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Margin for what matters

In November, I resigned from my dream job at Immanuel Church as the Director of Environmental Design. My last day is Jan 3.  It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I have worked at Immanuel since 2007 and I loved it. Like, loved it, loved it.  It made me feel smart and creative, important and part of something bigger than myself in a way laundry and dishes can’t.  My job titles and responsibilities changed almost as frequently as my living room decor, and that is what I loved almost as much as I love the staff.  The last few months have been especially rewarding, being a part of all the new and exciting things happening, making it extra hard to watch the ship sail without me. Immanuel family, thank you for trusting me for all these years. It has been an honor to serve God on staff for as long as I have. There are so MANY great things happening and on their way. The best, really is, yet to come.  To be clear, we are not leaving the church. You can't get rid of the Boyce crew that easy.

So back in October, I couldn’t understand why I felt it was time to go.  I was comfortable. Safe. Doing exactly what I wanted.  And comfortable and safe isn't usually what following Jesus looks like. I guess I got my answer. God always likes to invite, or shove, us into places we don’t really want to go, doesn’t He? I don't like that about Him.

Rewind to September; Jayden got a g-tube. It emotionally wrecked me. It was scheduled a week after our 5K, so bad or good, I had no time to think about what was happening to my guy until he was under general anesthesia. It wasn’t the IV pole in my dining room that bugged me. Or learning how to hydrate my son through a tube entering his stomach. It was the reminder that I am not in control. It was what the g-tube signifies to us Sanfilippo parents. The end is near.

I realized we are in the third quarter with Jayden and there is nothing we can do to slow it down or stop it from coming and that sucks. 

And then Waverly died. November 18, I found myself scrolling through my news feed. Sitting right below the Miller’s post about their beautiful baby boy entering the world, sat the post Waverly took her last breath. I wept. The house was deathly silent, except for my wails. It felt like my heart was on the giant drop. I couldn’t breathe, but wanted to puke. I was so sad. So desperately sad.  

The McNeil’s have been a family we have watched from a distance for the last six years. They have two children with Sanfilippo, Waverly and Oliver. Waverly turned 12 a few days before she passed. Oliver is 9. Shannon and Matt have been guides for us. They have graciously and humbly opened their journey to the world through their blog and we’ve had the honor of being students.  I can’t say I have always wanted to look. In many ways, it is like a crystal ball for us, and it's not always good to know the future.  

So when Wavey passed, I grieved in a way I never had before. Kelly and I even went out to DC for the funeral and held hands the entire time like only two mom’s who share the same crystal ball, can. I still, am heavy hearted for Matt and Shannon. I have no idea what they are feeling. I don't understand. Shannon wrote, "anticipating grief doesn’t even compare to actual grief."  Wow.  

So it hurts even more than it does right now? It makes my pain and anticipating seem so small.

There’s no way around it. As I cried and wailed for the McNeils loss, I wept for our pending losses. I am so scared and it is coming so fast. Waverly was 12 years old. Jayden is 9.5. That would give us 2.5 years left with him. 

And that is the exact reason I resigned. 


I want to give the best of me to my people. I want to have no regrets. Church environments matter, but not more than my family.  I need to give my children my best, not my leftovers. I don’t want to be too tired to tuck them in. Too busy to love well.

I am choosing to do less to be more. And being type A and a work-aholic, I have to do this daily.

I want to be obedient to where God wants me and I sense He wants me fully engaged. Awake to all the pain and blessings ahead.  And part of being engaged for me is writing it down. Processing through everything I am noticing and learning.  I am saying no to good things, great things, to chase what I feel is best for me, right now.  I am creating margin to write each morning and slow down.

Bob Goff says, "He used to be afraid of failing at something that mattered to him, but now he's afraid at being successful at things that don’t matter." I am too, Bob. 

Justin built me an office in the basement, out of pallets, of course. I have a little desk with index cards of thoughts hanging on the walls. I have pictures of my people and quotes that tell me I can do hard things. And you guys, I am scared.  But, I jumped anyway.

I was talking with my mother-in-law about how difficult it was to let go of my job and she matter of factly said, “it isn’t hard to leave something you love for something you love more.” 

