Thursday, 13 October 2016

Raising Pretenders

Meandering the choppy waters of parenting a teen is new and confounding at times. It humbles and shakes up my days. It is also a blessing. Yes! I just said blessing and teen together. I had hoped and hoped and prayed that our teens would know that we are on their side, that we are not their advisory. It is such a scary, scary time in parenting isn't it? These children figure out they have brains of their own and they want to use them to do things like think and have their own opinion. It's so very hard to know when to push and when to let it slide. It might be more like parenting a toddler than we would like to admit most of the time. And yet, there is something very sweet here.

I realize that this is not every ones experience. It will not be ours with every child. Of that I am almost certain. I'm not saying this to brag or put anyone else into what I like to call, "a fog of comparison."

It is not some formula like a chemistry experiment so please, PLEASE don't ask me how. I just want to share with you what I want for my kids and what I really, REALLY don't want.

I think, if you love the Lord Jesus as I do, then it will be a reflection of your own heart. I want you to know that there are mothers standing firm with you and pressing on hand in hand along side you. Right there. Together.

It is easy, on days that aren't so great, to lapse into despair. You know the those days. In the toddler years, I often think, "This child will NEVER be potty trained. NEVER<EVER<EVER<EVER!!" In the teen years it's more like, "Why does he/she think that EVERYTHING is my faultttt????!!!!" {insert crying emoji face here} And, "SERIOUSLY??!! Have you lost your ever loving mind with that tone and that eye roll and that....don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about...." And we so often let hope slip through our fingers and take the boat load of joy with it. BOOM! Gone.


We forget that what we want is for our kids to love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and souls and love their neighbor as themselves. We forget that we want them to know God and make Him be known. And we forget where we came from and who he has made us into because we are suffering through the same thing that Christ suffers through with each one of us daily. I mean really, if you can't tell me that you aren't exactly like at least 12 of the 12 disciples then you have lost your ever lovin' mind right alongside your teen. We forget that we don't want to raise a bunch of pretenders.

Yes, there I said it. Right there friend, read it again: we DO NOT want to raise a bunch of rule following, I know all the right Sunday School, Jesus Freak answers but can't for the life me sacrifice anything for anyone ever sort of kids. Yes, it is easy to get kids to follow the rules. And some how {but I think we know how} that our kids get this idea that Christianity is actually a rule book that looks a lot like this:

1. don't drink
2. don't smoke
3. don't do drugs
4. don't have sex before you're married {or even think about having sex before you're married for heaven sake!}
5. don't cuss. ever!
6. pick good friends.
7. don't pick friends that do ANY of the aforementioned don'ts.
8. listen to "good" music. read "good" books.
9. don't lie
10. don't steal
11. be modest
12. obey your parents. always.

There are a lot of others but I don't have the time....and neither do you, I'm guessing.

Pay attention friends to what I am not saying. I am not saying that any of these rules are bad. Rules and boundaries are a blessing. I know that. You know that. Obviously anarchy is never a good idea. Neither is socialism but that's another post that I will never write. At least I don't think I will. {insert silly face emoji and don't be so easily offended...ha!}

It's not the rules. It's the reason. Did you read that? Read it again! It's the reason behind the rules that is important. And WHO is the reason? We tend to use the rules as the driving force as the reason behind why we do what we do or have the rules that we have instead of making it about Christ don't we? I know I do.

One day folks, one day, sooner than you think, these kids are going to grow up and take their beautiful brains and bodies out of your house. They are going to be challenged in ways that we never were as young people and you know what: if they do not know why they are following those rules in the first place, they WILL NOT follow them. They will walk away because there was not a reason. There was no real grace. There was no Jesus.

Jesus is beautiful. Jesus is my all in all. He is everything. I love Him. I want to obey him. I want to serve and sacrifice. I see my sin, daily and I hate it. His yoke is light but it would not be if I didn't actually know him. The weight of the law and all the rules is a burden that cannot be kept and will only produce despair or pride in our children. The law...the rules are merely to point our children towards Christ. They cannot obey the rules perfectly and we do not want them to pretend that they can. And as a side, we do not want them to believe that we can obey them perfectly either.

I looked at my teen today and said this exact thing: "I will love you no matter what kind of music you choose to listen to. I may think it unwise. I may even have to ban a certain song, though I hope it wouldn't come to that, but I want to know what you are listening to and why you like it." I do not want her to not like a song, because she thinks I will disapprove. Part of growing in her relationship with the Lord is her realization that what she listens to is what she puts directly into her heart. That has to be important to her, not just to me. I don't want a show. I don't want pretenders. I pray for the real deal: children that know the Lord and want to make Him known to the world. I know you do too.

