Thursday, June 30, 2016

Best of Facebook: June 2016

6/1/2016: Click here to see photo on FB: 

We took a big leap 3 months ago. I have always had a dream of having a traveling petting zoo business so after becoming debt free we took a leap, got an LLC, became licensed and insured and put ourselves out there. God has blessed it beyond what we could have ever imagined!!! Here are two reviews we saw on our FB page today! <3

"Amazing people! Lovely animals! Sweet kids! Can't wait to go back!"

"We hired Redemptive Love Petting Zoo for a birthday party for our one year old and they were a complete hit with ALL ages! BEST birthday party! This family-run business is nothing short of amazing with their professionalism and genuine courtesy. I cannot speak highly enough of the children helping with this operation- they were so well spoken and knowledgeable and a pleasure to be around! The animals were all very friendly and responded well to the 25+ children we had there ages 1-14. Even the teens and adults enjoyed petting them. The horses were so friendly and a perfect addition for the easiest birthday party we have ever hosted! Thank you so much Redemptive Love! We will definitely be calling again, and would refer anyone with 100% confidence!"

Here is an Italian documentary our family was featured can kinda hear our voices (speaking in English) under the dubbed voices. It is a 30 minute documentary, we are filmed and interviewed from time: 13:25-16:54. To be honest I have no idea the way they spun the story because I don't speak Italian but I do know the title is "An American Scandal".....God can use anything.
Click here to go to website with video

EDITED to add: Laura Mercier, who is awesome, took the time to translate our small segment, here is English translation:

"Sometimes, second chance adoptions truly have a happy ending.
In this farm, on the periphery of Tallahassee, Florida, Shannon and Brian Carroll live with their 7 children adopted in the last 5 years.
For them, saving children in difficult situations, with a past of abandonment and failed adoptions, is a mission, a way to fulfill God’s will.

Shannon: “If you’re trying to build a family through adoption, or if a couple can’t have children, you think “I want to adopt a little baby from China” but you discover quickly that things aren’t that simple. These children with a past of traumatic relationships or having grown up in orphanages don’t know how to act with a mom and dad. There never had any parents, they don’t come through the door telling you “Mom, I love you!”.
If we have children fill a void in ourselves, to be called parents, adoptions don’t work. But if we do it to fill their needs of love and attention, then that’s a way for those children to find healing.”

Among the 7 Carroll children there is Samuel, 9 years old, his face scarred by a birthmark. Abandoned around 6 months by his parents, Sam spent his first 4 years in an orphanage in China. First he was adopted by a family in Michigan, who after 4 years, in 2014, decided to get rid of him. Abandoned again.

Sam: “One evening, Mom and Dad told me “Go to your room, we need to talk to you”. I thought who knows what they want, it can’t be anything serious. Then, I understood… You think, OK, I’ll be here for the rest of my life, and instead I discovered I needed to leave. I was tossed about from here to there so many times. How can I trust when they told me I was going to stay here forever? The only thing I can do is wait and see what’s going to happen.”

Shannon: “When he started living with us, Sam kept repeating: “Who knows, maybe my next family will be in Texas, or maybe in California” as if it was an exciting adventure. But one day he too will need a family, he will need to know that he is wanted. We had to explain this to him many times: Hey kid, whether you like it or not, this is the last stop! Now and in the future, it will always be us."

Dr. Ware's wife once told me, "No good or generous impulse is from Satan, consider it from God and act on it regardless of how you feel."

You know that prodding to pay for someone's meal even when you don't you have the money - from God

The urge to call someone even when you don't have the time - from God

The desire to love one of God's children and cure their orphan-ness by giving them a family - definitely from God (the last thing Satan wants is to see the orphan know their true Father)

Who needs seven multicolored kids to get you attention when you have a goat in your purse! ;) I have entered a new phase of crazy...

This mama thing is hard some the stress of it all some mamas take a bath, some go out for a jog. Some mamas sniff oils, some take medications. Some mamas drink lots of coffee, some binge eat chocolate icecream. Some mamas hide in the closet and cry, some dance in the midst of the crazy.
Me...I hug a dog...or a pony...or a bunny....or a goat....or even a chicken.

We all have our thing. Don't judge. :D
Keep on keeping on mamas!

28 days had come and gone with no babies. 30 days had come and gone with no babies. 34 days had come and gone with no babies. We were about to move mama back in with the flock and discard all 12 eggs. But mama was sitting ever so faithfully, "oh, just let her keep sitting." A big thunderstorm had come through at one point causing rain water to fill her nest and we found all the eggs floating in the water. I knew in my heart at that point the eggs were no longer viable. But her faithfulness to sit on these, perceived dead, babies caused my heart to long with her, so we dried them and gave her a fresh nesting box, "okay, let her keep sitting." She refused to leave her nest. We would take food and water to her every morning and get a close enough for a whiff of a rotten egg smell. Mama duck would fluff up her feathers and hiss, this 15lb duck ready to defend her nest against a 150lb human, "If you insist on sitting, we are not taking your eggs mama duck, you just sit."

Everyday we looked at this mama duck with a hopeless sigh but Mama duck knew better than us, for this very morning a fuzzy yellow baby greeted us. We don't know if any more will hatch but we do know that even if this is the only baby that hatches it has made all the patience and faithfulness of sitting in the heat and the rain worth it to this mama duck!

What a lesson in not acting in haste yet just faithfully waiting on the Lord this morning! :D

Follow-up to previous mama duck post: 10 out of the 12 eggs mama was sitting on were very rotten. She hatched out one more sweet yellow baby today and then we gave her two more eggs that were just starting to hatch in our incubator!