And you know what?
She’s right.


perms and pink socks

When I was growing up I wanted to be Cindi Lauper. I loved her music, but even more, her style. She was so unique, with her vintage, punk-rock outfits, and ever changing hair colors. I tried dressing like her every chance I got and would go around the house dancing and singing all her songs. I loved “time after time," “girls just wanna have fun,” and especially "true colors.”

Do you remember perms? If I try hard enough, I can still smell perm solution just thinking about them. Usually the stylist uses long cylinder shaped rods and wrap the hair around them and they make your hair curly for months. Well back in the 80’s they came out with triangle ones that were supposed to permanently make your hair crimped, or zigzagged. So on my 8th birthday, I begged my mom to let me get my beautiful, blonde, straight hair crimped so I could have cool hair like Cindi.

Now you have to understand my mom. Most days, she looks like she stepped right off the country club golf course. She has a pressed white blouse, collar popped, with a Ralph Lauren sweater tied around her shoulders. She liked the music of the 80’s, but definitely leans more toward the classic than the trendy. I love that about her. She’s always so put together. So me wanting to ditch my polo dresses and rat my hair had to be difficult. Maybe she had a different idea of who I should be.

Back to those awesome perms. 

Wouldn't you know, my mom actually said yes! I could get the crimpy one!  

That next morning was picture day. I was proud as punch getting ready for my big debut in front of the camera. I imagined paparazzi lining the halls as I made my way to the gym and all the cool kids telling me how awesome I looked, maybe even mistaking me for Cindi herself. 

The gym was dark and I remember watching other kids sitting on the stool in front of the splatter paint backdrop. It was almost my turn when the lady gave me an interesting look. "She thinks I look awesome," I thought. 


Actually, in the best way she could, she tried to tell me my hair was a hot mess. She pointed to the black toothed combs floating in a cylinder of blue liquid and encouraged me to use one. My heart sank a bit. It wasn't what I was first sting of rejection. But I channeled my inner Cindi and told her I loved my hair just the way it was. In that moment, I imagined Cindi for the back of the dark gym, raising her fist, proud of me. The lady must have thought I was nuts but took my picture, anyway. 

Fast forward to this morning. I was getting Ellie dressed for preschool and grabbed some hand-me-downs from the box. Pink sparkly high tops and a pair of bootcut jeans. She’s outgrown the 3t stuff but the 4t stuff is still a bit big, so the jeans were a bit baggy. I put on tall pink socks thinking it would keep the high tops from rubbing and no one would see how silly it looked because the jeans would go right over it. I think she watches me roll up my boyfriend jeans and wear them with ankle boots, so I shouldn't have been surprised when she asked to roll her jeans, putting her bright pink socks and bright pink shoes on full display.

And I imagine I had the same reaction that my mother had after that crazy perm. On the one hand, terrified that she would be made fun of at school, but on the other hand, so proud of her for making a statement of who she wanted to be. So I complied and rolled up her jeans. She smiled. I took her picture. I told her that she looked beautiful and I was so proud of her.

She had a bigger skip to school that day, and as her mom, I raised my fist, and my inner Cindi Lauper smiled.

“But I see your true colors 
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid 
to let them show 
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow”


Catching the worm: the new early morning routine

I'm not sure how long it will last.

But getting up around 5AM every morning has been a welcome change. Yes, this is me, Stefanie typing, a known night owl talking. I couldn't rise before 7:20AM a few weeks ago. So believe it or not, I wake up more refreshed than my previous 11PM-7AM routine. 

Now I rise, get my coffee, and quietly tip toe to the porch not to wake my house full of light sleepers.  I find my spot under a blanket and sit on the bed, sipping my coffee. 

Surveying my surroundings, I see the sun breaking through the trees. I hear the wind dancing through the leaves, and smell the morning breeze coming through the windows as it gently brushes my skin. 

I don't even notice the mess on the porch, the out of place chairs, or glass tea cup on the drum kit.  Ok, maybe I do but I don't get up to fix it.

Sometimes I grab a book or Bible and start reading, other times I write. But it's in the stillness, the calm before the storm, I feel peace. Any minute, I will hear doors. The pitter patter of feet. The coffee machine with fire up again, cartoons will resume, and the business of the day begins. 


But until then, I sit. Slowly welcoming the day. Inviting God to become present in my mind.

