.  The truth is that we have routines (usually) and keep set bedtimes and nap times (usually), but for the most part, we don't do much sleep training in the form of methods.  Usually, things I do are pretty against most methods...

I nursed both of my nursing babies to sleep for naps and at bedtime (and whenever they screamed during the night) until I weaned them between 15 and 18 months.

I gave my formula fed baby a bottle anytime he wanted it, and even at night.

I rarely, if ever, let my kids cry for longer than five minutes (and that was only if I could hold out that long).

All of them have spent some amount of time co-sleeping (mostly due to me falling asleep while feeding them), but mostly they slept in their own cradles or cribs (six months in our room, and then booted out to their own room).

I have no problem if you have chosen another way for your family, and I certainly do not mean to even insinuate that what I think you are doing is wrong.  I don't.  I am simply shouting out to those silent and exhausted ones who choose a path like mine.


There, was that loud enough?  I know you sit back, trying to avoid conversations about it at times because everyone has something to say about your kids who wake up throughout the night.

"Your kid will never be able to get to sleep on their own."
"Don't you want your child to learn this skill set?"
"Will they be sleeping with you until they are teenagers?"

Here is how it has worked out for me, just to let you know that you are doing ok.

I have three kids and one on the way.

The first was adopted (and obviously formula fed after the few weeks of donated breastmilk we received from friends).  He didn't "sleep through the night" (for me, that counts as a straight 7-8 hours) for the first time until about eight months.  Until then, he was up pretty much every three hours.  By the time number two came along (and he was 13.5 months), he was sound asleep for like a straight 12 hours almost all the time.  He is four-and-a-half now, and rarely ever wakes in the middle of the night.  He wakes up with the sun in the morning, but the boy sleeps well and in his own bed all night long.  He puts himself to sleep after our prayers and devotions.  He is a rockstar, except for the 5:45 AM wake-up calls.

Number two was a bit more traumatic for us.  He was a terrible napper and terrible sleeper.  It was brutal.  The first time he ever slept through the night was at 11 months, one time, and then not again until he did it more consistently at about 13 months.  By the time number three came along (when he was one month shy of two), he was rocking at sleeping.  He is still tougher than our first in terms of sleep, but that three-and-a-half year old goes a solid 12 hours at night by himself in his bed most nights.  He wakes up more often now to potty, but pretty much settles back into bed by himself.  He shares a room with his older brother, and they go to bed together.  All is well.

Number three was brutal, too.  She followed almost the exact same timeline as number two, but never got in a good sleeping groove until about 15-16 months.  She is 20 months now, and I can't remember the last time I got up in the middle of the night with her, and she goes down for naps and bedtime awake and does her own thing.

During all of that time, I had people giving me 10,000 different ways to make my kids sleep.  I didn't try all 10,000, but I did do my fair share...I was distraught.  I was embarrassed.  I was sure everyone else knew how to handle sleep better than me.  And quite frankly, everyone seemed to act that way.  Mostly, I was sure I had screwed up my kids and their sleep forever, because clearly they will never learn to sleep if I don't begin from the moment they are born.  But it just didn't end up that way for us.  Three of them now, with different stories and different personalities and different sleep patterns, but all doing just fine.  And I am still alive, to boot!

My point is this -
Raising kids is brutal, whether you sleep train them or not.  The fact is that you will be exhausted whether or not you ever sleep through the night again.  But sleep training or the lack thereof does not determine your child's success in life, nor does it determine your success in parenting.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Reality: The Toddler Potty Tales, Part II

So, if you have been following my adventures for awhile, you may remember this - the account of embarrassing events in public restrooms.

Well, I am back...

Today is Sunday, the craziest of all days for a pastor's wife (especially one with three small children and one on the way).  I have already read the hilarious tale of a fellow pastor's wife hanging out in her bedroom this morning as her two small daughters fought over "being the same amount of fancy" in their church dresses.

You can't make this stuff up, folks.  It is these hilarious and totally frustrating moments that make this life very funny.  You just have to wait a little while for it to seem funny.

It has been a little while for me (about 30 minutes), so I will now share with you The Toddler Potty Tales, Part II.

In the middle of service, my three year old boy said, "I have to pee, mommy."  And when he says it, he means it.  He has to go NOW.  So, I cart all three small ones out the side door, behind the church, outside, through into the Sunday School hall, and into the women's restroom.  There we rush him into the potty, and all goes well.  "I just need to peepee, not poopy, mommy."  Okay, son, pee away.