So she hatched two bio + two adopted = four REAL ducklings ;) lol
And mama loves them all!!! <3

4 years ago this tiny dude became ours! I still remember the days leading up to his placement in our family! When the first sibling group of three came I, vainly, prayed that they would be cute, and terribly cute they were. When just 3 months later we were called for a baby girl and my very cute, big three were wearing me out I prayed that she would just sleep through the night! At 6 weeks old she she slept soundly through the night, but during the day she was a very collicky, fussy baby. So when just 6 months later we were called once more for a baby boy, I said yes through tears of exhaustion and prayed, "Lord, just let him smile."

This baby was dropped off an hour after they called us with nothing but the dirty clothes he was wearing. The first couple days this baby sat quietly, no crying, no laughing, just would sit and watch. When baby girl cried (which was often) I would meet both babies needs. This quiet little boy who now was getting all his needs met before he could ask, yet before he came he had learned to stop crying because in his past his cries had been ignored.

Something began to happen, this baby began to happily smile and laugh all the time! I would walk to the table carrying dinner, three whiny, pouty kids would complain, baby girl would be screaming because I was too slow getting the food to her and this baby boy would be smiling and clapping! He became my personal cheerleader in the drudgery of life chores! His tiny hands and huge tooth-less grin are forever etched in my mind as God's perfect blessing bestowed on me to drive me to continue on in love!

I wanted to say no to number five, I was SO overwhelmed with four, but if I had I wouldn't have had that breath of fresh air, that tiny smile sent from Heaven that said, "you're doing good mom, keep going!"

6/22/16: Click here to view link on FB:

I finally got around to telling our story going from $250,000 mortgage + two car loans + other small debt = $300,000 total debt to the freedom of not having to pay a mortgage, owning our cars and being debt free ($0 debt)!!!

6/26/16: Click here to see post on FB:

Memory from one year ago, I can still feel the deep feeling of frailty as I remember this time being separated from my family, sitting in the hospital by my sweet girl.

6/26/15 - Today marks 2 weeks since we loaded up Clifford, our big red Excursion, with 7 kiddos and a trailer full of medical supplies. We drove home embarking on a new journey, a new path that God had set before us with another gift buckled in behind me laughing with her new siblings. We spent the first day unpacking box after box and making room for another member of the family. It was a peaceful day with visitors bringing meals and Brittney quietly adjusting, exploring her new home and playing with all her new toys.

The calm before the storm.

In the past we have had a honeymoon period with our behavioral/trauma roller coaster kids, usually a month long calm before the storm. This new medical roller coaster whipped us right up to the peak of the drop before we could even get our feet wet. In just 24 hours at 1am that 2nd night home we were awakened by vomitting and rushed to the ER. After a long night we were admitted due to Pancreatitis. Now even though her Pancreas levels are back to normal we are still going to be here in the hospital for an indefinite amount of time unitl her body gets back up to par.

For 12 days I have sat by this little girl's bedside, comforted her, held her hand and let her know I am here for her. For 12 dats I have held dozens of vomit buckets, changed a truckload of yucky diapers, went 72 hours straight without sleep, lived out of a suitcase, and cried enough tears to fill a bathtub. At times it felt like this path dropped out from under us and I was falling. My human fraility, weakness and emotions have been deep these past 12 days.

But God is still good and He is big, bigger than this hospital stay. God is still showing us His endless lovingkindness, grace and mercy. God's promises are shown more, not less, true in times of trouble and His supernatural peace can only be found in the midst of a storm. God is still on sovereignly on His throne and this temporary trial did not take Him by surprise. This is the path He paved for us. For. Our. Good! And this ship is staying course through the fiercest winds and rain.

Although our family is in different cities, Brittney and I here 4 hours away in the hospital and Brian home with the kids playing the single parent game we are growing deeper in love with each other every day. This trial has deepened our understanding of what family truly means.

"Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten." - Stitch :D
Powerful words little, blue, alien man...powerful words.

Posted by Shannon

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

DEBT FREEDOM! A Story Only God Could Write!

Since our very first announcement of Plan Move and our debt-free journey back in May of 2013 we have been on a roller coaster of a ride. Now we can look back and see how God perfectly directed each and every step!

To think since then we have saved up and paid over $60,000 to own two properties, and adopted two children! Wow!

This post is the follow-up to point out the very hand of God throughout our debt-free journey....let's start at the beginning!

In May 2013, "The Next Great Leap" we announced the blind leap of faith we were about to embark on. Destination: debt-freedom!

We had already paid off all car, loan and credit card debt thanks to Dave Ramsey's snow-ball techniques before the kids joined us. Shortly after making them ours we made the decision that the kids needed one stay at home parent more than they needed the pretty house in a cookie-cutter neighborhood. We realized paying our $250,000 mortgage would be a long and uphill battle that, frankly, didn't have the energy for. 

So we outlined our plan, contacted our realtor and prepared for the journey ahead. We figured if living a year or two in our 300sqft motorhome at an RV park meant paying cash for whatever house we wanted then we were so there! And we were off, "Alright God lead us!"

In August 2013, "Do You Ever Slow Down!?!" everything was happening so fast!

Our house sold the moment we got the "for sale" sign in the ground before it was even listed. We sold all our stuff and prepared to move yet didn't quite know where but as fast as the house sold we found and purchased a 7 acre plot of raw land that was beautifully trashed. We thought we could clear enough to temporarily park our motorhome on it while we saved up money to build....but God had other plans.... 

In November 2013, "So...Are You Moving or What?" we were working hard to get our land ready before Dec. 6th, the closing date on our house.

We found out that temporary housing permits restricted people from living in motorhomes in our county which put us in a bind...we have a month to get out of our house and we were now the owners of a 7 acre property but we couldn't live on it. What were we going to do and what was God up to!?!