Getting up early is part of my realignment plan.  I used to think that if God wanted me do something, He would make it easy.  You know, yoke easy, burden light? And once you take the leap, there are blessings, but it doesn't mean it was, or got, easy.   Every morning I argue with my snooze button.  When I win, I get blessed with all the beautiful things I experience waking up early.  But it's still hard to get up. Every. Morning.

>>>>    <<<<

I saw an article on fb about the pitfalls of waking up and checking your phone. Do you do that? I used to roll over, open my eyes and swipe right. I didn't even lift my head before I was connected. Weather. Calendar. Instagram. Facebook. email. Increasing and obsessively entering the world and all its fallen mess like a head on collision. At times, getting up frustrated, disappointed, hurt, or jealous. 

Friends, that is no way to wake up. No need to put those garbage thought in our minds first thing in the morning. "Take every thought captive," I think someone once said. Maybe that exercise is best started in the morning by being with Jesus instead of Twitter. 

This new rhythm is the stretching part before a race. 

This new rhythm prevents injuries to my soul. 
This new rhythm paces me for the long race.

Some mornings I run after I write. And by 8AM I feel accomplished. Proud. My mind in a catchers pose instead of up to bat, swinging. It feels good when you do what you feel like you should, right?

I highly recommend 5AM wake up calls. And be easy on yourself if you don't quite hit 5AM everyday. From one night owl, type A to another, make it 5ish


Sometimes, we just need our mom.

Jayden barfed yesterday.

Actually, from both ends. When I went in to wake him up for  school he was sleeping in it. Poor guy. Justin picked him up and I aired out his room while he continued to sleep on the bathroom floor. 

Justin gave him a bath. 
I stripped the bed. 

It's always hard having a sick child, especially a sick, non-verbal child. It's like having a baby in so many ways. They can't tell you exactly what's wrong so they cry. And then as parents, we try to unlock the mystery.

"Do you think it's something he ate/drank?"
"Brooklyn was also sick for a few days, bet it's the same bug", we reason. 

After his bath, we moved him to the couch and he easily fell back asleep.

His body so fragile.

I sat and watched the rise and fall of his breath.  He held each breath a second, then his chest sunk into the couch. 

I held his soft, curled hand.  I brushed off the thought of another time I will maybe do this, for the last time, and thanked God for each breath. 


He dry heaves. I grab the barf bowl. Isn't it funny how we have "barf" rituals? When I was young, I puked in a bowl or toilet, ate crackers and drank ginger ale.  I know a woman who swore that Pepsi cures everything.

The bus comes for B.
Grandma comes to sit with J.
I drive Ellie to VBS. 

When I got home, he had just thrown up and #3ed in his pants. And, as Ama went to get the diaper stuff, he fell back asleep.  

The day in day out caregiving routine isn't my stongsuit, but I love taking care of my babies when they're sick or in the hospital.  I'm not sure why. I hate seeing them sick, so I guess when they are doing fine, I assume anyone can change a diaper. But when they're sick, they need their mom.  Sometimes, we just need our mom.

Like it was orchestrated by God himself, he opened his sleepy eyes and smiled right at me. You guys, it was the most heavenly smile. Not a smile of a sick child. And it lingered. It was like he was saying, 
"there you are, mom. My. Mom." 

I made him a bed, changed the #3, and turned on some Handy Manny.  And then he said it again. Those eyes. That crooked smile. It's these secret I love you's we share that make me feel like I saw God himself shining through my sweet boy. 

Holy exchanges.

I am so proud to be his mom. He is such a gift. He teaches me so much about the character and personhood of Jesus without ever using a word.   

Want to read "Back In the Saddle"? 
click here!


Back in the Saddle

4 weeks ago.

My last post was 4 weeks ago.  And, it wasn't even my post. It was my dear friend Michelle's guest post. I am guessing it was the busyness of the school year ending, writers block, laziness, or a bit of everything combined, but I need to get back on the saddle. 

Here's the skinny on the last 4 weeks:

Ellie turned 3. She is such a bright light of life in our home. Such a personality and joy to be around. She got a day of pampering: hair cut, starbucks, mani and pedi, and build-a-bear.  [She got rid of all her pacifiers in the stomach of "binka" bear.] We had a small "yellow minnie" family party for her to celebrate. 

