#902 - Family Time in the Pool

We had so much fun last night. We have some great friends who live a few minutes outside of town on gorgeous property. Going to their house really is like going on a retreat. They are very gracious to allow us to use their pool anytime we want, even when they're out of town (like they are now). So, we packed a picnic dinner and took our family of 5 for an evening of just us - which hasn't happened in quite some time! It was much-needed and time very well spent.

Riley is our cautious one. This was his first time to wear just floaties, and although it took a little convincing, once he realized what he could do with them, he was all over the pool! Hoping that by the end of the summer he won't need them at all!

 I so wish we could show you our sweet girl's face! This was her first time in a swimming pool, and she LOVED it! I wasn't surprised because bath-time is one of her favorite times of the day!

My loves

I'm so thankful for fun summer nights, and I'm hoping there will be more like this in the coming weeks!


#903 - His Promises

When I sat down and read verses 15 and 16 of Psalm 139 tonight after putting sweet girl to bed, my heart leapt inside of me. How perfect are His promises. My spirit felt an overwhelming peace that can only come from the Holy Spirit's testifying to the TRUTH of God's Word. Tomorrow morning we'll go into a court room and observe while a judge decides the next step in sweet girl's future. What my Father promises me is that no matter the outcome, He KNOWS and His plan is absolutely perfect! I don't have to worry because all of her days were numbered by Him before one of them even came to be. So, I will lie down and sleep in peace (Psalm 4) tonight knowing Who is in control! And for that, I am thankful!


#904 - Names

I've started a new Bible reading plan. Today I read Ezra 2, Psalm 2, and Matthew 1 & 2. Do you know what Ezra 2 and Matthew 1 have in common? Names...lots of them! Anytime I come to a list of names in the Bible part of me says, "Oh, here we go!" But The Lord is always quick to remind me that each name has been included for a reason. 

Today he used the list of names to encourage me that He knows our sweet girl's name. She's not just a number in the CPS database, but she is a child made in God's image. And He loves her. He has a plan and purpose for her life. 

I'll be honest, last week was a bit difficult for us. We found out our days with her are numbered. The chances of us getting to adopt her are pretty slim. That was hard news to swallow. But, it's the risk we were called to take. Does it make it any easier? Absolutely not! Is God still in control? Absolutely! And all we can do is trust the God who knows her name! I am so thankful to serve a God who is personal. I am thankful that no matter where sweet girl ends up, I know she will not go alone. And I pray with all of my being that she grows up knowing she is never alone! Will you pray that with me?


#905 - Day by day

Three months ago today, we opened the front door and saw the newest addition to the Bramlett family. (Hence the hiatus from the blog...didn't realize how much of a change it would be going from 2 kids to 3!) It's hard to believe it's been 3 months. It's also hard to remember life before this sweet girl. She just fits into our family so well.

We still have no clue how long she'll be here with us. The ups and downs of foster care. It certainly teaches the importance of seizing the day and living each one to the fullest. I find myself praying over her every chance I get because I have no clue how many chances are left. Tonight one of those sweet times arose and I seized it. All 3 kiddos were in bed, Daniel was running one of the youth home and I was making chicken salad for my Bible study tomorrow. I heard sweet girl making all kinds of noises in the monitor (which is typical when she's trying to go to sleep, but tonight it seemed to be lasting longer than usual). Once again, she's teething (do babies ever really stop??), so I grabbed the Tylenol, the rest of her bedtime bottle which she didn't finish before going to bed, and sweet girl and I had a date in the recliner. After I finished feeding her, I put her up on my shoulder to burp her. Normally she'd start jumping around, grabbing at my hair, and jabbering. However, tonight she just laid her precious head on my shoulder as if she didn't have a care in the world. My heart was so full! I just rocked her and prayed over her for several minutes. I thought, I'll stay up until 11 pm making chicken salad if it means I get to spend this sweet time with her. 

