19 July 2018

more and more. and more.

  • caroline is home!
  • hearing about camp
  • eli working out at camp swamp fox
  • ALL the fingerprinting is done (that we know of)
  • "the joy of it can be the point of it." - jon acuff
  • yaya's willingness to have zoe for a bit on sunday (and that she thought of that/offered)(sometimes i don't even know what i need enough to ask for it...)
  • LJ's thoughtfulness - prizes for everyone from stars and strikes
  • yaya's grass mowing

  • molly's kindness to keep kids friday - and make a pre-costa rica lunch date with my favorite date possible
  • "i am a friend of God."
  • messages from emma (and getting to talk to her and nick while they are in costa rica)
  • cleaning up and cleaning out
  • the way suzie gives a task when you ask if you can help
  • celebrating LJ's life with swimming and food and presents and such
  • the way zoe seems to take extra peaceful naps when i have lots of adoption paperwork to take care of
  • pre-birthday brownies for LJ and friends
  • multiple games of capture the flag with the gaggle of kids around (kids outside means that it's quiet inside...running around outside means they aren't on screens inside...they're working together, not fussing!)
  • seeing this out of the window - i like to imagine that eli and aaron are having a heart to heart...not sure if that's the case or if they are just guarding their flag

  • reminders of life change in waves of mercy
  • katie came for a visit.  her company...her helpfulness...her coffee...all great gifts

  • the lovely smell of coffee
  • youth social shuttle
  • birthday cake milkshake from the best of friends
  • "don't superimpose your unhappiness on other people" - somebody's facebook post 

13 July 2018

reminders that God is with me and gives good gifts!

  • the enemy is defeated. 
  • kayla's kind offer
  • welcome home clearview with yaya and grandaddy
  • CFA cow appreciation day.
  • that God speaks through dreams
  • Logan's dancing - when someone is truly in their element using his/her gifts and talents to honor God 
  • someone's organization of sharpie-like utensils.  beautiful.  

  • food for volunteers and family before vbs (seriously...what a gift)
  • "i want to live fully alive" (amped VBS songs)
  • more and more steps taken/paperwork completed/phone calls made...every bit getting us a little closer to adoption
  • time with just emma (and her grace when i fell asleep during the movie we were watching)
  • engagements that will lead to holy marriages
  • community at the cash casa - food, friends, swimming
  • eli's leadership during VBS

05 July 2018

sweet things.

  • quiet morning to be and to pack and to get things ready(nick took 3 for haircuts)
  • non-stressful vacation departure
  • my phone was right where i left it at the gas station
  • the way the lady stayed so calm at the CFA in tifton
  • being at St. Simons Island with my family
  • ALLLL afternoon at the beach with all the kids (these 2 stayed like this about an hour...)

  • coke and salt/pepper chips at 10 in the morning (because we're on vacation)
  • palmetto pimento cheese.  wow.
  • lane's willingness to put up the tent
  • blythe's willingness to house sit/feed cats/turn over the cottage
  • papa feeding zoe

  • 3 nights  in a row sleeping through the night (around 12 to 7/8)
  • visit from team marquez - positive, encouraging, meaningful conversation
  • fried chicken on the beach
  • kayaks on the beach and on the ocean

  • lots of walks on the beach
  • carey came over for the day.  her kindness and thoughtfulness and question-asking abilities are outstanding.
  • giant gummy bears and a bag of watermelon only jelly-bellies
  • fireworks on the beach for the 4th with my family

29 June 2018

A Story Worth Sharing: Zoe Grace

It's a long story - and we're very much in the middle of it.  But it's worth sharing - we want to invite others into it, we need your prayers!  I sure hope I do it justice.  I hope I give our generous God credit for all that He has been doing.  I hope I honor the individuals that are a part of the story.

