Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Today I Chose Beauty

Step inside my home today, and you will see a mess. But what you can't see? What's already gone? Well, you truly missed the best moment. But I didn't. Not today. Because today I chose Beauty.

Things started well enough--three kids tucked away at school until 3:00. One toddler at preschool for 90 minutes, and a 3 month old who would be asleep that entire time. The only one left was the 8 month old who, while rather busy in her own right, is very content to sit in the living room and play with her toys.

It was the perfect time to get the main level of our house clean & tidy.

Now, I'll never claim to have the entire house "show-ready". To be honest, I gave up on that a few years ago. And, with 6 kids living here (combined with my NOT Type-A personality), survival mode takes precedence. But I really like to have the living room, dining area, and kitchen look decent whenever I get the chance. Today, even the bathroom was on the list. I grabbed the Windex, the roll of paper towels, and headed for the bathroom mirror.  As the water stains disappeared and the glass glistened, I heard one of my favorite sounds; the clip-clop of the 8 month old crawling to find me.

I glanced her way and knew I had plenty of time to finish the mirror. I could even spray & wipe the faucet before she'd reach me.  Then, I could grab her, put her back with her toys, and complete my next task.

She made it all the way to my feet, and I scooped her into my arms.
And she laughed.
Laugher that contains a throaty growl despite her dainty frame.
Laughter that makes her have to stop and catch her breath.
Laughter that I pray is present for years to come.

Beauty didn't see a messy house; she only saw her mama.

And I'll never regret that I stopped, saw, and chose her.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Love List from my Husband

Two weeks ago, Mike and I celebrated our 17th anniversary.  It wasn't full of fanfare or romance.  Quite the opposite, in fact, as Mike was 5 hours away running an ultra marathon with friends, and I was home with 6 kids.  But before he came home, he posted the following list on my Facebook page.  The list, I think, says far more about him than it does me.  Mike loves me completely and unconditionally.  We do life together--the busy, the crazy, the stressful, the funny, the unbelievable, and the mundane.  In every way, I am so thankful for him, because he is a part of every aspect of my life.  So here is the list he gave me--I truly pray other wives get to experience this same devotion and gratitude.  ~LeAnne

Happy Anniversary to my incredible wife. Why do I love her???

1. She loves Jesus (most important)!
2. She is such a hard worker. LeAnne puts me to shame.
3. She is okay without having "things".
4. She's thrifty!
5. She is funny. I love her sense of humor. Something a lot of people never get to see.
6. She takes care of our family so lovingly, selflessly, and with sacrifice.
7. She puts other people first.
8. She follows my lead and trusts me.
9. Every time she changes one of the little kids diapers, she kisses their feet. Even at 3 am. I've seen it.
10. She puts up with me.
11. She is a faithful servant at church.
12. She's hot. I wanted to put this higher but it seemed too predictable. But it's true.
13. She's beautiful. Truly beautiful.
14. She's honest and tells me what I need to hear.
15. She's a great encourage rand cheerleader.
16. She uses her blinker. I love how she follows the rules. And how she hates when I park in the fire lane to pick up pizza.
17. She's consistent. I am so blessed to have been married to this wonderful, beautiful and sweet woman for 17 years.

Love you!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Today I Took a Shower

Today I took a shower.

It wasn't a "throw my head under the faucet and wash my hair before I head out the door moment".

And, not a "fast as I can before the toddler sitting on the couch realizes I'm gone so I'm trying to get out of the shower before he tries to climb in with me".

Nor a "I'm so exhausted & want to go to bed, but I'll be even more tired in the morning, so I'd better go shower with my eyes closed then stumble into bed with wet hair and I'll deal with the consequences in the morning".

It was an honest-to-goodness shower.  Hot water.  Shampoo AND conditioner.  Brand-new razor & sudsy body wash.  Once my fingers were as pruny as possible, the shower was complete.
  • Why was the moment so treasured?  Because my friend Daneen and her children had insisted on watching my 3 little ones for the day.

After my shower, I pulled out my crockpot & had a difficult time choosing our dinner because of the wide variety of meals stocked in my freezer.
  • Why was the dinner decision so full of variety, which allowed me to feel so organized?  Because my precious friends Carrie & Kelly had taken meals from their freezers and stocked mine.

Once dinner was in the crockpot, I had a smorgasbord of wonderful leftovers for lunch.
  • Why the wonderful variety of food choices to warm up and enjoy? Because numerous friends had brought over dinner the past several days and had provided abundantly.