I handmade 26 teacher gifts. It takes a village, folks. I don't know if succulents were a good gift, in retrospect. Most teachers looked scared at the idea of taking care of a plant, but at least they turned out cute. (the heart on the back is Jayden's thumb print on the left and Brooklyn's on the right)

Jayden had a swallow study done at Lurie Children's. Results? We have to start thickening his liquids to a nectar/smoothie consistency and it looks like we will be doing a g-tube (feeding tube) sometime in 2015. Not the best news. But we would rather be proactive and get it done when it is safe. And, we saw sweet Livia there as well!

Justin took over OASIS, our special needs ministry at our church, so we have been busy doing training, intakes and schedules.  

School ended last week and our wonderful friends at The Sanctuary run an overnight camp for children with special needs in Ingleside this week so Jayden and Brooklyn are making memories there.  Ellie is in Rockford and I have a glorious day alone!

Oh yeah, and I am in a new, fun once-a-month group for moms of children with special needs and love Jesus. We are reading through a great book, Holding Onto Hope

Not to mention therapies, graduation parties, work, and case management!


Well, I guess that is why it's been 4 weeks since I have paused. 

Such is life, right?

When I fall off the saddle, I color code.  It's the dreaded Type A in me. A few days ago, I decided to start fresh and start a new schedule.  I came to the realization that the important things were absent from my priority list.  I was spending way more time than I'd like to admit watching late night TV cause I was just spent from the day and wanted to unplug.  Which then makes me sleep in, missing the morning routine, making me play catch up all day, rushed and late, only to be exhausted on the couch watching tv.  

Can you relate? 

So I decided to break the cycle. A day that could be filled with things I would be proud of, things I was made to do, and people I needed to make a priority.  I marked out each hour of the day down the left of my numbers sheet (excel for you microsoft folk) and wrote the days at the top.  

First thing on the schedule? Sleep. Because I need 8 hours and want to wake up before noon the next day, I reserved 9PM-5AM for sleep. The goal is to wake up and write from 5-6AM Sunday through Thursday and run 6-7AM Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday before work.  The other days, I plan on taking the kids so Justin can run.  

I also added time on the schedule for bedtime. Free time for us usually happens after the kids go to bed,  but now that I will be going to bed at the same time as the kids, Jut and I are going to try to rotate who does bedtimes so Jut can watch his animal shows and I can watch a program here or there.

And after a week, I haven't hit the target perfectly yet. And, I am giving myself enough grace to be a work in progress. 

The first morning was glorious, but it was more like 5:30AM. The birds were chirping and the sun was out.  The second morning I ran, but came back limping.

Sometimes we just get off track. Not bad. Not good. Just off. And lately I have felt the invitation to realign my life to match my priorities.  I am learning as I get older, it is less about not doing bad things and do good, and more about which good things do I want to give my time.  And, I am discovering, it is a lot harder to say no to good things.  For me, freedom has come from building in margin to be present and engaged. Not rushed ALL the time, letting my body and mind rest.  Not mind-numbing rest (although I like that too) but intentional, slowing, breathing rest. 

Where do you need to build your margin?

Do you find your schedule matches your priorities?
leave a comment below and 
let me know how it's going for you!

Before you go, just wanted to mention our 5K is scheduled! September 12, 2015 
at Illinois Beach State Park 
to raise money for gene therapy at Nationwide Hospital.  Learn more and sign up today! 


What life looks like after losing a baby: A guest feature by Michelle Jenison

Mother’s day is in a few days.

And when I think of Mother’s Day, my first thought is Hallmark. You know...

The card.
The gift.
The Sunday-after-church brunch where you tell your mother how much you love her.

And, that is wonderful. It ’s the way it’s supposed to be. Mom’s work hard for the family and should be celebrated. Just like father’s on Father’s Day. 

But this Mother’s Day, my heart is heavy. A friend just had another failed adoption. Another friend is going through some really heavy stuff with her teenage son. Yet another friend just lost another pregnancy. And today, I got a call from a friend who tragically lost her mother-in-law.  

Grieving mothers.
Grieving children.

But this is what Mother’s day is about, too. In fact, maybe this is the best illustration of a mother's love. Motherhood is just as much about grief as it is celebration. It’s all the love and pain, beauty and mess, sunshine and darkness, all wrapped into one relationship. One title. One person.