Back a few blogs ago I wrote:
"There was a situation with a baby that kind of looked promising...but it looks like God has other plans for that precious baby..."
And in an even more recent blog I wrote:
In other news (and as a reward for making it to the end of this post), we've had another tiny addition to our family....for the past week we've been loving on a little girl named Zoe while some of her adoption knots get worked out. She was born just over a week ago and has been a beautiful, peaceful, amazing addition to our world.  It's a privilege and an honor to get to invest in her...
Well, the situation that looked promising is looking promising again.  And the adoption knots that have been being worked out happen to be so that we can adopt this precious girl named Zoe Grace.
There are still knots to be worked out...but it's time to share some of the story, even as incomplete as it is.

We have been incredibly amazed in this process (um...maybe that's one of the biggest understatements of the century)...and all involved have said it is more than ok to share the story.  "No secrets, nothing hidden" was the exact quote I got when I asked about sharing...

Basically there is a lovely lady remotely connected to us that had a baby on May 21.  Her name is Melinda and I admire her and respect her greatly.  Melinda's Aunt Jeanie (well, kind of Aunt! I'm not entirely clear on how they are related!) (Jeanie is a dear, dear friend of mine) shared with me that from the moment she knew about the pregnancy, God brought me and Nick to mind.  She shared the news about the baby with me months ago...and I shared with her that we were open to bringing that baby into our family.  There were questions throughout the pregnancy about whether an adoption plan would be made for this baby - we were at peace throughout it all.  It was decided by Melinda that the baby would indeed be entrusted to another family...buuuut she didn't feel good about the baby being adopted by a family in our church - a family she might have to see on a regular basis.  Jeanie shared this with us - and there was great peace!  Seriously.  And tremendous understanding.  Melinda was facing a decision I cannot imagine making...and I can only imagine the heartache that would come from seeing your child regularly from afar - or even being able to be connected to your child but not as her mother.  There wasn't disappointment or grief when this was shared with us...there wasn't any amount of let down or really any negative or hard feeling at all...there was just deep trust in the perfect plans of God.  I feel like I was experiencing "the Hope that does not disappoint" - maybe for the first time!  My hope was never that "we would get this baby" - my hope every step of the way has been that God's best would be done for Melinda and for this baby.  This news also came about the time that things were picking up steam and speed with plans to foster LJ...so we thought that foster care was the road we were to walk down and that the adoption road might be traveled later.

Fast forward a couple of months.  Melinda gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and named her Zoe Grace.  The plan was for Zoe to go to an interim home until the adopting family was chosen and arrangements could be made to get Zoe into her forever home. Well...the interim family had a sick child (ever thought that God could use sickness to bring about the miraculous?!)...and Melinda's family reached out to Pam, our pastor's wife, asking who she could think of that might be available to love on Zoe for a day or two until permanent arrangements were made.  Pam said the first name that came in her head and heart was me...so she called and asked if we were available to take care of this baby for a day or two - or maybe a week.  I was in awe...Pam didn't know the backstory of our interest in this baby....after talking it over with Melinda and Jeanie and Dan (Melinda's uncle/Jeanie's husband), everyone was at peace with the baby coming to stay with us.  I must reiterate that we were FINE with this being temporary - we were honored to get to be a part of Zoe's story no matter how few the days!  So we borrowed a pack-n-play and a carseat....and prepared to welcome Zoe into our home.  Dan and Jeanie generously purchased a "new born starter kit"...pretty much anything we would need, Dan got at the store and brought to us - a few little outfits, diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, pacifiers, powder, baby wash, diaper rash cream, bibs, washcloths, little hats, little socks, blankets, burp cloths...even a gallon of nursery water!

Fun side story:  when I called to talk over the possibility with Nick, it came up that the baby's name is Zoe - which happens to be a name we had considered for our girls...Nick said, half kidding  "are they sure she isn't supposed to be ours?"

Thursday afternoon, after being discharged from the hospital, Jeanie and Melinda brought Zoe to our house.  That was one of the most bittersweet moments I've experienced...the heartache of watching this mama release her baby...the beautiful gift that was being given (and we didn't even know just how long-lasting the gift would be at the time!).  The very present grief...the very present joy.  Melinda was able to see where Zoe would be sleeping.  She fed her a bottle and held her a bit...and then she bravely passed her daughter to me and got courageously back into Jeanie's van and they drove away.  I cannot even.  Who among us has the strength to do that?!  Melinda does (with an incredibly supportive and rockstar of an aunt by her side).