After my quiet and filling lunch, I reorganized baby clothes.  Darling, adorable practically brand-new outfits that filled FOUR laundry baskets!
  • Why did I have such an abundance of baby girl clothes?  Because last spring, when we began fostering a newborn, my friend Gina made 3 trips to my house in a matter of 2 weeks with sizes newborn-6months that had been her daughter's. 

Friends, THIS is what it means to be an amazing support to a family that fosters!  

Two weeks prior, we had gotten a call from our caseworker that stunned me & for a moment left me speechless: "Your son has another sister.  She was born yesterday.  Would you like to take her in as a foster placement when she leaves the hospital?

Our home already held five kids, ages 13, 12, & 10.  And 2.  And 5 1/2 months.  How could we possibly?  Could we?  Should we?

Foster parents don't have 9 months to know a baby is on the way.  Or even a week.  Rarely a few days.  If you get the luxury, you can wind up with as much as an hour to make your decision--but that is extremely rare.  No, you need to make your decision within minutes.  Have you ever prayed to God for clarity and discernment and needed an answer in under a 1/2 hour?

All the logic in the world pointed to one very clear answer.  Our own logic pointed to the same answer.  But we knew--for this specific placement at this specific moment in time--it wasn't the right answer.

God was taking us down a road of faith & trust like nothing we have ever experienced.

You see, we are pretty self-sufficient.  With the exception of extended family, we don't ask for help.  Honestly, we've never really felt we've needed anything.  Pregnancies, newborns, foster placements and surgeries, we have always plugged away and enjoyed providing for & taking care of our brood as much as possible on our own.  Our new circumstance would bring a need for us to accept the help offered by others.

The first week with our tiniest addition is a blur.  Very few people knew we had added another baby to our home.  But because of God's amazing timing, my friends Kelly and Carrie (who "just happen" to be foster moms themselves) found out about the baby within 10 minutes of me telling our caseworker 'yes'.  Before I could even notify family or panic, God was already providing.  One hour after hearing about the baby, these gals had stocked our freezer with meals. And that 'standing in the trenches with us' friendship truly got me through that first week!  

By week 2 as a family of 8, I graciously and thankfully said 'yes' to meals, baby diapers, transportation for my big kids, and care for my little kids.  I was finally beginning to realize that in order to truly follow Christ, I need to let others follow Him, too--even when I'm the recipient of their ministry.

Today I took a shower.  And I thanked God for working on my heart, deepening my faith, and for giving me such caring and thoughtful friends.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

But by Grace {Again}

Just get your backpack and get out of the car.

I  shouldn't have uttered those words today.
But I did.

Oh, it's not like I kicked her out of the car or anything.  She was going in to her friend Amanda's house to do homework. And she had one final thing to say, and that wasn't ok with me. That's fair, right?

I was justified in reprimanding her for her attitude in front of her friend while we drove. Wasn't I?  After all, Kaitlin making plans without my knowledge--combined with me having a tight schedule of which Kaitlin was unaware--now had me "frantically" driving around town knowing I'd be late for a meeting. So didn't that place her in the wrong?

The words Kaitlin spoke when she got out of the van were simple: "Mom, you've made Amanda feel terrible. She said she could help me with Algebra, and now she thinks our fighting is all her fault."

I showed no sympathy. After all, wasn't Kaitlin the one who should feel bad?

But as I drove away, I knew I had ruled with a heavier hand than necessary. And that conviction deepened when my son Connor said these words: "Why is our family like this?"

(For the record, these things don't happen all the time.  That said, it's never not happened before, either).

I had to face the truth.  A lot of what I said to Kaitlin in the car could have waited until we were home alone. And because I said she could go to Amanda's to work on homework, it really wasn't fair for me to go on & on about how her asking at the last minute now messed up my entire schedule.

The real truth? My anger was misdirected.

  • I had a meeting to attend. A meeting I scheduled for the afternoon. And because I had a meeting, Mike was going to leave work & pick the kids up from school.
  • Mike's day had not gone as planned, so could I park at the school? Then he would arrive, we'd switch cars & he would be in charge of the kids.
  • Mike was still running behind, so could I bring the kids to him?
Here's the deal:  I could do all of these things, and still make it--just in time--for my meeting. But my schedule had just gotten tighter. And I HATE to be late. In fact, even the potential to be late puts butterflies in my stomach.

So, by the time the kids got in the car, I was already on Plan C for my afternoon. Kaitlin going to Amanda's for Algebra help was the final straw.

