Sunday, March 9, 2014

My Kind of Beautiful....

My Emma and I took a trip recently to our Nation's Capital. As I walked through the buildings of shiny marble, massive columns, and intricate architecture, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. Entering the National Cathedral, I couldn't even bring myself to photograph my surroundings. Pictures just didn't seem to convey the power and glory that I felt being "in" something so beautiful. Even places full of sorrow, like the Holocaust Museum, the Korean Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery gave off an unspoken presence that caused me to stop and Thank God for the gift of remembrance. And then we came home... To the plain brick house where Todd and my girls were waiting for us. I looked around the next day, less than 24 hours after being in DC, and became completely overwhelmed at the beauty that is our life. My floors were a complete mess - littered with toys, playdough, and puzzles with missing pieces. All I could think was, "Where's my camera? THIS is my idea of beautiful." Click... My youngest daughter was napping on the couch as I tackled the massive pile of clothes waiting to be laundered. Click... I watched my Emma, practicing tolerance with her little Sister and our Special needs neighbor. Click... I noticed when our oldest came home from walking her puppy and began filling me in on her day. Click... I saw a little girl so excited to see the man of my dreams come home from work that she RAN to the fence to greet him. Click... I shared news of sorrow with my spouse, so we could pray together for our friends who so desperately need it. Click... The kitchen pantry, in need of replenishing, the broken swing that needs a new strap, the arguments between two little girls who don't really want to share their Momma with each other. Click... Click... Click... In the chaos and insanity that consumes us, in the dark moments when I feel inadequate, in the times when I feel like I am uneducated and unaware of all the things in this big 'ol world, God reminds me of the beauty that is my life. Sigh......

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Big Girls do Cry...

I'm not a very emotional kinda gal... or rather, I don't show emotion as openly as a lot of other folks. There are very few times that I cry (especially in public). But a year ago today, sitting in the Colbert County Court House, I cried. It began when I was asked to "give a recap" of why/how we met our Nevie. I was holding the hand of her Great Grandmother and had to tell the story, out loud, of how much she loved Nevie, but simply couldn't care for her physically. I cried because for the first time in months, I let myself 100% believe that her adoption was actually going to take place. I cried because I was overwhelmed by the emotions of years spent waiting and praying and questioning and wondering. I cried tears of Praise for a God who sustained us. I cried because you always cry when fairy tales come true. Happy Gotcha Day to our 4th Beautiful Daughter....You were, and still are, SO wanted.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Beautiful sound of Healing

I have really struggled with the decision to share this story. Not that it is anything big, but because I decided long ago that I didn't want my children to be defined by their past. Our sweet Nevie was 10Months old when she came to live with us. She begin having night terrors a few months later and praise God they only happen occasionally now. She sleeps in our bed, usually tucked inside Todd's arm. That is where she feels safe, and although it causes us to lose a little sleep and feel a little sore in the morning, that is where she needs to be right now. One night this past week, she semi-woke up and instead of crying out in her sleep, she laughed. In her sleep..... my baby girl laughed. Now don't misunderstand, she laughs a LOT in the daytime. She is full of smiles and curiosity and love...but at night, when she isn't aware of her surroundings, she can go somewhere that isn't happy. And as her mother, that breaks my heart. I share this to remind people of the awesome power of healing. It is such a beautiful sound, healing. Letting go and forgetting the past. Relaxing, feeling safe. And God overwhelms me on a regular basis of the fact that it IS possible.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Blessings 2012