Thursday evening (24th of May) through Monday the 28th we held and fed and changed and rocked and loved on the beautiful, peaceful, wonderful Zoe.  Yes, we got attached - but our attachment was accompanied with great HOPE and PEACE and TRUST knowing that Melinda was choosing another family for this treasure of a girl to grow up with.

Well, Melinda chose a family...but that family, after seeking the Lord through much prayer, felt like this sweet little girl wasn't meant to be their's...which kind of threw everybody for a loop - but in hindsight, it's easy to see how God was at work.

Sometime during the weekend, I sent a message to Jeanie (I had very little contact with Melinda throughout this process - really throughout the entire pregnancy!)....it simply said something along the lines of "I hope this goes without saying...and I hope it's ok to say...but we are still very much interested in adopting Zoe if that's at all something Melinda would be interested in.  No pressure.  We are still more than happy to love on her however long we have her."  I just felt the need (or, let's be honest, maybe the want) to make sure that was said.

Again, our hope was in the fact that God has perfect plans for Zoe. Our hope was in the fact that He was going to do what is best for her.  Our hope was in Him....not in the idea that she could be ours.  What an honor to experience this Hope that does not disappoint.

So then on Monday, we got a phone call from Dan.  Dan asked for both me and Nick to be on the phone and then he shared that Melinda had made her decision about who she would like to adopt Zoe...and that she had chosen to entrust her baby to us.

That moment on the porch will forever be one of my favorite moments of all time.  I just cried and cried.

And the rest, as they say, is history.  Not quite.  Oh, how I wish I could say that!  The rest, as they say, is complicated!!!  (not sure if "they" say that...but that's what it is).   And here is where we need your prayers...

Throughout her pregnancy, Melinda has been working with Lifeline...and after looking at options, we felt it was in her best interest if we continued with Lifeline for the adoption process.  There would probably be a wheelbarrow load of questions regardless of the road we chose - but going through Lifeline has created quite the situation.  Thankfully all of the folks that we've encountered with Lifeline have been nothing but kind and encouraging...they truly want what is best for Zoe and for Melinda.

The main questions that have come up are questions about us being able to go through an adoption process while we are also going through the process to become foster parents (we just finished the last class and our homestudy is being written - though we may not actually be approved to be foster parents if we are in an adoption process - but I'm realizing that doesn't necessarily mean that LJ will be placed elsewhere since he was placed with us before we officially became foster parents to begin with! confused yet?!).  When we started the process to become foster parents with the purpose of bringing LJ into our home, adopting Zoe was not on the table.  But as God would have it, we ended up adding the 2 of them within 48 hours of one another.  But this makes things complicated as far as DFCS AND Lifeline are concerned.

There is so much that we still don't know - mainly how/when all of the adoption knots are going to get worked out - but they ARE getting worked out...more and more with each passing day.   I wish it wasn't the case, but I had some moments of overwhelming despair a couple of weeks ago (mainly partly due to lack of sleep...and partly because Nick was out of town...).  There were moments when I was wondering if things were really going to work out - moments that seemed hopeless as far as proceeding with Zoe's adoption process.  Maybe I'm choosing not to see anything else but throughout this season I have not been able to see any solution other than that both of these children will be in our family (Zoe permanently, LJ for as long as he needs to be!)....  I just need everyone else to see that as the only solution, too :)

I cannot claim that I've heard God say that "Zoe is ours" or that "the adoption and fostering will both happen"...there have certainly been moments when that's what I wanted to hear from Him.  Instead I've been hearing "keep seeking Me.  I've got this.  Do not be anxious. Trust Me. I've got this.  I am with you.  I've got this." 