I had to face it:  I'd overreacted. I needed to fix it. 

I dictated a text for Connor to type to Amanda:  "Sorry if I made you feel bad.  I have no problem with Kaitlin going to your house. Just a problem with how she was talking. And I was upset that Mike didn't make it for school pickup. None of that is your fault."

(I did not text Kaitlin. We aren't letting our kids have phones yet. Yes, I know she is 13. I'm pretty sure I got my first phone when I was 25. But I digress).

When I picked up Kaitlin from my meeting (I was a mere 1.5 minutes late getting to that, by the way), I knew I had to express a soft heart towards my girl. We talked about Algebra, I apologized, and as we pulled into the driveway, a song came on the radio.  It was David Crowder Band's "I Am".

Mom, this is one of my favorite songs.

And so we sat in the driveway, eyes closed, voices raised, and worshipped.  

There's no space that His love can't reach
There's no place where we can't find peace
There's no end to Amazing Grace
Take me in with your arms spread wide
Take me in like an orphan child
Never let go, never leave my side.

I am,
Holding on to You.
I am,
Holding on to You.
In the middle of the storm,
I am Holding on,
I am*

I'm never going to be the perfect mom. or the always-patient wife. I won't have the perfect schedule, or the perfect daughter.  But to realize, even within the mess & mistakes, that God is bigger (and better!) than my selfishness? I'll run to that truth every time.

*Lyrics excerpted from David Crowder Bands "I Am"
Photo provided by Shots of Grace Photography

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Against the Grain

I've never been all that competitive.

In grade school, I enjoyed playing soccer.  And my best games were when I wanted to impress a certain boy who played on another team.  The other games?  I stopped and picked dandelions.

In high school, I loved swimming on the best team in the area.  And while my times continued to get faster, I was content to stay in the middle of the pack.  I never understood why my coach always told me I was my own worst enemy...until I headed to college, watched a swim meet at the University of Iowa, and realized I could have kept up at the collegiate level.

My last year of college, I finally grasped that my personality & talents combine in ways that make me...well, me!  While I enjoy leadership, I like to take on tasks that allow me to lead in quiet ways; I prefer the praise of a few over the recognition of many.  Above all, I do my best to be authentic--not merely in my relationship with others, but authentic to myself, too.

And my authentic moments for today?

  • Bake a loaf of bread...using a box mix.
  • Hard boil a dozen eggs.

Somehow, in our media-rich, Facebook, Pinterest society, things are again feeling like a competition. And, I can't bring myself to participate.

The real trick with competition?  We place it upon ourselves!  

  • Bigger house.
  • Better cook.
  • Best yard.
Today, I'm reminding myself that God has placed me right where he wants me.  And, I can't be the authentic wife & mom my family needs if I stress & try to become someone else.

So, from my messy house to yours (be it clean or messy), I hope you find contentment in just being you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

~Today My Toddler~

Today my toddler...
  • Rubbed yogurt on his legs as if it were lotion.
  • Got a matchbox car stuck in his mouth as I drove down the highway.
  • Trapped his head under the screen door as he tried to go outside.
  • Stood in the laundry basket, full of clean yet wrinkled clothes, and ate a piece of pizza.
  • Choked on orange juice and spit it out on the floor.
  • Bumped his head.
  • Busted his lip.
  • Tripped down the stairs.
  • Climbed into his brother's loft bed & spun the ceiling fan.
  • Teased the dog with pieces of her dog food.
  • Teased the dog with pieces of his own food.
  • Chased the dog.
  • Cried when the dog chased him.

Yet he also…
  • Greeted me in the morning with a squeal & a hug.
  • Gave me more kisses than I can recall.
  • Took a nap in my arms.
  • Laughed and giggled so much he could barely stand.
  • Somersaulted around the room.
  • Entertained his sisters.
  • Played with his brother.
  • Held his daddy.
  • Snuggled the dog.
As we put him down for bed, I am overwhelmed with a thought--we will never experience today again.  The crazies will still occur, the special times will still take place.  But today?  Today can never end with, "Thank goodness it's over!". Instead, I need to finish everyday with the words, "Dear God, thank you for every moment."

