I don’t speak.
Speaking is just not my gift. Blogging isn’t really either, but at least I can do that in the privacy of my own home, propped up on my comfy couch, wearing paint-stained sweats and socks with a hole in the toe. I can write, delete, and backspace all day. And the end result is, generally, my best effort at what I was trying to convey.
But when I speak? It’s ugly.
My stomach turns. My pits become Niagra Falls. I can feel my face turn every shade of red. And once I open my mouth, it’s all downhill. The best part? Afterward, I can’t really recall anything I’ve said.
In March, I was asked to speak at the Created 4 Care conference. I mean, I didn’t have to speak, I was just asked to be part of a panel of other adoptive mamas. Sounds right up my alley, right? I thought so too. And so, I agreed.
As soon as the six of us got up on stage and all hopped up onto our individual stools, I sort of blanked out.
And after they handed me the microphone (microphone? really?) well, I have no idea what I said.
What I do remember is what I wanted to say. Because in the days preceding, I had spent a good bit of time trying to figure that out. And what I kept coming back to was this: I wanted to answer one question, as honestly as I could.
It’s a question I’m often asked: “How do you do it?”
And the answer is, I don’t.
And I’m convinced that I’m not unique. I don’t get preferential treatment. He loves me deeply and unconditionally, just like He loves you.
I do try to be obedient. Try being the operative word. The truth is that I’m painfully imperfect. Fatally flawed. And I’m not just sayin’ that.
I was the youngest child of six growing up. And the babiest of babies. My brothers and sisters were pretty mean to me, too. Teased me incessantly. Played cruel pranks on me. Pranks that involved dog poo and mailboxes a small child could be stuffed into. And, as much as I’d like to blame it on them, I can look back and recognize my own irritating and immature behavior. And how it just might have been slightly responsible for some of it. Possibly.
Which leads me to believe that I just sort of came out this way.
And the truth is, 43 years later, I haven’t changed much. But God isn’t done with me yet.
I’m broken. You’re broken.
God knows it. And He can use it.
So when people ask me, “How do you do it?”, honestly, I don’t know what to say. I get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other. I try my best some days and fail miserably other days. But I keep getting up, keep tackling laundry, keep refilling juice cups, keep starting the dishwasher, keep wiping noses and hineys.
And God shows up in all of it.
While I am the baby in my family, my husband is the oldest in his. Which makes us pretty much opposites. He’s hard-working and I’m easy-going. He’s responsible and I’m a bit more lax. He’s meticulous and I’m not. So trying to manage a house full o’ kids and keep a type-A husband happy has proved to be a bit of a challenge for me. But I’ve found a few tricks along the way that have helped. A lot.
If you have older kiddos, make them responsible for areas of the house. And enlist younger siblings to be on their ‘team’. I’ll split my kiddos into two teams and turn them loose. This teaches my older kids how to be leaders and how to manage a task. And it teaches my younger kids how to be part of a team and how to follow instructions from someone other than mom or dad. Of course, this
occasionally regularly descends into arguments and finger-pointing, but it’s almost always worth it. They can actually accomplish a lot now, without a whole lot of supervision. Bonus.
I am so not a planner. And it just doesn’t come naturally to me. But some things must be planned. And the more I actually take the time to plan, the more I realize that one of my biggest stressors is not planning. Duh. So if I have something to do, or somewhere to go, I try to plan ahead so I don’t end up late and freakin’ out. It ain’t pretty.
I also try to plan meals. This keeps my husband happy… and we all know that’s key. I plan out at least 4 or 5 days worth of meals on every trip to the grocery store. And I always have the ingredients for a few super fast dinners on hand (tacos, breakfast dinner) for those nights I just can’t get dinner started in time.
On the heels of planning comes organizing. Or vise versa. And I’m not good at either. But organization has become an absolute necessity in our home. And over the years I have developed a true appreciation for it. Because we move every year or two, we are forced to re-organize regularly, which helps. But in between moves we go through our kids closets and dressers twice a year. We go through toys, books and games. If we use it, great, we keep it. But if we don’t we give it away. And the fewer ‘things’ we have to concern ourselves with, the more we can focus on our marriage, our children and other stuff.
