Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Forever Changed

This is how Zander feels about being in our family forever :-)

We feel the same way! We are filled with joy knowing that it has been cemented in the eyes of the law what we felt in our hearts from Day 1: He is our son. We have loved him, we have nurtured him, we have nursed him back to health, we have cried over how sick he has been...and rejoiced in how far he has come. He makes us laugh, he makes our hearts soar and we are eternally grateful for his biological parents who made the selfless decision to let us be his forever family.

I have so many emotions that swell within my heart. However, there is one that comes up often: a sense of almost panic that this might not have been our story. If events hadn't occurred that led us to open our hearts to foster care, to adoption, to saying "Yes" at the exact time we did, Zander wouldn't be with us. I CANNOT IMAGINE our lives without him. He is shaping each of us into the people that God wants us to be. I've learned so much from him and my understanding of scripture where it speaks of us as being God's adopted sons and daughters, has deepened.

The circumstances that brought Zander into care are heartbreaking. The personal events that brought us to foster care and adoption are intermingled with pain and disappointment. Once Zander was with us, the ups and downs of the foster care system and the legal system were not without heartache YET the God we serve is a God of redemption. All of our lives have been redeemed; beauty has risen from the ashes.

There are so many ways that God calls us into God's redemptive work in this world. Sometimes we are too busy to notice and sometimes we say "No God, not right now" or "No God, there is no way I could do what you are asking of me." What are we missing out on? What is being delayed through our fears or stubbornness to step out in faith? I'm not just talking about foster care and adoption but every day events where God nudges you to say a kind word, to extend grace to someone you rather not, to give of your resources or time to a person or organization, to be bold and share your testimony of how God has worked in your life, etc.

Spend some time reflecting on your day or week. Where do you feel like God showed up for you? Were there times that you felt God's nudging? How did you respond? Spend time talking with God, giving thanks for the opportunities to be Christ's hands and feet in this world; ask for forgiveness for the times you ignored God or flat out said "No." Allow God's grace to wash over you and free you for joyful obedience in the days and weeks to come.

I'm so glad we said "Yes" to God. We are all forever changed. But I know there are times when I have said "No" to other things that God gave me nudges about. May we all be attentive to God who shows up in new and unexpected ways throughout our lives and gives us the awesome privilege to be in ministry together.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

This November I am posting to Facebook what I am grateful for each and every day. Yesterday, my heart was stirred enough that I felt that a blog post would be a better way to explain what I am grateful for because this just isn’t going to fit in a sentence or two!
Yesterday was the Parent Visitation Day at my younger kid’s school. Mikayla is in 4th grade and I had a wonderful time seeing her classroom, talking to her teacher more and helping her with a Thanksgiving work packet. We got done a few minutes early and I asked what she normally does when she is done with her work early and she said she writes in her journal. It is a private notebook that the students can write whatever they want; something that is not graded but rather a place to pour out their thoughts. Mikayla said she wanted to share it with me. I opened it up and it took everything in me not to start sobbing like a baby. Filling the lines of the first few pages was the story of her life, one where the beginning was marked by the time that we began fostering. The words that filled the pages, some misspelled (which somehow made it even more sweet) were how she loved all the children that have come into our home. She wrote about having “Z” come to our house and he was so cute and she loved to hold him. She wrote of the first night our foster daughter came to our house and was scared, so Mikayla let her crawl up to her bed and so she could comfort her. She shares about the task of packing the beautiful girl’s stuff up almost a year later so she could go live with her brother. She said how much she loved her and how laid with her again, giving her all the love that she could take with her. The bookend of “J’s “ time with us: covered in Mikayla’s love and protection.

It reminded me that when people heard that we were going to be foster parents, not all were thrilled. Many worried about what that would mean for our other children. Would it be right to bring another child in our home that would need so much attention (and therefore take attention away from our own children)? Would it be right to expose our children to the broken world we live in? They would come to know about parents who abuse their children, about families ripped apart by domestic violence or drug use. They would learn about the justice system, court cases, incarcerated parents, etc. Shouldn’t we just shield them from that until they are older? Then what happens when a child leaves, aren’t you setting your children up for grief they cannot handle?

Folks, we don’t give our kids enough credit. I have watched God work through my children to minister to children and adults who are broken. I have seen how our own sin and brokenness has come to the forefront and how God has used our experiences through foster care and adoption to try and mold us and make us into the people we were created to be. I have seen Jesus in action. Are Craig and I perfect, heck no!! Are my kids perfect, a big NOPE to that too. But God works through our weaknesses as well as our strengths.

If you have thought about doing foster care and have thought that you couldn’t possibly do it because you have children at home, I encourage you to pray and think more about that. You definitely need to take into consideration your own unique children and family situation. I also don’t want people to hear that we sacrifice the safety of our own children to minister to others. There are several children who we had to say no to because I felt like the safety of my child(ren) could be compromised.

