first fosters.

where in the world to begin…

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three little birds flew into our home wednesday morning. into the car, more specifically, where we spent our first hour together, where I realized that they were foster kids yes, but at the root, just kids. copious amounts of “are we there yet?” asks and knock-knock jokes will remind one of that.

the next four days were a continual reminder of that kid-ness at the core, a whirlwind of mothering four, an exercise in growing immeasurable respect for moms of many and the recognition of a growing desire to be one myself. they ran us ragged in my favorite way, every night leaving that “camp tired” sensation coursing through me. i loved it. i miss it. i want my phone to ring and more sweet faces to walk through our door.

we did art projects and put together Legos and read books. we swam and ran and squealed and laughed. we lived like a family.

is all of this so very obvious, full of recognitions I should have had before the three came? I didn’t know that they would feel like part of us, even assumed they wouldn’t since their leaving time was always known. but maybe that’s just it, maybe the knowledge that their lives are full of coming and going, hellos and goodbyes unwelcome, maybe that’s what bonded them to me in a way unimaginable. maybe I’m just pregnant and sappy and idealistic. maybe I’m not going to worry about the reason and just ride this wave of first-time emotions, so sad to see them go, so glad that they live with a wonderful foster family, so begging God to bring them stability. they knew how to pack their bags far too well for children their age.

I’m so thankful as I think on the way the three were loved during their few days with us, the way our church family embraced them and friends came over to play and our families praised their drawings over FaceTime. I’m becoming okay with the fact that I’ve evolved into the pregnant, weeping, worshipping mama in the second row at church, lips quivering through lyrics of God’s sovereignty, love, protection, Fatherliness. those marks of Him cover every part of my life, do the three see it too? they articulated the gospel clearly to me, knew the truth of the body and blood and resurrection. I’m begging for the faith to believe that the Spirit will testify to them exactly Whose children they are when the answer to that question on earth only breeds confusion.

I’m just going to sit here in this moment of reflecting on our first fosters. I’m so prone to running ahead, ignoring the gnawing inside that asks me to just take a minute, just let this be important, weighty, sad. it is sad. it’s sad to say goodbye, and it’s infinitely sadder for little babies to be shuffled from one place to the next, lives shrouded in uncertainty.

remember how I was reminded that the three were kids long before they were foster kids, children just like Owen is, just like I was? this is a truth that burrows deep and demands my attention. just like one with a handicap is not defined by it, these children are not defined by their status in the system. all that that status means matters greatly, but it is not all there is. they do not have to be children of the system forever, defined by paperwork and packed bags. that we could be some minuscule part of showing them possibility, showing them Jesus and hope and life beyond is a calling above my pay grade, a mission fulfilled only by the Spirit’s empowerment. I cling to Him. I thank Him for letting us join Him in caring for souls. I feel sad and let it be so. I wait for the phone to ring.

on being ourselves.

our foster care home study is on thursday. 

those eight words carry so much weight and meaning that i’m tempted to just leave them alone and hit “publish.”

a home study contractor will come to our home at 5 pm, a list of questions and time for “observing” our family prepared. in other words, this is one of those situations where “just be yourself” is simultaneously the best and most obnoxious advice one could give.

just be yourself

just be ourselves…just try not to explode with passion and hope while we attempt to explain how burdened we are to care for the orphan in a way unbelievably minuscule when compared to the breadth of the crisis.

just be ourselves…just smile and start over when we’re halfway through the response to a challenging question and Owen demands our attention (it is dinnertime, after all) and we can’t remember where that answer was going or why.

just be ourselves…just let the imperfect and messy show. we are young, we are learning, we are zealous and naive yet asking for wisdom to fall like water to our tongues. we are serious about this.

just be ourselves…just let myself speak in metaphor and theory and drips of poetry because my mind swims with language and its unification is how the world makes sense to me. just let jared speak in stories because he makes them come to life, in explanations because he finds truth at their conclusions.

just be ourselves…just play with the plastic farm on the floor while explaining our philosophy on attachment with interjections of “moo” and “baa” and “oink.” just offer dinner and dessert and coffee and a spot on the couch, because we love simple hosting and why should this be any different? just be okay saying “we don’t know, but we want to learn.”