Years ago my husband and I prayerfully set some goals. Goals for how we would spend our time, our energy and our money. And we’ve stuck with that over the years – it has served us well. We realized that saying “yes” to the things that God wants us to do means saying “no” to other things… good things, even. And that’s not always easy. But saying “no” has enabled us to focus our time, talents and resources in such a way that we feel we are honoring God above our own desires. And God has most definitely blessed our efforts.
We budget. And so saying no has become routine in our home. We don’t vacation regularly, we don’t make spur of the moment purchases. Our furniture has seen better days. But it works for us. And the big picture – following God’s plan for our family – is being realized. And that is worth every monetary sacrifice.
This also means saying no to our children. Which has been the hardest of all. But by committing our efforts to God and prioritizing based on His plan instead of our own, we feel that we giving our children a gift… by setting a God-following example. We want our children to grow up to follow hard after the Lord and not the world, so what better way to teach them than by living that way ourselves?
To your husband, ladies. You know what I mean. This will keep him happy. And a happy husband, well… let’s just say, it’s worth the effort.
Many, many times over the years I have thought that I was at the end of myself. I believed I had pushed myself to my limit and that to add anything on would simply be the straw that broke the camel’s back. But God gently reminded me otherwise. He encouraged me to challenge myself to trust Him and to give more of myself, unafraid of emptying myself, but determined to go where He wanted me to go. And each time, God has shown me exactly how much can be done, through His power, if I am willing to commit and persevere.
Watch out for idols.
We are all prone to finding things other than God that take our hearts and minds away from Him. In fact, most of us are guilty of not loving God the way He calls us to. But what we’re missing is how easily we can allow good things to become our idols. They look good. They sound good. But a good thing – taking the place of the Lord in our hearts – is a bad thing. And it’s something we have to be constantly on guard against.
As women, I think we find ourselves searching for validity and importance. Social networking, friendships and even our children can bring us a sense of importance, but this is not how God intended it to be. He calls us to love Him first and foremost. And when we’re doing that, focusing on Him and His plan for us, our lives will reflect the peace and serenity that only He can bring.
And, when necessary, fake it.
Some days, I just don’t get it done. Forget cleaning, cooking and my mile-long to-do list, some days I barely manage to feed and care for everyone during the day. Thankfully those days aren’t a regular occurrence, but when they do happen, I have a plan. I fake it. Since it’s only the kids and me that know the real deal of what went down during the day, and they’re not talking, I’m set. I rally the kids about 15 minutes before daddy gets home and we all bust a move to at least hide the evidence of a day gone bad. And even though there isn’t anything to show for our day, somehow my husband doesn’t seem to mind. And everyone deserves to have an off day every now and then. Right?
Bottom line: If God is asking you to do something, even something that seems way too big or way too crazy, you can do it. Whatever might be His plan for your life – whether it’s mothering a large family, starting a business, adopting a child with special needs – He’ll give you all you need. Because if this spoiled, undisciplined, disorganized, type B baby can do it? You can do it.
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 4:19
How’d you know that was my next question 😉 Good stuff. Thanks for sharing!
All your posts are wonderful, and I never miss one believe me! But, this one was wonderful…inspiriting, encouraging, and just plain great. Makes this very normal, very unworthy, mama of many smile 🙂
And with that comment, you made me smile, too 🙂
great post, stef. i had just read katie’s (kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com) post before yours…all the same sorta theme! God is good!
YOU amaze me. Thank you for this…you sure do know how to make a girl THINK!
This post was very encouraging and challenging. Thank you for writing it. I too agree that God always shows up….especially in the messies!!!! Abiding in His strength is truly the only way to do it! Love your thoughts!