So much has changed in sweet girl's life in just 3 short months...she's gotten her first 6 teeth, she learned to roll over, she started sitting up unassisted, she began "talking" (sometimes I wonder if she's secretly a Bramlett with all the jabbering she does!), she started (and loves!) baby food, she's sleeping through the night (can I get an amen?!), she's not near as jumpy as she was when she first came (she was startled very easily), and she shows signs of attachment to us. All of these things are normal for a baby. They're supposed to happen. What sweet girl doesn't know, though, is all of the incredible changes I've watched take place in our family as a result of her being with us. I've watched our other two kiddos accept and love unconditionally a baby they'd never met before she showed up on our front door step. I've watched a husband give of himself and his free time over and over to assist me with some sort of parental duty. I've watched a 4-year-old's heart wrap around the idea of fostering and adoption so much that he wants to tell everyone we see what's going on with our family. I've watched a 2-year-old girl go from being very jealous of her new sister and asking if she could go home the first day to laying beside her on the floor playing with her just because, or running over to calm her down when she's upset, or insisting on singing "Jesus Loves Me" over her as she's going to bed at night. I've watched myself being convicted of my selfish nature when I'm woken up several times during the night by multiple children and wonder if it's all really worth it. I've watched as the Lord's shown me over and over through sweet girl's smile that yes, every bit of it's worth it. I've watched as a church body has completely fallen in love with this girl. I could go on and on with story after story. The bottom line is this girl and fostering has changed us all. Are there hard moments? You bet! Are there unsure moments when we wonder what the next week will bring? You better believe it! Are there times when I hate the thought that fostering even has to be an option? Every single week when I drive away from her parent visit. It's not natural. This is not the way God intended it. But, if this is how it has to be right now, I'm so thankful to be a part. And so for as long as we have her we will thank The Lord and love her as she deserves to be loved. And if one day she does leave, we will thank The Lord for the time we had, trust His perfect plan, and continue praying for her for as long as we have breath. That's all we can do, and that's all He asks of us.


#906 - Worth the Wait

Two months ago we officially became certified foster parents.We were told by many people to "hold on for the ride because you'll probably get a call soon after being approved." November turned into December, December turned into January, and still no call. Many people at church and Bible study would say, "have you heard anything yet??" And I'd always have to respond with "not a word!" Finally, after the first of the year I decided to email the caseworker at our agency just to be sure we hadn't forgotten some form (there are so many!) or done something to slow down the process. She assured me that this was sometimes 'normal,' and not to worry. Throughout the two months I really didn't worry (which is totally unlike me), I just kept wondering when God would bring that special child into our lives. I clung to the promise that His timing is perfect, and I waited.

January 16 at 10:45 a.m. I was sitting in my small group at CBS (Community Bible Study) when I heard my phone vibrating. I looked down and didn't recognize the number, so since we were almost done with small group I thought I'd just wait and see if the person left a message. The thought briefly crossed my mind that this might be "the" call, but I pretty quickly dismissed it. 5 minutes later I checked my message and it was our caseworker, Leisa. She said, "Laura, I need you to call me back immediately. Thanks, bye." And that's when I knew there must be a child waiting. I tried calling her back but couldn't reach her, so I text her. About 2 minutes later Daniel called me and said, "Laura, there's a 5-month old girl who needs a home." I quickly said, "Did you tell her yes?" And he responded with, "Well, of course!" And that was the beginning of the whirlwind that has been our lives the past week.

We first got the call at 10:45, and baby girl was at our house by 1:30. Whew! Throughout training we were told it would be quick and unexpected - they weren't joking! With pregnancy you have 9 months...in foster care you have a matter of minutes to make your decision and then a few hours to baby proof your house. I was really proud of Daniel and myself, though, because throughout Thursday afternoon we were both very calm and worked well as a team.

So how has the past week been for the Bramlett's? Chaotic, full of grace, overwhelming at times, fun, surreal, crazy, beautiful and just as it should be. Daniel and I had a few moments of quiet a couple of nights ago before we both passed out, and we talked about how even in the craziest moments of the past week, we both knew this was right. This is exactly what God wants for our family at this time. There have been SO many confirmations, but one of those is the interaction Riley and Ella have with baby girl. When I first told them they might be getting a sister in a few hours, they were ecstatic! It was not a for sure thing when I mentioned it to them because CPS had to approve our file, but Riley kept saying, "We have to get her Mama! I know I'm getting a sister!" And then when she arrived they were like two kids in the candy store. Riley kept saying how cute she was, and Ella just kept pointing and saying, "baby! baby!" As Daniel mentioned in his sermon this past Sunday, they never once asked where she was from, what her background was, why she was at our house, etc. They simply accepted her as their new sister. Because that's what she is.

