ellie turns 11

I don’t know what it is about this year.. but Ellie has seem to have grown SO MUCH. She is truly a gift. And while some aspects of the preteens haven’t been easy… I could go on for days about how proud I am of the young woman she is becoming.

Happiest of birthdays to my oldest baby, Elena Joy. You truly are a joy.

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q & a – with Jessica from Maestro Manager

So, 2015 is coming to an end… Can you believe it?

I don’t know about you, but I have been looking for new ways to get organized and plan better when it comes to my schedule. Juggling four kids, a hubby, ministry, and a business is keeping me on my toes lately. I know that when I take the time plan, I feel more at ease (even if the plan has to change, at least I started with one).

Long story short… my good friend Jess has designed an amazing planner that I can’t wait to get my hands on!

I wanted to share the information with you as well!

Tell us a little about yourself: I’m a homeschool mom with three amazing bio kids and one sweet foster baby. I love to plan to a fault and enjoy using my free time to create spreadsheets and I love to exercise.

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What is the maestro manager? The Maestro Manager is a Life Planner that organizes the six areas of our lives which are Mind, Body, Soul, Home, Community and Work. It’s a “Maestro” because it gently directs theses areas much like a maestro of an orchestra. It has wonderful features like a monthly budgeting sheet, weekly soul care focus, and tools to keep you on track with your health and fitness goals.

What gave you the dream/idea behind it?  I wanted something like this for myself, something that had all these features in one place. I wanted something that involved pen and paper because I’ve tried different apps on my phone but found myself frittering instead of being productive. My life is crazy and I felt like the areas of my life were meant to sound like a beautiful song led by an amazing Composer, but it was being played by an elementary school band. I wanted a maestro to help keep things balanced and organized.

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What’s something you are super passionate about right now? I’m incredibly passionate about getting individuals involved in the foster care community. There is such a huge need for families to care for these special children. As a Christian, God has called me to care for the orphans and widows of this world, and foster kids definitely fall into this category. I would love to see the waiting list of children longing for loving home change to a list of individuals waiting to take in a foster child.

One word of advice to other mamas? Give yourself grace, give your children a good example of falling your knees when you are in need, then let them witness God rise you up again. This is something my mom did so well growing up. My hope for myself is that when I’m prone to fear I would do the same thing and my kids can witness how faithful and wonderful God is when He comes through.

To order your Maestro Manager or to learn more about it, go to the website here.

q&a- kira grace

So, I just dropped of my Kiki at Kindergarten! First day! AHHHH! How did the time go by so fast?

There were no tears or fears… she was just very excited!

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Here are some words I would use to describe Kiki…

Imagination- Kira has such a beautiful imagination. She loves to tell stories and it seems her little mind is always going and going. She is also great at making little houses for creatures she finds. And she is always putting on a performance or show for us to sit and watch in the living room.

Sweetie- This girl can be about as sweet as they come. She is so gentle and cuddly. I really hope that never changes!

Fun- Every night, Kira always says.. “the was the best day ever.” Because she is always having a blast. She gets super excited about most things. It’s fun to be around.

Brave- It may seem like a weird word.. but Kira does get scared about alot of things.. but she is always willing to face those fears. Kindergarten being one.. she was really nervous all summer about going.. but she did it! Without even crying today!

I love my sweet Kira Grace.

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A few weeks back I took Kira on a mommy day. It was so fun.

And here’s little Q&A from that afternoon…

 

What’s currently your favorite thing to do with….?

Your Family- Go on the boat

Daddy- Go on the jet ski super fast

Mommy- Playing games together like Uno and Go Fish

Ellie- Play Barbies

Jax- Pull him in wagon

 

What makes you really excited?

water parks

 

What’s your favorite color?

All of the colors. They are all too beautiful.

 

What is something you have learned recently?

Ballet class

 

What are you looking forward to the most about K5?

Learning to read better

 

What’s something you think everybody should know?

How to be nice to each other

 

What’s your favorite song right now?

Our God is Greater

 

What’s your favorite movie?

Tinkerbell Pirate Fairy

 

What always makes you laugh?

Funny stories, duh

 

What’s something you want to do for someone else?

Share as much I can

 

And, what do you want to do when you grow up?

Professional Skateboarder

 

🙂

 

q&a- elena joy

Today’s Q&A is with my oldest child… Elena Joy.

