Blessed by the unexpected

VBS 2019 – Princess and Pirates Night

I’m a person who remembers a lot of dates. Some are just ridiculous. Some I wish I couldn’t remember at all – like those tiny little dates when my mom went to hospice or I learned that my uncle died. I think I sometimes drive my family crazy by mentioning little dates. Over the past year, I’ve brought up small things like when we applied for foster care and when we received our license.

Last night my oldest, Sylvia, brought up a date. It really is a big point in our journey as a family. I hope that each year we can quietly reflect on it with joy. It was your typical summer activity – Vacation Bible School (VBS). However, it was the biggest surprise for me last year.

See, when we were getting near finalizing our foster license, I had one daunting thought in mind – VBS. The VBS at our church is large and hectic. It’s a lovely time of fun and fellowship, but it takes a lot of dedicated volunteers. When it looked like we would get our foster license in May, I literally prayed to ask not to get a placement until after VBS. I just didn’t understand how we could possibly take on all of the responsibilities. Not only would John and I be volunteering, but Sydney would be attending with a friend each night, and it ends pretty late. How would be possibly incorporate one or two more people? On top of that, these people wouldn’t know us well at all.

We met Sylvia and Nici toward the end of May. We had a few individual meetings with them to do fun things like bowling or manicures. They had come to the house a few times for dinner. The weekend before VBS they were coming to spend the night. When they heard us talking about VBS, they really wanted to see what it was like. They were too old to participate in the activities but could volunteer. We got permission for them to spend Monday night with us so that they could come to VBS and go home with us. We’d bring them back to their foster mom’s home on Tuesday.

Vacation Bible School 2018 – Our family, plus a few friends.

It was an interesting evening. It went really well! The girls didn’t know anyone, except for one boy from their school. They were quiet but did what was asked. They seemed to really enjoy their time. The next day, they asked if they could volunteer all week. John called to ask their foster mom and she agreed. We voluntarily had them stay with us all week for VBS. (Be careful about what you pray!)

Rogers craft crew 2018

Throughout that week we got to know each other in a way that we most likely would not have otherwise. We got to share stories and preferences. We got to work together and rely on one another for something that was beyond our family. John even helped in crafts when he could, so the four of us were often working together during some pretty chaotic situations.

We came out of it with an appreciation and knowledge for each other we had previously had. Also, the girls got to know other people in the church. I saw men and women devote time and energy to my girls during a week that already requires so very much. They talked to the girls about hair products, movies, pop culture, and faith. It all had a place in gaining trust and reputability with the girls.

At the end of the week, Sylvia and Nici went back to their foster mom’s home. They moved in with us five days later. I remember how natural it felt because we’d already spent a week together – a week that was one of the most hectic and demanding of the year. We already had a relationship and knew some quirks about each of us.

Last night, as we sat in the activities room of the church waiting for VBS to start, Sylvia came into the room. She sat next to me and said: “that was so weird.” I asked her what she was referring to. She had gone to one of the back offices to leave something for my friend. When she was there, she saw several people she knew and they all greeted her with excitement. She said that a year ago for VBS she knew no one, and now she’s a very familiar face. The four of us split up for volunteering this year. As we sat in the living room after VBS, we all agreed it was weird not to be together. Imagine that. Such a sense of regret that we didn’t do “our tradition” when we’d only done it once anyway.

It’s amazing what some time will do. Things that seem daunting and impossible, can be our greatest memories. God will find a way to make it work for the good. That’s certainly what He did for us.

Reverence in unexpected respite

As I sit here, I can’t help but think about how oddly funny this situation is. You know those moments when you just look around and giggle to yourself? That’s how I’m feeling at this moment.