**While these thoughts and experiences are completely my own, I've been impacted by watching many dear St. Jude families who treasure every day in ways I can't even begin to grasp.  Julie Locke, the mother of Dax Locke and the founder of The Dax Locke Foundation ends everything she writes with "Cherish Every Moment" and has made this the foundation's slogan.  Julie's walk with her Savior & the way she celebrates both of her children have convicted me to never wish away my current season of life.**

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Journey of the Bag, the Boy, and Beyond

The baby boy was just under 4 weeks old when we picked him up from a doctor's appointment and brought him home.  It would be another day or two before a caseworker was assigned to the little guy.  By the time the caseworker visited, we had already bought diapers, wipes, formula, a diaper bag, and other essentials.  The baby's birth parents had sent two tubs of clothes--enough to keep him clothed for quite a while.

When the caseworker brought a backpack full of items for him, I was very appreciative.  I also felt a little guilty; surely, there was some other baby boy who needed the clothes, baby wash, diapers & wipes so much more than we did.  Although we didn't know where the journey with our new foster son would take us, we did know it was a longterm placement.  So, no one but us would ever need to have all those supplies for him.

I set the backpack in the bedroom and waited to use the items.  But, I continued to look through the bag and couldn't believe how much had been given to our little boy.  A few weeks later, I made a decision--I gave the bag back to our caseworker, and told her to have the agency save it for another newborn.  And that everything was in the bag except for one thing:

I kept the blanket.

It was clear someone had made the blanket.  And, it seemed important to keep the gift that represented both the beginning of his foster care journey and the path still yet to come.

Today, that boy is a spirited yet sweet 2-year old.  We adopted him 8 months ago and can't imagine life without him.

But something else has happened over the past 2 years--I have allowed God to soften my heart and stir a passion within me for the foster care community.  And my own journey led me to a wonderful website and precious organization:  The Forgotten Initiative.  In my "blind" search, I was led to a national organization whose main headquarters is in my own back yard.  One of their key areas of ministry?  Providing Journey Bags to local agencies.  And the agencies give these bags to every child entering foster care!

I don't know what the future holds--but I can't ignore the way God orchestrated Charlie's arrival to our home, the deeper stirring within my heart, and the way a simple bag has brought me full circle to a ministry that exemplifies the importance of providing hope and love to every child.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

About a Girl who became an Author

I still picture her as a little girl, with her long, wavy ponytail flying through the air as she practiced cartwheels and backflips in her front yard.

I can picture her as a giggling teen--loving life, creating her own style, and so very happy.

I picture her as a college student on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Relaxed, serene, full of love for her family and the Lord.  Her future appeared so bright, so promising, so…perfect.

And then.  Ten years ago happened.  And it all changed.

The man who said he would love her forever broke his promise.

The mom who had loved her forever was diagnosed with a terminal disease.

I honestly didn't know how she could survive.

But she did.

I watched as that happy girl became a determined woman.  Determined to follow God in every way, for without Him she knew she'd crumble.

I watched as her solid relationship with her mom grew even deeper.  Friend, caregiver, encourager, peer.  The best part?  They were those things for each other--at the same time.  And those roles, although they shifted over the next few years, remained until her mom's death.

I watched as God brought her an amazing man, with incredible children.  And she became his wife.  And their family of four has grown to a family of six!

And that's really where this blog post begins.  Because what I wanted to do was share Kristin's book.  The amazing, incredible dream that she--along with a very dedicated husband--saw become a reality in 2014.

A book full of whimsy, cleverness, and a unique approach like nothing I've ever seen.  A book that allows a parent to record the words, wisdom, and wonder that sweet toddlers share with us on a daily basis.  A book that reveals a bit of the hilarity and chaos which fill Kristin's home nearly every moment of every day.  A book that displays Kristin's heart--and talent--in ways that make me so very, very proud.

If you have a toddler, know a toddler, or know a baby who will become a toddler, this book is a delight.  Thanks to God's timing in my own life, I have my own young son for whom I bought this book, and it's been a special way for me to record "his" language and personality.

Above all else, the book is a constant reminder to me of  how Kristin has truly experienced what it means to "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." (Romans 12:12).

I cannot wait to see what else God has planned for her!

O is for "Oops"can be found in Peoria, Illinois at Britches n Bloomers (located in the Metro Centre)
and Barnes & Noble.

O is for "Oops" can also be purchased online from Krickey Publishing at

And from Amazon at

You can also follow Kristin's real-life, non pretentious, humorous blog at

Friday, May 30, 2014

Who Cries Over Spilled Milk?

Want to know who cries over spilled milk?

The toddler--because you dropped his  cup.

The infant--because you put her down when you cleaned up the mess.

The dog--because she had to have a bath, thanks to you dumping milk on her back.

But you know who didn't cry?  That's right!  Mom.  Mom stayed laid-back and perfectly calm.