We went on a date this weekend. So I took the opportunity to ask some random questions. (I also did this with my other daughter, Kira, a few weeks back.. so stay tuned for her interview tomorrow).

Ellie will be starting 1st grade TOMORROW! When did she grow up? (Sniff)

I had to fill out a little info sheet about Ellie for her new teacher… and it asked me to describe her with a few words. I feel like this little girl has many amazing qualities, but the ones I put down were…

Leader (She is an incredible big sister and leader among her buddies)

Creative (She is artistic and always making up games, stories, activities, etc)

Giving (This girl gives so many things away.. and always is asking to do it more)

Compassionate (Ahh, something I wish I was better at! Ellie is so great at feeling emotion and love for others and understanding what they are going through).

So, without further ado.. Here’s my precious Ellie Baby. Sporting her super cute new haircut (because she just donated 9 inches to Children With Hair Loss.. Her idea!)

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Her favorite thing to do with her new cut.. haha

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So, Ellie.. What’s currently your favorite thing to do with….?

Your Family- Spend time together at the lake

Daddy- Go Fishing

Mommy- Go to the park together and look for butterflies

Kira- Pretend we are doggies together

Jax- Read him books

 

What makes you really excited?

My birthday

 

What’s your favorite color?

All shades of blue, because it looks like the sky and ocean

 

What is something you have learned recently?

How to do cartwheels

 

What are you looking forward to the most about 1st grade?

Learning fun things with my teacher

 

What’s something you think everybody should know?

About God’s love and Jesus

 

What’s your favorite song right now?

Away in a Manger

 

What’s your favorite movie?

Frozen

 

What always makes you laugh?

Tickles and Fart noises

 

What’s something you want to do for someone else?

Give shoes to kids who don’t have any

 

And, what do you want to do when you grow up?

Be a mommy

 

🙂

 

 

q&a with aby from give life

Today’s q&a is with a special friend of mine, Aby Nelms.

She’s one of those friends I just “click with” and I am so thankful that God has brought her in to my life. Even with her being on the other side of the world for half of our friendship, there has always been a special place in my heart and prayers for Aby (and her sweet family).

Aby and her husband, Stephen, live in Zambia, Africa with their four (almost five) beautiful children. I will let you read her story as to how they got there below…  But, if you can head over to their website after this interview and learn more about the Give Life Project and how it is changing lives.

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Tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Aby Nelms and I was born in Caracas, Venezuela almost 32 years ago.  When I was 7, my parents moved to the US as church planting missionaries.  Having been in the U.S for the last 25 years, I can safely say that although I have stayed true to my culture in many ways, naturally I am a gringa!  I married an amazing man who was crazy enough to want to travel the world and have as many children as I did.  We said 8, but of course that number has been dwindling down for a while now!  We currently have 4 children who bring us joy daily. Emma 6, Josiah 5, Joannah 2.5, and Eva 8 months.  I love art in the form of photography and painting. I totally enjoy cooking and sewing and things like that. Being outside when the sun is setting and everything has an orange glow is my favourite time of the day.  I try to always be reading a book, I despise mosquitos with a passion, I like tattoos and I believe in spanking. I love traveling, great food and adventures!  I recently learned that I am WAY more left brained than I was 10 years ago and I’m ok with that.   I am sensitive, I am honest, I am fiery ( I am spanish after all). I know and love Jesus, but I want to know Him and love Him more and more!

What brought you to Africa?

Since our very first date, we brought up the fact that in our hearts was a desire, a longing, a conviction for ministry abroad.  After a very short engagement we were married and immediately began a church plant in a neighbouring community.  We knew that was the opportunity God had for us at that moment, yet there remained a restlessness. Fast forward three years and two children and we came to the point of knowing it was time to take that step of faith.

We both shared a love for travel and culture, and because of various trips we had made individually, our eyes had been opened to the tremendous needs and burdens of much of the world.  One of the places Stephen had often visited was Zambia.  Having many relationships there and understanding a bit of the culture, it seemed like God was leading us in that direction, where we were to begin the Give Life Project.

What’s your biggest challenge being a mom in a foreign country?

To be honest, it is a little hard to pinpoint only one challenge.  I really struggled through a lack of community and friendships for a long while.  I think also not having a lot of the things which make mothering so convenient; things like a dryer, a park, a bike trail, a dishwasher, the right ingredients available, or a Target!

