Wednesday, November 27, 2013

You Should Celebrate National Adoption Month Because If You Are a Christian, You Have Been Adopted

November is National Adoption Month. There’s a great cost to adoption, and I’m not just referring to the economic cost. There are fees to pay and medical bills to pay, that’s true. I cannot tell you how many times I cried before each adoption. I cannot tell you how many times I cried out to God to just show me the way to my babies. I cannot tell you how my gut would wrench when a birth mom would choose another set of adoptive parents, but God paid the ultimate price. He was willing to sacrifice is His own biological Son in order to pay the debt of all mankind, and yet many refuse Him, reject what He paid in order to fend for themselves.

            There are some children that once they are adopted there’s still a battle. They struggle to leave their old life behind even though they so desperately want a loving family. They fight against the morals they are taught in their adoptive homes, leaning on their own flawed understanding of how life is supposed to be lived. They struggle to acknowledge the role of their adoptive parents, and this is heart breaking for adoptive parents because all we want to do is love them. God’s children are the same way. Some accept Him as their Savior but challenge Him every step of the way showing Him that they don’t trust His way for their lives.

            There are some babies who have trouble bonding with their adoptive mommas. This is very common, and heart-wrenching for those sweet mommas who want desperately to love those babies. But these babies have already lost everything they know, and it’s hard to trust again. These sweet mommas have to constantly prove themselves over and over to these sweet babies that they will not leave them or forsake them in order to build that trust. The relationship comes but over time, sometimes a long time. Does this sound like your relationship with God? Is He having to prove Himself to you over and over again? He’s faithful that way. He promises never to leave nor forsake you. He doesn’t break His promises.

            So you see, earthly adoption so parallels the Father’s love for us, His adopted kids. He does this so we might become co-heirs with Jesus. It’s a struggle that He so willing accepts for each us. He pursues each of us and takes our lack of trust and molds it into a relationship if we will allow Him and if we will put in the work.

            Adoption isn’t for everyone. It is a hard road. I never ever want to see another birth mom have to place her baby in someone else’s arm and then have to leave her there. Gut-wrenching. Heart-wrenching. Sobbing and weeping. There isn’t a dry eye around. But the best thing we can do is to lay our children down in the arms of the One who will see and has seen every day that is laid out before them, the One who has every hair on their head numbered. And that is where we need to leave them. When God adopts us, He loves us so much because of what He had to do to become your Father, what He was willing to sacrifice. You can rest assured that He is going to do what is in your best interest. You won’t always understand His ways or His method, and that’s because you are His child. You don’t see the whole picture. This is where that whole bonding and trust comes into play.

            When a child is born, the birth parents give the child a name, and it’s the name that goes on a birth certificate. When the child is placed with the adoptive parents, the adoptive parents give the child the name for a lifetime. My daughter’s birth family gave her a beautiful name, but it isn’t the name we chose for her. Her birth parents put careful thought into the name, as did we.  But she isn’t known by the name first given her. She is known by the name we gave her as her adoptive parents. Are you seeing parallel yet? We trade in our name as sinner for redeemed, our life without hope for a future with endless hope. She is known by the name her adoptive parents gave her. Are you known as the name that God gave you? Christian.

            Adoptions are also sealed and finalized. With both of our children, we had to go to court, stand before a judge, answer questions, and swear to love and take care of our children. They carry our last name. It doesn’t matter whether they look like us or not. It’s their name that matters. God sealed our adoption in Him and gave us His name so that one day when He calls us home, we will know all the privileges in full of bearing His name.

            Adoption isn’t for everyone. There are some children who refuse to be adopted believe it or not. There are some children who choose to live on the streets instead of living under a roof with a family where rules are enforced for their safety. It’s sad, but true. And it’s true with God. There are those who will reject Him unwilling to trust Him, unwilling to try to build a relationship, unwilling to see the sacrifice God made for them, and they will never live with Him in heaven because they refused to be adopted by Him.

