She Saved The Anchovies

At 10 years old I loved my barbies, dancing to Chantilly Lace and the Big Bopper on my record player, and playing dominoes with my Poppy Frank.  I don’t think I had ever been to the ocean, but  I did love our city’s community pool  and swam like a fish for hours there, and then filled up on  rainbow snowcones afterward.  At 10 years old, life was about me.

But this weekend, while on a weekend work/play getaway with my girls in Boca Raton, I met Victoria.

The fishermen were casting nets at the ocean’s edge.  I watched in curiosity as one teenage fisherman pulled in a net filled with tiny silver fish.  My girls and I watched as the young fisherman dump the shiny creatures into a white 5 gallon bucket.  Interested in what was happening, I learned that these small fish were anchovies – and the fishermen were catching them to sell to restaurants.   As they dumped the anchovies into buckets, many would fall on the barren sand where their short lives would end unless they somehow wiggled their way back to the water, a near impossible task.

Fisherman caught these anchovies, see the ones left to die?

In runs ten-year-old Victoria. She begins scooping the flopping anchovies as fast as possible, tossing them into her little red toy pail filled with water.  With a distressed expression, Victoria asked if my on-looking family wanted to help her “save the anchovies.”  All of us fell on our hands and knees to join Victoria in her mission. One by one we identified live anchovies and tossed them into her bucket.

Victoria and my girls working hard to save the anchovies!

With the night sky rolling in, Victoria hurriedly placed the small pail filled with dozens of rescued anchovies on top of her head and carried them to the sandbar to release them and give them a second chance at life.

Over and over again, Victoria waited for the fishermen to dump the anchovies, and then rushed to rescue the dying.  My family joined her in her endearing quest.

I don’t know how many anchovies Victoria saved that night, but I couldn’t help seeing the heart of Jesus in that passionate child as she frantically worked to save as many little fish as she could.  (And, folks it wasn’t even salmon, or tuna, or shrimp that we would all desire. It was tiny little anchovies that I pick off my pizza and throw away.)  Jesus goes after the least of these-the throwaways, the leftovers, the seemingly unimportant. He tirelessly seeks that one lost soul, never growing weary, never slumpering in his passionate effort to save and to rescue.

What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:12-14

Adoption Day

I would never have imagined in my wildest dreams that my life would look like this.

In high school I was voted “most likely to succeed” and thought I would have a booming entrepreneurial business, be married and have kids by age 27.

In college, I changed my projected age for marriage and kids and thought maybe the kids and husband would come sooner.

Then, college passed right by me, and so did age 27. My singleness loomed, the career started, and no husband pursued, so I kept waiting and living, and not getting any younger.

The call to foster care hit me upside the head after years of working as an advocate for adoptive and foster children.  I knew that “one day” would come and I’d be a foster parent and adopt (and, of course, I’d be happily married to my prince charming-and rich too!)   But, when that “one day” was right in the middle of my busy world of travel, ministry, and singlehood, I just had to do a double take, close my eyes and dive straight in.

I’d take one child. How hard could it be?  Then, parenthood greeted me after one easy “YES” from a phone call from my foster care placement agency.  I mean, I didn’t have stretch marks, morning sickness, or have to buy maternity clothes, and yet, I got the honor of being a MOM!   So, I dove in to the parent visits, caseworkers, medical appointments, diaper changes, up half the night single mommy life and the wild adventure of foster care.   And, I loved it! 

One child became two, two became three, and then three—well, three became four.  I was single and a mom of 4 kids!  Like a slow heating pot reaching boiling point–my love and bandwidth to care for children slowly expanded to a roaring boil.

My first placement, a little 3 month old baby girl stole my heart at first glance and when I knew she was adoptable, I adopted her.

How was this single woman, who had once stated she would never foster or adopt without a man by my side, now a full-time forever mommy to a beautiful baby girl!? I imagined the first baby adoption was a unicorn (a one-in-a-million rarity) and since I had already achieved perfection with her, I secretly believed my marriage life had to be right around the corner.  I expected Mr. Wonderful would come riding in on a white horse to whisk me (and my baby) off into the sunset.  And, together we would foster and adopt more children.

Then, 7 months ago, in the middle of Covid-19 (and still single),  my oldest foster love suggested she and I pray together from Sunday to Sunday in expectation of a surprise blessing for our family. So, we prayed.  Sunday rolled around, and nothing seemed to come from our fervent prayers.  But, 3 days later, when my phone rang everything I had felt that past week became ever so clear.  A call for an infant baby girl.  Of course my answer was yes.  And as God would have it, the baby I had just invited into my home, was born on the last day we prayed. 