November was also the month that God began tugging hard at our hearts making it clear that we needed to renew our homestudy again and be ready to open our home to another child...sounds crazy because at the time we didn't have a home! But God always knows and is in control. Read more here: "It is Not a Good Time"

In early December just before we moved out we were made aware of a tiny trailer on 4 acres for sale, we made the decision to take out a very small loan and buy it with the plan to pay it off in one year. That same month we were matched with our son, Sam. If we had been set on our plan to move into our RV and set on not borrowing money we wouldn't have been able to bring our amazing Sam home! 

In January 2014, "Debt Free Here We Come" we shared details and pictures of our new tiny home!

This tiny house was nothing special, it was a lot of work and we were hesitant about getting into debt to get out of debt. But if we had been set on our plan to move into our RV and set on not borrowing money we wouldn't have been able to bring our amazing Sam home! God knew what He was doing for sure and we grew to love that tiny house!!!

In December 2014 exactly one year since moving into our tiny (now paid off) home we were felt a strong pull to move out to our original 7 acre raw property. How? We owned the land but we knew that building a home or buying a mobile home to move out there would mean taking out another loan....the whole point was to get out of debt so why such a strong pull, God?

In December 2014, "Move in Progress" as quickly as we thought about moving again it became a reality. 

After finding a realtor who sold repo mobile homes we only viewed a few before we found our new home. God worked out the miracle of interest-free financing quickly and now we had enough to buy the home, move it out to our property and put in water, electric and septic. The repayment plan for the loan was one year. Although not debt-free, we were moving again. It was happening.  

In February 2015, "Feels Like a Mansion" we had finished all construction and repairs, were moved in and settled. 

As soon as we had hung up the last picture and began to take a breather we were contacted about a little girl, our Brittney. We can see now that if we had stayed in our tiny house another year as we saved up money to pay cash for this new home we wouldn't have been able to take her. Our tiny house could never become handicap accessible. We would have missed out on our sweet and joyful blessing that we have in Brittney!

In June 2015 we brought our sweet girl home!

In February 2016, one year after we moved into our current home we paid off our $20,000 loan! We were now mortgage-free!


In May 2016 just three years after we announced our original debt free journey we paid off a couple more small debts and are now proud to announce that we are DEBT FREE!

It certainly took some determination and focus but most of all it took the ability to be in tune with the Holy Spirits promptings and the readiness to trust God wherever He led us. We could have been debt free sooner. We could have chosen to not borrow another dime. But we just may have missed out on two great blessings if we had! 

Now on to the journey of farming, self-sustainablity and starting our own family business...and who knows, maybe another blessing on the way! ;)

Posted by Shannon

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Best of Facebook: May 2016

5/1/2016: Click here to see video on FB:

We had an amazing surprise today! Make-A-Wish threw a huge surprise party to announce that they are sending Brittney and our whole family to Disney (and SeaWorld, NASA Space Center and Clearwater Marine Aquarium) for 7 days!!! We leave this week!!! :D

5/2/2016: Click here to see article on FB:

Newspaper article with a few pictures of our fun surprise. We are getting ready and packing!

Watch clips of Brittney's Make-A-Wish surprise party on this Fox News story.

It is always interesting (by interesting I mean embarrassing) watching ourselves speak and finding out what bits and pieces they show and what was edited out. One thing is for sure, Disney or no Disney we LOVE our Britt-girl to the moon and back!!!

Supposed to be packing but what is more important than feeling awesome in the place of dreams!?!
Dresses (from came in today and the girls couldn't wait to get them on! Doesn't Britt look like the prettiest Princess Tiana you have ever seen!?!
The boys were excited to dress up too so we threw some costumes together, can you guess who/what they are?
Disney here we come!!!

The kids first time on Splash mountain. Every row of this photo, from the scared protector, the duck and cover, the faces of terror and the carefree kiss as we take yet another plunge together, makes this my absolute favorite photo from yesterday!!! <3 my family <3 Happy Mother's Day :D

Mickey Mouse is Britt's favorite and yesterday this princess got to meet him!

Memory from 4 years ago yet a good reminder even for me!

With mother's day past us and all the cute pictures of perfect mommies with their smiling children beginning to become lower on our news feeds I wanted to share one of my favorite real mommy-hood photos.

I have been a mom for 4 years or 47 months or 204 weeks or 1,430 days or 34,320 hours or 2,059,200 seconds. When you do the math, that is a long race, one that once begins it never ends. Some mamas are well-trained, prepped and ready for this race, others are thrown in barefoot and out of shape. But we all take part in this race, some run steadfast and steady, some sprint then fall but get back up to sprint again, some transfer their baton over to a more desirable athlete to take their place and some just plain give up.

Us adoptive mamas, we have a big running career as we often have to run not only in our own places but in the places of other mamas that have handed their baton to us or given up in this race. Every child should have someone running on their behalf and even though we may not be athletes we can't bear to see a little one on the sidelines with no one running for them, so we, though we are tired, out of breath and calloused we say, "I will run for you too."

Take heart, be encouraged mamas, keep running!

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

The coolest thing that Give Kids The World and Disney partnered to do was give each Make-A-Wish family free photos at all 4 theme parks, not to mention a pass to get to the front of all the photo lines!

We got over 300 professional photos at Disney plus hundreds more on my own camera. Here are a few of our favorites from Disney!