I have been stretched, broken, stretched all over. I have cried and been angry at God. I have been lied to, criticised and judged. I have acted indifferent and apathetic, I have wanted out on many occasions.  I have also repented and grown in everyone of these challenges and have recognised that a large part of why God brought me to the other side of the world was not only to change it but to change me.

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What’s the biggest blessing?

 The most rewarding experiences I have had is to see changed lives.  It’s been to start something from nothing for the Kingdom and to watch somebody understand the Love of God.  Sometimes very slowly and simply, but real.  Sometimes it has been someone else and many times it has been myself.

I’ve definitely had those days when you wake up and then it goes downhill fast.  When your kids don’t want to sit still for school, your already potty trained 2 year old has 5 accidents that day, and you burn your beans!  I’ve had days when you come home from teaching a Bible study in the village and 2 women showed up because there was yet another funeral. Maybe it was another small child that suffered a ridiculous accident because of negligence. I see lots of those days and so it’s easy to overlook the blessings sometimes.  The blessing of being able to spend so much time with my children, of teaching them and caring for all their needs; the blessing of daily provision; and the blessing of simplicity in faith.  I get to sit on a reed mat under a mulberry tree in the middle of an African village surrounded by barefooted women sharing together and learning together! All this while looking around and not seeing any strip malls or buildings blocking my view or any other distraction. To strip down to the naked faith is a tremendous blessing.

Any new adventures you are currently involved in?

Our most current project is a preschool we have in our town Chongwe. It’s about 40 Km east of civilisation also known as the capital city, Lusaka. We currently have 50 students enrolled which is exciting because we started with 8 in our back yard.  We need lots of help in every way.  Interns, supplies, teachers, teacher training, everything.  Like all new beginnings, it’s exciting but also hard work.

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If you could tell moms in the states one thing, what would it be?

Go through life as a “learner”.  It’s sometimes easy to think we have “arrived” after feeling pretty successful in whatever area if you naturally fit the role of the “teacher”.  This is such a dangerous place to be since we are called to humility.  Only in practising humility will be be willing to learn from others.

Embrace the season God has you in.  From the very beginning I knew my role in our home and ministry.  But as our family began to grow, my roles began to change and I could no longer do everything I once did.  This was painful because being in Africa and being a missionary came with a sort of job description in my head.  I struggled through guilty feelings of not doing enough. I was drastically missing the point and it was not until I embraced the season God had me in, that I was freed. I saw ministry and family and even God’s love for me in a different light! It was life-changing.  Seasons change and in every one there is beauty and joy, enjoyment and specific things to be accomplished.

 Here are some other images from Aby’s time in Zambia over the past 4 years.

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q & a- nancy ray

Today’s q & a is a special treat. You get to meet my friend Nancy Ray.

She is a fellow photographer as well. We actually met years back at a photography workshop. Since then, we have kept up with each other on social media. And through that I realized we have another common interest… finances. We are both big Dave Ramsey fans.

If you google financial statistics in our country, you will probably get a sick stomach like I did. Did you know that the average American household has over $16,000 in credit card debt, over $8,000 in car loans, over $33,000 in student loans, and then a mortgage average of $154,365 on top of it? Ouch! There’s no surprise that money has got to be one of the most stressful things… period. (I feel like in our marriage it’s one of the main things that can send us in to a stressed-out, irritable mood).

When you are in the thick of it… you feel like just ignoring the issues. But, don’t just run away from money problems! There are so many practical things you can do!  People are terrified of that “B” word… BUDGET. But, trust me.. you can’t afford to live without one.

Over the years, I have loved reading about how Nancy and her hubby Will have not only made efforts to be wise with their personal finances, but also teach and challenge others as well. I wanted her to share a bit of that wisdom with you today! Hope they inspire you too!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and  how living financially free has changed your life?