just be ourselves…i am introverted. i am an obsessive achiever. i am a strategist and planner and all those other things that sound like “perfectionist” but aren’t because the standard isn’t perfection, it’s worse. the standard is whatever personal goal i’ve concocted in my mind, conscious or not, attainable or not, healthy or not. thursday will be quite an exercise in laying down my expectations, in surrendering the weaknesses of my personality, in letting our true colors show because (glory to God) our truest colors are the red of Christ’s blood shed over us and the white of the robes He clothed us in and the green of the life all around us that calls our hearts to continue celebrating Sunday’s Easter holiday – the resurrection that means we are new in Him.

just be ourselves…rescued and redeemed, justified, being sanctified, awaiting the day we are glorified. His banner waves over us, His mercy patiently guides us, His sovereignty strongly upholds us. we were first loved and now we love, first chosen and now we choose, first shown compassion and now we work out how to show it ourselves.

just be yourself is starting to sound a little better when i remember Who goes before and behind me, Who gave me a new identity, Who stamped “debt paid” on my soul. may His Spirit speak through us and mingle about us on Thursday night, finding glory, honor, praise in the words uttered. that is, after all, the true meaning underlying each step in this process, the true purpose propelling our love for the least of these. all glory, all honor, all praise to You.

[we appreciate your prayers for us this week! thank you all for loving and caring for our family.]

these days.

as springtime speeds rapidly by, activities and change and newness abounding, a little update on the goings-on of our family seems to be in order.

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we are expecting Baby #2 in early October!
we are completely elated, amazed at God’s goodness in giving us another little one to love. i was extremely sick in the beginning but have felt better much more quickly than i did during my pregnancy with Owen. the fatigue is much stronger this time around, but i’m betting that there is some sort of correlation between pregnancy, chasing a toddler and exhaustion. Jared has been a total superhero in terms of taking care of both Owen and me while i’m at less than full-capacity. (side note: ladies, marry men who rise to the challenges that will come, because they will come.)

we have reached the home study phase of our foster care license (which is another way of saying, “yes, we are still pursuing our license even though i am pregnant.”).
if my health during pregnancy allows, we will provide respite care for other foster families prior to baby arriving and determine the best time for a long-term placement after he or she (any guesses?) is here. we are excited to see what happens and trusting that the Lord will give us the wisdom to determine what we can handle/what will be best for our family and every child in our care.

i am now a Wellness Advocate for doTerra Essential Oils.
this endeavor appeals to so much of what i care about and is a great fit for the priorities our family has already established. i love taking care of our family in a natural, healthy way, it’s important to me to continue growing in my knowledge of how God created our bodies and the world around us, and i want to honor God with our finances and resources. doTerra provides me the opportunity to do each of those things, as well as the chance to potentially educate others as i’m learning, which is something i love to do.

occasionally, i will share a testimony or two of how essential oils have helped our friends and family, but that will be about it in terms of oils and this blog. in the same way that i write about friends having babies, foster care, or any of the other adventures in our life, i will write about this pursuit as it naturally comes up. if essential oils intrigue you or you would like to learn more, email me at abbyjoyperry(at)gmail(dot)com.


there are several more things i could write about today – our fabulous trip to visit dear friends in Louisville last week, our upcoming Jared-and-Abby-only vacation to Antigua, my continued bliss over so many babies being born among our friends, mom life, work life, church life, etc. i suspect each of these things will show up in a post or two in the weeks to come. life is rapid yet peaceful, full in the way of rich harmonies and the abundance found in priorities aligned and pursued. we’re thankful, above all else.

thanks for caring about our family enough to read this little update. we value each of you! 

2014: one word 365.

i’m a little geeked up right now. i’m coming off the high of an influence net class by rachael kincaid on women at work (meaning all women. because we all work. whatever we’re doing.). it rang so true and sweet and challenging and harmonious within, calling to mind the OneWord365 post that keeps slipping through the cracks, unwritten.

so here it is, maybe raw, maybe unfinished because it’s almost 10pm and i can feel myself melting into the sofa, but it’s time to spell it out.

my 2014 word is persevere.