A few weeks in to fostering the sweet newborn, the birth mom asked me to adopt the baby. Though that isn’t the typical foster care story, last Friday she became my forever daughter.

I wanted to share some pictures of our special adoption day and parade and introduce to you— baby Eisley Lorel Hope Goodnight.

As an adoption present, days after I adopted Eisley, a friend started a Go Fund Me to help my family purchase an SUV/Mini-Van for our growing family (because, well, I don’t own a vehicle!).  Thank you so much to Sarah for setting this up and to each of you who’ve played a role in sharing the page and donating.  You are making this “Adoption Day” an extra, extraordinary day! https://gofund.me/8ee21ba7

Celebrating the Good News- on the News!

What’s better than Foster Care?  Forever!

Forever is in the heart of every child.  A desire for permanence and consistency.  

My sweet friend swaddled an infant baby girl in a Moby Wrap, tightly snugged against her beautifully patterned floral dress that coordinated perfectly with the dress of the baby she was holding.  In that moment, I felt the deep connection of love between child and “mother”, and  I couldn’t help but wonder if that baby who she was caring for through foster care, might one day become her FOREVER girl.

701 days after they brought her home from the hospital, her last name was changed and her identity became knit together FOREVER with my friends, and little Isla became a Moody– Isla Moody.

Even though Covid-19 was in full swing, we knew this union was worthy of a great big celebration.  A local wrap-around support ministry, Fostering Hope put together a drive-by parade that would allow for social distancing and celebration.  My girls and I decorated our car with congratulations signs, honked our horn loudly as we drove by wearing party masks, blowing bubbles out the window, and shouting with joy at the top of our lungs as we welcomed baby Isla into her loving, forever family.

The local news station picked up the story, and then what happened after that was kind of a crazy fun, media miracle.  Good Morning America called, ABC, Fox News, The New York Post, CBS Nightly News, and so many others sharing the amazing news of an adoption, a celebration, and FOREVER!

Every child deserves to be celebrated. And, for Isla Moody, she will forever know just how loved and celebrated her life is.

Watch here: ABC News Joins the Celebration by Airing the Story!

From Grouch to Grace

Today was a grumpy day.

I got onto my 11 year old for something minor and then felt upset with myself for losing my patience and being a grouch.

On my way up the stairs to apologize to her, I started barating myself and I thought “I am not doing good as a mom, I didn’t even brush Emmie’s (my two-year olds) teeth this morning.”

As I rounded the top of the stairs, Emmie was at the top of the stairs with an adult-sized toothbrush in her hand scrubbing her own teeth!

I chuckled inwardly and knew God was speaking to me.

I make many mistakes. I screw up. I lose my temper. And, many days, at best, I am a hot mess momma. But, one thing is for certain……I’m not alone in this parenting life, or in this life at all.

God helps me. He fills in the gaps and so graciously make my wrongs, right.

I may be a single MOMMA. But truly my kiddos have a FATHER!

If you feel alone today, or like you are falling apart, and maybe the enemy is hitting you while you feel down, just know you are not alone and God is working for you.

His Grace is Sufficient for You, His Power Is Made Perfect In Your Weakness… 2 Corinthians 12:9

He Received A Family Worth Celebrating

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I pushed my cart intently through the craft section at Target, grabbing poster board, streamers, glow in the dark party favor balls, and crazy gold glitter glasses heralding the words “Celebrate.”

My dear friends were adopting.

The 21 month old little boy who was joining their forever family held a special place in my heart. I cradled him in my arms when he was just a few days old. I prayed fervently for his forever adoptive family. And, through the beauty of the foster community, he and my daughter, Emmie became best buddies. This little guy even attended my Emmie’s special adoption day, and he stole the show being the cutest and cuddliest baby in the room.

Now, today was his special day.

I logged into a Zoom call and, with my 2 year old repeatedly saying “Hi” to a judge who couldn’t hear her or see her (but she thought he could), my girls and I watched intently as Baby J was united in law and in love to his forever mommy and daddy (and 5 super cool new older siblings).

Adoption. It’s my absolute favorite thing on the planet. It’s the way God chooses to answer our innate need for belonging. It’s His love being poured out bountifully to draw us into intimacy and family. It’s His heart for us, to let us know we are not meant to be alone. It’s ultimate acceptance, and God’s design to call the orphan home.