It’s rare I get much time to myself. I had to come to town today for an appointment with my counselor. I had told my husband that I wanted to try to go somewhere afterward with my computer to write and gather my thoughts. He encouraged me to do so. After a great appointment with my counselor, who also thought I needed some quiet, alone time to write, I went looking for a place to go. Nothing were also venues where I just didn’t feel like I fit in there. I know that’s just my own anxiety getting to me, but since this was for me to relax, I respected those feelings. As I sat in a full parking lot, try to decide to and go home or find a place to eat, relax and write, I had a thought.

So here I sit in the cafeteria of one of the local hospitals. Why does it seem oddly funny to me? Because I’ve spent a lot of time here, but never to give myself a relaxing afternoon.

My youngest daughter was born in this hospital. She was in the NICU for 12 days. Those days were filled with lots of emotion, recovery for myself and hours at the hospital. I would come to the cafeteria in between visitations to try to get some nutrition in an attempt to be able to provide her milk. My body had been ravaged, she was born five weeks early and that milk never came. However, I persisted in my efforts, eating a salad or sandwich when the last thing I wanted to do was to eat.

I returned four years later, when my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer in the ER. I brought my dad and my daughter for a meal or a snack just to get them out of her room for a moment. We’d sit together over crab salad – a favorite of my dad and my daughter – and talk about what the future would look like without my mom in it. We returned a few times before she died six weeks after her diagnosis. The food and conversation was different each time, but the heartache and grief were the same.

Throughout the next 17 months, I’d return to this place. My dad, who was battling diabetes, severe nerve damage to his back, arthritis and kidney disease, had been on dialysis years before my mom died. Once she passed away, I honestly expected him to shortly follow. He fought. He worked so hard to carry on with his life. He did his treatments, went to appointments and even saw a counselor. Life was rocky. My mom was gone and no one could replace her. My brother was going through a drug addiction and lived with my dad, would caused much stress and worry. Still, my dad worked hard to be his best for my youngest daughter. They were very close, and he’d also promised my mom he wouldn’t just give up when she died. For those 17 months, he was in and out of the hospital for a large variety of issues. Still, when he called one day to tell me he needed me to meet the ambulance at the hospital, I knew our time was coming to an end. He spent more than a week here – some in ICU and some in a regular room. He would hardly eat, but if I got him crab salad from the cafeteria and my daughter brought it to him, he’d eat it. After a week, he was moved to hospice. That last day at the hospital I remember going to the cafeteria, drinking a Diet Dr Pepper and looking out the window, noticing the hospice where he was about to be transported. It was the same place where my mom had gone. I also remember leaving that day and thinking I hoped I never went back to that cafeteria.

Enjoying a soda, sandwich and time alone in a place I never expected.

Here I am – the hospital cafeteria. I chose it because it was a place where I was comfortable, I could sit as long I wanted and it had good food. It’s also a place I feel my parents with me. Odd, maybe, but the truth. We had a lot of hard conversations here, but we laughed some, as well. I feel like even though so much has changed since they died, so much has remained the same. The food selection, the decor, the location is all just how I remember it. I wish I could sit here with them and talk about all that has changed. I wish we could talk about how I now have three kids, making the only grandchild they knew the youngest in our family because I adopted teenagers. By the way, my parents would have rocked at being grandparents in our situation. If two people were suited for supporting us during a foster care and adoption situation of two teen girls, it would be my parents. I tried to buy my youngest daughter some crab salad, but the cafeteria was out today. I look around and realize I’m probably the only or at least one of the few who have chosen to be here today. I seen families having hard conversations. I see tired parents of grown children. I see a family near the window laughing between saw moments of silence. I see a small boy running to the window to look out at the city, seemingly unaware of the gravity of this place.

So here I sit, relaxing, enjoying some time alone and reflecting in the most unexpected place of reverence.

More than a name

I first came up with the name Honeycomb Grace when I saw Proverbs 16:24,

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

I had a health page for a while because of my weight loss journey. When we started our foster care journey, that dissolved. I like this verse and this title because I hope to share sweet and healing words that offer grace.

Thank you for joining me here. I hope you find it to be encouraging and sweet to the soul.