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Hi! I’m Nancy Ray, a photographer based in North Carolina. I’m a Southern girl who looks most forward to waking up each morning to drink my coffee, read my Bible and soak in the beauty that surrounds me. When I’m not taking pictures, you can typically find me watching movies with my husband, running with my great dane, or reading a good book. Will (my husband) works on staff at our church as the Youth Ministries Director, and he is also a Financial Coach. As you can imagine, weekends are very busy for us!
Will and I grew up very differently in regards to how we handled our money. I grew up in a very wealthy home – always able to shop, eat out, and never think twice about it. Will had to work in high school to pay for his own gas and fun activities – he knew the value of a dollar, when I didn’t. He also was okay spending, and he didn’t have a long term plan for his finances. Both of us were NOT prepared when it came to finances in our relationship! Thankfully, when we went through Financial Peace University  Dave Ramsey) while we were engaged, our lives were changed. I’m going to be honest – this played out in a not-so-glamourous way on my end. It was a struggle, friends. A really hard struggle at times. But in the end, it was so worth it. We fought to stay on the same page, in unity, to make hard decisions and to set high goals for ourselves. Now we are completely debt free (including our home), and we are so grateful!

 

2. So many people hear the word budget, debt, etc… and cringe. Why is it important to talk about finances together? 

My mind immediately goes to me and Will, sitting at our kitchen table, my head in my hands whining, “are we through yet?” like a responsible twenty-something year old. This is quite the quintessential picture of us doing the budget together. Will: motivated. Me: bored.  BUT: If it weren’t for the numbers and budgets and nerdiness and time spent doing the things I didn’t want to do, we would not be where we are today. You have to commit to work on and communicate about your finances as a team!

It is incredibly important to not only talk about finances, but to AGREE on them. We set up 1 time at the end of each month to discuss our finances. It’s the “Budget Committee Meeting.” We make a budget for the upcoming month, we discuss big picture goals, and we both give in to the other’s desires until we AGREE. Honestly, the budget is the key. The numbers have to work. You must “spend every dollar on paper” before the month begins. If you can agree on the budget month to month, it will enhance your marriage. We get excited to dream together, to plan together, and to talk about our money together. While at first it was so difficult, now it is a joy.

 

3. The economy has hit many families quite hard, and it seems as if few have yet recovered from the downturn. What baby steps would you recommend to them?

 I would recommend these baby steps, no matter what economy you are in! This will help you become “economy-proof.” No matter what the economy does, you will be okay.:
1. Live on less than you make.
2. Follow Dave’s Baby Steps.
3. Stick to a budget
4. Use the Envelope System.

 

4. So a lot of young families are still paying off their student loans from college. What would your recommendations be for those families who find themselves still stuck in student loan debt? 

I’ll be honest – I am so grateful that we have never had to worry about student loans. Will and I both had our college educations paid for, and we see the immense value in that now that we are older. If I did have student loans, I would approach them just like we approached our mortgage: devise a plan and follow it. Knock them out as fast as possible! Develop a hate for debt, a love for financial freedom, and get to work!

For example, Will and I decided to pay off our mortgage of $110,000. There are many students out there with the same daunting numbers for their student loan debt. We decided to do the following:

– Live on 1 income.

For our first 5 years of marriage, we lived on Will’s income of approximately $40,000. Everything that I made, we paid extra on the house! So when our household income increased to $100,000, we did NOT increase our lifestyle. Instead, every penny of my income was put towards the house. We paid off our $110,000 mortgage in 2.5 years.

– Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by our culture.

All of our friends were getting newer, bigger, better houses because they “needed” to because their family was growing. We’ve decided that less is more, and truly we don’t “need” anything but the basics. Make up your mind to be grateful and content, and don’t get into debt just because you want something nicer.

– Work hard.

Take an extra job. Create an online business. Babysit kids. Do what you have to do to knock out your debt, so you are free of it.

 

5. You own your own business, any advice for fellow entrepreneurs when it comes to business finances?

I have a 3 simple steps to recommend to all of my entrepreneurs out there:

1. Get your income UP

2. Get your expenses DOWN

3. Work your tail off!

This is a basic recipe for a profitable business. Many people will tell you to take out a loan, to make more purchases so you don’t have to pay as many taxes, and on and on and on. Debt will limit your business, add stress to your life, and put you at risk as a business owner. Buying too much stuff (letterpress business cards, a custom website, the latest equipment) can cause you to own an expensive hobby, without ever actually making an income. Yes, you do have to spend money to make money! Just spend as little as possible and make as much as possible. How do you do that? Serve others well. Work your tail off. Be the best you can be in all aspects of your business! What you sow, you will reap!