I ask my four year old boy to use the bathroom while we are in there, and when I turn around the three year old says, "Look at this, mommy.  What is this?"  He is holding a bottle of nail polish.  As I say, "Please put that down," it slips from his hands, breaks into 10,000 tiny glass pieces all over the floor with nail polish strewn about like a terrible bloody mess.

Lord, have mercy.  And I don't mean to be using that lightly.  I seriously needed His mercy to control myself from curling up to cry on the bathroom floor.

I mean there was nail polish spread all over the floor for about five feet.  On a concrete tile floor.  In this nicely kept church bathroom.  In the middle of a church service.  With three small children standing and staring with their mouths gaped open.  "Mommy, uh oh. I sorry."


So, I grab some paper towels.  I don't know if you have ever tried to clean up nail polish, but if this event ever befalls you, here are some suggestions:

1.) Don't use paper towels.  It will just smear it around into an even more ridiculous mess.
2.) Don't clean it up with small children hovering over you.
3.) Just go ahead and curl up on the floor and cry.  The tears may help.

As I was trying to smear the mess into a bigger one, my four year old (who is still avoiding using the bathroom) keeps saying, "That isn't better, mommy.  Mommy, that is worse.  Mommy, just stop."

Just pee, son.  Just pee.

So, the paper towels didn't work.  Again, I am not sure you have ever tried to clean up nail polish off of a concrete floor, but if you let that stuff dry, it will be like concrete itself.  I know this because of years of failed attempts to clean up nail polish from my parents' basement floor.  You can't chisel that stuff up.  So, whatever I was to do, I was to do it FAST.

I cart my three small children back outside and into the church and sit them in a pew.  I walk calmly back to a woman who has watched my children before and I whisper, "Um, my son dropped a bottle of nail polish all over the bathroom floor.  Could you sit with my kids while I run home for nail polish remover and bleach?"

She just laughed and said, "No, we will get that later.  You don't need to do that."

There is NO LATER.  NO TIME!  Must act before it turns into concrete!!!!

So, she kindly sat up with my wiggly kiddos while I drove myself home for supplies.
Good thing we live a block away.

I grab nail polish remover, bleach, and bleach wipes.  I pray, "Lord, please let these things clean this up.  I really don't want to be known for centuries as the pastor's family who spilled the nail polish in the bathroom.  Amen."

I get back, and plop my 17 week pregnant body down, full church dress and all, next to said spill.  I proceed to pour an entire bottle of nail polish remover over the floor.  Then, I quickly realize, I NEED SOME AIR TO BREATHE!!!  I turn on the fan and prop the door.

Back to spill.

I grab 10,000 paper towels and all I can think is, "Somebody needs to introduce Jamberry into this church."
Thanks be to God!  That nail polish remover was sent from Him.

There is still a faint pink tint inside the cracks of the tiles, but I ain't complaining about that.  So, I clean myself up - as my hands look like I just butchered a lamb for a sacrifice - and I calmly walk myself back into church in the middle of my husband's sermon.

My kids - better in the pew than they ever are for me.

Just call me a pro.  A pro pastor's wife.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Reality: 'Twas the Night Before Easter

An ode to all my peeps...

'Twas the night before Easter, when all through their life
Not a creature was stirring, except the Pastor's wife;
The church banners were ironed by the chimney with care,
In hopes that no one would notice a wrinkle here and there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While the parents prayed for silence in their heads;
And mama in her jammies, and pop in his collar,
Had just returned home from a Easter Vigil, hollar.

When out from the kitchen there arose such a clatter,
I heard my pop ask to know what was the matter,
It seems mama forgot the church Easter breakfast meats in the oven,
While she hurried the black load of clothes or pop would have nothin'.

The darkness of evening shown bright with the moon
Gave the clear idea that bed must indeed come soon,
Mamma had a diaper bag, snacks, and three water bottles to pack,
For in the morning time is the one thing she would lack.

With so much flurry, excitement and food abounding,
I knew in a moment it must be something astounding.
For it is true that sometimes mama can get so tired,
So weary, so frazzled, so crazy and wired.

But tomorrow morning we shall sing glorious hymns,
We will wear our new clothes with perfect hems.
Because no matter how much work goes through the night,
My mama and pop teach us it is all because of the Light.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Reality: What The Dress Taught Us

You know the dress I am talking about, right?  It was famous for about 48 hours.  You know, the black and blue one?  Oh, no, well, the white and gold one, then?  Yes.  Good.  We can at least agree that you do know the dress of which I am speaking.