            If God has called you to adopt, I encourage you to pursue, pursue with all your heart. When the journey gets long, know that the reward is worth the struggle. When your heart is bruised and the tears fall uncontrollably, cling to the fact that God gives us the desires of our hearts when He places those desires in our heart. If God has called you to adopt, you love those babies God delivers to you. You be faithful to tell those babies the miracle of how God brought you together to make a family. If God calls you to adopt, journal because there will be times when it seems as if God is silent, and it will feel so lonely. This is the time you go back and read that journal to see how God has brought this far. And regardless of what people say, you keep your eyes on God. He will reveal to you where you are to go and what you are to do. Remember, He’s having to work it out for your good, as well as, the baby’s good. And remember to breathe and give thanks. It’s a journey. There’s a destination. And this is just a season. Seasons come and go, and the next season of parenthood may just be beyond the horizon.



Monday, November 25, 2013

November is National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month, and I would be remiss if I did not bring this to your attention. There are many children around this nation who need loving homes. Adoptions is not for the faint of heart nor for those who quit when things get difficult because that is what adoption is, but I can think of no other thing on the face of the earth that represents our Father’s love for us any better.

The reason adoption is so dear to my heart is because it is through adoption that I was finally able to claim the role as mother. It was something I could not do for myself, and yet God placed the desire to be a mom in my heart. I never had any great desire to give birth. I’ll just put that out there. Having kidney stones at an early age cured me of desiring something that would cause that kind of pain again. LOL. I believe that God gives us things in our lives or allows things in our lives to shape us, our thoughts and desires, so it’s easier to follow His will at times.

My husband and I went through fertility treatments which is something I would never wish on my worst enemy. The hormonal roller coaster, the weird things people would tell you, and every month grieving for a baby that would not be makes for a grueling period in one’s life. We had a failed private adoption. I became angry at God and depressed, but God was always faithful. We found an adoption agency we could work with, and we began talking to birth parents. Before you judge a birth parent, STOP! You don’t know the road they’ve traveled, and unless you want to be judged by the same harshness, I suggest you thank God for His grace, His blood and His mercy on your own life, and that you’ve never found yourself in her shoes having to make a sacrificial decision. Just sayin’. I’m a bit protective of birth moms.

Not everyone on this planet has the courage to be birth parents, and there are some people who have no rights to be parents and should’ve placed their babies for adoption. And by the way, those who choose to place their babies for adoption don’t “GIVE UP” their babies in adoption. I really hate those two words. Those who choose to be birth parents these days choose the family who will raise their baby. Often times, they talk to the adoptive parents and develop some sort of relationship. IT.IS.NOT.EASY. You don’t just GIVE UP a baby that you carry for nine months.

Three months after we went to an orientation, I was in the delivery room when our daughter took her first breath. Yes, that was something for which God had me praying. I journalled the story of both of our adoptions because I want our children to know that it isn’t by mistake that they are now our kids. It’s because God designed it to be so. He wasn’t caught off-guard when their birth moms became pregnant. He wasn’t surprised when the birth moms came to a difficult decision. He was with them in those dark hours as well as with us. My children are a direct result of prayer, praying for what God placed as a desire in my heart.

Every desire He ever put into my heart, He answered.

            I was called to adopt babies, but there are some who are called to adopt foster kids. I applaud these people. Some are anxiously awaiting a foster child now. Some are on pins and needles waiting to adopt their foster kids, awaiting for birth parents’ rights to be terminated. Loving and raising foster kids comes with a whole different set of challenges and rewards.

            One thing we have in common is the pursuit. For those who God has placed the desire to adopt in your heart, you know it’s a journey. It’s a journey to find the child God has chosen for you. You don’t want someone else’s child. You want the one that God has chosen for you. Waiting can be so difficult. Opening every door watching them close door after door until one is left. The frustration that comes with the adoption process. As adoptive parents we are tested and tried before we even become parents. We are scrutinized to see if we are for real, if we have room, if we can provide, if we can make a way for the child/children we are to adopt.

            Here’s the thing, God knows how it feels to be an adoptive parent. He pursues us. He wants you. He’s chosen you to adopt. He’s been waiting to adopt you. Every wall that you put up, every problem that keeps you from accepting Him, every hurtle that had to be knocked down so He could adopt you, HE DID. You tested Him. You tried Him, and He didn’t run.