Friday, 16 September 2016

The Post with a Cute Picture but Really No Depth. At all.

Hi my name is Kari Jo. Well, really it's Karrie Jo. But since it's pronounced the same way either way it's spelt, I won't bore you with that silly story.

Wait, yes I will.

On my birth certificate my dear mother spelt my name Karrie. Then she taught me to spell it Kari. She says it's b/c she wanted me to be called Kari Jo and well, Karrie Jo was just too long. I say it's b/c she thought it was too long for me to learn to spell. Silly, I know.

Now you know where I get it.

Seriously. Weirdness runs in the family.

And I like to stay up late. Right now it's exactly 11:43 and by the time I'm done rereading this post for the gajillionth (I may also be a bit of a drama queen) time, it will be close to midnight. I really do heart staying up late. It's a problem.

'Specially since I have 8 kids.

Yes, 8.

Don't worry, it's not a competition. But if it was....

kidding, it's Soooo not.

There are so many things I want to write about at the moment but I'm not going to just yet. Mostly because of the aforementioned 8 children who will want to do things like eat breakfast at 7 am promptly and I will want to roll over and pretend I am still kidless (wait, was I ever kidless?) in the morning if I don't go to bed really, very soon.

 I just wanted to share this picture with you because it captures my heart.

And that is all. 

My Love and my littlest love. 


My heart might burst open.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Gotcha Day 2016

This is how my day ended. 
It was 11 and she waited up for me to come home from a meeting. 
Of course she did.

I used to be, sadly, frustrated by this sort of thing.
And sadly, sometimes I still am.
Because days around here can be very long.
And yesterday was one of those long days....
but in a good way.

It was Gotcha day. 
Very probably my favorite day of the year.
Even more so than Christmas.
And if you know me that's saying something big

This girl.
She has my heart all twisted sometimes.
She's so beautiful.
And kind.
Which matters most, I think.

And she totally rocks the Chucks.
Rocks them. 

Pretty boy.
It's a good thing too.
Thats all all I'll say about that.

No really, it's a love worth fighting for.
A love given to me from the Lord.
Never easy.
As with some, it will never be.

I mean really?
Can a little person be any cuter?
Or more terrific?
She did just throw a MAJOR tantrum before this....
something about having to share her Bahama Bucks. 
The shirt is a good reminder for me. :)

These two.
Best friends.
Melt my heart.

They all do, really.

This was a massive photobomb fail on Koen's part.
So funny.

Being the oldest brother of this crazy train isn't always easy.
He wears it well though, I think.


They've been best buds since three years ago.
Having your best friend become your brother.
Only God can do that.

I think this pix sums up our day and my reality on a daily basis.
Prayers appreciated
 well sort of.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Learning and Relearning

It's been so long that I've written about schooling that perhaps many of you thought that we don't teach at home anymore. I'm not sure why this is. It takes up much of my time and energy, but maybe it's just not my platform. Or something like that.

Anyhoot, (I totally stole this from another gal in the blogosphere...she says it all the time and I heart it) we are actually doing a really fun study right now on the Olympics. Amanda Bennett has these fabulous unit studies that she has put together and really sister, all I have to do is click and read. My kind of study! My kids heart these. She offers a Monday Wonder each week and you can get a whole unit study for $6. Yes, for almost less than that latte that you just bought from the coffee store that is taking over the world. The world, I say!

Anyhoot, (sorry...well, not really) maybe on Monday it was the lack of structure we've been having since our move (yes, we moved again. That's another story for another day. Maybe not ever. I digress. Sigh...) or the very loud yelling I heard downstairs that propelled me to my computer desk to purchase my copy. I was sure the kids would be excited.

And they were. Oh! Yes! They were. This was the kind of yelling I like to hear. Not the kind that was going on downstairs earlier. I do not, I do not, I do not like green eggs and yelling in my kitchen. Ever!

And like most other things I make my kids do with school, even when they're excited and hoot and hollar about it, when we reached the middle on that first day there were those same yells that I don't like so much coming from children about correct spelling and me catching the 4th grader really, REALLY having to think about just which way the letter "b" goes. Let me just tell you how much a homeschooling mom llloooovvveeess to see that. Not so much. Maybe this is why we're doing this now. So I don't pull my hair out when school does officially start in Sept. I don't think patchy bald is my look.

