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A Weekend of Planning at Big Canoe {Created for Care}

We just might have the most amazing spouses ever.

They cheer us on to leave several weekends a year to pour into foster and adoption moms. HUGE.

But more than that–is all the planning that goes into these weekends. This year we will have our first foster care and adoption couple marriage retreat at Winshape. Then in February and March–we will be pouring into 500 mommas at each retreat. These are more than just weekends of rest–but also weekends full of encouragement and training for moms who are learning to parent children from hard places…trauma in their hearts–that truly makes parenting look a whole lot different when compared to children who have always been protected and cared for in your home and heart. It is such a JOY to spend our time throughout the year raising support through our online store, helping facilitate mini-retreats for smaller groups of moms all over the country and planning every details for retreats ahead from decorations to breakout speakers.

Our spouses really rock for all THEY support us in with this ministry—and THIS past weekend…all of our spouses kept kids all weekend so we could meet together in Big Canoe (thank you Beverly Bartow for your beautiful home!)–and plan together. It’s so wonderful to also be able to come together and REST together–as during our weeks throughout the year of planning (aka working overtime as moms) and during the serving weekends–there is very little rest had. SO THANKFUL for a weekend with these ladies!

Our Created for Care team (minus two who were unable to come)…

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(Pictured from left to right top: me, Laura McBrayer, Kristen Watford, Christy Elphick and Candy Pearson. Pictured bottom row: Laura Phillips, Angie Carley and Rachel Campbell. Not pictured: Virginia Bubar and Lauren Casper. AND rocking our tables this year is Tami Ezell!)

So…that makes up our crazy crew who sacrifice so much to serve. No one gets paid a dime–we just love foster and adoption moms so volunteering to serve them through our retreats is an absolute JOY. I’m just so thankful for the time we had to plan and dream this weekend–and I’m super excited about our THEME this year: SHINE.

We brainstormed so many things how HE has shined through our stories…through our children…each and every one.

It’s going to be another amazing year of retreats and fun…and we can’t WAIT to bless the mommas that are already registered to join us!!

“Don’t sine so others can see you. SHINE so that through you others can see Him.” – C.S. Lewis

“People are like stained glass. When darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“I believe in the sun when it isn’t shining. I believe in love even when I don’t feel it. I believe in God even when He’s silent.” -Found scratched on concentration camp wall during Holocaust.

“For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6

And I love Isaiah 60…

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
    they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar,
    and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
    your heart shall thrill and exult!

CAN’T WAIT for you all to see our “Shine” inspired new store products very, very soon also!!!

So many reasons to shine no matter what:-)

Blessings to you and yours!

Andrea

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Each Day is Such a Gift

October.

It’s always one of my favorite months of the year.

The changing of colors before the cold…leaves falling–while in reality much is preparing to be still for winter…there’s so much beauty in Fall.

Richard turns 39 this October…and I follow close behind–beginning our very last year in our sweet thirties. That even feels a bit like Fall…the closing of a sweet chapter and turning the page of another into forties together.

And more and more I’m learning how each day is such a gift.

The deeper we sink our feet…or rather our knees and up to our thighs…in ministry–the more and more I’m seeing the GIFT in each day. Even in the day’s disappointments when step-by-step listening to and following Jesus–I’m amazed how He orchestrates even those for the good. These, too, when we are trusting Jesus completely are gifts.

Our gifts and disabilities…those of our spouses and children…in Jesus’s viewfinder–all gifts. Why did it take me to almost 40 to really see?

Today as I think…I’m most thankful for the things that appeared to be setbacks or detours as ultimately it was those things that were the beginnings of the most grand gifts He would ever give us.

Help us to see in today each gift you have for us…whether an obvious simple gift or a disappointment or detour that will be the seeds of the sweetest fruit of all.