So, whether you are celebrating or grieving this Mother’s Day, I think you will appreciate Michelle’s journey.

Michelle is one of those friends every girl needs. Why? Because she is embodies honesty. She doesn't sugar coat the pink elephant in the room, either, even if it's hard to hear. And the best part? She drenches it in love. Her heart is so big and her love runs so deep for her friends, you can't help but love her in return. She and her husband, Jay, give us their most precious gift, time. They are the secret, behind-the-scene heroes. Sometimes the best gifts are just someone who just SEES you.  I am honored to call them friends, and I am so excited Michelle stopped by Boyce Lane to share their powerful story.

Michelle writes:
I'm blessed with a group of girls I do life with who have all been through, and are still going through tough stuff. Stefanie is one of them, so when she asked me to share our story, I was honored to do so! Thanks, Stef, for the opportunity. 
Here’s my journey in embracing my plan B…

Jay and I got married in 2005 and always knew one day we wanted kids. Four years into our marriage, we decided we would start trying for a baby. We got pregnant right away and were thrilled. We waited until we were in the "safe zone" to tell our family and waited even longer to tell our friends. From the time we found out we were pregnant, though, I had a feeling that something just wasn't right. That feeling lasted almost the entire pregnancy, with many calls to the doctor, only to find out each time that everything was normal. Finally, when I was about 30 weeks into my pregnancy, those concerns faded, so we went into full-fledged planning mode. We got the baby’s room ready & bought gender neutral clothes, since we decided to wait to find out if we were having a boy or a girl.  In essence, we started OUR plan. 
Everything changed on a Monday morning, 32 weeks into my pregnancy. I was getting ready for work and noticed I hadn't felt the baby move in awhile. I didn't think much of it, though, because 3 days before I had a routine check-up and heard a strong heartbeat. I mentioned my concern to Jay and we decided to wait a little longer to see if there would be any movement. I got to work and still hadn’t felt any movement, so I called my doctor. He told me to go to the hospital right away so they could do a non-stress test on the baby. I let Jay know what was going on and that I would call him later with an update. 
I got to the hospital, and immediately a nurse hooked me up to a monitor to see if I was contracting and then started to search for the baby’s heartbeat. She searched for what seemed like an eternity, but couldn't find it. She called in another nurse and she was able to hear a faint heartbeat, but soon realized it was just my heartbeat racing. They kept trying to comfort me and tell me that the baby probably had its back turned towards the monitor. So they had me turn on my right side and then my left side to get the baby to turn around. At that point, I had 4 nurses in the room all trying to find my baby’s heartbeat. I started to panic. They asked me if I wanted to call my husband and I said no, because I was sure everything was going to be fine, and to me, calling him meant I was giving up hope. They called my doctor and he ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound tech got there right away and I just stared at her to see what her reaction would be. She shook her head ‘no’ and left the room, without even looking at me. The doctor then told me that the baby no longer had a heartbeat and how sorry he was. 
Everyone left the room so I could call Jay. The conversation was short. I said, “Jay, we lost the baby and you need to come to the hospital right now.” He started crying and said he was leaving work right away. Then I called my mom and Jay’s mom. I remember both of them saying, "What?! I'm on my way!"
Jay arrived at the hospital and the doctor came in to discuss our options, which were c-section, natural birth by inducing me, or going home and wait for my body to go in labor by itself. I chose to be induced right away and try to have the baby naturally. About 14 hours later, with an epidural, I started pushing. I remember thinking that everyone was wrong and this baby was going to come out crying. I prayed silently to God, “please let this baby come out crying!” A few pushes later, the baby was out...but there was no crying. The umbilical cord was in what the doctor called a true knot, where a knot forms in the cord, and in my case, the knot became so tight that it cut off all circulation to the baby. 
My sweet baby was a 4lbs. 6oz. baby boy and he was perfect. We named him Chance Job. Chance, because we felt as though God gave us this great chance of being parents for a short while and the chance to witness the miracle of pregnancy and birth. Job, because of what Job went through in the Bible. He lost everything, but still clung to God, and in that moment, we felt as though we lost everything and knew we had to cling to God. 
After Chance was delivered, Jay and I held him and just stared at him. We also had the opportunity to take pictures with him. Then both the grandmas held him for a little while.
Those next few months were the hardest of our lives. We had to really trust God and keep telling ourselves that this happened for a reason and while we don’t understand, God was in control.  We felt like our lives got put on hold and OUR plan for our lives got all messed up. But what we learned is that we were never in control to begin with and that OUR plan is not always God’s plan and that’s OK. That doesn’t mean the pain of losing a child goes away, but it gives purpose to the pain, and in that, there’s beauty. 