            I learned so much during each journey to adopting our children who are bright and funny and beautiful. To genetically not be our children, they are SOOOOO our children. Things that could not be manufactured by environment have shown up in our children that are the same or similar to my husband and I …down to our son not having an adult tooth in the same location as myself. That is God. Just one of the many ways we are able to show our children that God chose us to be their adoptive parents.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I'll Trade You a Rock by Wendy Blackwell

{I frequently surf blogs, Pinterest and Facebook for ideas for homeschooling, parenting, life and more!! I am grateful to the women (and men) that choose to share what works, what doesn't and a laugh at yourself anecdote that helps else all get through life. To that end, I've decided to share a few things along the way….}
Just a bit past lunch time and we've already been deep into magical dungeons, searching for golden tickets and saving the world with an underwear clad superhero.
And while our sweet peanuts hang on every word and stretch their imaginations to keep up with the adventure, it all started with a rock.
Not even really a rock, more of a pebble. Buy ‘em from the dollar store in a bag “river rocks” kinda things.
Last year when we bought our children Nintendo DS’s for their birthday it quickly became apparent that we had to find a balance between games and well everything else in life. After trying a couple of systems, hunky hubby and I hit on something that we thought was genius.
Turns out. It was.
And, it has turned out better than we ever could have planned or imagined. {don’t you love when you stumble across some incredible parenting method?!?!?! Oh, let’s be honest, much of parenting is the stumble method.}
The concept is simple.
15 minutes of reading = one rock
One rock = 15 minutes of gaming time
The more you read, the more you play.
Each kid has their own jar. We put in rocks and take out rocks depending on reading/playing time.

Here’s where the couldn’t-have-planned-this-part comes in.
Our kids became obsessed with earning rocks. Piling up hours and hours of playing time. {time that resets every weekend} And how do you earn playing time?? By reading.
Our already bookworm daughter used her love of books to bank time in case she felt like playing. Our not such a bookworm, learning how to read son, wasn’t so keen on the system at first. And then, enter “Captain Underpants” in a quest to light his fire for reading (or being read to), I began searching out books that target little boys. Imagine a set of books with wedgie, underwear, booger, poopie pants and more as the center of titles, plot lines and stories. {lots of moms seem to cringe at the mere thought of the books, but if it gets them reading?!?!?} Our little man was hooked. And the more time we spent in the pages of Captain Underpants the more time he wanted to spend reading.
We now spend a couple of hours a day reading together, all of us.
Hunky hubby and I have toyed with the idea of expanding our system. 1 rock = 15 minutes of media time (video games, ipads, computer, tv, you name it). While we are still working out the kinks.
In the meantime, we keep reading. The sound of pebbles clinking into jars is music to my ears. And I don’t think the kids even notice that they spend FAR more time reading then they do playing video games.
I heard Dr. Phil say once, {said with a bit of a texas-hollywood drawl} “you have to find your child’s currency.”
For us, it’s rocks.