Starting today with a thankful heart

 

 

 

 

 

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Co-Op fun… {#barnschoolhomeschool}

Still can’t believe we are going on our 5th year of homeschooling! One of our favorite days is Mondays when our co-op friends come over! I think through the years–we have discovered is one of the best things to have with homeschool is a SMALL co-op group. It’s perfect for accountability–but smaller groups also help with flexibility AND order with peace:) I think 4 families is the MAX for a calm co-op–and having 3-4 moms to split up age group learning so you can dig deeper with different ages on similar subjects is fun to do at least once a week.
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Then we all come together for things like history where all the ages can learn together:)

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Looking forward to another week–and I can’t believe we’ve already been in our groove for OVER a month! I feel like summer just left us…although we are still swimming over here with it hitting 90 degrees today!

If you are on Instagram–I try to hashtag our homeschool fun at #barnschoolhomeschool so if you ever need homeschool inspiration or encouragement…or if you are in a homeschool funk–I would encourage you to find a few friends to co-op together. We post our lessons online through planbook.com each week so we can stay on track together! It’s just $12 a year for 1 account–and all your peeps (moms and students alike) can look at the daily assignments with the plan book app!

Just a few things that we love…and another thing I LOOOOVE is this little dude! That chlorine face is mixed with grease from cheesy fries:) from his favorite place to play…Top Golf!

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Hope you all have a sweet week!

xoxo!

Andrea

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A little peak in the farmhouse:)

Oh my. We have a work in progress on our hands that is for sure;)

I found a place for the cow:) In the living room area which is smack dab in the center of our house…

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Every one says you should wait until you don’t have little ones to have a white couch. I disagree;). White is the easiest thing to keep clean–the only thing that bleaches back white;). The piano is in this room also–so when the kids have their lessons, the rest of the noisy bunch can move to the family room and we don’t get fired by our music teacher;)!

While many love clean walls and simplicity–I love filling them up with collages and memories. that goes for our staircase too.

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I painted the “You’re gonna miss this” sign as a daily reminder when things are a mess, a child has forget their shoes (again!) or chaos is happening. I know one day I’m going to miss this noise of this home full of children. When people ask how many children we have, I can’t help but say “just five” because this momma’s heart will always long for more hearts to pour into. Richard assures me that we can adopt and foster again when our littles are bigger. They say a momma knows when her nest is full. I’m not sure my heart will ever feel that–or at least it hasn’t yet.

And speaking of little birds growing up–ONE of my baby birds…Frankie baby…has decided that approaching 7 means he needs to get rid of bunk beds. So I grieved taking down the bunks with the really cool bucket pulley system we made together (don’t worry–I safely tucked it away for when another little boy wants bunks!) I put the twin bed posts back on and just need to paint those to match the bed set from when I painted it last year when we made them in to bunks. Frankie baby is our little man who loves some football like his All-American UGA football player granddaddy! A peak into #3’s room…

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See Frank’s laundry basket? He is Friday:) With 5 little ones–everyone’s basket has a day…making it easier to wash, fold and put away when everything goes back to the same room each day depending on who’s day it is!

The black square between the beds is for Frankie the 1st grader to work on his keeping track of SEC wins and losses using Western slash counting…

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Now you football fans don’t get your britches all in a wad…we have NOT tallied wins and losses from today’s game. That’s always Sunday afternoon fun. I don’t want to hear anything about my Auburn Tigers people. Not a word;)

Hope you all are having a great weekend! Here’s a little love from the back pasture…

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xoxo!

Andrea

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Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Foster and Adoption Placement

Yes. I am an adoption mom writing this. BUT. I’m an adoption mom in this world. This world that so often gets really confused really fast…about what we are called to as the hands and feet of Jesus, what it means to have a heart like Jesus and what it means to have open hands for what is best for the children we might be called to for a time be the voice for.

My husband and I are on a board for an orphan and widow organization in Zambia, Africa. Over 700 orphans (single or double–or children of widows) attend our school. I think zero of them need to be adopted by Americans, Australians, awesome Canadians or whatever other nationality may be. Our kids are not in orphanages–so they do not need to be adopted. (I do, however, think the kids in orphanages in Zambia very much need families…so if you are waiting on bringing a child home from an orphanage in Zambia…wait well and get ready for a crazy, unknown Zambian ride;) Our kids, however, are being cared for in their communities–and those who do not have parents are being fostered by other moms in our little village. They are getting to stay in their community, raised with their siblings and really–they have everything they need. And oh how they love Jesus! If you asked the kids would they like to go to America–100% of them would say yes…but to meet Taylor Swift and meet movie stars would be the number one reason why;).