Mass hysteria broke out over that dress, just like over any shiny object you put in front of media's eyes, the social type or the infotainment type.  I mean, we went crazy. 

And it was all in good fun, of course, but the debate was heated.  People would literally not believe another person about what they saw. 

"That dress is BLACK AND BLUE...LOOK!!!"
"No, you are totally wrong.  WHITE AND GOLD!!!"
"You don't see white and gold.  You couldn't.  It is obviously black and blue."

I mean, we would not even believe another person about what their eyes were actually seeing.  Why would they lie about that?  It would serve no purpose to lie about such a thing.   And yet, because it was not our experience and our eyes, we were truly befuddled by the ridiculous idea that the dress could be any other color to another person. 

Science tried to explain it.  There were reasons behind some people's eyes seeing things in certain ways.  Art tried to explain it.  There were certain tones and lights used in certain ways on screen versus real life. 

But to no avail.  That dang dress was BLACK AND BLUE.  Oh, or WHITE AND GOLD!

The truth was there somewhere, hidden behind our lenses.  The dress really did have a color in real life.  There was a sure and certain truth of the matter.  Even if you didn't want to believe it, in the end the dress was proved to actually be black and blue. 

Outside of the ridiculous world of shiny things that catch our attention, there is a whole world full of real world, serious black and blue dresses.  Issues that have angles and color tones and real opinions and actual, real truths. 

It should be no shock to us that the feelings behind these issues are far more intense than even the dress.  But the problem is our eyes still work the same.  We simply do not believe another person about what their eyes are actually seeing in the situation.  We are befuddled by the ridiculous idea that the dress, I mean the issue, could be any other way to any other person. 

Even when given specific and genuine arguments for someone else's point, we claim they are crazy. 
Even though I give a full account as to why I see the need for religious freedom laws to cover the consciences of people, others will not understand.  They see so differently than me.  Their lenses are framed in a totally different worldview.  I try to tell them I see black and blue, but to no avail.  The dang dress is white and gold!

But when we turn the argument around, this works as well.  Let's take another example.  I literally cannot understand why someone would think that no God exists.  I look outside and see the magnificent creation.  I see how this animal needs this other animal to survive.  I see how bees tell other bees where to find flowers by DANCING for them.  I mean, they dance.  Seriously?  How could there not be a creator?  So, when an atheist says, "There is no God.  No one created the world," I am like, "What the?  Have you seen bees dance?"  

That dang dress is black and blue and it seems so simple to me. 

And this dress and lenses phenomenon is exactly why we need laws to protect the religious freedoms of all people.  The Christian, the Jew, the atheist, the Muslim, the Native American, and all other people of some various faith deserve the right to say, "Well, actually I see black and blue for these reasons."  The fact of the matter is that sometimes the truth, the real one, will not be what is seen in their eyes, but everyone deserves the right to speak for their faith, even when they are seeing white and gold.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Reality: Serve My Event or Be Served.

So, I have been going to the same baker for five years.  He makes the most amazing cupcakes and cookies.  His cakes are to die for.  I sort of wish I never knew about his shop, because I would be a lot thinner.  It is that awesome.

I went in and asked him to make me a cake for our church's 100th year anniversary that was decorated with the words, "Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ for 100 Years!"

He said, "I really appreciate your business and thank you for your confidence in my baking.  I can't make that cake for you, though.  I really wouldn't feel comfortable celebrating that particular event due to my own beliefs.  I hope you can understand, but I would love to see you back next week for your weekly cupcake."

OK, so that didn't really happen.  Truth is, I don't know any bakers personally, although I wish I did.
I might be a lot happier with all the cupcakes...

I am just trying to make sense of a thought-process I don't understand -

The one that says, "Every person in the world has to accept and celebrate every single aspect of my life, and if they choose to be against something about my character or identity, their company still has to make cakes for my events celebrating that identity.  If they don't, I will sue them."

That way of thinking is just so foreign to me.  I would simply say to my baker, "Oh, ok, no problem."
It would not even cross my mind to consider suing someone over something like that.  Now, if they kicked me out of their bakery because I wore a crucifix around my neck or came in with my husband in his collar, well, then I might make a big stink over things to at least let others know that he was rude, inconsiderate, and hated Christians.

But because they wouldn't bake a cake for my church's anniversary?

I might even choose to stop buying my weekly cupcakes at his shop and go give my weekly money to someone who was more supportive of my lifestyle, but I certainly wouldn't use force to make him bake me a cake.