Monday, September 16, 2013

God’s Preparation and Timing by Stacy Camp

Gods Preparation and Timing
Isaiah 55: 8-9 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
That verse has held more meaning to me in the last 8 months than ever.  I have been waiting on God, pleading with God to hurry up, telling God now is the time.  You see for the last 8 months my husband has been traveling for work gone from home Monday- Friday while we were waiting for his new job assignment. We have known since 2010 that the plant my husband works for would be closing in 2012.  So I figured that the plant would close, and we would be relocated no later than a couple of months after closure.  God had a different plan, and it was His plan not mine.  
While we have been in this holding pattern for 8 months God has been preparing me for my relocation.  There will be the usual changes that come with moving, making new friends, finding a new home, finding a new school for my son, finding a new church.  Some of these things will be challenging for me. I am not a social butterfly, and it takes me a little longer to make friends and find my place in new settings.  As I look back over these past few months I can now see how God has been preparing me.  I like my comfort zone and dont step outside of it at all. First of all God placed me in a Bible study group with women most of whom I had never interacted with before, and I have learned how to really dig deeper in His Word.   
I have a friend who has this spiritual gift as she calls it of pushing me outside my comfort zone without really pushing but just asking me to do things that I would have never done before and letting God do the rest of the work by showing me I need to do the things she asked.  My friend first asked if I would share scripture at a womens retreat.  My first instinct was to tell her no, but God laid it on my heart that it wasnt about me at all and that I needed to get over it.  So I decided on a scripture, a very familiar scripture that I have always loved Jeremiah 29:11.  As I was reading this scripture and preparing for what I was going to share and what this verse meant to me somehow I ended up in Lamentations 3. Really, God?  Lamentations?  Its depressing!  Except for Lamentations 3:22-33 where there is hope through Gods mercy.  God knew the whole time this would fit perfectly with the theme for the weekend and the devotions lead by other women one even from the same scripture.  I love that God knows how everything will fit perfectly and work out according to His plan not ours.  I fought God so hard about those scriptures. It wasnt what I had planned, but I submitted (and if you know me, you know I used to think the word submission was a curse word), and it was a perfect weekend with godly women.  
Next my sweet friend sends me an invitation to a Facebook page she had created for the purpose of moms encouraging other moms through this journey of motherhood and the challenges we all face.  I comment on FB saying this would be awesome wish I would have had this in the early challenging stages when we got a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome with my son.  So what does my friend do…..? She sweetly suggests I should write a blog post about our struggle with Aspergers.  You got it my first instinct was to say, “no way”… God’s answer…. “Yes you will.”  So I did.  Comfort zone breached yet again!  So with all that being said I truly believe that God’s plan is bigger and better than mine. As I begin this new journey I have the tools to cope with being outside my comfort zone because I have learned to lean more on God and His word than my own thoughts or ways. 
Now that God has laid this foundation of preparation for our move I can be more effective in helping my children deal with the changes that lie ahead for our family.  I asked my 14 year old son, Logan, the other day what is concerns or fears were with our impending move.  His reply was “I am really not the type of person who worries about those kinds of things”.  I wish sometimes I could be more like Logan!  Due to his Aspergers his feelings are different than ours or sometimes even non-existent.  Logan doesn’t have those emotional attachments to people or things that typical people do in this instance Aspergers is such a blessing.  Will there not be any issues once we move?  I am not na├»ve enough to think not there will be routine changes that we will have to overcome.  Overcome we will with much prayer and guidance from the Lord.

Friday, September 13, 2013

When God Asks You To Bring Up A Child Through The Unthinkable by Traci Adams

When God Asks You To Bring Up A Child Through The Unthinkable

One of the toughest things you will ever do is raise children. Just the fact that you are here, reading this blog, shows that we are always seeking advice and tips on bringing up our children in the best way possible, to ensure they have all the tools and life skills needed to become independent adults one day. As Christian parents, we also want to make sure that our children find their way to the Savior, Jesus, and begin to walk the path He has for them as soon as they are mature enough to do so.

It's tough!! If you are anything like me, you will struggle over a infinite number of decisions during your children's lifetime. Should I take this promotion? Should we make this move, school-change, new house...... The list can be endless! Also, needless to say, daunting, in it's enormity. Yes, I know that we should seek God over every major decision, and most of us try to, but I always find myself trying to do God's work instead of getting out of His way. I think many of us are guilty of this, so don't judge yourself too harshly.

Like I was saying, TOUGH, doesn't even come close to describing bringing up children. I recently told one of my dearest and oldest friends that if you can lay your head on your pillow at night, and are able to congratulate yourself on your perfection as a parent, you are doing something wrong(or the rest of us are!!!!) Doubts will plague you, it is normal!

In February of 2009, I found out how wrong all I just shared with you was. On a freezing cold Saturday night, the 21st of February, 2009, during a Mardi Gras parade, my husband of 16 years, fell from the top of a fire truck and fractured almost every bone in his neck. He died on that street corner and was "brought back" at a local hospital. Our two girls, who were 9 and 14 at the time, as well as myself were witnesses to the entire horrific scene. He would go on to live 10 months in a vegetative state(coma), finally passing away, December 12th, 2009.

The single hardest job God has ever placed into my life, was bringing those two babies up through the unthinkable. Through the trauma of their father's untimely death, the heartbreak of the mother they love, and the indescribable ache that took hold of the three of us after fighting for his recovery for nearly a year.