Hours later with signs, streamers and silly string in tow, we were ready to CELEBRATE. A parade was set up by Fostering Hope, a foster care support ministry at Fruit Cove Baptist Church, and cars circled the neighborhood beeping horns and cheering–throwing candy, popping confetti, shooting silly string and celebrating Baby J as his life was forever merged with his new family.

In one moment, in the eyes of God and man, Baby J received a new name and a new family, and the gift of love and acceptance– I would say that is something worth celebrating!

Life Under Construction

Everywhere I looked this past week, something was a mess. Lumber and nails everywhere, my bedroom furniture was in my hallway, and my littlest angel’s crib was in pieces stuck somewhere in the middle between a dearly loved rocking horse and mounds of stuffed animals. My garage, which normally is neat and semi-orderly, was full of big saws and toolboxes and looked more like a Lowe’s Home Improvement Store that a tornado had just blown through than the garage my little Hyundai calls home most nights. And, if you have been wanting to take a trip to the Sahara Desert, come on over, because I have more sand in my garage than the desert does.

My little townhome was getting a floor make-over, old carpets ripped up and beautiful new vinyl wood flooring laid in its place. But, in order for me to get the new, dreamy looking hard wood floors, construction must take place.

I hadn’t prepared for the mess that this little “three day project” would leave my life in. In the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown, maybe the worst time in all of history to have to have to “get out of the house”, I was trying to keep the kids alive and occupied away from the construction zone. We ate fast food until I think I heard my 11-year-old say she didn’t like hamburgers anymore, drove a gazillion miles to let my littlest one get a life-saving nap in her car seat bed, and drove across the city to find open parks, but kept finding closed ones.

My little “three day project” took longer than expected, and by day seven I was beginning to look at new, move-in-ready homes, and even called my momma once to see if I could move back in with her.

My home was under construction. And, as the saws buzzed and the hammers pounded, I knew my life was too.

Our lives are constant construction zones. There is always room for improvement, things that need fixing, upgrades possible, and renovation that is happening. But, construction zones are messy, they take time, and they require a Master Builder.

If you are in the middle of a mess and see opportunity to make some changes in your life, I invite you to let the MASTER BUILDER, do HIS work, and give you the “upgrade” YOUR LIFE needs! It may be a little inconvenient, take longer than you want it too, and you may want to stop construction in the middle of the process, but, just remember, when the work is done, YOU will be better for it!

Philipians 1:6- Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 

It Starts With Me

I’ve cried this week. I’m saddened by what I am seeing on the news. And even more saddened that what I’m seeing feels like a mountain-sized problem that we will never see an end to.

How did we get here as a culture?

How did we as a human race let the color of our skin cause such a divide?

How could our hearts have such vast hatred that would result in riots, pain, and murder?

I’m grieved. As a white girl, I feel guilty. I want the hatred, the divide, the anger to stop.

While at the doctor’s office today to get a x-ray for what I thought was a broken elbow (another story….. another time), the news was reporting, again, a story of hatred over skin color. My heart sank, I pushed back more tears. The black smiling man checking me in was hard at work, and I’m certain he didn’t hear the new story. But, I did.

After getting good news at the doctor, I went up to pay my not-so-good-news bill, and the black smiling man was courteous and helped me. I couldn’t shake the overwhelming thoughts and emotions of the earlier news story, or the tragic events that have happened over the week. What could I say, what could I do?

“I’m sorry for all the craziness that is happening in the world right now ” I stumbled over my words to the man behind the counter.  I, as a white woman, I’m really sorry.”

The precious man replied, “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not. And, I’m sorry. We must all change or this will never stop.” He smiled and nodded in agreement.

The CNA working behind him who also had beautiful black skin unexpectedly stopped working and turned to me, exclaiming, “Can I buy you dinner? Seriously, can I buy you dinner? Thank you. Thank you.”

Racism is real. It happens. It’s overwhelming. It’s not the way we as a people should live. So, if we want change, we all have to change. And, whether it’s a word of empathy, an extension of grace, an act of kindness, we all can, must, and should do something. Because change starts with me (and YOU).

“Be Kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Has Your Day Every Started Out All Wrong…..?

10:30am.

My morning had already taken a turn for the “Debbie Downer” side of life, and I was ready to call the whole thing off. Have you ever wanted to run away from home before your day even got good and started?  Behaviors that felt “extra” were escalating in the house. Whining, crying, fit-throwing, negative attitudes. And that was just the kids! As if this wasn’t bad enough, my two-year-old found my make-up bag again. Beige foundation, black long-lash mascara, and white eyeshadow blended into the only store-bought piece of furniture in my entire house.  At that moment, I seriously considered buying new beige rugs to match the stained couch rather than spending the time to painstakingly scrub out the make-up.  Even Mr. Clean would turn his nose up at this job!