The only possible reason I can come up with in my brain for why I would choose to sue someone over this is because I wanted to make a mockery of them.  I wanted others to know how horrible I thought they were.  I didn't want anyone else to ever be turned down for that cake again.  I didn't want anyone to think it was okay to disagree with a Christian event for any reason.  And I really wanted that cake from that guy.  By his choice or by the force of court.

And it was worth ruining someone's whole lively hood to do so.
Chances are he would either have to make me that cake and go against what he had believed his whole life or quit selling cakes altogether.

And because of my anger over the injustice of someone not agreeing with this particular event in my life, it all seemed worth it.

And because of my anger, I don't even want that guy to have the right to defend himself in court over his beliefs.  Game. Set. Match.  Make me a cake for my church or go home.

If someone won't let me shop at their bakery because I am a Christian, that is one thing.  If someone won't make a cake for an event celebrating my Christianity, that is a totally different thing.

I will never understand why this world thinks those are the same two things...
And why our first inclination is to assume the worst about them, vilify them in public, and take them to court - no matter the cost to them.

And worse yet, why we would ever go searching out these non-Christian bakers so that we can then be denied services and prove to the world that we will stop at nothing to have someone bake us a cake for our church's anniversary.  Accept my faith or find another profession...just don't choose photography or catering or invitation designing or, you know, anything else, or we will be back.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Reality: An open letter to the man who called me a bigot.

Dear Sir,

I write this, not for you, as I don't expect you will ever read it nor do I plan to respond in kind to your prods for an argument, but for those out there who fear speaking up in this world due to aggressive statements such as yours.

The truth is I believe marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman.  This is not a newly held belief, nor has it been contested in basically all of human history before about 50 years ago.  Although homosexual actions have been a part of human history for much longer, the institution of marriage has stayed the same.  My belief in this definition is not an easy one to talk about today.  I literally try to avoid talking about it - not because I am ashamed of it, but because no one gives anyone a chance to actually talk about it without writing them off as a "bigot" - to use your words.

So, since this is my own blog, and I can ramble on as long as my sleeping babies will let me, here are some things I assume you don't care to hear about from my perspective -

I love and respect many gay people whom I have personal relationships with, from some of the smartest people I have ever learned from to those I have shared some of my deepest secrets with.  Some of these people live in long-term relationships with people of the same sex and some actively choose to live celibate lives due to their personal convictions against homosexual acts.  The homosexual community and its members are as widely diverse as any other community.  There are those who want marriage to be defined differently, and those who agree marriage is a different union than what they share with their partners.  There is no one I feel worse for in this silencing-a-different-viewpoint society we have come to know in social media days as those from the homosexual community who struggle daily with their convictions against homosexuality.

I don't define marriage this way because I hate gay people or because I hope they live lonely, less-than lives.  My heart hurts because of the so-called Christians who wave, "God hates fags!" banners.  I know no Christians who do that.  The Christians I know actively try to love and serve their neighbors through the help of Christ.  They speak words of forgiveness and are humble and kind.  The seek to live quiet lives.

I define marriage this way because of the Bible, yes, but that isn't the only reason.  I also define marriage this way because children matter.  The biological necessity of the sexually complimentary organs of a man and woman for procreation defines marriage.  Marriage is good for society because it forms families.  It ties mothers and fathers to their children.  Have we terribly abused this institution?  Yes.  Are their children all over the world growing up with one mom or one dad or no parents at all?  Yes.  But that does not change the fact that the biologically best place for a child to grow is with the biological mother and father.  This is not only good for the child, but best for the society.  Marriages between men and women have the opportunity to produce children, thereby growing the society.  Marriages between men and women have the opportunity to raise children with their biological mothers and fathers, thereby raising future involved citizens.

And it is even hard for me to say that children are best with their biological mothers and fathers, because I, in fact, have a child who was adopted.  The idea that he would be better in a situation with his biological mother and father raising him is hard for me to swallow, but the fact is, he would not face some of the challenges he now will because of this loss.  It is a loss.  It was not a possibility for him to be under the care of his biological mother and father, and therefore, his birthmother made the amazing decision to choose a mother and father for him.  So, we all know he is, in fact, in the best place for him, given the circumstances.

But this does not mean that we should set up situations where the loss of a mother or a father is not only possible, but a necessity.  We should be fighting for the family, making changes to our culture that encourage families to remain together, and making the best decisions for our children.