As Christmas time rolls around again, we are so overwhelmed with all of our blessings! We completed the adoption of our 4th daughter, Miss Nevianna Rose Isbell on May 25th of this year. She turned '2' just a few days later and she is keeping her old Mom and Dad on our toes:) Ellie has been driving for a year now and is such an intelligent and mature young lady. Emma will turn 13 in a few weeks and she is SO ready for the teenage years with all the fun (and drama) that comes along with it! Avery has found theatre and has had the chance to play Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker" and Gladys in "The Best Christmas Pagent Ever". We've also had our "Nanny JoJo" join us this year. Our friend, Emily, is living with us temporarily and the girls love having her around. We had a short term foster care placement, but have withdrawn our license and are no longer serving as Foster Care Parents. But that doesn't mean we aren't busy....or without kiddos to love on! Our newest addition was born in June and joined our family in July. Miss Sophia Alyse-Grace is the biological sister to our Nevie and will soon be our adopted sister!!! She is such an unexpected bonus in our lives! (And further proof that God builds families in the most amazing ways!) We are so Thankful that God gives us His children to love on and be a part of our lives. And we are Thankful always that He gave us HIS precious child on that first Christmas. Todd is still farming (of course) and I am just taking care of life each day... They say "It takes a Village to raise a child" and most days it seems kinda like we are a 'village' on our own... There are happy days, crazy days, busy days, and every once in a while, lazy days...but we wouldn't change anything!! We are in awe of how God has built the perfect family for us. Hope your Christmas is so very special! And we pray that you take the time to notice all of the Miracles of life around you this Holiday season...(We certainly do)

Friday, November 2, 2012


Well. it is November...and everywhere you look, people are sharing the things they are Thankful for-and I LOVE seeing it. But November is also National Adoption awarness month and I wanted to share a few things we are Thankful for as a family. I am Thankful for closed doors. I am thankful that God told me, "NO, You aren't ready yet" when I wanted SO much for Him to say, "Yes". I am thankful that He has taught me, my husband, and my girls that there is a broken world out there that is bigger and more complicated than we could have ever imagined. I am Thankful that we have learned to never take our children for granted. I am Thankful that we have learned that they can be taken from us at any moment, so we should love while we can and as strongly as we can. I am Thankful that God has shown us that it IS possible to love those who hurt you, and that healing IS not only possible, but it is beautiful. I am Thankful for new friends and new family thst I would not have had without this frustrating road of adoption. I am Thankful for the chance to mentor and guide others who are considering the path. I am BEYOND Thankful that God allowed our family to be a stepping stone for some amazing kiddos that have beat the odds and are currently living out God's plans for their lives. And Thankful isn't a strong enough word to describe how I feel about our girls. Adoption is such a beautiful thing... but not in the fairy tale way that people imagine. Adoption is about SO much more than adding a new family member. It is about love, desire, heartache, and growth. For us, it has been about learning that we are just a tiny blip on this big 'ol earth. It is very humbling to realize we have been chosen by God to care for our precious daughters, and for that, we will forever be THANKFUL:)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Nevi's blankets

I know it has been a while since I updated...things have been a little crazy around our house the last year or so, and quite honestly..I just haven't had the time. But tonite, I had a few thoughts, and this seemed like a good place to record them.

I have begun sewing in the past year. Not anything fancy, just mending really..(and the hobby was born out of necessity). Anyways, here lately it has started to become kind of fun to take something that is torn/ "broken" somehow/ or the wrong fit maybe, and try to 'fix' it... Today I picked up a couple of blankets at a consignment sale. They are very simple and look like the kind of thing your great aunt gives to you at a baby shower that no one every really wants to use. I was drawn to them because you could tell they were hand made. I thought to myself, "these were probably never even appreciated". So I paid the sale price of $1.00. brought them home, and threw them into the washing machine. When I got them out of the dryer, I noticed the stitching had come loose from the lace edges. "No worries", I thought to myself, "I just so happen to have a sewing machine handy...I'll fix these blankets right up and we will give them the new life they deserve".
However, when I began to try to mend the holes left where the inexpensive fabric and the delicate lace met, things didn't go so well...

It got me thinking about our job as foster care parents.
God has blessed Todd and I with the discernment to see the 'worth' in every child. He had placed within us the desire to try and 'mend' some of the holes and brokeness that losing your family creates... but it isn't always that easy.
A lot of times, no matter how much we try, we can't 'fix' those broken places.