And the other thing I know that I heard from Him was "you know, Dianna, we've been working on your Hope and Trust - that your Hope and Trust are in Me and Me alone...now I'm going to increase your Faith...and really the Hope and Trust and Faith are all intertwined."

Bring it on.  Please increase my faith!  About the time I heard that word from the Lord (in the middle of the week where I was feeling such despair) we received a very positive text from a VP at Lifeline stating that she had been in touch with DFCS at the State level and that she finally had enough information that she felt comfortable with us all moving forward in the adoption process.  What relief God brought through that text. And then He immediately gave me another gift in the song that was playing on the radio when I got back into the car...Won't He Do It

So many of the lyrics were "just for me" - here are the ones that were especially meaningful:

      Won't He do it?
      He said He would
      You gon' look back and be so amazed
      How it turned out
      So I trust Him at all times

God has used that song a couple of other times in the past 2 weeks - just when I need a reminder that He's the one doing this...just when my faith needs a little boost...

We are currently walking through the entire process of becoming a family eligible to adopt through Lifeline - which means a tremendous amount of paperwork and processes and another homestudy.  We are willing...though I must admit that, even though I really don't mind paperwork, I feel a bit weary since we've just completed the vast majority of the exact information for the foster care process.  Thankfully Lifeline is being ridiculously accommodating and is trying to make this as easy as possible for us.  What an incredible organization.

In the midst of all this uncertainty/unknown, I've also been wrestling with the blessing of Zoe.  Why do we get the honor of having her as our daughter when there are PLENTY of other families out there who are ready/willing/wanting to adopt her?!  My only answer is that we are God's best for her. Which is mind-blowing.  I don't feel like God's best for her.  Full disclosure: I feel inadequate, incapable, unable....but He is adequate, capable, able....He will finish what He has started.  He is the one who has chosen us for Zoe and Zoe for us.  A million things could have stopped this from happening....but they didn't.  He didn't.  He has done this and our hearts are rejoicing.

What else I know:
  • God has done something incredible - INCREDIBLE - in bringing LJ (through fostering) and Zoe (through adoption) into our family.  We whole-heartedly believe both are meant to be in our family at this time. 
  • He had given us the vision of the bridge going down and us being able to walk right across - we just never imagined that we would be flying across the bridge with our feet barely touching the pavement.  
  • There are still lots of legal things to work out for Zoe to be fully ours. 
  • We will be doing a t-shirt fundraiser to help with the adoption costs :) 
  • We have experienced so much kindness and generosity from so many...here are just a few examples of the uncommon kindness and generosity we have been the recipients of:
    • Dr. Ellison's willingness to see Zoe for her 2 week and her 1 month appointments (although we didn't have a single piece of legal documentation that proves that we are supposed to have her!)
    • Our community group - baby clothes, formula, meals, prayers.  goodness.  We are so grateful. 
    • Yaya.  Need I say more?  that lady.  what a gift.  She loves all of us Cashes so well.  All 7 of us.  
  • Apparently there is even more to this story than I know - Jeanie has said that there is much to be shared about what all the Lord has done.  I can't wait to hear it.  
Zoe, Melinda & Jeanie
One other thing I am certain of is that Zoe's birth mama is one brave and courageous woman.  Melinda has given us a gift that we do not deserve, could not have earned and will never be able to repay -  sounds alot like the gifts God gives.  We will spend Zoe's lifetime being grateful for Melinda's decision to trust us with Zoe Grace.  We are also committed to Melinda - we want her to be involved in Zoe's life in whatever way(s) she feels comfortable.  I know some people aren't going to understand that...but we believe it's right and best for Zoe, for Melinda and for our family.  This little girl is loved and wanted by so many - I'm glad she gets to know that all the days of her life. It has been an honor to have Melinda in our home numerous times and to meet her in the prayer room at CCC...Melinda has been able to hold and feed and rock and change the one that she carried and gave life to.

To God be the glory, great things He has done.  

Surely there will be more to come.  

blessed beyond all measure...