My belief in marriage has nothing to do with me being a bigot.  A bigot is defined as one who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.  I fully recognize and even stated in our conversation that I see both sides of a law that protects religious freedoms of business owners.  The fact is, there will be people who try to misuse any law.  But we don't write laws to protect the people who will try to break them.  We write laws to protect our Constitution and the people of our great nation.  We write laws to protect our citizens from the fact that there are bigots in this world.  There are those who are utterly intolerant of anyone else's viewpoint.  Thereby, there are those who will do anything to coerce another into following their creed.  And that, we protect against.

Would I tolerate a gay couple being asked to leave a restaurant on account of their relationship?  By no means!  Would I tolerate abuse or public shaming of any individual for any reason?  By no means!  But I do respect the fact that a photographer may feel uncomfortable memorializing and celebrating an event that is against their religious convictions - whether that be a Christian photographer at a gay wedding or an atheist photographer at the ordination of a Christian pastor.  I would defend their right to say, "I can't photograph that event due to my convictions," any day.

To say that I am scared to post this would be an understatement.  The fact is, I am terrified.  I don't walk around this world looking for ways to coerce people or pass judgement.  I don't look around on social media, hoping for a way to shame people.  I attempt to live a quiet life and love my neighbor with the help of God.  I fail at this daily, and I truly apologize for any offense given or if I spoke unjustly.  It is my sincere prayer that we are able to live quiet lives while openly sharing the reason for the hope that is within us.

With regards,


Friday, March 13, 2015

Reality: Why Mommying is So Hard

When our first child was six weeks old, my husband turned to me in a quiet moment and said, "Can you believe we have kept him alive this long?"  I was pretty shocked by it, too, really.  I mean, come on, I had killed every plant I ever tried to grow (sorry Xanadu), and I only remembered to feed our cat because she is the single most annoying creature in the world for the hour or two before she is supposed to eat.  If it wasn't for her incessant meowing, well...  I digress.

I never considered myself a selfish person.  I look back now on that statement and laugh.

That is what kids do.  They show you how deeply selfish you really are.  And, man, am I ever glad they did that and keep doing it to me today.

It isn't about the number of kids.  I can say that with some wisdom behind my words at this point...three still being fed every day and surviving and one being fearfully and wonderfully made inside my belly as we speak.  Someday, I am sure I will read this statement and laugh at myself, too.  "HA!  I thought I had wisdom then?  I was just a pup."

Such is life.

One kid is hard.  You die to yourself and your own needs everyday just trying to figure out how to keep this human being alive!  You agonize over sleep patterns and feeding schedules and finding a balance in your relationship with your husband.  You find joy you never knew existed while yet feeling such aches of guilt and sorrow for not being the mom you always thought you would be.

Two kids are hard.  You die to yourself and your own needs everyday just trying to figure out how you will ever go anywhere outside your home ever again with all this stuff.  You agonize over two sleep patterns and contradicting feeding schedules and finding a balance in your relationship with your husband.  You find joy again that you never knew could extend past one while yet still feeling the aches of guilt and sorrow for not being the mom you always thought you would be.  And now you have two to screw up with.  The guilt grows.

Three kids are hard.  You die to yourself and your own needs everyday just trying to figure out how you can possibly hold all of their hands in the parking lot.  You forget about all the stuff, and just focus on the I have everyone's hands????  You agonize over three sleep patterns and rotating feeding schedules and finding a balance in your relationship with your husband.  You find joy in letting a little of yourself go again while yet still feeling those same aches of guilt.  There is now no possible way I can be the mom I always wanted to be to all of them.  I don't even have enough hands to hold their hands across the street!  The guilt grows.

Our fourth is still pretty self-sufficient in there, so I won't say I know four kids are hard, too.  But I can make a pretty educated guess that things aren't getting any easier around here anytime soon.  And because I am a human being, I am pretty sure the guilt will just keep growing right along with it.

Mommying is hard.  There are no employee appraisals, and yet everyday someone has something to say about the way you do it, the choices you made, the failures you inevitably had, and how they would have done it differently.  There are no awards, and yet everyday social media blasts you with pictures of everyone else doing it better than you (because really, how many of us post pictures of our bad moments?)

Mommying is hard because I am a sinner.
I look to myself for the strength and ability to do this.
I choose my own needs before others'.
I read blogs I shouldn't read with opinions I wish I didn't know about.
I covet praise.
I feel anger in my heart towards my children for not letting me do what I want to do.
I feel guilt for the anger in my heart.
I fail...every. single. day.

I am a sinner.  I was a sinner when I had one.  I was a sinner when I had two.  I am a sinner now with three.  And I can promise you I will be a sinner when the fourth arrives, too.