In 29 years I have had what feels like a lifetime of adventure. Spent 14 years being shaped as a child and 15 years as a working woman. I have spent 11 of the most amazing years married to my best friend and 5 of the most challenging (yet most rewarding) learning and growing as a new mom. We have spent over 8 hard-working years paying off over $300,000 in debt to be able to live in the debt freedom we currently reside. Then 2 long years ago we left our cozy city life to embark on a crazy journey to become farmers and quickly grew to love the country space and the menagerie of animals it brought with it! I am happy to say I am blessed with a great and powerful God, an amazing and serving husband, 7 sweet, fun, and outgoing kids, a paid off and very full house, 7 beautiful, green acres and over 100 furry and feathered friends to love. I am very blessed!!! <3

"When I grew up in the orphanage it was Christians who came an built nicer buildings. Christians who bought us beds, clothing and provided money monthly for food. It was a Christian, who wrote a letter in a shoebox, who first told me I was loved. It was the Christians who met all my physical and material needs in that orphanage."
"But it was also Christians who neglected my biggest need. Children in orphanages don't need more money, nicer buildings or better clothes. I am not an orphan because I lost my home or provisions. I am an orphan because I lost my parents. I needed a mom and a dad. I needed a family. Christians treated all my temporary symptoms of need but never cured my longterm disease of being orphan. I am still an orphan."
-A quote by a 30yr old orphan who aged out of an orphanage where he lived his whole life, spoken at the CAFO Summit 2013, which God has put on the forefront of my mind this morning.

I am finally uploading vacation photos! Maybe I'll post them all on a couple blog posts soon! This was one of my favorites from Give Kids The World Village, they offered horse rides done by therapy horses twice weekly! So neat and Brittney really enjoyed it! :)

"How do you know when you are meant to adopt? You just have a peace about it, right?"

No, I throw up.
That sounds awful. I am a work in progress. I forget God's goodness, His faithfulness and His promises. People will often tell me that they are caring for a child that is difficult, is stretching them, and they are overwhelmed. "Shannon" they say, "I just don't have a peace about adopting this child." Now, I am not at all pretending to have the "peace of God" all figured out but from what I have experienced so far I have never felt "peace" in the ways I expected.

Let me give you a glimpse into my deep imperfection, my lack of faith and my, just plain, sinfulness.

We had been walking the path as foster parents for a year. We had been parenting (or more honestly, feeling like we were failing at parenting) five kids ages 6 weeks to 9 years old. We weren't aware at the time, but now we know that trauma kids are often times an emotional age MUCH younger than their biological age. On most days it felt like we were parenting five children (of emotional) ages 4 and under. See our 8 and 9 year olds couldn't bathe themselves, dress themselves, didn't know how to play, never had brushed their teeth, needed supervision for homework, meals, everything really, for their own safety and the safety of others.

Traveling this path for a year had made me weary. Weary of crying, weary of losing myself, weary of missing time with my husband, weary of parenting. And smack in the middle of my physical and emotional weariness came a decision. Our 1st sibling group of three were coming up for adoption and we were given first choice. "Do you want to proceed with adopting them?" We thought this moment would be magical.

This hurts to write but I didn't want to adopt them. I wanted my home back, my sanity back, my energy back, I wanted my life back. I had been suffering severe anxiety attacks, throwing up several times a week, not able to sleep. I told the Lord the long list of reasons I couldn't do it. I had no physical peace at all. And well-meaning Christian friends comforted me, "Shannon, don't do it unless there isn't a doubt in your mind these are supposed to be your kids. You have to have a peace about it." Ah, my way out. Lots of doubt. No peace.

But my hubby ever so gently calmed me and reminded me that the Lord doesn't make mistakes. When we started this journey we committed to the Lord that, although our hearts were for seeing birth families reunified, if a child did come up for adoption in our home we would trust that the Lord chose that child for us and we could follow through and adopt them. We would trust that the Lord is true in His promises, that the children He placed with us would be a blessing to us and He would faithfully give us the strength and grace we needed for each day.

My peace didn't come from inside my-imperfect-self but from choosing to trust in the Lord's perfect plan.

Adoption day came and so did the chaos, bickering, and our Mirabel who refused to get out of bed. "I don't want to go!" She screamed. After much coaxing (and a few bribes) she got in the pretty dress we bought her for court but came out with a pillow case over her head. With futile pleadings we drove an hour away to court with pillow-case head in the back and me quietly sobbing in the front. See both of us were mourning losing parts of our own lives as we knew them. That little girl who walked through such loss and turmoil had learned that she could trust no one but herself. Gaining parents, through adoption, would mean having to extend trust to something that had hurt and failed her in the past. And me, through this year of attempting to pour out love into these kids with no return on my investment, I was feeling empty. I was having to let go of possessions, needs, time, hobbies, desires so I could meet the needs of these little ones. I was mourning the loss of the ease of my old life, not realizing the abundance God was planning for me in this new phase of life!

As we pulled up to the courthouse I dried my tears and looked at my pillow-case covered girl. "Please take it off, I have something for you." As her red, puffy eyes were exposed I handed her a small box. Her eyes brightened as she saw a golden heart-shaped locket. Inside the locket was a picture of us on one side and a picture of her birth mom on the other. A tear quietly fell down her cheek. I knelt down beside her, "We knew this day would be hard on you. We wanted to get you something to show you that in no way are we replacing her. We want you to be free to love her. We are not wanting to take your history from you, we just love you and want to give you a future. It is okay to be sad about losing someone and happy about gaining a new family at the same time. That is what the word "bittersweet" signifies. We understand that today is bittersweet for you." She wiped the tears from her cheek and wrapped her tiny arms around my neck, "I love you, mommy."