A bit about us

Photo by Pirtle Photography
Our family – John, Nici, Sydney, Syliva and Amanda.

Hi and welcome my website/blog! This is new for me. I’ve had a personal blog for years, but it was mostly a scrapbook of our lives for my family.

This is different.

First, I want to start by telling you a little bit about myself. My name is Amanda, and I’ve been married to John for nearly 10 years. We have three daughters, Sylvia, 14, Nici, 13, and Sydney, 8. However, Sydney came to our family first. When John and I got married we were told we would have a very difficult chance of having our own children. We were pleasantly surprised when we found out we were expecting Sydney. She arrived early and very tiny, but so mighty. We were and are so thankful for that miracle we call Sydney.

After a few years, we hadn’t gotten another miracle. We decided to look into adopting a small child through foster care. We went to a few classes, but the timing wasn’t great. I was not feeling well, but we didn’t know why. My mom was also in poor health. Later we found out I had a huge kidney stone, which was the cause of my health issues. My mom’s diagnosis wasn’t so simple. She had Stage 4 kidney cancer. She died about six weeks after the diagnosis. Not only was that a huge blow to our family, but my dad was disabled and required much care. The thought of more children was no longer even an issue. When my dad died 17 months after my mom, it was the first time in a while we could focus on ourselves. We enjoyed the time. We went on a couple of trips and just really enjoyed one another.

That fall things shifted. I feel like the word “called” is so overused and abused, but that’s truly what it was. The leader of a local chapter of National Angels made a presentation at our small group from church. She was talking about the need for support for foster families. When she started to talk about the statistics for older kids aging out of foster care, there was a strong pull at my heart. The one that got me the most was that within a year of aging out of the system, 66% of children will be incarcerated, trafficked, homeless or dead. That devastated me. It made me think that if we were to attempt to adopt through the foster care system, maybe an older child would be best.

That thought kept occurring to me. It was brought up time and time again through various avenues. It just felt to be a consistent message in my life. I finally got up the courage to ask my husband about it. We were sitting in the car and I told him I wanted to adopt through foster care and I wanted it to be a girl who was over 10 and who would most likely age out of foster care if she was not adopted. I just knew he’d think I was crazy. He simply looked at me and said “I know that’s what you want. I’ve just been waiting for you to ask me. Yes, let’s do it.”

Over the course of the next few months, we worked with a placement agency to get our foster license. It seemed to take so long. Those periods of simply waiting were the most difficult. When there were no more classes to take or forms to submit or anything to actively do, it was hard. During that time “Wreckless Love” by Cory Asbury was new. It was a popular song at our church. My dear, dear friend, who also happens to be our church worship pastor, would sing it with such conviction. She knew our hopes and our burdens. I’d listen to her, feel the Holy Spirit on my heart and uncontrollably cry. I’d think about all I had come through in my life and how God always brought me through. I thought about our possible future daughter and how much she must have endured. I thought about how maybe she was waiting for a forever family, scared that she may never get one. That song was my foundation for many months.

Then, it happened. Our agency knew of two girls – sisters ages 12 and 13. While two wasn’t the original plan, we’d recently decided that a sibling set might be best for us. We met them a week later. After a few weeks of hanging out with them, together and individually, they spent the night at our house a few times. They moved in a month after our original meeting.

There will be plenty of time for me to fill in all of the details, but for now I’ll keep it brief. We got two more miracles! The girls were adopted about 5 months later. It wasn’t always easy. In fact there were times it wasn’t remotely easy. However, it was right. It was more than right. They are ours and we are theirs. We now have three miracles, although not in the way we originally planned. God’s way was better, as it always is.

We are now a family of five! We have issues as any family would, but we are so grateful to have one another. In many ways it feels as if we’ve always been together. We all know we were a family designed by God. When I hear “Reckless Love” on the radio, I can’t help but feel such gratitude and love. God knew what we needed – every single one of us. He led and way and we were obedient. His reckless love took over our lives and made us new.