But what I do looooovvvveeee about school is that I actually get to relearn all the things I should have learned the first time around when I was just a snot of a girl writing notes to friends and doodling in my notebook instead of actually caring about what I was learning in school. And I get to learn them with my kids. And make them care. Or at least try very, very hard to make them care. And pray that they do by the time they're old enough to not be under my tutelage. Wait, is there an official age for that? Let me know if you're a mom and you know. Ok? Ok.

Because this week subjects came up that I was not initially thinking would. Subjects like slavery, share cropping, Jim Crow laws, and one man that rose above the terrible sin against him with grace and humility.

Jesse Owens was his name. The moment I said his name, I had one son say, "Oh, yeah! I know ALL about him from Vacation Bible School this year." Well, I did not know ALL about him so we looked him up online (ahem, clicked the link) and found out about his incredible story.

Jesse Owens was the grandson of a slave and the son of a sharecropper. My kids know about slavery but did not know what share cropping was, nor did they remember what Jim Crow laws were and how not very long ago they existed. Jessie was his mother and father's 7th child. By the time he was in high school he had made a very big name for himself in the area of track and field. In the 1936 Olympics that was held in Nazi Germany, Owens was the first man to win four gold metals in a single Olympiad. More than that Jesse Owens' character spoke volumes to the entire world that was watching.

"Although others have gone on to win more gold medals than Jesse, he remains the best remembered Olympic athlete because he achieved what no Olympian before or since has accomplished. During a time of deep-rooted segregation, he not only discredited Hitler's master race theory, but also affirmed that individual excellence, rather than race or national origin, distinguishes one man from another." (, about, para. 5)

Individual excellence.


I could preach here at you, but I'm afraid there are too many loud and proud voices out there and I don't want to add to the volume that keeps amplifying. I am so thankful though, that God ordains my days in such a way that I am able to have these important conversations with our children about loving others well and seeing people for the individuals that the Lord has created in His very own image especially during a very, very hard time in America.  

And can I just add a PS while I'm plunking? If you're like me, shaken and aching for black people and feel helpless about what to do or how to gain perspective... if you are looking for any encouraging voice in the crowd, I encourage you to head on over to Benjamin Watson's blog Truth in the Game. He's written and continues to write passionately about race in America. And while your at it read all about Jessie Owens and watch the video below. 

Truly, truly remarkable.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

He Calls me Mom.

Him: What did I call Ms. Cari when I lived with them?
Me: Mom
Him: What did I call the Strucks when I lived with them?
Me: Mom and Dad
Him: And, of course, I called Audrey mom when I lived with her.
Me: of course.
Him: WEIRD. That is SO weird, Mom!!!
Me: Not really, because they were acting like moms to you and you called them as much.
Him: But it would be so weird to call someone else mom now. 
You're my mom.
Me: *smiles, teary eyed*

These are the moments that I want to cling to as an adoptive mother. So many moments around here are hard and feel a bit lonely. If you knew how hard it is for a foster child who has had lived through multiple placements before being adopted, to look at me and really call me mother (as in NO ONE else is my mother), you would agree that this is no small miracle of the heart.  If you knew how hard is is for a mother to look at a son, not born of her womb, and to truly call him her son, you would nod and amen that this is no small miracle in her heart either.

It feels a little like the mountain in front of us is not Everest anymore...maybe just a daily walk up Sugarloaf. There was a time that I was sure he wouldn't see every birthday as a year older but a year closer to finding his "real parents." And I was ok with that. Most of the time anyway.

There will be days that he won't know where he belongs. There will be days where the last name that is now his, may not to seem to fit just right. There will be questions that we just cannot answer and feelings that we have not felt. We will have to see through his eyes. There will be hurt, and some anger. We will walk closely with him and all the others of the same last name as ours on their quest to find out who exactly they are and answer the question, "who am I?"

But no matter what I will forever be his mother. His mom. I am ever so humbled that, just like the children I have born of my womb, God, in is great grace granted my Love and I the privilege of calling him son. From the foundations of the earth, from the beginning of time he was ours. They all were. Amazing isn't it?

Amazing how God has given us three children with a completely different background, biological parents, genetics and made them ours. Their identity is not in what they used to be, what biological family they are from but who they are now. We are not being really nice folk that try to raise other people's children for awhile as a favor. No, they are ours. 