Thanks Nancy for such awesome insight! If you are interested in reading more about their story… just click here…  the exciting day we screamed “We’re Debt Free!”  You can also read about their journey through the Financial Freedom Series here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

And, because I love to hear from you guys… Do you have a financial success story you would like to share? Have any of you put some of these things in to practice? Leave a comment below and share your story!

 

 

q & a- lauren clark

Owning a business is hard. I was telling Luke just last night sometimes I wish I just had a 9 to 5… a place I could just go to and come home and leave my work at work. Is that bad?

I know that when I sit and think about it… that isn’t true.

Yes, owning a photography business is a lot of work. But, I do love what I get to do. And, I love the flexibility in my schedule even more.

I wouldn’t be able to be home with my kids as much. I probably wouldn’t be able to be a foster mom. I wouldn’t be able to be involved in different ministries or travel like I do. So many blessings I have because of this job! I am thankful.

I remember a few years back I went to a workshop for women photographers called Love Affair. It was one of the first times I could share my frustrations, fears, and questions as a business owner. It had a huge impact on my life to be there and talk to other girls in my shoes. The biggest thing I took from the workshop with was how important it was to have balance in my life.

One of the photographers there was my friend Lauren Clark. I have seen her make some huge changes to prioritize things in her life and business.

I wanted her to share a little insight with you!

Tell us a little about yourself?

I have been a photographer since I graduated high school. My dad mentioned that I should take out a loan, buy a digital camera and sell sports pictures to pay it off. I disliked sports, but went ahead and took his advice and started doing senior photos instead. This was in the days when there were very few digital portrait photographers in my area, I think there were 5 or 6 maybe, and being one of the first really helped my business take off quickly!

I married the guy of my dreams when I was 19 and took off doing wedding photography a year later. Two years down the road I was shooting 35-45 weddings per year and traveling the country attending workshops to learn more and network with famous photographers. By the time I turned 25 I had done over 1 million dollars in photography business, had thousands of “blogstalkers” and even had given out an autograph or two (yes, you can laugh, it was hilarious). My level of success was nothing attributed to anything special that I did, I believe it was all part of a great setup for my future testimony. Pride always comes before the fall.

As other successful photographers started to grow in my area I began to feel this unrest and fearfulness of my “stardom” falling and through a series of events decided to move to Stillwater, Oklahoma to resettle and “take over” the area with my photography. We bought a plot of raw land and began to cut trails and plan a long life of farm living there, and then I got pregnant. My first pregnancy changed everything! I began to see into my life more clearly and realized that it was all about success and how it made me feel. This wasn’t lasting and I was on the hunt for something greater, so I began to really search for God to see if He was real of a hoax. I knew that the deepest parts of me had to know truth or I wouldn’t teach it to my kids and so my journey took me into a whole new place of testing God and seeing that He was faithful.

This changed everything about my business. Before this, I wanted money, fame, accolades and more materialism to keep the cycle going. After my soul searching I began to care less about being known, less about my paycheck being so large and more about true relationships and living a life of faith. I know that God let me go through some tough things to make me stronger: my business almost completely failing in the next town we moved to, moving to another state and almost quitting completely and giving up to just edit for other photographers, to now jumping back in the game and not looking back. Kansas City is my dream market. The people are wonderful, and the scenery here is like nothing I’ve ever had the pleasure to photograph before! I’m now living my dream of putting my family first and working only enough to sustain our living. My kids get to see me all day and my weekends aren’t jam packed with other people’s special events. I’ve finally learned to set boundaries and it’s given my life a whole new level of happiness!

Where is home?

I’ve lived in 7 houses and 3 states in the last 8 years, so home is kind of where my family is, but I’m really crossing my fingers to be able to stay in Kansas City, Missouri for a long, long time!

What inspired you to be a photographer?

My Uncle was a professional photographer and I always was interested in his beautiful candid photos of our family gatherings.He lent me an old Canon AE-1 film camera in my freshmen year in high school and taught me about aperture and shutter speed.

What is one piece of advice you would offer to a woman looking to start their own business?

My advice is to focus on relationships. Without my photography friends in new areas I wouldn’t be able to make it without years of extra networking. There are SO many photographers out and about now that really the only thing that you can guarantee to give your client that someone else may not is a wonderful, relational experience. I’m talking about integrity, trust, understanding, and making them feel wonderful. You can advertise until you are blue in the face, but if you have a few people out there singing your praises then you will surely succeed.