My journey with the God I now know( He's not the same as the one I thought I knew, but that is another blog) began in a quite, dark hallway, around the corner of the ICU where Tommy was fighting for his life, about 24 hours after his injury. I finally left him long enough to come out and talk to my precious children and what I found in that hallway forever changed me. I came face to face with two terrified children who knew nothing of what was going on. They didn't even know if he was alive. It had been left to me to be the bearer of information to our girls and I had failed miserably!! It still hurts to remember all the questions they had. Is he alive? Is he awake? What's wrong with him? Can the doctors fix his neck? Will he walk again after they do? Is he going to die? After my 5th, "I don't know, babies" "momma just does not know", something moved through my soul. I surrendered that moment to God, and let Him lead.

The greatest decision I could, and probably will ever make was made in that moment! I knelt down in front of those girls and just said, I don't know. I don't know, was the answer to every single question that they had( that was tough when you are the momma that has a answer for everything). I don't know if he is going to live or die, I don't know if he is going to wake-up, walk, talk, or anything. I don't know, over and over, said in weakness, would become my greatest strength. I ended with I don't know anything that is going to happen, but I DO know that God has us! God has your Dad, He has this family, He has the entire thing firmly in His grasp, and we are going to be ok. HE HAS US!! It was at that moment, I realize now, that I firmly anchored my family in Faith! The faith that we would come through, no matter what. That we would walk on the other side of this nightmare one day, and be okay. That faith and only that faith would carry us through the next 5 years, and us still carrying us today. Many times I would ask my girls, are we ok? I know we are sad, I know we miss him, I know we ache, but, are we okay??? Are we truly okay?? They both always answer the same. Yes, momma, we are ok. We really are.

There is no obstacle that you are facing that God can not walk you and your family through. Not a single one. Because of my unmovable statement of faith, I know God has walked us through the worst and we are coming out on the other side. The girls are happy, well-adjusted, successful, loving children. They have large loving hearts and I see very little remaining traces of hurt, anger, and bitterness. Everyday, I watch them grow stronger and my heart is at peace. They are both amazingly strong and happy. It is not because I'm the best patent to walk the earth! It is because in my brokenness, in my sorrow, at my lowest, I cried out for help to get us through the unthinkable, and God has never left my side.

Hebrews 6:19
We have this hope as a anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,

Traci Adams 

Friday, August 23, 2013

God Promises a Lot of Things to His Kimberly Colvin Snuggs

God promises a lot of things to His children written in His book to us. In Jeremiah 29:11, He promises not to harm us and to give us a hope and a future. In Exodus 14:14, He promises to fight for us if we are still. Isaiah 40:31 says if we have hope in the Lord He will renew our strength and we can run and not grow weary. And one of my favorite promises of them all is in Philippians 4 when God promises to provide peace that transcends all understanding if we will not worry or be anxious. I haven’t found the promise yet that life would be easy. In fact God says “you will have trouble in this world” but yet another promise is that He has overcome the world.

My family has been on quite a journey the last 18months. I have never held so tightly to God’s promises for me. My now five year old daughter, Avery, was diagnosed with leukemia in February of last year. Just after her 4th birthday and after a perfect well doctor’s visit, she developed sudden bruising. We immediately got her checked out and heard the words no parent ever deserves or expects to hear....”she has cancer.”

Our hearts were crushed and our world at that moment was turned upside down. She has been through more in the last 18 months than most of us can say in a lifetime. She has been poked and prodded over one hundred times, has lost her hair twice, and experienced the horrible side effects from chemotherapy that everyone hears about. And through it all, God is using the strength, bravery, and faith of my five year old daughter to teach this momma some pretty special things.

I think back to last summer and a day that Avery had to go to clinic to get chemotherapy. This particular chemo is given in the form of two shots. Avery had received this drug several times before and with each administration it became more difficult for Avery to be willing and cooperative for the shots to be given. The three nurses that it would take to hold her down came in and that is when Avery lost it. As the nurses are preparing her legs, Avery is screaming, “No, mommy. No, mommy. I don’t want to. Please mommy no. It’s going to hurt. I don’t want to do it.” My heart actually aches. She isn’t telling them no but is telling me no. She wants me to make them stop.