Running tight on time for a Mother’s Day speaking engagement, we hopped into the car, throwing shoes and hair bows at each other in hopes that my children’s first public appearance since the Quarantine of 2020 would have them looking more like princesses than pajama pilgrims.

And, wouldn’t you know it?  We didn’t make it out of the driveway before we had a diaper disaster. By this time, I was praying Hard and Holy prayers for Jesus to help me through the morning’s speaking engagement. I had my topic fine tuned. I was practiced and ready.  But moments before I was to get on the stage in front of over 1000 online viewers, I realized what I had planned to say wasn’t what I should say– so I was scrounging for the right words. The morning had just started all wrong.

Afterward, feeling defeated and tired,  I pulled away from the church with an over-tired (still) crying toddler in tow. I began to sink into a “Calgon Take Me Away!” mental meltdown.  But then, I hit the pause button.  My kids were watching me.

It was Mother’s Day.

My attitude needed a turn-around and so did my day. And it was up to me to make that happen.

I had promised the girls a special Mother’s Day tea, but, with my mama-mood mimicking Thelma Harper (Mama’s Family),  I just wanted a nap! In the middle of my “mood”, I felt a nudge to find my inner June Cleaver (Leave It to Beaver), shake off the happenings of the morning, and make the best of the day. I took some deep breaths, gave myself a pep talk, and prayed quietly for Grace to be a Good Mom. The party must go on….

So, we broke out the coffee mugs, fine paper china, cookies we’d made together the day before, and some CountryTime lemonade like my grandma used to make. A sharpie and some pink construction paper provided the exquisite decor for our “fancy” tea of the century, and the dining room was transformed into a tea room fit for a queen. Dressed in our finest church dresses, we spoke in really bad British accents, lifted our pinkies as we drank lemonade, giggled over memories of our past year together, and ate way too many snickerdoodle cookies.  My two-year-old raised the coffee mug she could barely lift and, in the cutest little voice led us in a round of “Cheers.”  Several times.  The day began to turn around.  I knew we were headed in the right direction when my 11-year-old said, “I don’t want this tea party to end. Can we do it again?”

A few days before Mother’s Day, a mysterious package had appeared in the mail with strict instructions that I was not to open it.  It was a surprise for me, to be presented by my girls on Mother’s Day. My oldest was in on the surprise, and she couldn’t wait to give it to me. Her excited joy couldn’t be contained. Daily hints were dropped, and she would look at me, giggle and say, “You’re gonna love it,” each time she walked by. If anyone could spontaneously combust from keeping a secret, it might be my 11-year-old. Somehow she kept it inside. That Mother’s Day afternoon-Yes, the same Sunday that had started so badly –the girls scurried down the stairs carrying a decorated shoe box. With big wide smiles they handed me a homemade card and the decorated box. Inside was the cutest t-shirt commemorating my motherhood and fabulous, dangly, hand-crafted earrings from Crossing413.com. My girl was right, I did LOVE IT!

After nap time (Mommy got a nap too-Thelma would be so proud), I felt a little sentimental and wanted a keepsake from the day. I cranked up my inner Martha Stewart,  broke out the hand-tracing and finger printing crafts my friends at Fostering Hope had dropped on my doorsteps a few weeks earlier, and we crafted some magnificent keepsakes.  (Magnificent to Mom, anyway.) My day was experiencing a total make-over.

At one weak point, I caved and ordered Red Lobster– I mean who wants to ruin the day with dishes duty? And the kids have to eat, right?  Cheese biscuits (and chocolate) can make any bad day better.

Miss 11-year-old broke out her spa accessories and opened her Home Spa Resort right in my living room. We mixed up an oatmeal-honey face mask, got out the lotions and galvanized buckets and spa’d the night away. I was treated to a legitimate, relaxing massage and foot rub by my big girl (I told her she could make major bucks in this business!) and I felt loved and pampered. Well, minus the oatmeal-honey mask that she globbed on my face. I looked like a paper mache project gone wrong!  As preteens are inclined to do, my favorite spa consultant took ransom pictures which are sure to keep me single for a long, long time.

It’s the little choices in life, the moment by moment decisions that determine the overall success of our days.  In the middle of a bad situation, a change in attitude or behavior can reset our day in a positive direction. So, Mommas, if Calgon needs to take you away for a minute, jump in and soak for a while, then shake off the dust, wipe away the day’s residue and begin again.

His Mercies are New Every Morning– (and actually every minute)!