They are loved. They are cared for. They are being educated and discipled. They are going to be the movers and shakers of their community as they are being empowered to create change in their worlds. I’m excited to see what God is going to do–and how He is going to use the 700 kids in our schools there to rock change in their worlds. These kids who once didn’t know how to dream are being taught how to dream and that with the Lord before and beside them–they can do anything. I’m weekly challenged by these kids and their love for Jesus and trusting in Him for daily provision and meals…while I often get my perspective out of whack here in our world of–UGH…my daughter didn’t get the part she wanted in Nutcracker. (Someone please slap me and give me a reality check.)

I can’t tell you how many adoption agencies have heard about our work in Zambia and wanted to sit down and chat to “pick my brain”. Um no. They are good. But they still need us. And oh my gracious–we still need them. So yes–let’s go to lunch and I would love to share how to get involved in our widows or sponsorship program. Together the Lord has changed me–and I believe they are being changed too–together we are changing each other. There is such beauty as we choose not to give up on the difficulties of African ministry–if you have dug deep in African ministry and chosen not to run or give up yet…you know what I’m talking about. With any ministry there is corruption when perspectives change. Power. Money. Security. Our own desires filled. Whatever the motives…I see it seep in every single ministry whether in Africa or the church up the street…and I see why people run from ministry and the church. But please don’t give up on either of those. Where Jesus is working–the enemy will be fighting. It’s our challenge, calling and battle to stay very, very, very close to Jesus and not ever, ever let our flesh or will be louder than His.

I don’t love that adoption means there’s brokenness. Adoption is not natural. (This is one things I’ve heard and said over and over–especially from the birth mom in my home grieving a loss…where has her flesh gone–her heart…oh my heart. Oh sweet girl…I know it doesn’t feel natural. But you are so brave for choosing life.) It may feel natural to some–but being a mom of both biological and adopted children…there is a different feeling in the depth of flesh of flesh. No one ever says that. But that doesn’t mean my depth of love is any different whether. It’s not. My love for all five of my children is FIERCE. It’s a miracle. My little love from China is the most like me. That is a miracle in itself…and we share a different, beautiful bond because how we read each other. Each of my children share different connections…and yes–I love adoption…for so many reasons. But the the brokenness it begins with–I cannot say I love.

I hate that it means brokenness.

I love that it means healing.

I hate as a mom I didn’t get 9 months to nurture and connect. That’s a loss neither of us can make up for…and one that is only given to the one that chose life. I can never replace that special bond…and as a mom it makes me sad that in this life my boys will miss that. Many of my adoptive mom friends who walk the road of infertility will also miss that…and I know that is a loss they will forever carry. But it is also a loss that may also connect them deeper to the hearts of their children as they bond through this loss…something I will also never share with them…a holy sweet bond that connects on deeper levels…I can only imagine.

After the brokenness…there can be healing. But oh…oh…the motives of our hearts as moms must be careful.

We do not rescue. We don’t expect. We don’t deserve.

Children–no matter how they come to us…ARE HIS.

Our children have voices.

They don’t need to be grateful.

They need to be heard…without the noise of other people telling them what they want or need. These kids need to be empowered to think and to dream and to hope and to want…for themselves.

Children are precious hearts to be fought for…for their sake–for their good in mind.

I love the people called. I hate when the people called get in the way…when their voices get louder than the most precious voices or long term well-being of the children.

It saddens me when I see public sharing about foster/adoptive mom rights or unkind discussion of a birthmom…and I put my hands over my eyes. We are broken.

I see kids torn apart in foster care or adoption from their siblings. We are broken.

I hear the hearts…how will I ever deal with possible disappointment…I’ve waited longer…Does He see ME…I know what’s best…I will fight the good fight and not give up they say…we are putting our armor on and if need be…we’ll fight in court. I put my hands over my eyes. Oh are we ever broken.