Several people have mentioned to me that they didn't think they could ever foster because what happens if you get attached to the child and then they leave. "I just don't think my heart could take it." The honest truth is I'm not so sure my heart's going to be able to take it. BUT let's look at this from baby girl's perspective. Did she want to be removed from her home and everything she was familiar with? Did anyone ask her if she wanted to go to another town and move in with a random family that has two small, excited, overly-dramatic children? No! The choice was made for her. I have a choice. I could choose to keep her at a distance, very coldly feed her, change diapers and make sure she's safe. OR
I could love her unconditionally as I do my own children, call her my daughter, and allow her to penetrate the depths of my heart - knowing there's a very real possibility her last name won't be changed to Bramlett.

As a follower in Christ, I really don't have a choice. I must do the latter. I have a new daughter, and I will love her as my own for as long as the Lord allows me to. If/when the day comes and she leaves our home for another, I will continue to love her and pray for God's grace, protection and mercy on her life. I believe with my whole heart that He will use the time we have with her to plant truth into her precious, little heart. And I'm really not nervous about if/when we have to let her go. I trust my God with my heart, and I trust that He's sovereign. If/when that time comes, His grace will be enough. And really, how selfish of me to say, "I'm not going to love you fully, baby girl because it may end up hurting in the end." Isn't that what love's all about?! Taking a risk and trusting that even if it does hurt at some point, it was worth it?

So, a week into our first placement I find myself thankful. Sleep-deprived, but thankful. The Lord shows me in multiple ways throughout the day that He is all over this and that He is being glorified and will continue to be throughout this process. And that's really what it's all about anyway...obeying my Father and always looking for ways to bring Him glory.


#907 - Lifelong Committment

I love to journal. At this particular point in life, I am not journaling. I wish I was. I guess in some ways this blog serves as a journal for me right now. But in years past, I have been known to fill up journals very quickly. In fact, while living in South Africa I completed 14 journals in 2 years. I was able to spend a lot of alone time with the Lord, and much of that time was spent writing my prayers. 

The other day I was looking around the house for something to read. I remembered my journals, and decided to begin reading back through them. I believe strongly that the Lord wants us to look back on where we've been and see clearly the ways He has grown us and increased our faith throughout the years. I was also curious to see what was most important to me back then since now my life is consumed with a husband, small feet and hands, dishes, laundry, children's books, baby dolls, hot wheels, ministry, etc. I wasn't too far into my reading when I came across this...

I wrote this in 1999 when I was a junior in college at Baylor. I don't remember when I began thinking about what I wanted in a future mate. I do remember praying for my future mate throughout high school and college...and after college...and after being a journeyman for 2 years. Honestly, there were many days when I wondered if my prayers were in vain. I knew God heard me, but I wasn't so sure that He was going to answer the desire of my heart and give me a mate. Looking back on it now, it's easy to see my lack of faith. But, isn't it always easier to look back and see what we've done wrong than to see it in the moment? 

Anyway, if you know my husband, you know that this list was fulfilled AND THEN SOME! I had to laugh when I read #9. And then since my mate was reading beside me, I had to show it to him so he could laugh. Daniel is definitely not afraid to tell me what he really thinks about anything and everything...and for that I'm grateful! (I don't always feel grateful at the moment, but I am!) 

My heart is overflowing with gratitude to the Lord today as Daniel and I celebrate our 6th Anniversary. I remember soon after we married looking at him at random times and thinking, "I can't believe I am his and he is mine!" And I still find myself doing that today. The Lord blesses His children so much more than we could ever imagine or come close to deserving. I will forever be thankful for this man and the lifelong commitment we made 6 years ago.