What is your favorite part about owning your own business?

My favorite part about owning my own business is the freedom and the pride in having such a big responsibility. I’ve heard that the number one motivator for people is not money or power, but it is more responsibility. The more of it that you have, the more you are motivated to do well. It gives me a sense of accomplishment when I have to run a household, cook, clean, teach my children about life and then run a business on top of it all! Being free to make all of the decisions and succeeding is just so fulfilling.

What is your least favorite?

My least favorite is taxes. And moving states.

What were your biggest lessons in the past five years that you would like to share?

My biggest lessons are ones that I’ve made terrible mistakes on. One was taking the relationship out of my photography. I got so busy about 5 years ago that I began to make everything as unattached to me as possible. I would send people pre-written emails, have them watch videos on how to order photos and pretty much became an automated system with very little human contact. I was making tons of money, but had very little fulfillment in my job. I put my family on the altar of success in the name of “providing”, when in reality all that I wanted was to feel better about my miserable life through the accolades of strangers. Put your family above your business and set boundaries. Now I am living on a small budget, driving a used mini-van, and living in a rent house but I am so much happier because I am placing my time and energy into my family and important relationships. I’ve also limited the number of weddings that I will take per year and per month and have limited the number of sessions per week to protect time with my family.

Any other tips or advice?

My other advice would be to find what you love! Even in photography, I went from being a “weddings only” photographer to mostly kids and families. That is what brought me the most creativity! Do a little soul searching and learn about yourself and what you love. Your life will be so full if you can learn to do what you love, but set boundaries so that it doesn’t take over your entire life.

And here is Lauren and her sweet family! Thanks so much Lauren!

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q & a- jenni from place of hope

Today, everyone is talking about issues like gun control, health care and economic security. While those are important, there is a topic many don’t even realize affects them.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are currently more than 400,000 children living within the American foster care system. That number is staggering, and their education, financial status and job outlook is going to affect all of us—regardless of whether or not we have any involvement with the foster care system.

This article at Relevant Magazine talks more about the statistics and future reality. Read more at here.

The numbers in our area are rising at an alarming rate. In Palm Beach County alone, there are more than 1,000 children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. Many children are being sent to other counties because there simply are not enough licensed foster families here willing to care for these hurting children.

This is a recent news story that aired locally. The story states that the number of children needing a home the past three months have increased 100% since last year.

Click here to view the video.

I hope you don’t feel like I am giving you a sob story or trying to make you feel guilty. That is not my intention! This is just something I never understood until someone opened my eyes to it. I only want to share the facts and raise awareness. Share the need that is so desperately there.

Fostering has changed our lives. It’s not always easy.. in fact it’s heartbreaking in a lot of ways. But, it has also blessed us in more ways than we can count. It has made us feel alive. It has grown our faith. And like I mentioned in this post… I would rather feel… even if sometimes the feelings hurt… than not.

Maybe you have a question or want to learn more? Just leave a comment below.. I would love to help in anyway I can!
Also, if you are a foster parent  or involved in fostering in anyway… I would love to hear your input as well. Please comment below!

One of the people that educated and mentored us while we were taking steps towards becoming foster parents was Jenni from Place of Hope. 

I thought it would be best to have you hear from her… so enjoy this little Q&A.

Tell us a little about yourself?

I have been a foster mom for about ten years. I am married, have three bio kids (age 7, 4, 1). I work part time for Place of Hope. I have a Master’s degree in Human Services. My husband and I were houseparents at Place of Hope for a long time and cared for six teenage boys at a time. We have had a total of twenty seven foster children come through our doors. In the past year we have cared for two different toddlers in our home(one for 8 months and one for three months) and reunified both of them back to their parents.

What inspired you to become involved in fostering?

My love for God and His command to care for the least of these is what compelled me to invest my time, energy and life into children in foster care. I also work training, licensing and supporting other foster parents through Place of Hope. I am passionate about doing everything I can to make a difference for these children who have suffered so much. The need is so intense right now that we literally do not have enough beds in foster homes for children to sleep tonight. The shelters are even full and we have had to send many kids out of the county to other shelters because of the lack of space to put them. We had seven precious children come into foster care yesterday.