Since losing Chance, we got pregnant two more times and now have two beautiful boys. Losing Chance helped us realize that we have to put our faith in God and trust that God’s plan is better than our plan, even when it hurts and we don’t understand it. 

It's been almost 6 years since we lost Chance. Every year on his birthday, we go to his grave and put flowers on it. That day is always hard for me. I feel like it shouldn't be as hard anymore, but it is. I would love to just hold him one more time and look at his perfect little face. I feel like I shouldn't be sad about him anymore either, but I am. I'm sad I don't get to see him grow up, or kiss his boo boos, or just give him a hug and tell him I love him. With losing Chance though, we don’t take for granted that we have two healthy boys. We realize what a gift a healthy pregnancy and baby are. With losing something so precious, it really makes you open your eyes to things you never thought about. So I thank God for what He taught me through unbearable loss and for also giving me two healthy children. It’s the story God wrote for us, and we take comfort in that.

Aren't these guest posts FANTASTIC?!  If you missed the first two guest features, here are the links. 

How to foster-to-adopt 3 kids in one day and still keep your sanity: A Guest Feature from Kathrina Montondo


Mornings on Boyce Lane: how to pause long enough to see Jesus in the routine

Make no mistake. 

Justin is a primary caregiver in this house. When you have kids with demanding physical needs, you don't have time to play house. No gender roles here, we just divide and conquer. 

I'm not a morning person, so Justin is the first to rise and starts feeding the kids. I get up shortly behind him, find the Kerig, and slowly open my eyes. I pick out the clothes, he gets dresses them and brushes their teeth. I make the lunches and sign permission slips, he takes out the trash. I wrestle Brooklyn into hair bows, and Justin changes the poops. We tag team the coats, shoes, and bus harnesses, and walk them out to the bus. 


We stand there, like June and Ward Cleaver, and wave goodbye to our sweet children.  Sometimes, we play and laugh on our way back to the house, our simple way of high-giving for another morning well done. He heads to work, and I start the day with Ellie. 

With so much work, it is easy to get in the routine of just getting it done. More mornings than I would like to admit, I just go through motions without even pausing.  
Without pausing to really appreciate, engage, or even acknowledge my family's presence. I am trying to change that. 

So lately, I've tried to make it a point to look everybody in the eye and say I love you. 

Good morning. 
I see you. 
I'm so glad you're here.

I've also tried to take time to savor the little moments.  When I pause as I sit at Jayden's feet, gently tying his shoes, I get a sweet reminder of how Jesus served.  How He washed his disciples feet. How He asks us to really pause for people that are naked, and hungry, thirsty, or sick. To see them, not just go through the motions. For many years, when I read that, I thought about people who are homeless, or in developing countries, but never my own children.  But now, I believe Jesus is talking about both. 

Why? Because my kids are naked. My kids are thirsty.  And, my kids are sick. More and more, I am starting to get glimpses of Jesus when I'm caring for my kids. He teaches me so many profound, and humbling things when I am fully engaged. I feel like I'm serving Him when I take care of my kids. 

You know when you put a coat on, and your sleeves get stuck up your jacket? 

Or when you're putting on your shoes and your sock isn't laying the right way? 

It's all those little things that I'm trying to really consider when getting my kids ready.  Let's get real, is not every morning.  Some mornings we are just happy that they are dressed and didn't miss the bus. But other mornings, my hands are becoming a little more gentle wiping off the banana on Brooklyn's face. A bit more pause to acknowledge Jayden before scraping his eye boogers away.

And, more and more, I am learning to serve Jesus and people, fully engaged, with a posture of pause.

Where do you need to pause?
What areas of your life need full engagement? 

I'd love to hear about them! 


How to foster-to-adopt 3 kids in one day and still keep your sanity: A Guest Feature from Kathrina Montondo

Hello, Boyce Lane readers! 