Until the toddler opened the canister of baby formula and dumped it on the floor because you couldn't get to him in time due to the fact you were feeding the baby a bottle to stop her crying that started because you quit holding her when you cleaned up the milk you spilled and was still screaming when you gave the dog a quick bath, so now you've finally focused on the infant and in the meantime the toddler (who is no longer crying because you already gave him more milk) is now rummaging through the diaper bag and

There goes the formula.
Time to get the vacuum.
And pray the mama doesn't cry.

Monday, May 12, 2014

For the Birthday Boy

Eighteen days from now, my youngest son turns 2.

A son to whom I didn't give birth.

A son who entered our home as a foster placement when he was 3 1/2 weeks old.

A son who is hilarious, spunky, sweet, and truly picked by God to be our son.

A son who will someday have questions about his birthparents.  Who will wonder why he didn't leave the hospital with his mom after his birth.  Who will wonder why he lived with two different relatives before he came to live with us.

Will my little boy be able to grasp that our saying "yes" far outweighs all the "no's" in his life?  Will he think his birth mom should've tried harder & fought more for him?  Will he grow to hate the court system?

Within all the questions and "what-ifs" one thing is clear:  MY JOB IS TO PRAY.

Pray this little boy will know how very much we love him.  That we--his family--practically forget he's adopted.

Pray I can explain to my son that his birth mom--out of her love for him--voluntarily chose for us to become his forever family, because we could provide for him in ways she could not.

Pray he will know that his relatives--out of their compassion for him--each took him into their homes, yet sadly had to say "no" due to finances and other circumstances.

Pray he will see that the "the system" is a group of  people who--out of their concern for him--made safety, security, and stability their top priorities.

And my biggest prayer?  That I can teach my son not only how much God loves him, but that God has amazing things in store for him!

Eighteen days from now, my youngest son turns 2.

And I will thank God for one of the greatest gifts I've been given.

Happy Birthday, Charlie!  I love you!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Serving within the Wait

Last night, Mike asked how he could be praying for me.  And I shared.

I shared how God’s growing me--and moving me--towards something ‘more’ within the Foster Care Community.

I shared I’m not quite sure what that role looks like.

I shared that God doesn’t want me to run ahead of Him.  That right now, I need to remain bridled to Him and allow Him to teach me and grow me.  That right now, I need to work on being obedient and faithful.  That right now, I simply need to be content with my life--today’s life--no changes, additions, or “if onlys”.

I shared that I can currently do some neat things within the wait; wonderful, “behind the scenes” things that appear so little, yet can bring so much hope and encouragement to the people who ARE doing the ‘more’ within the Foster Care Community.

Perhaps my role will always be the “little things”.  I don’t know.

But I do know this:  God, for reasons I can’t quite figure out, has chosen me to have a heart--an ache--for foster care.  And it’s an ache I cannot ignore.

Prayers appreciated.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Precious in His Sight

"Aunt LeAnne, is Charlie Korean?" the 4 year old asked after she kissed the baby's tiny toes. 

I looked over at the blue-eyed, blonde-haired infant.  Kendra was now kissing his cheek.

"No, sweetie, he's not Korean."

"Oh," she said, slightly puzzled.  And, without another word, she skipped away to see her cousins.

In that moment, it was clear--she gets it!  She totally, totally gets it.

Here was a girl who had no concept of race.  No understanding of nationalities.  No opinions on foster children or foster families.  No thoughts on domestic versus international adoption.

But what did she understand?  Some children don't have families.  And those children need someone who will love and care for them.  

On her mom's side of the family, her aunt, uncle, and cousins were waiting to bring their newest addition--a sweet, precious baby boy--home from Korea.  And on her dad's side, her aunt, uncle and cousins had just brought home their newest addition--a sweet, precious baby boy--who was their most recent foster placement.

As I look back to that day nearly two years ago, I realize that Kendra never asked why we sometimes had "extra" kids and why we sometimes had only "our" kids.  Another time, she was thrilled to have a playmate her age--his race, how he came to be "in the system", and why were we letting him live with us--never, ever mattered.

Kendra had taken the word "Korean" and determined it wasn't an ethnic description of her cousin, but represented a simple fact:  children without families need families.

As Kendra gets older, I know she will begin to see that life isn't quite that simple.  But, with her growth will come true empathy.  Her parents have lovingly embraced the adoption and foster paths of their siblings, and have created a wonderful foundation of acceptance for their young daughter.  I cannot wait to see how God uses the little girl with the open heart.