Four years ago today we walked into that courtroom as broken people and walked out as a family. If I had made a decision based on my human feelings I would have made the biggest mistake of my life. I would have let these three awesome kids go. I wouldn't have let God use them to further shape my faith and trust in ways I could have never imagined. I am crying thinking about what amazing kids I almost missed out on. Through the peace of knowing God is good and trusting in Him and not my own feelings, I gained three blessings that day that have changed my life forever! If you haven't meet these kids, let me be the first to tell you that they are just freaking awesome.

Happy 4th Adoption Day my spunky, crazy-funny, helpful, happy, super-smart, energetic, hard-working, loving trio who I couldn't love more!!! <3

Posted by Shannon

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Best of Facebook: April 2016

4/1/2016: Click here to see post on FB:
In the process of updating our homestudy (we do so every year) and it asks for a "Statement regarding your motivation to adopt." Here is ours:

We believe God cares deeply for the orphan and as Christians we are the hands and feet of God to show love and care for the least of these. We believe that every child deserves a safe family where they know they are loved regardless of their abilities, behavior, race, age, or history. We desire to make the least desirable children know that they are wanted and the hardest to place children know that they are deeply loved by us and their heavenly Father. We have built our family through the beautiful brokenness of adoption and wouldn’t have it any other way!

We are not perfect but one thing we have proven in our family dynamic is we have the commitment to love children from hard places. We have parented difficult trauma-related behaviors, delinquency, disorders such as RAD, PTSD, ODD, ADHD, and Enuresis. We have also navigated parenting many medical needs including Giant Congenital Melanocytic Nevus, atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (aHUS), Microcephaly, seizure disorder, Cerebral Palsy, vision impairment, global developmental delays, short gut syndrome, and GJ-tube dependency. We are willing to work with doctors, counselors and therapist to provide the best quality of life for any child God calls on us to welcome into our large family!

:) What is your motivation?

I used to work with Parks and Rec and my favorite time of year was helping put together our bi-annual parade float. Although I don't work there anymore I still have the opportunity to create props and costumes and now the kids get to participate too! We have so much fun being apart of these parades and, oh, the memories we make!!!

We got a frantic call while out on a date tonight. "Mom! Mom! Are you on your way home soon!?!"
"No, we are still at dinner, why? What is going on?"
His voice was shaking, "Mom, Buttercream's in labor! The hooves...the hooves are out!!!"
I smiled and mouthed to Brian that our cow was having her baby, "Anthony that is great!"
His voice becomes more frantic and he is having a hard time catching his breath, "But mom! What do I do? Will you come home? What do I do?"
I want to laugh at his intense concern but instead I used a more serious tone, "Anthony, calm down. You have read every farm book we own, every book on cows from the library, every cow pregnancy article online and watched every cow birthing video on youtube. You are a fully trained cow midwife (midhusband?) so breath and you'll be fine. You can do it!"
I hear very controlled breathing in and out, "Okay, thanks mom. I can do this!"

Not but a few minutes later, as we were heading home, we got a call that it was a boy! Brian and I arrived to all the children in their pajamas huddled around the birthing stall watching as mama licked her baby calf clean, cheering as baby stood on his own and took his wobbly first steps, and cherished in their heart the miracle of a new life on the farm! Welcome baby Cornbread!!!

Port surgery 1/2: Today Brittney is having a new chest port put in and she is in a good mood! :)

Brittney has been doing great since we have been home from the hospital! We have seen vast improvements since switching her to a real food diet, her cognitive abilities and speech have improved and her vocabulary has grown. We have also been able to wean her off ALL five of her daily meds!

She is healthy and infection free so today she is having surgery to have a new chest port placed. Brittney has been a great blessing in our life! God is good and faithful!!!

Port surgery 2/2: Today Brittney is having a new chest port put in and she is in a good mood! :)

2nd video before Britt's port surgery. She is too cute! And so happy!

Post-op: Brittney's Port surgery went well! She is a little "drunk" but is doing good, in great spirits considering, asking for food and to go home. :)

Mirabel has taken over milking Willow while I work on milking our new-in-milk cow, Buttercream. Twelve years old and she loves milking her goats and, now, a cow. You may think, that's cool, milking a cow, must be easy if a 12 year old can do it. But I didn't hand this chore over lightly. That creature weighs almost 1,000lbs and one kick could send you to the ER. It takes and calm, gentle, forgiving and very patient spirit to have a cow stand calmly for you while you squeeze and tug on her nether-regions!

See I had to learn that kind of spirit, I had to beg God to give it to me after being kicked, swatted at with a urine-soaked tail and having the milk bucket knocked over. I had to forgive Willow, speak gently to her, move calmly around her, and show her love even when I felt like wringing her huge cow neck!

But you see, Mirabel may be like her mama in a lot of ways, but in this case she is not. Willow took to her immediately, trusted her, and stood perfectly still right away. Sometimes the best lessons in this life don't come from books or college but from the heart of God's creation, children and from the creatures we least expect it to, like Willow the cow. :)

The kids reminded me that this is Brittney's first RV trip! Texas here we come! Can't wait for a week of camping, family-time, and fellowship!

Many of you may know we were recently preparing to adopt a special needs boy from an adoption dissolution (disruption, divorce).

We have always approached adoption the same, that we are are open and willing to walk whatever path God has for us. That means if we are approached to adopt a child we say yes and walk forward regardless of the challenges that may lie ahead. We trust the Lord will give us the grace and strength to endure and the patience to love any of His children. We aren't special or endowed with more patience, grace or strength than any other Christian. We are simply willing to trust God in the area of family planning and adoption. We renew our homestudy year after year not because we think we can handle more but because God is the caretaker of the orphans and we were adopted by Him. Therefore as the hands and feet of Jesus we care for the orphans and we adopt after our Father. We don't pray for God to "open the door to adoption," we feel He already has. We first pray we will trust Him as we walk forward through the open door and then we pray He will clearly close the door if this is not the child He has for our family. We see lots of closed doors. We see even more trust as our faith in our awesome God grows each time.

