How can so many things go through your mind at once? Today is Jesse's third birthday, which means all the usual birthday festivities with cards, gifts, a special supper, and the likes. This morning his bright smiles hardly fit on his shining face as we sang, "Happy Birthday" for him. I am so happy for him, but then there is also an ache, as I stare off in the distance, wondering why his adoption could not be finalized a year ago how the foster agency had told us it would?

My mind then flips back to a little over two years ago, when our excitement knew no end; the birth parents had told us they made the heartbreaking decision to sign their rights over to us. Even though our hearts throbbed with theirs, and it looked like a major step on our part, we were completely thrilled to be forever family.

The year before was when we received that first call from the foster agency, asking if we would take a 15 month-old bi-racial girl and her newborn baby brother. Even though I was five months into my pregnancy with Elijah, we immediately knew there was no question that God was calling us to take this leap in faith. Yes, since that call, my life has never been the same. I have come to love and cherish these two little dears as my own. Only God knows the valleys and tears this house has seen since then, yet it has been worth it all. You know how it is, the more rough spots you plow through, the richer the relationship in the end. Both my husband, Daniel, and I can testify to the truth of that little statement.

Now, as three years roll around since they first became a part of our family, I find myself wiping more tears and asking God if we have waited long enough now for the adoption to be finalized. I then sense the love that only He can give as He tenderly acknowledges how much my mother heart has longed to call these children my own and be free from the "what ifs" lurking in the back of my mind. He has seen it all; there is no question.

I am reminded of the promise God gave early on during the foster process, while the biological parents were still trying to do what they could do to have their children reunited with them. Several times when I felt overwhelmed, thinking of all they could yet be facing in these tender young years, God brought this verse to me, "No man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand." How comforting. In my mind, I could see the Father's hand, outstretched, with our two beloved foster children completely safe inside. I knew it might not all be easy, yet God remains Lord, even over the little ones entrusted into our care. By His grace, we will keep going; after all, we aren't doing this for ourselves, but only for the Father. He knows the end, that's all that matters.

So for today, we'll have a bright and happy birthday party, thanking God for this special day with Jesse, and trust that all the rest of his days and years are in hands, so much stronger and more capable than ours.

Jesse helped me bake a chocolate cake this forenoon. When Julia comes home from school, she'll help us decorate it. We have not yet picked a theme for his cake. Perhaps we'll make a barnyard with animals. When I asked what else he'd like for his supper, he just kept talking about his cake, which is obviously the most important part to him. He loves sandwiches, so we'll have fish sandwiches with fish we caught this summer and have a veggie stir-fry and ice cream to go with the cake. A couple of minutes ago, I heard him waking from his nap and singing happy birthday must be he slept with birthday celebrations reeling through his mind.

Last week the children helped me mix up a batch Daddy's favorite meatballs; how about joining in?

BEEFY MEATBALLS

3 pounds ground beef (or venison or a blend)

1 3 /4 cup milk

1 cup quick oats

1 cup cracker crumbs

2 eggs

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon onion salt

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Salt and pepper

BARBECUE SAUCE

2 cups ketchup

3 /4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon mustard

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 1 /2 teaspoon liquid smoke

• Instructions

1. In a large bowl, combine the ground venison, milk, oats, cracker crumbs, eggs, and seasonings. Mix until the meat mixture is well-combined.

2. Shape the meat into 1 1 /2 inch balls.

3. Place the balls on cookie sheets and bake at 350°F until no longer pink inside, approx 45 minutes.

4. In a Dutch oven, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, and liquid smoke.

5. Stir until well-combined and heat over medium, stirring frequently, until near boiling.

6. Add the meatballs to the sauce, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

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