I am so glad you stopped by today because I get the honor of introducing you to my dear friend, Kathrina. Kat and I have a lot in common. We love us some Marshall's, we were born type A, and we would admit we have to work at motherhood.  Which is why I adore her. She and her husband are first responders to pain and mess. They relentlessly pursue people with their love, and are teaching their children to do the same. They are hilarious, generous, loud, fun, and really the life of any party.  And because of their dynamic, go-get 'em attitude, it is no surprise that they are navigating "none to done" so well!  

I am forever grateful for Kathrina's friendship. It is an honor to be a part of her journey going from type A to plan B.

Kat writes:
First I have to start off by saying that I am completely jealous that I didn’t come up with the quippy saying “From Type A to Plan B”! If you happen to lean towards Type A (guilty!) and have ever been through heartache because life threw you a curveball, then Stef’s blog is like medicine for your soul (or lemon juice to a paper cut!). Stef and I are cut from the same cloth in life, so when she started blogging about her journey and embracing life when you thought you had it all figured out, I knew I had a soul friend I could count on. Stef is sort of my ‘Pain Pioneer’ who I first journeyed through all the yuck life had to offer, so when it was my turn to let my Type A die to my Plan B, I knew who I could count on. 

My name Kat Montondo and I have been married to my husband Micah since 2003. Our Plan B started in 2008 when I discovered I was pregnant even though we were not ready to start a family. Since it just sort of happened, it seemed like it was “God’s plan” for us to join the ranks of parenthood and bring on the babies! I remember doing what all expecting mothers do… researching the best “B” products (Bumbos, Boppies, Binkies, Blankies, etc), comparing my baby to the size of fruits and vegetables in the womb, and buying the most expensive prenatal vitamin because surely that had to be the best. Like any other expecting mother, I showed up giddy for my first ultrasound, and that’s when my journey started - miscarriage. I’ll never forget being wheeled into my D&C procedure and thinking to myself, “How did I get here? I didn’t even try to get pregnant, why a miscarriage?” 

Fast forward a few years of not being able to get pregnant on our own, going to fertility doctors, several fertility treatments later with no success, and having to look “Plan B” in the face. That’s when adoption seemed to be our next step. We have friends we do life with who have adopted children, so we were excited to get started! So there we were going through all the classes and getting our background checks done, but there was one thing I still kept in my control and that was that I wanted to adopt a baby from birth. I had heard all the scary foster-to-adopt stories enough to know it wasn't for me. Type A. 

And that’s when the real pain kicked in. Micah and I went through three failed infant adoptions. So there I was, the Type A woman with a creepy empty baby room in her house, saying out loud “Okay God, I thought miscarriage was my Plan B, then I thought fertility treatments were my plan B, then I thought adoption was my Plan B, NOW WHAT?!”

I should know better than to limit God and put parameters on His will for my life. 

Our phone rang two weeks later and it was a friend of ours who said,

“Hey! I know a couple who has these foster kids, ages 2, 3, and 4 who need a good home. You guys want three foster kids?” 

I’m not kidding. It went just like that. My immediate reaction was laughter, because who says yes to that (besides a couple on a TLC reality show)? And my second reaction was fear that I might actually be called to say yes, and embrace a totally different life than I pictured. Again. 

So let me back up and explain a little about myself and my husband because the last thing I want to convey is that I am some super human that thinks taking on three kids at once sounds like the perfect end to a story. I hate change, I think organization is the key to life, I love a schedule, I easily manipulate selfishness into the idea of “focusing on me” time, I make my bed daily, and I love going to TJ Maxx. Then there’s my husband Micah, who reminds me of Captain America. He is a fireman, lives for adventure and the unknown, loves a good challenge, likes being uncomfortable, and he willingly anticipates change. Annoying right? Saying yes to three children at once sounded like the world’s best roller coaster ride to him, while I'm standing at the gate trying not to puke and offering to stay back and hold everyone's belongings. When it came to me and my selfish desires, I just couldn’t wrap my brain around embracing a life I didn't picture it to be. There were so many times I pictured raising a child from birth, and it made me so uncomfortable to picture anything else. Adoption alone takes courage, but this sounded insane. What if these kids didn’t like me? What if I wasn't strong enough to handle their emotional needs? Could we afford it and where would we put them? Does TJ Maxx make cute bedding for toddlers?