Some where. Some how. The enemy deceives our hearts…and some how we sneak our hearts, our family needs, our dreams or wants into the equation of healing. And for THAT reason–I have a love/hate relationship with foster and adoption placements.

We need the healing of our own brokenness before we bring more brokenness to an unnatural broken beginning.

With our work in Zambia–when I see a widow we love tell a local friend to steal all the chairs…because we’ll just replace them she says. I want to quit…and run. But the children need us. And we need them. I see her heart. Wanting to help. Thinking she knows how to help. Wanting to be the hands and feet. Seeing she has been given some authority and voice. But. Those chairs. They were never hers. Yet some where she felt entitled to them and felt ownership over them…like she had a right to say where they should go for the good of her people–but not what was best for the children.  She’s passionate about the ministry…and yes–her hands are hands of healing and her heart–it means well…I see it and there’s beauty in it…but I put my hands over my eyes…so broken. The need or because it makes sense to one…doesn’t make it right. BUT…but she says like the man stealing from the store for bread–if you see the desperate cause the chairs will be used for…THEN–then you will understand. You might even sneak in and get the chairs too. No. No–never me we say. I wouldn’t do that. BUT. Some where–along the line…if we aren’t careful we get confused and can justify all the wrong things.

The chairs were never ours.

Nor are any of our children. We get it when we are talking about chairs. But our hearts can be so deceived when they get overly attached and involved.

We can’t stop listening.

To His voice.

To their voices.

It may mean you let go of more things you love for His glory. You might not get to see the end. You might not get to see the fruit. You might not get to have any praise here on Earth. It might be painful. Our hearts will be broken. If we live as Jesus lived…it should be a life where we feel too often we say “Take this cup from me–but if it be your will…then okay. Why Father do you turn your face from me?” Isn’t that how His only Son felt? It didn’t mean the Lord didn’t see…didn’t love…wasn’t fighting…didn’t have a plan.

I won’t give up seeing their hearts. Our family still plans to foster. We are still very much open to adopting.

But their voices must be heard.

And for the record–I’m very nervous to hit ‘post’ because while you may be reading this as a “no-brainer”–many in the world would disagree…with most of what I have typed here. Because their own hearts got involved and I don’t understand. But if you step back…really step back…maybe–just maybe things might look a little different.

If you are listening to their hearts…don’t give up. Don’t give up fighting with them for their hearts. Don’t give up asking Jesus to help you see them as He sees them. He may ask you to do crazy, crazy things to bring healing in this broken world. Trust Him. He does have a plan. When your heart breaks–as mine has over and over for the things He has called us to for just a time–trust that You have run well and left your hands open for His glory no matter how much it hurt to let go.

For those of you fostering…and letting go to hard, hard places. Don’t give up. You are loving big and well—often when the tug-of-war makes absolutely no sense. You are filling a gap that only Jesus can…and I pray you feel His strength as you are tired and deeply want whatever is best for the child you are rocking right now. Courage dear heart. Don’t give up.

Praying with you for HIS best for all of His children. Standing with you with open hands for whatever He calls each of us.

Andrea

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Allen Martin - September 18, 2015 - 9:48 pm

Powerful! Thank you Andrea for speaking straight to my heart! Much love from Auburn!

Karen Twombly - September 19, 2015 - 11:01 am

…amen… Because we want RESTORATION!!! On Earth as it is in Heaven!!! In one moment some of my sweet ones wish out loud they were with their birth mom…and then later they wish they were born from my “tummy” …or that I had adopted them earlier… They struggle for restoration. One Mama or the other…but why must both be in the heart? So, we pray for restoration. If not here on Earth, then in Heaven. I tell them to pray that somewhere their birth mom and birth dad are putting their faith in Jesus. And if we have to wait until Heaven to all be together we will wait with hopeful expectation to love each other together. Oh how I will love on THAT day to say: “I love them with all that I had and and here they are”…and we can love them together in perfect unity!!!