But give your children some credit. God has given ALL of us gifs that are to be used to glorify God and help others. So yesterday, today and every day, I am grateful that God is using us through foster care and adoption. I am not glad that these two things exist because they stem from the brokenness of humanity but they are a constant reminder of God’s grace and the redemption that is possible through Him. I will always treasure what I read yesterday. It was a lesson for me too and a reminder of how great God is.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013



A lot has been happening in the lives of the Barkley’s but the biggest change is that we moved. While it is not the first time we have moved to a different home or even a different town, it is the first time we have moved out of the area in which Craig and I grew up. It is also the first time that we have moved away from our families. I have to say that after living here for 2 months that we feel it is home. The kids have made a lot of new friends, our new church congregation welcomed us with open arms, the kids love their new schools, the list of positives go on.

That said, I have learned an important life lesson through all of this and one that I think can relate to our faith lives as well. If anyone knows me, they know that I am directionally impaired. However, living here has taken this to a whole new level. I get lost VERY often. I make a wrong turn, then realize my mistake and try to go back and change my course only to repeat the same mistake over again! It is so aggravating!

Likewise, when I go to the grocery store, I am lost on the inside. These are new stores for us, I don’t know where the items are located and some of the things that we like aren’t carried at those stores (for example, we are having a hard time find Gracie’s fruit chillers). I go up and down the aisles looking for things, figuring out new brands or varieties as I try to get the items on my list.

Then I won’t even bore you with the obstacles I had getting a new drivers license or registering the kids for school.

What I realized through all of this is that almost all of these tasks are things I have done on autopilot for a long time. How many of you, drive to a store or work and really don’t even remember the actual drive there? How many of you, make your grocery list up by mentally going down the aisles and writing things in order so it’s less work when you get there? It is SO much harder when you actually have to be present and to think through all of these tasks and the decisions involved.

If many of us our honest, we could say the same about our faith life at times. It is so easy to get on autopilot. We go to church to worship on Sunday (or Saturday or Wednesday), maybe we read a devotion or say a prayer every day but really we are just checking it off our list. We are not really studying or pondering the Scripture or dwelling with God in prayer. We start to fall into the trap of faith just being about a private feeling or set of beliefs. We go to church to be with our friends or family, to check in with them for the week and maybe “fill our tank” spiritually but we stop actively listening for the Spirit of God to speak to us, corporately and individually, to listen for the ways we are called to be Jesus’ hands and feet. We stop listening for the radical difference the Church is called to make. It simply falls back into a “thing” that we do on autopilot; one without a lot of thought or energy behind it.

So in this new season, I’ve been spending time being more intentional in my faith life and in my family life. I don’t want to get complacent. While it does take a lot more energy and can even be downright irritating at times and it may lead to feeling convicted by God in an area or two we may not want to be,

Revelation 3:15 says, “I know everything you have done, and you are not cold or hot. I wish you were either one or the other.”

God doesn’t want us sitting in the middle, complacent and on autopilot. So I encourage you to take a peek at your life and see if you have fallen into complacency. If so, be more intentional, pay attention, I promise you that you will be on your way to the abundant life that God desires for you.

Monday, July 1, 2013

2 years ago today

It was 2 years ago today that our little man was placed in our arms for the first time. God took a painful, broken situation and brought forth beauty. I look at a simple image of the two boys have a breakfast picnic sharing some fruit loops and my heart soars with love. These two love each other more than words can say. We are so blessed to have "Z" in our lives and CANNOT WAIT for that day coming soon (please Lord SOON) that a judge will declare that he is legally our son.
FYI, this picture was taken in the living room of the place we will now call home. We LOVE our home and the neighborhood we live in. Everyone here has been so welcoming and we are enjoying our time exploring all that there is to offer in our area and beyond. There is so much to do outdoors! I'm taking this time to reconnect with God through nature and just b.r.e.a.t.h.e.
Praying you can take the time to see the beauty that surrounds you both in the presence of loved one and the beauty of creation.

Monday, June 10, 2013


This post (and many others floating around my head) is WAY overdue. Since the announcement in April that I have been appointed to Palos Heights United Methodist Church, people have had a lot of questions. So here is my attempt to answer many of those:

Where exactly is Palos Heights? How far away is it?
Palos Heights, Illinois is about an hour and 45 minutes southeast of Rockford. It is  a southwestern suburb of Chicago and close to Orland Park and Joliet (which people seem to recognize more J).

When do you start?
The appointment officially starts July 1st.

Will you move houses or just commute?
Our family will be moving to Palos Heights.

Have you found a house in Palos Heights?
The church has a parsonage (a church owned home that the pastor and their family live in).