But it doesn't change the 'worth' of that child.

...So on to Plan B.... I got out my needle and thread, determined to make those blankets useful. I could have just thrown them out- after all, I only paid $1.00 for them, and we don't really need them anyway. But I didn't... I began to sew the torn places, and I began to cry...
God flooded my heart with the reminder that not every child is a quick fix. Sometimes, we have to do things differently to mend the brokeness. It takes a little longer, keeps us up a little later... and at the end of it, sometimes the 'blankets' still have weak spots in them... places you can tell will break again one day. It would have been SO much better if I could have stitched them with a stronger thread/ or used a tighter seam... but that wasn't an option. They were just too delicate for that.

The blankets are beautiful.. they are sitting on my dresser waiting for their turn to be snuggled. If you look closely, you can see the places where the fabric doesn't quite line up and the knots of a "hand stitched" seam... but that is ok.. They have been given a new life, a new family to love them, and they are finally appreciated for what they were created to be. And for so much more...

Monday, April 12, 2010

'It really is that simple...'

OK...So WOW! What an amazingly average day that has ended with some GREAT news. Avery and "K" both prayed and asked Jesus to come into their hearts tonight. I am overwhelmed with Joy and Praise to a God who loves my children. Avery has such a great understanding of God and who He is. There is no doubt that her decision was genuine and came after much thought and prayer. We have been talking to her for some time now about her decision and fear has stopped her from asking Jesus into her heart. God allowed Todd and I to be with her tonight and give her the support she needed to officially ask God to be her Savior. She felt SO GREAT! Even at her young age, she had been carrying the weight of sin around with her.

Now, let me back up a little and tell you how God spoke to me through all of this.
I have felt a little overwhelmed and somewhat inadequate the last few days. We had a guest speaker at church yesterday who spoke about laying our burdens down to God. His point was "Why don't we? Why don't we give God our burdens EVERY day? Why do we only go to Him when things are REALLY bad? How would our lives be different if we just gave EVERYTHING to Him..EVERY day?" SO...I've thought a lot about it and I decided today to write my "burdens" down, and turn them over to God. I sat at the park while the girls played today and wrote them all out on a borrowed sheet of paper. My doubts, my fears, my failures, my inconsistencies, my limitations.... I was pretty hard on myself.
I would love to tell you that God spoke to me in the midst of the park, but He didn't.

He spoke to me tonight at the supper table.
"K" says out of the blue (somewhere in between "do I have to eat all of it?" and "can i have desert now?") that "I have decided to ask Jesus into my heart and today is gonna be the day I do it."

That simple. I want Jesus and I want Him now.
We were not talking about salvation. We hadn't even made it to devotion time yet. I was (in my own strength) doing nothing to lead her to Christ. Christ CAME to HER! So easy and almost hard for us to accept. We want salvation to be hard. We want it to be something that we have talked about, explored, explained... We want to try to figure out if it is "real". Then God whispered to me, "MELINDA, IT REALLY IS THAT SIMPLE... I'VE GOT THIS ALL UNDER CONTROL. ALL THOSE THINGS YOU WORRY ABOUT..WHY? YOU KNOW I AM ENOUGH."
I'm not sure how much "K" understands, but she knows who God is, she knows who Jesus is. She knows WHY He came to earth, and she knows that He rose again to save HER. That is, quite simply, enough.
As for me... I just have to do my best. I thank God for the reminder that IT REALLY IS that simple. HE is enough.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Doxcology

Weird name for a post, i know... but for the last couple of weeks-this is the song I have stuck in my head.....
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