I had an amazing Mother’s Day (really!).  I hope you did too!

The Princesses and The Palace

Two spunky little sisters sashayed across my threshold. They were 4 and 2 years old, full of their own little thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. And, I do mean atttitudes! Within 24 hours, I realized it wasn’t me that was ruling the roost, but two toddlers. They tantrumed, bossed me, and demanded my attention at every waking moment. I had to get control, before they took my keys, car, and credit cards and headed on a Thelma and Louise escapade.

I had no idea what the two little girls had endured in their past, my job was to keep them safe and love them until the foster family chosen to take them permanently returned from out of state.

I was determined that when I turned “Thelma and Louise” over to their new family, that I would not look like I had just lost a catfight with Nellie on Little House on the Prairie (I know, I’m showing my age, but seriously- Little House on the Prairie is a classic!).

I had to get control. So, I threw up a hail Mary prayer and begged God to give me wisdom. That’s when it happened…….

My home became a Palace, and these two toddlers became subject to my “Queenliness.” Only princesses could live in this Palace with the queen, and Princess etiquette was expected and must be demonstrated at all times We wore tiara’s, we talked in English accents, and drank our apple juice with our pinkies lifted high (though I’ve recently learned that I taught them terrible etiquette and lifting the pinky is rude and elitist).

But, before my eyes, these two tantrum-throwing toddlers, transformed. Maddening meltdowns that had previously lasted for 30 minutes, were quickly defused whenever the Queen gasped, “Oh, but princesses don’t act that way!”

When the little girls became drill seargents demanding and commanding me, the Palace doors were once again opened, and the Princesses were invited to rejoin the Queen in the Palace. Behaviors quickly adjusted, and the two happy Princesses lived with me in my palace day after day, after day.

Then, the day came, where the girls would leave my Palace and move to what would become their forever home. The precious new foster family asked me for all my tips to help the girls’ transition. My response, “How do you feel about turing your home into a princess palace?” And, so, the well-behaved, and highly adored little Princesses went from one Palace to another. Where, my prayers for them were answerd. And today, they still live there, happily everafter.

You see, we are all princesses living in a castle. But life beats us up mentally, emotionally or physically, and we may quickly forget our priceless, princess position. We may tantrum, get bossy, and act in ways that are unbecoming. It’s in those moments that the Palace doors swing open, the King beckons us toward the throne and reminds us that we belong in this Palace, because we are daughters of the Heavenly King.

So, today, straighten that crown, give that heart a pep talk, and resume your princess platform!

Pinky cheers to you!

Mommy, Where Are You?

I heard her up in her room crying. Words of desperation and grief spilled from her lips, “Mommy, where are you? Come back, Mommy!”

My heart clenched? She misses her mommy. I know she does. Sometimes I want to continue in life as if the child living under my roof isn’t dealing with deep loss and hurt, but the reality is, she is.

Foster care is home to children who are hurting. Their lives have been torn away from the only normalcy they’ve ever known. Whether their mommy and daddy have been good to them or not, the mind-boggling reality is that most every child in foster care has the same heart-wrenching question, “Mommy (Daddy), where are you?”

She isn’t able to put into words all that she feels, but tonight, as her foster momma, I pen these heartfelt words that I know she longs for you to hear.

Dear Mommy (Daddy),

Tonight the sweetest little girl hugged my neck and kissed my cheek. As she said her prayers, and I tucked her into bed, I thought of YOU. I could see the pain behind her closing eyelids. It’s not me she wants, it’s YOU.

She is waiting on you to come back. She wants you to get healthy and make things right. She wants you to be the one who kisses her Goodnight, packs her lunches, drives her to school, praises her for a job well-done, and tucks her in at night. It’s not me she wants, it’s YOU.

She doesn’t care how many mistakes you have made, or how many wrongs you haven’t made right. She wants YOU.

I find it the most beautiful gift to be given the opportunity to care for your daughter. She is vibrant, loving, funny, beautiful, and full of charm. I look at her, and I see you.

I know God created this child for you, and you for her. He intended you to be her mom, always and forever. God gave you the greatest gift life gives us, a perfect and precious child. And, though she feels you slipping away, it’s not me she wants it’s YOU.

Though I can’t condone the choices you have made or the life you lead, I do cling to hope and the power of forgiveness. Your daughter and I pray for you every day and believe for change–change that can’t come soon enough.

Because…

Tonight, she cried out, “Mommy, where are you? Come back Mommy!”

And, tonight, I’m crying out too. It’s not me she wants, it’s YOU!

Sincerely,

The Foster Momma