 What a beautiful testimony of the grace of God in our own lives. We do not have to be defined by who we used to be, but who he has made us to be through the Cross of Christ. 

I realize this is a lot easier to figure out in our heads than our hearts. It's a lot easier to say that we are seen by God as he sees his very own son, Jesus. But for me our walk as an adoptive family, is a walk in this truth: I am nothing in myself. I am only the daughter of the one true king. I can try to find my identity in other things: money, motherhood, other's opinions of me, being a good wife, writing, what car I drive, how many people I think I help, the "good" that I might do, how clean my house is etc. but nothing can satisfy the weighty question of who exactly I am, like my Jesus and being His daughter. Nothing can define me more than he has already done.

Come, he says, all you are weary and heavy laden 
and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28) 
Come, he says, and I will quench your thirst such that 
you will never thirst again. (John 4:14)

Saturday, 7 May 2016

It's Birth Mother's Day

Today I don't think that I have the heart space nor the time to adequately write about this adoptive mothering thing. Whole volumes of books have been written, so I won't offer advice. I'm typing here much like I do many times: knowing what I want to say and not knowing at the same time. I guess I just wanted today to remember the woman who birthed three of our children.

Foster care is a wretched beast. For us, it's one of those beasts that I'm glad we couldn't have possibly fully known until we jumped into it b/c I'm certain (yes 10000% certain) that we would never have considered it. It is crazy. Such wonderful people are doing their very best and the system is still just so flawed b/c well, we are a flawed people.

I say this not to dissuade any potential foster parents or those looking into it. I say it because I think many times birth parents are made out to be monsters. And many times that seems like the deserving title should be for them both. In reality though, they are people. Just like you and me. Yes, just like us in many ways. People with so much baggage that it wouldn't have fit on the Titanic. They are people that need help and to be held accountable for sure. And in no way do I want to minimize the trauma that the children will deal with the rest of their lives. I walk and love them through it. Daily. I know it. I live with it. It surrounds me in ways that I hate sometimes. I would never, ever minimize it.

There are these times, though, that I look at our three beautiful children and my heart aches for the loss that their first mom knows every single waking moment of her life. I just cannot even imagine. Yes, she knows and acknowledges that it is better for them here. She is thankful, even. But that doesn't make the hurt go away.  Every morning she wakes up with out the ones she carried in her womb nearest to her.

I had one of those times again today as I read the following quote:

"A child born to another woman calls me Mom. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me." ~ Jody Landers

Yes, such is the crushing magnitude here because sometimes, I forget what a blessing it is to be called mom by all 8 of them. Being a mom is hard. Being an adoptive mom is hard. And sometimes I forget that at the end of the day, no matter how it all unfolds... good, bad, ugly or all 3 ...that motherhood is such a blessing.


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A Burden

Dearest Readers,

This post stems from a burden deep inside my soul. It is a burden for those of us who call ourselves sisters-in-Christ. For those of us that aknowledge that there is nothing in us that is really good even in our best efforts...that we need a Savior and have found one in the Lord Jesus. It is a burden that has been awakened recently through conversations that I've had with beautiful friends. All of whom come from different backgrounds but love the Lord and have been found in Him. Please keep this in mind as you read. My intention is always to encourage. Always. There are things about the Christian faith that can not be unwound from each other because if we do that then we have unwound it all and have nothing to call Christian. Those things, I do not wish to address here. Those foundational truths aren't up for debate. This, all of it that I have written, is something I struggle with and have for years. It is not something I am proud of and want to be free of. Lets just say I'm done. I am so over it. Done! And yet, it's still a struggle...and perhaps as you read you'll find yourself here with me too...

I know there is a lot to complain about when it comes to church. I mean really, people, if we could just get our act together and stop being so hypocritical people just might get saved. That's what I read and hear all the time anyway.

 Except, that we can't.

That's kinda the point isn't though isn't it? That we just can't get our act together. That we have this superb need inside our very selves that just can't do it all alone...a need that is so much greater than the act of going to church or trying to be good. Say it with me: We. Need. Jesus.

There's no hiding it. Oh, I know we try. We try and try and try. Just like the little engine that could. "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can," we say to ourselves as if we can just think ourselves out of that big hill in front of us. I know it's trendy to talk about how messy we are and how much we need Jesus. I'm not trendy (ask my friends) or hip or anything associated with cool (ask my kids). It's more than messiness. But messiness is not my point here (well, not in this post anyway.)