Mommying is so hard for the same reason every vocation is hard, because we are sinners.  The challenges are different, but the source of pain is the same.

But thanks be to God, the story doesn't end there.  Because even Jesus knelt in prayer with sweat-turned-blood, agonizing over the vocation He was given, asking that the cup be removed from Him.  But because of His love for us, He said, "Your will be done" to the Father, and took our place upon the cross.  He drank the whole cup of death so that we wouldn't.  He completely fulfilled His vocation so that when you don't, you have forgiveness through Him.

There is no greater peace than this in mommying.
So, keep on keeping on, Ladies, in the joy and peace of Christ.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Reality: Why my kids are in church.

My husband and I were recently with a couple young boys who occasionally attend our church and occasionally attend other churches, as well.  The conversation steered toward what the other church was like.

Them: "We go with all the kids and play games and stuff."
Me:  "So, you don't sit in the sanctuary?"
Them:  "No, we aren't allowed in there...not until you are 13."

The conversation went on for awhile, but let us just take a moment to ponder these words -

"We aren't allowed in there."
This, my friends, is the honest thought of a child who attends a church with a "children's church."  He is not allowed in "there."

I understand the desire for children's church.  I do.

First, we think it will make kids like church more.  Well, duh.  Yes, it will.  They play games.  They sing songs.  They watch puppet shows.  It is great.  Of course it will make kids love church...

Except it won't, because they aren't learning to love church.  They are learning to love a form of churchtainment we have come up for them to attend.  Someday (according to the boy from our church, when they are 13), they will be expected to know how to act and what to do in a place very foreign to them.  Church is suddenly not exciting and rather boring, because they have little to no idea of what is happening.

Second, we think it will make church better for the adults (especially the parents).  Well, duh.  Yes, it will.  I have three children four-and-under, and I sit alone in the pew.  I get it.  The idea of listening fully to a sermon or letting a hymn run completely through my brain is like some distant dream.  Of course it would make church better for me if they weren't fidgeting all over the place...

Except it won't, because it splits families into age groups and doesn't allow them the joys and struggles of learning the faith together.  We take away the joys of answering the questions our kids come up with during a service.  We take away the beautiful site of the young and the old receiving Christ's gifts as a Christian family.  We take away the moments when our children look up at us and see us living the faith in Word and deed.

Third, we think it will grow the church.  Well, duh.  Yes, it will.  The more programs we have and the bigger our children's church, the more people who will come themselves or allow their kids to hop on the van.  Of course it will grow the church...

Except it won't, because we don't grow the church through the quality or quantity of age-appropriate programs we offer.  God grows the church through His Word being preached correctly into the ears of unbelievers.  Law and Gospel grows the church.  The Word preached through the mouths of pastors grows the church.  That Word is found in church.

Fourth, we think it will allow our teens and young adults a way to get involved in church by teaching the younger kids.  Well, duh.  Yes, it will.  They will probably feel a lot of pride toward their kids.  Of course it will allow our youth and young adults a way to get involved in church...

Except it won't, because they won't be involved in church.  They will actually be missing church in order to go teach about things they learned when they were younger, too.  Thereby missing the instruction they need to be receiving in the pew.  And this goes for the adults and older people running the children's church, too.  We are all like children in church and need to hear the Word.

Do our kids need age-appropriate instruction in order to understand the great mysteries of the faith?  Of course!  Sunday School rocks at this.  Catechism class rocks, too.  And you know what rocks the most at child-centered, age appropriate, kid-geared faith learning?  Parents.

Parents who attend church with their children.
Parents who see the struggles their child faces in life.
Parents who seek out ways to learn the basics of the faith so they can instruct their children.

I do want to throw out a little caveat here.  I am the grown version of a children's church raised kid.  And I think I am pretty awesome.  HA!  It is not impossible for God to work through children's church and the people who teach it.  My parents rocked at the whole teaching-the-faith thing at home.  We memorized Scripture together and prayed together.  I do, however, believe I would have learned to vocalize my beliefs at a much younger age and in a much deeper language had I been able to witness the church in its fullness every week.

The church has a language and the best way to teach a child any language is by immersing them in it from infancy.  That language and vocabulary they hear week after week will be what starts to spew from their hearts and their mouths.

That is why my kids are in church.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reality: An Anniversary Worthy of Celebrating

On February 11th, 2011, Solomon became a Stout for life.
In honor of this amazing gift from God, we celebrate his Adoption Day Anniversary by collecting donations for a pro-life cause in our world.

Always for life.