With that said, although we were willing to adopt again and we were in process of making it happen, we were also praying the entire time that God would clearly shut that door by rising up a family in this child's home state to adopt him before our homestudy was completed. And praise God that is exactly what happened! A family has come forward for this little boy, in his home state and we couldn't be more excited. We are now praying for this child, his new family and whatever God may have in store for us (we are praying about embryo adoption, but that is a different story). :)

We are home! Our trip to Big Sandy, TX was sweet and quite inspiring, maybe I will find some time to write more detailed about it soon. But we are so glad to be back on the farm. I did miss it, even though we all thoroughly enjoyed the break!

We drove home all day Saturday and I spent last night/this morning from 1am-8am in the ER with Brittney. Turns out it wasn't as severe as we originally thought just several small things piled on top of each other so she just was feeling no good. She has a mild cold, an awful yeast diaper rash and added inflammation due to becoming a little lady, a mild bladder infection and constipation (even though we had a bm every day). Rest, fluids, prescription cream, antibiotics and some Miralax and in a few days I am sure she will be up and feeling great again! :)

When my expectations were to be hospitalized again this news is a blessing! Sometimes the difference between blessings and burdens is just in what lenses you choose to look at life through. With all this little girlie's challenges (and now womanhood, oh my!) I still wouldn't trade her for the world! She is God's gift and blessing to us! We are so undeserving!!!

Worry happens when we assume responsibility for things that God never intended us to. The remedy for worry is trust. Worry won't heal my broken toe but trusting in God' goodness gives me a peace while it takes time to mend.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

What are you worried about? Can you trust the Lord with that area of your life?

P.S. Excuse my poorly manicured toes, I even thought maybe I should re-paint them before taking a pic (how vain) but real mommy-hood sometimes looks like dirty toes and chipped nail polish. ;)

I am contemplating locking myself in a closet for 24 hours! LOL :) 
I feel like a comedy of errors! A couple weeks ago I schedule a wellness exam at my doctor as necessary to update our adoption homestudy.
So 2 days ago I take Britt to the ER and pick up a nasty cough, yesterday I break my toe, and today, IN THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE, I take a sip from my water bottle while holding my physical form and the paper perfectly slices my cornea!

Ha! Life is never boring indeed....

Britt-head is feeling so much better today! She is such an easy girl, seriously my easiest kid even with all her medical craziness, because her spirit is so sweet and joyful! She calls me over to show me all the toys she has been looking at sitting quietly on the couch. "Look mommy, toys, YAY!" Can't help but smile around this girl. We are seeing such a HUGE improvement in her mood, language, vocabulary and cognitive abilities since switching to her to an all-natural formula, Liquid Hope. It is amazing to watch!

Lots of good news today, my eye feels so much better, yesterday it felt like someone was rubbing a tree branch across it over and over. Ow! I don't have my vision completely back so I didn't feel comfortable driving, so a friend came by and picked up 3 big kids to go to the abortion clinic where we minister some Wednesday mornings. Then Anthony was picked up to help friends install gutters, lately because he is so smart and hard-working many friends and local farms hire him to help them out with building, yard and farm projects. And my favorite event is that Brian is off work today! It is beautiful out so we are all going to take a drive to an local fruit tree farm to plant the beginning of a fruit orchard on our property. God is good!

Mommy wars are real! Babies and kids don't come with manuals. Let us always season our words with grace, educate in private and encourage in public :)

Our baby Pygmy goat, Boberry, staring in his very first meme! ;)

Posted by Shannon

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Best of Facebook: March 2016

3/2/2016: Click here to see photo on FB:

You guys are truly the best! We went back to the hospital today for our weekly check-up and were greeted by very excited nurses and staff who told us mail has poured in for Brittney! We left with 30+ letters and packages from CA, FL, GA, IL, KY, MD, MO, NC, NY, PA, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV and Germany!

We have been so busy playing catch-up with laundry and on the farm, gearing up for our springtime garden and petting zoos booked every weekend! Brittney is home with us for 2-3 more weeks until her external PICC line is replaced with a new internal Chest Port. These thoughtful presents and stickers will keep her occupied while we continue our catch-up work. :) Thank you!!! Seriously, you people are awesome!

Visited the hospital today for Britt's weekly PICC line dressing change and we recieved more sticker mail from Australia (x2), Canada, FL, NC, OH, OR, and VA. Thank you so much! With Brittney's severe vision impairment she loves feeling the stickers on her fingers then on the paper! You have greatly blessed our girlie! Thank you!

We may not all be called to adoption but we are all called to sacrifice. A favorite post from a year ago!

"We definitely don’t feel we were audibly “called” by God to adopt children. We were called to follow God and sacrifice all for Him. As we surrendered we followed God where His heart is. His heart is with the poor, the needy and the orphaned, therefore that is where we followed Him. Are we “called?” Yes, called to love others as ourselves. We don’t want to be poor, hungry or without parents so why would we leave others in that condition? Did we always want to adopt? Absolutely not." Read more on the blog:

I know I haven't posted a lot of just day to day stuff lately but here is Britt helping big sister weed a garden box today. When Britt came to us she wasn't fond of the outdoors, was terrified of dogs and didn't want anything to do with the farm animals. We can't blame her, she spent most of her life in hospital rooms and sterile medical foster homes being cared for by nurses.

But now she adores our dog, Fez, rides ponies and look at her finally being a kid and getting her hands dirty!!! Makes my heart happy!