Imagethis is probably not a huge shocker to those who know me in person. i’m big on accomplishment and achievement. i’m all about sucking it up and putting your head down (both of which Rachael spoke to so eloquently in the class tonight!), ignoring distractions, learning how to say “no,” and forging a clear path. every year, our family, our marriage, has faced trials both expected and unexpected, and onward we went, refusing defeat, despair, devastation. we’ve learned so much about choosing joy, slaying expectations and fighting for fun when it just felt so far away. like i tweeted a few weeks ago, persevere has been a silent anthem rising like a wave for years past, and this year, it’s reaching a crest.

this is the year we’re choosing (at least some of) the hardest moments we will have ever faced. sure, we picked young marriage and a four year seminary program and a baby amidst a sea of schoolwork and small paychecks and, for heaven’s sake, life in ministry. but this is the year we take classes, fill out paperwork, let professionals scrutinize our home and pray for the end of the seemingly endless checklist to come so that we can bring children we’ve never met from parents we’ve never known from neighborhoods we’ve never seen to live in our home. in other words, this is the year we’ve lost our minds, and friends, i think it’s the best place we’ve ever been.

persevere takes on a whole new meaning when we’re not only choosing to respond with joy to the hardships that rise up on their own, but when we look at something with heartbreak written all over it and say yes, we choose this. this amidst the already constant calls to persevere in parenthood and jobs and church life and family relationships and community and first time homeownership and dreams that are clawing their way to the surface of our hearts. we’re choosing this. we’re choosing hard. we’re choosing to dig our heels in deep. we’re choosing to put our hands to the plow and to let Him put our feet on solid ground. we’re choosing to set our affections on the unloved and to set our eyes on things above, by Jesus’ grace alone. we’re choosing to say yes and to persevere.

i’ve felt all of this rumbling inside for so very long, lived and believed it more fully in the recent weeks and months. today is really just the day that i’m putting a name on it and grasping onto what this really is. today is the day that i’m determined to come out of 2014 with a deeper understanding of how the thoughts make it happen and Christ’s grace is enough work together, with a reconciliation of sweaty work and healing rest, with an overwhelming sense of confidence and joy. this tree has had its roots in me for years now; the branches are coming along, slow, sure, budding, blossoming.

soon enough, i’ll share a post with some of the tools i’m using to set myself up for living with persevere as my anthem. these aren’t just rambling, empty words, y’all, they’re a battle plan. like i’ve said before2014, we’re coming for you.

do you have a word for the year?

an attempt to savor & believe & celebrate.

it’s the most wonderful, busy, heart-pricking, thought-provoking, tidings of comfort and joy time of the year. i started decorating today, playing Christmas music and letting Owen stomp on bubble wrap as i fluffed garland and thought about who will celebrate in our home this year as we host Christmas dinner for the first time. just moments ago, Owen crawled into my lap with his two stuffed puppies and fell asleep, the sign of a morning well spent.

i suppose i’m feeling a bit sentimental today, although it feels like it’s something a little stronger than that. a need to recognize these days as fleeting, and a desire to savor this snoring 16 month old in all his sweat and sweetness. just yesterday, he handed our foster care application to the postman and stared at his wide-eyed mama as she took the moment in, the official beginning to a countdown, a decision further solidified, a craving and longing and hope and fear mingled and released. i snapped a picture of him holding the envelope before mailing it, a picture that will be sealed in my heart forever as one both precious and presumptuous as we ask our unknowing son to begin an adventure with us that will have immeasurable impact on how he sees his childhood, his parents, others, Jesus, the world.

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are we doing right by him? my timid flesh asks occasionally, and without hesitation the Spirit affirms, yes. teach him to love the least, to steward not own, to care not control, to give not grasp. oh that i could impart to my child that which i daily struggle to learn myself.

we’re walking hand in hand, Owen, Jared and i, and we’re begging the Three in One to knit the three of us more closely together with Him as we open doors and make beds and say hello and goodbye and ask why and shout yes.

Immanuel. God with us.

i’m intent on recording my awareness of just how very near He is this year. how very meaningful His presence on this earth, in a form like yours and mine, was to all eternity and reality, how very comforted i am by the Spirit’s testimony to me daily, hourly, moment by moment of Who God is and what that means about me and for me and in me and through me. a friend reminded me recently that God will continue to call us “further up and further in” [C.S. Lewis] as we follow His voice. perhaps that captures all of these jumbled thoughts best of all. what a fitting season to ponder that truth.

tidings of comfort and joy, indeed.