Ginny H says
Love this Stefanie. I have a good friend who has a dossier in China and she just found out that she is unexpectedly pregnant. She wonders how she will fit one more child than she expected into her family. Just today I told her, if gals like Stefanie can do it with 11, I know you can do it with 4. Your faith and your transparency inspire others to say yes to things they didn’t think they could. Thank you!
Awww, thanks so much Ginny! It is my hope to encourage other mommas 🙂
Thank you for taking the time to encourage another spoiled, undisciplined, disorganized girl by reminding me of what I know is true–I just get so easily distracted! Thanks! May He bless you that you might keep being a blessing (Psalm 67)!
So I’m not the only one!?! Yay!!
LOVE IT! If you were teaching this in a public setting, behind a podium, I would give it a standing ovation!!!!!
😉 I love your love for Jesus, your hubs, and your precious kiddos…. YOU TELL IT LOUD SISTER!!!!!
And He is glorified….Hallelujah!
You are both a true inspiration to me, along with “Miss K”, of the M6! God shines through you all and I am so thankful for the privilege to be able to gleen from you all and learn to accept the cracks in my pots to be used by Him because He loves me and created us all with a purpose. Thank you both for sharing your love of God, your families, your raw hearts for Jesus! 🙂
Chris K says
Ok Stef! (Actually – I hear you God)
There are changes a brewing with the Kramer Crew. And I have been digging in my heels! I have been telling God I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. Yet … he keeps telling me I can. That bottom line was the kicker.
Although you can call me the messy, disorganized, spoiled, undisciplined, failed perfectionist type A.
[And God – please don’t get the 2×4 out this time.]
Exciting stuff, Chris! Can’t wait to hear what He’s up to!
Ah! Love this post!!!! Here I thought your secret was a maid & a cook & a nanny… And you just never took pics of them 😉 lol!
But it’s God….wow! Thank you for sharing honestly & being an encouragement & bringing glory to Him!! Your post on affording adoption helped lead us to start adopting in Aug 2010…. Our little girl came home in Nov 2011…. We are so blessed & saw God in ways we never would have if we hadnt stepped out in faith to adopt. Yes-!!blogging is a gift of yours!!!
Thank you for sharing this post!!!
Oh my gosh – that is so cool, Kristina! Makes me smile so big to hear how God showed up in big ways to bring your daughter home 🙂
Erin Martin says
What a beautiful, inspiring message! Thank you for this. Self-focused? Undisciplined? Whiny? Spoiled? Wow! That is so challenging because it describes me! Or me without the grace of God. Grace covered days are what I am praying and working toward this summer!
Thank you for sharing. I can so relate & you are such an encouragement & blessing!
Amy Murphy says
That was great! And exactly what I needed to hear this week. Though I am more like your husband (and my husband more like you,) lately I’ve slacked off a little; I’ve gotten lazy and then discouraged at all I haven’t accomplished. So many good points here! Thanks for this.
Wow. Inspiring. I know it wasn’t necessarily meant to be that way, but it really was. I’ve been slowly finding my way to God over the last couple of years, and this is another nudge for me in the right direction. It’s true, just putting one foot in front of the other some days is all I can manage. But somehow, things get done, and we’re all still here and thriving (for the most part). Thanks for all the hard work you put into your blog – I get a lot out of it!! <3
Perfect! And next time….just say…”I’ve prepared a statement to read”…and read this!
I love this post so much, Stefanie. I need go back and read it one or…22 more times, I’m sure.
Really, really good!!
I needed to hear it.
My favorite post ever. Love it!
fabulous advice- and yep- it is all God:)
And this is exactly why I have faithfully checked your blog every day since I stumbled upon “dear anonymous” four years ago.
Thank you Stefanie for being you, but more importantly, being His and being okay with His plan.
I look forward to meeting you in person in the coming months. You inspire, not because of what you do, but because, even when it isn’t easy, you follow Him.
This took a different trail than the title led me to believe. I was predisposed that it would be about adoption. 🙂
Still a thought provoking post. In my next life, when I have time to digest this, I’ll read it again.