In 2015, we have chosen to collect donations for Swaddling Clothes.  You can learn about what Swaddling Clothes is by looking at their website -

Basically, they are stores full of everything needed for raising a baby, and people who need it can shop for free!  The current four locations are run by LCMS congregations, and they are always looking to grow into new communities, as well.  Most of the clothes and toys are all by donation (gently used and gathered from the community), but there are always needs that cannot be met by used items.  The money you donate will be used to purchase necessary items for each location - diapers, wipes, formula, carseats, etc.

Why is this an important organization?  Because being pro-life isn't political.  It isn't just saying, "Hey, I'm pro-life."

It is stepping into the community and saying, "Here is how we show we are pro-life."  It is reaching out to those women and men in need of help during pregnancies which they did not expect.  It is offering a hand to those who choose life.  It is offering financial support to those who are out doing this work.

In 2011, Solomon became a Stout for life.  May he always be for life.  May we all always be for life.

If you are interested in donating in our son's name, please write checks payable to "Swaddling Clothes" and write our son's birthname/adoptive name in the memo line - "In honor of Solomon Hoem Stout"  Checks may be sent to:

Swaddling Clothes
C/O Katie Fiene
PO Box 225
Channahon, IL 60410

Mrs. Fiene has graciously offered to collect all the donations and divide them equally among all four Swaddling Clothes locations (Channohon, IL, Golconda, IL, Marengo, IA, and Keller, TX).

Here are where previous donations have been given:
2012 - Solomon's adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services in Waukesha, WI.
2013 -  Pastor and Mrs. Weslie Odom, in memory of their daughter Matilda Grace, who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and passed from this life from a heart condition just a couple days after birth.
2014 - A Place of Refuge in southern Wisconsin, a crisis pregnancy center.

If you are interested in reading about Solomon's Adoption Day in February of 2011, please feel free to read on -


All in all, adoption finalization day hadn't seemed so important to us. Solomon's birthday – hugely important. The day we picked him up from the hospital – momentous occasion. Solomon’s baptism – beyond compare. However, the normal BIG moments of an adoption didn’t seem like such big things for us.  The termination of parental rights, the visits from the adoption agency, the finalization…it was all sort of extra to the point that we were just living our lives. We lived as a family, we visited the birth family, we took pictures on month birthdays, we had the typical milestones – flipping over, scooting, crawling, teething, sitting up, baby food, and we had the typical pitfalls of parenting – made some minor mistakes, had to watch him get his regular shots, stayed up crazy hours at night, had to live through baby illnesses, diaper rash, diaper explosions, you name it, we did it. We were a family, like any other family. Nothing seemed incomplete or missing. Sure, Solomon didn’t have our last name, but we had grown to love his name and where it came from. It wasn’t something we were ashamed of – it was part of him, which made it perfect.

Now, though, I thought about what it means to be a family in the legal since. We were already family, obviously. However, the government really has a lot to say about who my family is. If Chris and I had died before the finalization was complete, what would have happened to Solomon? We had chosen with Bethany Christian Services who we would like to have given rights to. However, until that finalization form was signed, he was under legal guardianship of the state and Bethany Christian Services. Technically, he may not have ended up with anyone in our family. We were not a family according to the state of Wisconsin. That thought was a lot for me to take in.

On February 11, 2011, at approximately 9:00 a.m., the Stout family (Chris, Solomon, and I) arrived at the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center in Wauwatosa, WI. This is the location of all of the Milwaukee County Children’s Courts. One of the most shocking experiences for us was that all of the courtrooms in this building only saw children’s cases, and certainly most of these cases are not as happy as our little family. Walking through this center was somewhat surreal. There were children around, parents, foster families, lawyers, principals, judges, and most were not seemingly in good conversations. The thought of the anguish of all of these families on our very special day was another humbling experience. We felt the great needs coming from all of these families, and the burdens were so heavy. As we waited outside Judge Christopher Foley’s courtroom, we were chatting with other families about Solomon and a little bit of our story. Everyone was so joyous towards us, which was very comforting. They were here for many different reasons – most of which were not happy occasions – but they all seemed to have a sense of excitement for us. The love from strangers was sweet and innocent and communal.