God has been so evident in our lives lately. We have a new placement and while my heart breaks for them, God has "leveled out the mountains" in so many ways. We started this placement a little differently, I guess. I have prayed-----about EVERYTHING---and God worked out so many "little" miracles for our family. The girls (yes, Todd is surrounded by MORE girls) are adjusting well. There is such a sense of peace even among the chaos!!! I get to brush hair for the first time ever!!! Yea! It is so much fun! I would love to share more about the girls, but I cant. I will tell you they are beautiful, sad at times, happy at others. They are smart, demanding, helpful, inquistive. They crave attention and try to get it any way they can (both good and bad). They are SO SWEET and will be the first to compliment you... They miss their family, but are making the best of what life has given them. They are learning about God and we are trying our best to model for them LOVE, RESPECT, ENCOURAGEMENT, TRUTH, FORGIVENESS, PATIENCE, ENDURANCE, and FAITH. That is why we praise God (from whom all blessings flow). He is allowing us the amazing opportunity to minister in His name.

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's the perfect picture!

OK, so i didn't mean for this picture to post sideways, but I decided it was kind of a good description of the last year. This is a painting Avery did for me on Mother's day of our "family". It is framed in my kitchen and will stay there.
Looking back, it's been a really BUSY year for us. We had a placement in the Spring/Summer and you can think of EVERY emotion and know that we experienced it at some point. We have a lot of fun memories from the time they spent with us. We also learned a lot about each other and what our family is capable of. Like any other area of ministy, the kids were not the hardest part... navigating the system, birthparents, schedules, etc... was what we were probably the most surprised/ overwhelmed by. (Oh yeah, and I still haven't learned to accept the INSANE way the world works) The youngest one gave us all sorts of "one liners" that still creep up in conversation. She was a funny little girl. It's pretty quiet around here these days, and we are on stand-by again. I would love to tell you that I am getting good at waiting, but I'm not.
Our girls are still growing.... Ellie is- no doubt- gonna pass me in height this year. Emma is taking gymnastics and is wonderful at it. (The floor BOUNCES in the gym, and anyone who knows Emma realizes how great that is for her!!) Avery is still just lovin' life (and coughing). She's just happy to be wherever, doing whatever...

I've decided I'll just skip talking about the farm this year...It rained...A LOT...

We hope all of you have a WONDERFUL Christmas. We feel so blessed to have so many friends to send Christmas cards each year.
We love all of you,

Todd, Melinda, and the girls

Saturday, December 6, 2008

It's Christmas time again!!

Well, Christmas 2008 has come and we are (still) a family of five. A year ago, we had hopes that our family would have grown by now in number, but it didn't. That certainly doesn't mean we haven't "grown" though. Our girls become more beautiful each year. Ellie will be a teenager in just a few days and she is so much like her mom that I am scared to death!!! Our little 'monkey in the middle' wakes up every morning with a smile on her face ready to take on the world. (She is just like her Daddy!) And our 'baby' is now a Kindergartner who loves going to big girl school.
Todd had a great year on the farm and with the shift from less cotton to more corn, he has been able to do things with us this fall that were not possible in the past. I'm all about 'going green'! He definitely knows how to grow corn!!
We've had two new babies in our family this year. My big brother had his first daughter, Shelton and my sister had her baby this week. Baby Aiden is 5 days old and will have surgery on Monday to correct a serious heart defect. My God is good and I have no doubts that He will heal Aiden's body on Monday.
We have spent the last year pursuing foster care and are actually licensed foster care parents with the Alabama Baptist Children's Home. Things moved pretty slowly for a while (the foster care program is relatively new at the Decatur campus). We have had several calls for potential placements, but none of them were meant to be. Basically, we are on 'standby' for children who need a temporary home. We have come to realize that we have to make ourselves available for God to use us as HE SEES FIT. He has blessed us with three beautiful children and we could never thank Him enough or even find words to tell you how important they are to us.
I have a peace today that I didn't have a year ago. I have more patience, more tolerance, more understanding, and more love. I have peace that God IS taking care of orphans in their distress and He IS choosing people to be a part of that. I don't feel like I am running after God anymore begging for Him to let me in on the plan. I feel like we are open (and ready) and when GOD is ready for our family to serve, He will let us know.
We hope your family has a Holiday season full of blessings! Thank you for your friendship!!!
The Isbells