When do you move?
We will move out of our current home on June 27th and move in our parsonage on June 28th. (Please pray packing mercies on the Barkleys!!)

What will you do with your home here, was that a parsonage too?
Our current home is a home we purchased (I did have a housing reimbursement account that covered most of our house payment). We intended to sell our home and proceeded to try selling it on our own when, out of the blue, a family member found out they were going to need to rent a different home! We are praising God that this seems like a great solution for us and for them, at least for the time being.

What about your foster children, will they come with?
We have 2 foster children in our home right now. Baby “Z” (though I really should stop calling him a baby now that he is 2…but he’s still my baby J) and Baby “K.” Z will be coming with us as we are awaiting the finalization of his adoption into our family (that will be a HUGE post when that happens!!). We will need to continue to meet with our social worker until that is finalized. We are hopeful this will not slow down the adoption process in any way (fyi adoption is S.L.O.W. and I understand it  is a LOT of work BUT in the name of Jesus, someone needs to reform the process and the paperwork!!!!!!! Rant over.)

 Baby “K” will not be moving with us L She is currently in the process of trying to be reunited with her biological parent(s) and she does have weekly visitation with one parent. She also has visits with her brother. Palos Heights is too far away to maintain those visits and not put any more added strain on K. It is looking like a family member will step up and care for her which was the original plan and hopefully, what will be the best for K. We ask for prayers for her, her family and ours as we say goodbye and transition to this new chapter without each other. We trust that God loves K even more that we do and will continue to protect her and heal her family.

What is Palos Heights UMC like? How many in worship?
It is my understanding that Palos Heights UMC is compromised of many older adults and their families as well as a handful of younger generation families. There are children and youth actively participating in the life of the congregation. I was told there are around 80 in worship on Sunday. They worship at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday in their beautiful  sanctuary.

Will you be the Senior Pastor?
I will actually be a solo pastor or lead pastor.  A Senior Pastor implies you have an Associate Pastor and at this time, Palos Heights does not have an Associate Pastor.

How does your children feel about the move? How about your husband?
My kids are really excited about the move! We feel this is an adventure for our family and we look forward to meeting new friends and connecting with a new community. That said, now that our time in Rockford is drawing to a close and they have gone through their last days at school, the reality is setting in a little more. The truth is, we love our church family, our many friends and our family (who has always lived close to us). It will be hard to say goodbye  and as we begin saying these goodbyes, our hearts hurt. We know God will soothe these wounds with the loving community that awaits us.

My husband, Craig, is also excited about the move. We love the outdoors and Palos Heights has so many outdoor places (forest preserves, bike paths, hiking paths, lake, etc.) for us to discover together.

What about Craig’s job? Will he need to find a new job?
This has also been a complete blessing. My husband is the Director of IT for Physicians Immediate Care and has clinics all over the Chicago area as well as some work in Indiana. He usually is traveling to Chicago and driving back to Rockford. He will be able to retain his job, work out of one of the clinics close to our new home and hopefully do a little less traveling!

Why do they move pastors so often in the United Methodist Church? Didn’t you just get here?!!
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism felt that the itineracy of pastors allowed for fresh theology and new life for pastors and congregations, as pastors move from one church to another. As painful as it can be to say goodbye, I believe Wesley had it right. As pastors (and as people), we all have different gifts and graces. In different seasons of church life, those gifts and graces can be used to help heal, inspire and grow congregations. Each pastor has their own interpretation of our United Methodist theological beliefs, their own unique stories, preaching, teaching and congregational care styles; we have a fresh set of eyes as the “newbie” to see things that those who have been there for awhile no longer see.

I was just recently with several pastors who are going to be changing churches in July. They all love their current churches, however, the excitement in the air was tangible! New places, new people, new possibilities can invigorate a pastor and it can be just the breath of fresh air congregations need not to get stagnant in their ministries but to live out the Gospel mandate to GO and make disciples.

I came to Christ UMC in October 2008 (while serving Bethany UMC in downtown Rockford). The appointment was unique to the circumstances of the church at the time and I’ve continued to see the church through many changes…many losses and many joys. It has been a BLESSING to be a pastor for the church that can take credit for making me who I am today.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Dimly Lit Mirror


My blog has been very quiet lately. The truth is, I didn’t have the energy to write everything has transpired in the past few months: the good, the bad…the ugly. I think part of me didn’t want to write it out because writing is very therapeutic for me and I know that I’m going to feel everything as I write this. But I hope what I write will not only give you an “update” but also maybe be a word that someone needs to hear..I guess that’s what I always hope to happen through my writing.