What was one of your most memorable experiences as a foster mom?

My most memorable experience is when a boy I fostered for four years sent me a text as an adult thanking me for my investment and expressing his love for me.

What are some things you think most people don’t know about fostering?

Most people don’t know that there is such a desperate need for loving families. They don’t stop and think about the fact that these children’s lives are happening and they will go somewhere to live during this life changing and difficult time in their life. Please put the breaking heart of a child above the fear of your own heart breaking! It will be challenging but it will be worth it. My prayer is that God be glorified and may He draw all precious children to Himself. I want to be a part of what is close to the heart of the God I love and I strongly believe this ministry is that.

What’s the best thing about being a foster mom?

 The best thing about fostering is the love and relationships that you build with the children and with other families who are serving with you. God has taught me so much about Himself and blessed me with the ability to serve and love Him in this way.

How can someone get involved?

You can get involved by calling your local foster care agency. If you are in PBC and would like to work with a faith based agency, please call Place of Hope at 561-775-7195. We are in need of foster homes for all ages of children. There is a child who needs a family to love him and keep him safe and believe in him while his biological family is walking through a very difficult time. You can do it! It is often inconvenient and it is often heart breaking to love and invest so much of yourself and to reunify the child. BUT please think of the other option. Without you, that child may not learn about the love of God for them and about how the safety and love of a family feels. They desperately need you to make the sacrifice to invest in them.
Here’s an images of Jenni and her beautiful family.
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q & a- the cradle coach

So today is an exciting day… because it starts my Q&A series on the blog. I am so, so excited about this. I have some awesome women lined up to share with your their stories and expertise.

My first interview was with Melissa, also known as the Cradle Coach. Melissa and I have been friends since college and I have always admired her mommy skills. She now shares those skills with other mamas… especially ones who struggle with their children’s sleeping patterns.

I am sure if you have been a mom….  you remember! Those long… long… nights of being completely exhausted. Some of you may still be there! I know I have been with our foster son the past few months.

Well, you need to read her advice below and be sure to check out her site here.

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Tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Melissa and I am a mother of two little ones, Riley (3) and Hudson (1), who I am totally in love with. I married the man of my dreams who I met in college. He makes me become a better wife, mother, sister and friend every single day by pushing me to be greater. There are three things I need every day to get me through; spending time in the word, running, and drinking coffee. If I don’t get those in, I feel completely lost. I absolutely love what I get to do and love the people I get to do it with.

What inspired you to become The Cradle Coach?

I was sitting on my couch, feeding Riley who was 2 months old at the time, and scrolling through my phone searching for someone to talk to about training my very stubborn little girl. I was up all night, every night, for 2 months straight and was exhausted. I wasn’t myself and felt completely out of control. I was desperate! For years I was a nanny and dealt with many situations like this with infants, twins and toddlers but when it was my own child with very real emotions to consider, I didn’t know where to begin. Nothing worked and I couldn’t find a single person to talk to. Then and there was when I decided to start The Cradle Coach. I wanted to help other moms create a routine for their children during the day and a game plan for the wake ups at night, while giving them that emotional support along the way.

What’s the biggest challenge you see parents running in to when it comes to their children’s sleeping habits?

Second guessing themselves. They start off with a technique and after a day or two, think that its not working and try something else. This causes so much confusion for their little ones – communicating by their actions one thing and changing things on them the next night. Stick to your plan for at least a week to see if you see progress. If you don’t then change things up a little but too much change creates for a harder time sleep training.

I remember when I had my first child, everyone had some sort of advice to give when it came to feedings, schedules, etc. What would you say to a new mom about the rush of advice they receive? How do they know who is right?

I always say to my clients, go with your motherly instinct. If your gut is telling you something about your child, more then likely you are right! Nobody can tell you more about your child then you can, so trust your gut.

Any other tips for fellow mamas?

Routine, Routine, Routine! Children thrive on routine. They like knowing whats expected of them and what’s next. Starting off with a little bedtime routine before you lay them to sleep helps them know it’s time to go to sleep. It slows them down and And obviously, enjoy the moments. Sometimes we are so exhausted that we cant see the joy in the moment. Be open to those moments. Love on those moments. They go by so fast!!

Thanks so much Melissa. And like I said follow her page on Facebook here and check out her website here. Great advice!

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