 I am her mom and the one that is supposed to be able to take all this away from her. But I can’t take this away, so all I do is squeeze her hands close to her chest. I have my mouth near her ear and as her tears mix with my tears on our cheeks, I whisper close to her, “I know baby. I know you don’t want to. I know it’s going to hurt. I just need you to be still for just a while. It will be over in just a minute. I love you baby girl. Mommy loves you so much.” It feels like an eternity, but it lasts less than a minute, and after the Band Aids are in place she clings to me again. I pick her up, and she rests her head on my chest. Her sobs finally begin to die down. I tell her over and over how proud I am. “You are so brave, Avery. You did so well. I am so proud of you.” She rests in my arms clinging to my hand, and she never lets go as she drifts off to sleep.

What an amazing picture it painted for me of my heavenly father. I remember day one of this journey pleading to my Father, “No, God, no. I don’t want to do this. Please God no. I don’t want to do it; this hurts too much. I can’t do this.” But God whispers in my ear and cries with me, “I know my child. I know you don’t want to. I know it’s going to hurt. I just need you to be still for just a little while. It will be over before you know it. I love you my daughter. Your Father loves you so much!!!” And all I can do is cling to Him. I’m not mad or angry at God for choosing Avery to have to go through this. I just have to hold His hand and trust He knows what is best for my girl. And I pray one day I hear the words from my Heavenly Father…”You did good my daughter, I am so proud of you.” God promises His children so much, but commands much of us as well. I will continue to trust and to be still and let God fight for me. It’s the only way I can survive this journey. “I will cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:8 and I will “Be still, and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Navigating in the Blended Family by Becky Norton Farmer

Navigating in the Blended Family: Blessings and Challenges

So, an update from my last blog entry, Michael and I just celebrated our first wedding anniversary on June 9th with a family trip to Tennessee with all 4 kids and my parents.  When we joined our family, I had two girls ages 12 and 14 and Michael had one girl 15 and one boy 12. Now WE have a glorious family of 4, ages 12-15! What a blessing! I wish that I could say that it was always that way. 

When we decided to get married, our pastor counseled us and said, “You guys are fine, and I am not worried about your relationship. Your biggest challenge will be with the children." There was not a truer statement ever made.  Imagine placing 4 kids ages 12-15 together in a home, who only knew each other as acquaintances and say, OK, now you are a family!  Well, that is exactly what happened. I cried more tears each night over the family dynamic in our home than I have cried over anything in my life. The three girls hated each other, and our son, bless his heart, just endured the situation.  Differences in parenting styles, different temperaments, little hearts that were trying to adjust to mom and dad getting remarried, all combined for a not so pretty picture. My precious husband, whose parents divorced when he was just 7, would tell me, “Be patient. Give it time, and God will work it out”. Well, for those of you who know me, patience is not my strong suit! My father, who also experienced divorced parents, also gave me the same advice, “Baby, it just takes time. They will all get along one day."  I would call these “family meetings” where we would sit around and share our feelings. Talk about AWKWARD!!! AWKWEIRD is more like it. Getting teenagers to talk at all is a challenge, but to speak nicely about a situation is even harder. The meetings would end up in everyone saying how much they disliked one another and the situation and someone crying, usually ME! So I cried out to God daily to please mold my family into one that at least liked each other and could live together peacefully. I began to wonder if  we would ever be normal again. 

But our God is so amazingly merciful and graceful that He mends the broken hearts and restores and heals relationships! Our kids now laugh and play together, do each other’s hair, call and text one another when they are apart and even want to spend the night with each other when they are at the other parent’s house for the weekend. I cannot praise God enough for the miracle that has occurred in the lives of our children.  Little by little, week by week, just as my husband and my daddy told me would happen, they all began to get to know each other and even like each other. Our family is finally a family and only God can get glory for that. It is nothing that I or Michael did, only our Heavenly Father.  They still have their spats and disputes, but just as normal brothers and sisters do, not as enemies who cannot stand to breathe the same air! 

I have had the privilege to not only mother two of the most beautiful, talented, smart, funny and precious girls in the world, but now I get to be mother to another beautiful, amazing, kind and funny girl and also to mother a son, who is generous, considerate, kind and wonderful! My cup runneth over! God has blessed me with a second chance at love to the most amazing man a woman could ever hope to marry and to be the mother to the coolest 4 kids on the planet. So if you are struggling in your blended family world, the only advice I can give is to pray fervently and be patient. In God’s time and with your love and prayer, He will make  a family into one that honors  Him and reflects His love and mercy.