As I looked at the calendar I realized that one year ago today is the day that “J” came to our house. When she came I knew that there was a very large chance that “J” was not going to be returning to her biological family and that they were looking for a forever home for her. I thought we would be that forever home…or at least I was hoping to. Anyone who has read this blog knows that “J” has lived through a lot of rough things in her life and a lot of homes. From the day she came here, the road was bumpy, sometimes extremely bumpy. She hit some very “low” times within the first few months of being here and quite frankly we were exhausted and wondering if our family could withstand the stress of having her here. However, after a few more months and A LOT of extra resources “J” started to turn a corner. I felt there was hope. One of the big parts of J’s story is that she has a brother in which she is VERY close to and while I will not share the details, she was separated from him. Near the end of last summer, they began to visit one another. Two things happened: one was how overwhelmingly close they were and how apparent that someone made a mistake in separating them and two, her behavior started to become quite difficult again. It was so confusing for such a small child to be torn between these two worlds: her home here and her brother (who doesn’t live in town). Prayerfully, we began to discern whether it really would be best for the two of them to be reunited. I am thankful to have established a relationship with her brother’s foster parents and after several months we decided that it would be best for them to be together; being apart was difficult for both of them and the two of them have a bond like no other. We began transitional visits for about a month or so and then on December 2nd we brought her to her new home. We had prepared for that moment as best as we could. She had been excited to go and live there but when we got there, it was HARD. I tried so much to be strong for her, though my heart was breaking into a million pieces. I was praying that we were doing the right thing for her and for everyone. I love that little girl so much and she will always be my daughter. Her little hand is forever imprinted on my heart.

At the very same time all of this was going on, things took a MAJOR change with baby “Z.” A few days before we said goodbye to J, we had a surprising phone call that said his parents wanted to meet with us and talk about allowing us to adopt “Z!” It was an emotional roller coaster. I will keep private what happened in that visit but I can say that it was holy ground and we will forever be grateful for the sacrifice they were making for their son. TWO DAYS after we said goodbye to “J” we went to court where his parents would sign the necessary paperwork. I decided to get cards for his parents and also a special picture and frame of Z for them. As I was driving to court, I couldn’t help but think about the sacrifice of both of them but especially of his mother. I am not a mother who has given up my biological child and do not want to claim to know what that feels like, but I had just done what I thought was the right thing for J and allowed her to go and be raised by another family. I had let go of a piece of my own heart and knowing the heartache of that made me feel so much for the loss that Z’s mom (and dad) who were and still are, feeling such loss. I am so thankful for the ability to be a part of God’s redeeming plan on Z’s life. We love him so much and are overwhelmed at how much he is a part of our family and can’t imagine if he wasn’t our forever son/brother/grandson/nephew. He is a Barkley! We cannot wait until it is official (there is a lot of paperwork and legal “stuff” that needs to be done for the adoption and it can take 6-9 months+).

Now here we are not quite two months later. Things have continued to be a roller coaster ride. We received another little girl “K” back in early November. She has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition in which we have been fighting. I’ve been in contact with J’s new family and things have been hard for her. However, a bombshell was dropped yesterday when they called to update me. Her foster mom let me know that it was discovered that J has a medical condition, one that could have explained a lot of her difficult behaviors as well as things that we saw and were concerned about. It has raised up so many emotions. First, I’m mad that no one listened when I shared my concerns, I’m mad that no other professional discovered this and I think most of all I feel guilty, guilty that I didn’t push more until someone figured it out, guilty for not knowing the poor girl was suffering from a medical condition when it looked like a lot of behavioral issues…and I think most of all, wondering if it would have changed anything. Would she still be here with us…would life with her and her ability to live apart from her brother been more manageable. I still believe they should have never been separated in the first place but so much pain and heartache for both of them…oh how the system has failed them on so many levels. These children need advocates, people who will fight for them; who will be their voice. At this same time, I’ve had to FIGHT for “K” because I KNEW that there was something REALLY wrong and the doctor was NOT listening. She had to suffer for at least 2 months. So many things are just not right; they are not fair for these kids.

The truth is foster care (and adoption) is HARD. There is a lot of pain involved. One of the most painful parts is not to be able to see the whole picture (on so many levels). I’ve been thinking about 1 Corinthians 13:12 that talks about seeing things in dimly lit mirror, however, I really resonated with the New Living Translation of this scripture “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

In this world, we see thing imperfectly. I long for the clarity that God has. for the fullness of time when, we too will see with such clarity. It is so painful to not know things clearly, to wonder if decisions you’ve made or directions you have taken are the ones that should be. Only God sees the complete “puzzle.”So in the meantime, I pray for God to guide me. Then I ask God to redeem those mistakes that I have made and for those times that I go the wrong way, for God to turn me around and get me back on the path that God intends me to be on. So in this time of incompleteness and seeing things only partially, I will cling to my God and my Savior who sees everything perfectly clear.