Wow Stephanie…I REALLY appreciate you sharing the ‘human’ side of how you run your home and the imperfections and what works…..it’s a very unique post and I just love it….thank you soooooo much. God Bless!
Thanks for sharing your heart, Stefanie! It sounds like you’re me talking! Mother’s of big faimilies have a lot in common.
Some days the difficulties and the needs, the things we need to work on, just overwhelm me. Then I think, but there is so much good. God picks up where we fall short, and the blessings just take my breath away.
We are adopting two aging out girls!!! Can’t wait to see what God does!
Thanks for encouraging me, Stefanie. God used your faith, and the faith of so many others to grow mine. 🙂
God bless you, and thanks for pressing on!
Stefanie! That was so well said. I can relate to you on every level. I so agree! Thank you for sharing your heart. Wish you did it more often!!!
holly arnold says
Wonderful advice and truth, with God he makes the impossible possible! Thanks for sharing!
Suzanne Rowe says
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am a single, adoptive mom of one…and as the lone ranger, lately, I have felt especially overwhelmed with some realities and some – what I’m now realizing are- distractions…not bad things in and of themselves…but nonetheless distractions and, yep, even comparisons that I am allowing to rob my joy and focus as God’s woman and Cate’s momma. God is using your post to speak to me this day, and I am very grateful. ~I’ll be visiting this post…nope, I’ll be printing and re-reading this post frequently. 🙂
Marty Walden says
What a great reminder. Keep the main thing the main thing! Do the hard stuff and persevere on! Simple reminders of what God wants from us, a heart and life yielded to HIm. Thanks for the blessing!
best post. evah. for reals.
Thank you so much for writing this. It really spoke to me right at a time when I needed the reminder. You truly inspire me, not just because of the amazing things you do in His name but also because sometimes, from the outside in, it seems like I’m the only one struggling..and it’s really nice to know that I’m not alone and that there’s hope yet! Thank you again.
I so needed this today! Thank you is all I can say!
Sarah Bandimere says
LOVE this, Stefanie. Thanks for sharing a little bit of your life with us!
Thank you for more wonderful words! After taking two of the kids to Playdates with some of their very affluent friends i was feeling that ugly little green monster… Thanks for bringing my focus back!
I always love reading your posts, and I think this is the very best EVER! It is so encouraging, gives God glory, and humbly submits practical advice. And I think your hints are right on.
Sharon Ankerich says
Love your post and such great advice. Take it one day at a time and everything else will just follow. Thank you for sharing~ we all needed to know we’re not the only ones! Blessings!
I needs this today. Finding how to make it all work as a new momma of five, your encouragement came just at the right time! Thanks!
Sophi Belle says
I really needed to read this. 🙂
A lurker finally commenting. 🙂 I needed this today. Thank you. and thank you for speaking on your blog. Your journey to Poppy and Esther was one of the ‘not so gentle’ nudges from God that has led us to our China adoption, and we are now not-so-patiently waiting for LID. 🙂
Jolene (Homespun Heritage) says
Finally! I am not the only one who completely blanks out when speaking to large groups! I could talk for 30 minutes and couldn’t tell you ONE thing I had just said! I, also, tend to tear up if its talking about my children….especially the children we’re in the process of bringing home from China!
I am sure that my controlling ways can both help and hinder what the Lords plans are for me and my family, yet, my controlling (i.e. planning, bossy ways) can actually benefit us many of the times! Now, if only some of your easy-goingness could rub off on me I’d be very grateful!
I know I had asked you this very question (how do you do it?) and although I knew the answer (God) I am so glad you have shared your thoughts with us. Being connected with others in the adoption community and being able to share the ups and downs is needful. I don’t otherwise have a whole lot of support. My family (all professing Christians) think we’re crazy and if we should adopt again I think they may just disown us. God knows my heart and I am often finding myself asking HIm to give me the ability to do more, but there are certainly days when I wonder why He would give me more when I can barely manage what He’s already given me. It seems the older I get the less energy I have to keep up… I am fast approaching 50, but in my heart and in those alone times with Him I want so desperately to keep going (as in, keep adopting) and believe me, this is not me. I am an introvert and a loner and not having the luxury of going through my day without constant demands and inturruptions is hard for me. But I know these children are what keep me focused on Him, because without HIm I couldn’t do it.