Here's my point: the church is made up of broken, hypocritical people (and if you're going to church and don't know you're broken you've got a big problem... only broken people need fixin'...just sayin'). I'm the first to raise my hand to agree to this. BUT and this is a huge BUT (thus the capitol letters) these people are beautiful because Jesus has taken these broken, desperate people and made them beautiful.

Like my friend Gab. who writes over at Dishes and Dreams. She's a wife (like me), a mom (like me), writer (like me), Jesus lover (like me), struggler (like me) and sends her kids to public school (not so much like me). And I love her for it.

And here is why: she is a kindred spirit. She is my sister in Christ. She is my family. I look at her and I see someone who Christ bloodied himself on a cross for. I see a woman who wants, above else, to love Him with her whole heart. And I've known her all of 8 months. If nothing else we have Christ in common. As broken and messed up as church can be, there is an unseen beauty here. Can you see it?

Many days I miss that.

I don't see a soul who Jesus died for. I see someone to put myself up against and to compare myself to. I don't see that she is "fearfully and wonderfully made." And then my faith becomes about what I think others are doing or not doing and what I "should" be doing in light of what others are doing or not doing. And I go around shoulding (yes, shoulding it's a new word my friend Louise made up for just this reason...add it to your vocabulary and don't do it to yourself, please) all over myself and forgetting Jesus in the process.

And then there pride right? The kind that assumes that if I'm doing well because I'm doing all the "right" things the "right" way and if everyone (especially that woman in the checkout with the screaming kid) would just do what I am doing then all would be right in the world.

Ok right about now I feel I must include a disclaimer...again. Ya'll know where I stand or at least if you've read anything round these here parts, I think I've made it clear. There are things that are black and white. There are things central to the Gospel message that cannot and should never be cast aside for the sake of post modernism's favorite quotes: "well, whatever works for you is best for you." That's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about things like: cloth diapering, using essential oils, gluten free eating, clean eating, shopping at Wal-Mart, feeding your kids things that have dye in it, bedtimes (like when you put your kids to bed and where they sleep), playing sports and how much time to put into these activities, public school or homeschool (yup, I said it), how clean my house is, how much time do my kids watch TV or do we even have at TV, can a mom work, if a mom works should she work only from home....seriously, the list could go on...and on....and on...and on but I won't do that to you b/c I KNOW you have your own list.

This list of things that you're passionate about. These things that the Lord has lead you to. You have taken the steps and the Lord has directed your path toward. And in no way do I mean to diminish the important value in some of the things on my list. Certainly, they are valuable things (well, mostly) to be talked about and above all, prayed over between you and your husband and/or church family. I know you are like me, doing your best to "work out your own salvation" as Christ works in you. I love that word own used in Phil. 2:12 by the way. Own, as in yours...not any one else's. Like leave theirs alone and work out your own!

Anywhoo, these things, like the things on my list are important to us as well they should be, but they should never hinder us from seeing the person on the other side. We miss out on so much when we miss the person behind the position.  Because here's the thing: I would have missed Gab 7 years ago. I would have disagreed politely with her (in my mind) and her huband's decision to put their kiddos in public school and probably done my best not to get into a deep friendship with her. Not because of anything she had done but because I so wanted to be validated in all of my decisions in my life (hello, Facebook but that's a whole nother post). I didn't want to be challenged. I would have missed a kindred spirit. I would have also been easily offended at her most recent post on her sweet blog which is not at all offensive.

I know, I know, you might be thinking, "Goodness, kari should we all just hold hands and sing Kumbya?!" NO! That's not the point here. The point is grace. Grace, Grace God's grace...The point is that all of us have got to stop this craziness (I'm including myself in us here.) It is stealing our joy, leading us to despair or puffing us up in our pride. I realize there are going to be people we look up to...that we admire. Gab is one of those people for me. However, there is no cookie-cutter believer out there. No one-size-fits-all. Our lives will look similar in many ways but because God is so amazing, He didn't intend for us to be working out  all out the same way. Amen? Amen!

So go ahead and stick to your positions but remember the person. Chew over and be challenged by what Gab has to say over at Dishes and Dreams, but mostly seek the face of Jesus and lay your decisions that impact your life and dear ones at His feet, as you come to him begging for wisdom as if it is the gold you desperately need to survive another day. At the end of the day, that's what matters most anyway right?!

PS the lack of photos is depressing me too. just go check out Gab and her lovely photos and maybe pray that I'll dust off my DSLR and get around to taking some "real" ones sooner rather than later.