After a LOT of prayer, tears and looking at their beautiful faces, we decided that our family was going to look different than we dreamed it would, and we were going to take a chance on what God believed was best for us; not what we dreamed it would be. In James 1:27 it says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” To be polluted by the world? Ouch. I am the queen of that. The reality is, we ALL know someone, or ARE someone, going through a life different than we pictured it would be. Some of it would make our high school/early 20s self say, “I’ll go through and experience WHAT?” But the truth is, friends, God calls us to live lives we NEVER expected or EVER planned. 

A few weeks ago I was watching a bunch of high school girls jokingly play the game of MASH. Remember that game? It tells you if you’re going to live in a mansion, how many kids you’re going to have, what kind of care you’re going to drive, how many bridesmaids you’ll have, etc. Anyway, I leaned over to them and said “remember girls, in the game of MASH there isn’t an option for adoption, having children with special needs, divorce, cancer, etc. Sometimes God calls us to live lives that make us squirm.”  After I crushed their dreams, I reminded them how lucky I was that my game of MASH didn’t play out like I planned, and all we can do is try our best to accept the authentic lives God hands us.

There are still days I am reminded that this life isn't easy and it still doesn't go as I planned. It creeps in when another adoption date is rescheduled or I'm listening to the courts talk about my children's past reminding me of a time I wasn't their mom. Or when my children accidently call me by my first name instead of 'mom.' On those days, all I can do is stand in my kitchen and sing Carrie Underwood’s song, “Jesus Take the Wheel” at the top of my lungs. Because if you don't laugh, you'll cry! But I’m so honored that our perfect and Holy Creator didn’t create me to live a “normal” life. The truth is, if He did, I would have taken it for granted. Even though it’s hard and uncomfortable and causes us pain, it makes us more interesting. I believe when we let go of Plan A and trust Him with Plan B, God smiles and says, “See, you did it. Thank you and I’m proud of you.”

Join with me... Jesus take the wheel! 



How to talk to your child about their friends with special needs: parttwo

Thanks for stopping by today! Last Wednesday, we started talking about a few phrases that are gaining traction around our house. These little phrases are helping us navigate conversations with Ellie about her brother and sister with special needs.  And my prayer, is that they help you navigate conversations with your children about their friends with special needs.  If you want to get caught up, you can read PART ONE here.

"What's Ellie's favorite color?"

"What's Brooklyn's favorite color?"

Ellie and I were sorting laundry as we discussed colors.  It sure is fun having a little sidekick.  She will eagerly come to the back room and want to "help."  I hold up a shirt, and she will guess who it belongs to, then place it in that person's basket.  She really does a great job unless she gets a bit distracted and starts dancing with the laundry or burying herself in the enormous pile of clothes.

But on this day, I think we both learned a bit more than just our favorite colors.

"What's Jayden's favorite color?"

She didn't know, so I told her to go ask him.
And when she came back, she let me know that Jayden didn't answer.

Insert second parenting moment.
Ok, so how do I navigate this one?

My first inclination was to tell Ellie that Jayden doesn't talk.  In fact, that is exactly what I said, but luckily, she didn't hear me me on my first attempt. 

I mean, we haven't heard a WORD from the boy in years so it seems like the right answer upon first glance.  But, after some quick thought, I realized a deeper truth.  Jayden and Brooklyn DO talk.

Brooklyn talks with her hands. When given two choices, Brooklyn can let you know her preference by grabbing the desired item.  And if she doesn't like it, she will also let you know with her hands!

Jayden talks with his eyes. If you give him choices, he can look at the one he wants.  They do it all the time with him at school.

So, I told Ellie, 

They CAN talk, 
they just use different body parts.

Reminds me so much of what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians and Romans.  He compares a group of Christ-followers to a body with many parts.  And, just like our family, we all communicate differently but need one another to work as one.

<<              >>

We went and got 2 shirts. One blue and one green. I told Ellie to hold them up to Jayden and ask him again, but this time, instead of using her ears to listen, use her eyes.  She watched Jayden closely as she held up the two shirts as she asked, "Jay-Jay, what's your favorite color?" 

"Mama, mama! Jay-Jay likes GREEN!!!"  

Let's continue the conversation:

"What do you say when your child asks about their friend with special needs?"