  • time with tiffany two days in a row!
  • rails to trails with emma and LJ
  • foster care (impact) classes are complete
  • wings and swimming and sweet time with the walls

  •  approx. 12 minutes at dr. mansfield's office for LJ's appointment (and getting to see Amanda's murals in person!!!)
  • "you give me joy down deep in my soul." - JOY sung by Vashawn Mitchell (or the CCC worship team!)
  • eli and caroline serving all day long

  • treading water for an hour and real talk
  • "orientation interview" with anna marie from Lifeline - hung up the phone (well, pressed the "end call button") feeling encouraged and refreshed rather than defeated
  • apple dumplings (and not sharing them) 
  • clare's teaparty that emma was able to go to (thanks to Molly and Grandaddy!!)

  • "blessed beyond all measure...counting every blessing...letting go and trusting...surely every season you are good to me...." - rend collective
  • ling ling (chinese food) at yaya's (that'll make the thankful list every time!)
  • the right song at the right time
  • nick bought me a whole cinnamon roll pound cake...and it is delicious (and tastes even better because buying it helps the brannigans get to costa rica!)

  • molly's willingness to keep kids so that date night could happen
  • brandon and katherine hosted the middle schoolers even though they don't have middle schoolers
  • walking into caroline's room and seeing her reading the Word 
  • ordinarily extraordinary moments between a brother and his littlest sister

21 June 2018

His kindness abounds. always.

  • "we were made to matter." - sarah ann garcia
  • meaningful conversation at midtown coffee
  • the village foster care and adoptive ministry.  wow.  (and God's kindness when i had just mentioned to a friend how much i missed the boutique on the ship!)
  • encouraging reminders on instagram

  • el carrizo with yaya and grandaddy
  • the kind words of a stranger named emma
  • nick is H.O.M.E.
  • nick and his amazing, thoughtful, generous self (pink starbursts and a treat yo' self card with a huge treat inside the card...he's the best.  truly.)

  • "give me such an awareness of your loveliness that nothing can keep me from seeking you." -prayerables
  • 7 pm nap, 9:30 bedtime
  • christal gavin's presence, coffee card, note and all-around remarkable-ness. 
  • good quotes

  • "give me...fanatical devotion only to You." - prayerables
  • notes from carey bray
  • zucchini bread (and quiet moments) 
  • breakfast outside with this 4 week old beauty

  • hearing josh and april's story
  • "to the taking in, to the letting go..." - pat barrett, into faith i go
  • date night.  goodness.  so very thankful.  
  • a pool full of kids (and this wasn't even all of them)

14 June 2018

first, i'll be thankful.

this morning i am overwhelmed.  there is much going on in our home  in regards to fostering and adopting (yup!).  i trust God...it just all feels complicated and a bit messy (and i really don't love complicated and messy).  before i jump in to trying to make sense of things and sorting stuff and diving into paperwork, i am going to be thankful.  I'm going to spend time with my Faithful Father who sees it all and knows it all - He sees the end from the beginning.  He knows how it's all going to work out  - and I trust Him that it IS all going to work out.  somehow, someway.  

2 songs that He is using to minister to me...

This Week's Thankful List:
  • "Home aine a place - it's a feeling of being loved and wanted." - clotee "a picture of freedom"
  • april's kindness (again and again)
  • fridge full of food/casseroles
  • emma and jupiter

  • easy peasy dentist appointment for LJ (and kids meals coupons/yogurt vouchers for him and all the kids who went with him!)
  • ministry time at church - i love people praying for/with one another!
  • walking around lakebottom park (with a coffee and a good friend to boot!)
  • inside of cabinets getting painted

  • shea's visit
  • best capp blast in a looooong time
  • cabinet full of formula
  • a healthy baby girl who is enjoying that formula

  • "take time to smooth your soul..." irene harrell - prayerables
  • peaceful home study visits
  • right song at the right time:  Into Faith I go - Pat Barrett
  • "we've been working on the hope and trust parts...now let's start working on your faith....it's all intertwined."