Memory from 4 years ago:
"As I sit here, filling out our foster care re-license packet for 2012 I am listening to Mulan playing in the background coupled with random bursts of laughter, crunching popcorn and the occasional "mom, did you hear that!?! that was so funny!" I take comfort that I could walk down the hallway and in either room gaze upon a precious sleeping baby. I rejoice at new-found memories today of playing 5 person softball in an empty field across from our house, running like my life depended on it and cheering until I was hoarse. How did I ever live without this!?! Looking at this packet makes tears well as I remember how last year I was so grieved with a deep longing and the pain of emptiness. God how good and sovereign You are, how you make us wait for Your perfect plan. This was worth waiting for!"

Is there a longing in you to be a mommy? Are you in the waiting/paperwork time of your adoption? Trust in the Lord and He will give more freely and abundantly than you could have ever imagined!!!

"Mom there is a woman at our gate taking pictures!"
I was a mess and busy inside making a dozen costumes for the upcoming parade but I stopped and went out to greet this woman. She was having a big party and wanted us to bring our menagerie of animals, so she just stopped by due to our petting zoo sign out front. Just as I was finishing up a short tour of our farm one of the the kids ran outside to greet this stranger, now client....
"Um....who is that?"
I looked at my fully costumed child, "oh, that is just one of the Oompah-Loompahs that run our farm...."

If you ever feel like a crazy person, don't worry, we have somehow out-crazied you for sure!!! :D

Posted by Shannon

Monday, February 29, 2016

Best of Facebook: February 2016

SO EXCITED! GI doctor just sent a prescription order for a formula made from REAL foods, called Liquid Hope!!! Why is this so exciting? Because this is the first time in 11 years my Britt girl will have something other than Corn Syrup and Soy oil as "nutrition" for her body! She will finally experience God's real, whole, natural, healthy, food and we can't wait to see how it benefits her mind and body!!! Picture is a comparison of ingredients from her old formula, Elecare Jr. and her NEW formula Liquid Hope!!! Can't wait!

"Daddy, can this be my cow this time? I am big now, I can feed him, I promise!"
Our Ty-man is turning 5 years old this month and this time its his turn to raise his very own bottle baby calf. Meet Pibb, he is a 3 day old Jersey bull from a local dairy. Here we go again!

That moment when you are tucking everyone in to bed but something doesn't feel right. So you get your rain coat and go check on your baby calf and baby goat. Baby Pibb is dry and warm in the stable, mama goat, Zelda, is staying dry in her house but where is baby Holly!?! It is storming bad here with flood warnings all night. Tonight is not a good night for tiny Holly to be missing!

Thirty long, wet minutes later I finally find a soaking wet baby goat in between a pile of pallets. Negligent mama Zelda got a good scolding and, needless to say, baby Holly is sleeping inside tonight! Oh the adventures I have with 7 kids and 50 animals!!!

As we prepare our to speak on adoption during a conference break-out session this Saturday and invite another TV news crew, SwissTV, to film us this Sunday I am filling my heart with Scripture, reading through Adopted for Life by Moore again and looking through memories of our journey so far.

Here are three things I know:
1. Personally caring for orphans is not optional for Christians. God calls it pure and faultless religion because it is a living, physical picture of our spiritual adoption; although we were once orphaned through sin now we are adopted as sons (and daughters) by God, our Father, through Jesus Christ.
2. Adoption is just plain HARD! It is messy, lonely and confusing. It is full of unforeseen trials, tears and doubt. It stretches us until we have reached the absolute end of ourselves and come to a point of fully relying on God for super natural strength, patience and endurance to finish this race.
3. We would do it again and again because adoption has put us smack in the middle of God's will for us; which is that we would grow in sanctification (1 Thes. 4:3), be made perfect and complete through enduring trials (James 1:2-4) and through loving others our joy would be made full (John 15:10-12)!

Adoption is necessary and difficult yet pure JOY!

There are over 150 million orphans in our world today. If all the orphans in the world started their own country it would be among the top 10 countries with the largest population, having a larger population than even Russia.

Christians, how great does the need have to become for us to finally act? Let us show the world our religion is true, in the way the bible calls pure and faultless, by caring for the orphan in their distress.

We enjoyed having new friends from SwissTV out to film and interview today! Can't wait to see what they turn our chaos into! Our only prayer is that we bring our Father glory and through us viewers may see a glimpse of Jesus!

"I love you, mommy." I love this girl and thankful for every moment with her! We are in the hospital again, keep Britt in your prayers. God is in control.

Yesterday when we noticed a sudden fever we rushed Britt to the ER. Due to the drug (Solaris) that she has infused to keep her life-threatening illness (aHUS) at bay she is more susceptible to deadly bacterial infections. We were all hoping her sudden fever of 104 was just from a normal cold, strep or even the flu. The hospital admitted us overnight as they waited for the blood cultures to come back. They were expecting all to be fine and Britt would be discharged today. Turns out the results are the worst case scenario, it came back that Britt does have a bacterial infection in her blood stream. But Brittney is a sweet, strong girl and is in good spirits. They have her on two strong antibiotics with the hopes to eradicate the infection quickly and that we will be able to stay at this local hospital and go home again in a week or so. Please pray for our Britt girl! we love her dearly!

Britt isn't feeling very good today. Although still her pleasant self she is more tired and doesn't want to do much other than sit and take care of her baby dolls. I caught a cold while here so I am happy to just enjoy our lazy Saturday together.

What a perfectly timed FB memory to pop up today as I sit with my girly in the hospital so thankful we said yes to her a year ago! The overflowing joy she brings to our family far outweighs the small trials that accompany her care.

Let me clarify for all of you who wonder and say, "Shannon, this special needs child you are considering adopting, she will take so much from your time, your schedule, your family and even your life! Why would you do that?"