Like you, I don’t speak in public. I barely speak at all. I remember when I was a young child attending a summer church camp and getting chosen to say a prayer in front of a group of people. I walked away not even knowing what I said. Scary thought.
You do well at expressing yourself on your blog. You have said things that I wanted to say, but didn’t quite know how to put it into words. I love that you are willing to share with others what God has so graciously blessed you with and you are truly blessed…as we all are. Thanks my friend!
Tonggu Momma says
Thanks for sharing, Stefanie!!!! And yes, I’ve often wondered. Although now that I have a second child, I’m slowly realizing that not all children are the Tongginator. (She’s kinda high maintenance, like her Momma. I mean, in case you hadn’t guessed that.) With Squirt in our lives now, I’m more fully understanding that God calls us to different things. And I think that, just as you are meant to parent a large brood, I am meant to parent a small brood of high-needs children. Will there be three? I’m kinda scared of that answer, so I guess we just wait and see what God has to say about it.
good stuff Stefanie 🙂 Thanks for saying it!
amy lynn titus says
This was a wonderful post. I am only a mama of two (for right now. We want to have more biological kids and adopt as well.) and I often feel as if I am barely making it through the day. This was very encouraging. Thank you!
I know all about the “fake it” days. Don’t feel guilty, some days you just need a reset. I’ve been following your blog for quite a while but this is the first time I’ve commented. I wanted to say two things. First, as a family of seven, I’m quite familiar with this plan of yours. It is necessary to keep the circus in the center ring and not spilling out into the surrounding town.
Second. Thank you for sharing all that you have. It’s because of your honesty and openness that when our youngest was born with bilateral congenital clubfoot, I didn’t have one moment of panic. I immediately thought of your babies, and was prepared when it came time to find a doctor. I was prepared to say absolutely not when one suggested surgery, I knew I found the doctor for us when the first words out of his mouth were “Have you heard of Ponsetti.”
He is two now and thriving.
You are a wonderful mother, and your blog has made an impact on at least one life.
Wow, LegoMama! Thanks for de-lurking… you made my day 🙂
I’m glad I made your day, I meant to put this in yesterday but I forgot. Darn kids stealing all my brain cells. When we first went to Vyn’s orthotic appointment, they had never heard of the Ponsetti boots. They were putting kids in the older style. We got all the research and showed them, we worked with the doctors to get insurance to cover them. Now, the children who come to Andy with clubfoot, get Ponsetti boots. So please, if you ever feel like you aren’t doing God’s work, remember that because of your words, there is a town in Washington where kids can get better treatment. God is always working through you, sometimes in ways you don’t even imagine.
Selena Bragg says
Goodness. Pure Goodness… or shall I say GREATNESS. Thank you for this post. I needed to read every word you typed. We are praying for guidance on whether or not to adopt a little girl (SN) from China… trusting God will answer. SO THANKFUL I ran across you today, and am excited about following you and your family. Love seeing God as I travel through my day, and I am seeing Him, very plainly, right here on your blog. How pleased He must be with your servant heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Ashley Ditto says
I am your newest follower. So blessed to have found your blog!
Brooke Evan says
Awesome post thanks and what a great, interesting blog. My husband and I have raised six kids together (our own) and now grand kids. I know what a logistical nightmare organizing a family can be but I have to take my hat off to you. To do what you are doing especially with the special challenges that come with your situation is truly amazing.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your heart and speaking truth and hope and love and Jesus through your blog. I have been at my computer for hours, reading your blog which I found (thank you Pinterest!) just yesterday. We mailed our WACAP application Nov. 30th and I’ve cried so many tears already, tears for these precious children that need families, tears for myself and what is already being revealed in my heart, tears for your precious Esther. I am really truly thankful that God brought me to your blog. XO