Judge Foley’s courtroom door swung open with two people – a father and a lawyer – discussing the previous case. I have no idea what was said or done, but by the body language, it seemed unpleasant.  At that moment, I thought to myself about what a difficult job Judge Foley must have. I thought about the anguish I had seen in the faces of many of the people coming and going in these courtrooms. I thought about the children I had seen – children of school age, obviously not in school, but in court. It was almost too much for me to handle in that moment.  My emotions were getting the best of me. Then, something amazing happened.  The courtroom door swung open again, out walked the judge, and he turned to us, looked at Solomon, and with the biggest smile and jovial voice, he said, “Well, Solomon, it’s your big day!  Are we gonna have some fun in there or what?!?!”  I was so shocked that I just smiled and waited for him to say something else.  Chris and I both felt instantly comforted by his attitude and personality. 

We stepped in the courtroom with Solomon, representatives from Bethany Christian Services, and the judge.  There were two other women in the room (court recorder and the person who swears you in) and a man who was the bailiff.  The judge escaped to his private office in the back and came out in his full robe, but he didn’t sit at the bench. He came down to our seat and handed Solomon a present – a stuffed dog that barks when you squeeze it. Solomon smiled, and the judge said it was a gift from all of them for his big day.

The hearing began. The social worker from Bethany Christian Services was called to the stand as a witness. She was asked a series of questions about us: our marriage, our home life, our ability to parent, our intentions, and our dedication to the child. It may seem all grim and stark on paper (or computer screen, depending on how you are reading this), but Judge Foley made the whole thing seem very fun and easy-going (he joked around between questions – making comments about how we only had to sign for 18 years but kids will be around a lot longer than that for parents to take care of and college is when they really get expensive, he commented about the joys and perils of raising 7 of his own children, etc).  He had previously read the entire file concerning our adoption, and therefore, already knew all the answers to these questions. This was just a legal formality to have these written in the court records. He dismissed the social worker from the stand.

Then, he asked for either Chris or I to take the stand. As he was asking for one of us, he stepped off the bench and came down and asked me if Solomon would allow him to hold him.  I handed Solomon over, and the judge put him up on his head as he walked back to the bench. Solomon reached out and began pulling the judge’s hair.  Judge Foley said, “Solomon! What are we going to do with you? You know this is a federal offense – you are assaulting a judge!”  So, there was Solomon sitting on the lap of the judge on the bench. Judge Foley handed his gavel to Solomon.  It went straight into his mouth.  The judge looked at me and laughed. I said, “Fair warning, your honor, he has two teeth and will probably chew marks in your gavel.”  The judge responded, “Oh, I am not worried about that!  There are quite a few teeth marks in this gavel from other adoptees.” So, for the rest of the questioning, Solomon used Judge Foley’s gavel as a chew toy.

Chris took the stand – mostly because my husband is a big dork and thinks it is cool to use his God-given right of swearing in the presence of a courtroom and judge.  So, he was sworn in on the stand…and he loved it.  Funny guy!  Anyway, the questions then came – most of them were the same questions the judge had asked the social worker. I can’t remember all of them, but here is an overview of the topics: “Is there a history of or a current issue of domestic violence in your home?” “Is it true that you have spoken to Bethany Christian Services representatives on many occasions about the duties, rights, and responsibilities of parents?” “Do you understand your rights and responsibilities as parents?” “Have you or your wife ever been convicted of a crime?” “Is it your intention to provide for the basic needs of this child until he reaches the age of 18…and much longer, I am sure?” To this last question, Chris responded, “Yes…with the help of God.” The judge looked caught off guard and began to laugh.  He said, “Yes, Mr. Stout, it will take an enormous amount of help from God to pull this task off…let me tell you…I certainly know that with my own seven.” At that, the judge asked if there was anything else “Mr. Stout” would like to share for the record.  Chris said, “Yes, actually.  Thanks for being so cool about this!”  The judge burst out laughing, turned to his court reporter, and said, “Please put that in the record.  I have been called a lot of things, but I have never been called cool!  I can’t wait to print this out and show it to my kids.” Chris stepped down from the witness stand.  The judge turned to me and asked me to state my name for the record.  Then, he asked me if I was in agreement with my husband on all of his responses.  I said yes, and that ended the questioning.

Judge Foley said that he was in full agreement with the recommendation of Bethany Christian Services and that he was assigning full custody and parental rights to Mr. and Mrs. Christopher and Kelly Stout. He looked at Solomon (still on his lap) and said, “Well, Solomon Stout, you want to make this official? You hold onto this gavel.” At that, he and Solomon slammed the gavel down.

So, about 20 minutes after it started, the Stout family walked out of Judge Foley’s courtroom.  We had walked in a family, and we walked out a family.  Only this time, Wisconsin agreed that we were indeed a family. We now added Adoption Finalization Day to our list of big family moments.

Solomon and Judge Foley finalizing the adoption case by slamming the gavel.