2/13/2015: Well friends, to be honest, this child cannot take those things from me because I gave those up a long time ago. I gave those up when I met a Man. A Man that looked upon me, in my wretched state, not as too much work, but as wanted. Not as too much time but as worthy of love. This Man willingly emptied Himself, gave up all His energy and even His own life to make me His child. To adopt me into His family, His kingdom, His inheritance and give me new life eternally.

This life is no longer mine but Christ who lives in me. Isn't that the gospel? "And He (Jesus) was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it." Luke 9:23-24 (see also: Matt 10:39, 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 17:33).

Did God not sustain me through taking in five kids at once? Did God not sustain me when saying yes to a little boy from MI? I cannot let my trust waver now! God has already proved Himself mighty in strength and God will certainly sustain me to parent this child as well!

We believe that every child is worthy of love and a family regardless of their physical, mental, emotional or behavioral needs. By stepping out in faith by being open and willing to adopt again, we are simply practicing what we preach!

Good news! Yesterday they took two separate blood samples on Brittney, one from her chest port again and one from Saphenous vein (in her thigh). While the chestport sample still came back positive for bacteria growth the thigh vein sample was negative! This means we caught the infection early enough that it wasn't able to spread to the blood stream! It is an isolated port infection from when her port was accessed for her infusion Thursday. Now we are just waiting to hear whether we will have to stay hospitalized while antibiotics are administered or we will be sent home with outpatient antibiotics.

Hospital day #3 Valentine's Day

Brian and I had this weekend all planned. We had a sitter, hotel and were looking forward to an overnight trip kayaking with manatees. Finally a getaway we have been greatly looking forward to! Our weekend turned out much different than planned, chatting in a hospital room, eating cafeteria food and playing with our little girl.

But this is love. Love lays aside our wants for the needs of others. Love stays by your side. Love makes you family. Love is from God. God is Love! We are happy to be right here in the middle of God's perfect plan on this Valentine's day, a day all about love.

Tomorrow we should hear whether we will have to finish IV antibiotics here in the hospital, be released to finish IV antibiotics with in-home nursing or be transferred to Shands hospital to have Brittney's chest port replaced. We are anticipating being hospitalized all week but we have already lined up care for our kids at home since Brian works Tue-Sat. Times like this show us what an amazing and supportive community of Christians we have surrounding us! Praise God our Britt is doing good and I thank Him daily for YOU!!!

Brittney got to do crafts with the Child Life Specialist and Art therapist while I attended a 4-hour Skype training. Then we got to paint a hospital ceiling tile. Otherwise it's been a lazy day and I am quickly becoming antsy to go home. While appreciated the rest for the first couple days I am ready to be home. I want to pull up my muck boots, get my hands dirty and be back to my busy, crazy farm life surrounded by nonstop children and animal adventures!

Brittney is doing good, just tired. There are volunteers and therapy students during the day and they have many fun activities but we are both are getting ready to be home. A little bad news today, the blood culture from 3 days ago came back positive for bacteria growth still. We can't go home until we have 3 consecutive negative blood cultures and they have to each be negative for 72 hours. So each positive culture sets us back several days and makes it more likely we will have to go through surgery to replace her chest port. We are still praying they can eradicate the infection in her port and we are thankful we have been able to stay local and not transfer to Shands!

Brittney had an awful morning. We had some x-rays and tests and it looks like, even after 7 days of antibiotics, the infection is still present and growing. We will have surgery to remove her chest port tomorrow. They will put in a temporary central line then when the infection clears she will have another surgery to place a new chest port. Now we are just chilling and doing our favorite thing, playing with stickers!

2/19/2016: Click here to see photo on FB:

Just as I want to throw a big, sloppy, loud, ugly mommy tantrum because we got the news we will have to stay hospitalized at least 2 more weeks my phone rings. Another long-distance mama calling me for an ear that just says, "I've been there! I hear you!" This is the third call this week from mamas struggling as they bear the tough weight of this fostercare journey.

She encouraged me without knowing it. I shared our real with her and before I know it I am preaching to myself. About God's grace, His refining fire, and how He didn't make a mistake when He put you right where you are. God used that phone call to remind myself that during these most difficult times He is teaching me (or reminding me) how to rely and depend FULLY on Him. I am so flawed and far from perfect, for if I did have it all together I could point to myself but I don't, so I point to Jesus.

Deep down I know why I am here. I would rather spend 100 days in the hospital with this girl than 1 day at home without her. I may not be able to keep her from having to stay in the hospital but I can make sure that she is never again in the hospital alone. God doesn't need to pour out His goodness on me, for He already has when He called me to be the mommy of my sweet Britt Britt!

So many of you were sweet enough to offer to send a card or stickers to our Britt girl to brighten her stay here at the hospital. Let's do it! Handmade construction paper cards are perfect, no need for store bought, and whatever sheet of stickers you have lying around will bring her joy! SHARE to spread the word to show some love to a precious little girl!

We gots our hairs did! I put lots of bright and happy beads in it to brighten up our hospital stay! We can certainly feel your prayers, this hospital stay doesn't feel nearly as hard emotionally as it could. And a huge thank you for our two packages of stickers today, one from Maryland and one from Las Vegas, Nevada! You guys are amazing!!!

Thank you for your kindness and generous sticker gifts! You can see them all over Britt's legs! Lol! The doctor said she is doing well and surprised us by sending us home today!!! We have to come back in a few days for a check-up so no sticker deliveries will be missed but we can go home!

The doctor just came in and said we could go home today!!! We were expecting to camp out here until early March but they are working on discharge papers now! I am too excited!!!

Posted by Shannon