mountaintop

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

“The valley low, that’s where we make our homes.
But this I know: that’s what He’s saved us for…”

All the way home from Grandma’s, my children sing this at the top of their little lungs, voices and hands raised together. These are the words I want my children singing forever – the words of “living and loving among the ruins”. This is the primary lesson we want to teach our children: that of a sacrificial love in the middle of this broken world.

When we sing this song on Sundays, when I see my brown-skinned two-year-old daughter in the aisle with her blond-headed two-year-old friend holding hands and dancing their hearts out to this song, I am overwhelmed with this prophetic vision that God gave one man – one man who was faithful to live and love even here, in the ruins. Who gave his very life as a result of speaking out for God’s truth in this broken world. That’s the kind of life I want my children to live. We were saved for something, not just from something. There are no truths in this world that I want my children to learn more than this one: we just want to do God’s will.

“Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.

And I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I'm happy, tonight.

I'm not worried about anything.

I'm not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!”
(1968) Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

(Thank you The City Harmonic for writing songs like this one. Songs that speak to our family. Songs that speak to our church. You’re our people.)

fence me in

Monday, May 28, 2012

This old house’s door creaks loudly as I try to silently enter the little girl sanctuary of sleepiness. The room is lit up like noonday. (Because you know what’s better than one nightlight? Three.) The very air expands and retracts with the deep in and out of my baby’s breath. I round the corner to peer over the edge of her crib; she is squished against the rails with her blankie, her baby, and Curious George. Even at two, she still loves her bed. She could climb out so easily if she wanted, yet she chooses to stay enclosed. Security is found within the four sides.

The first few weeks after they moved in – I would walk into that very same room, when it housed our boys instead of our girls, to an empty bottom bunk. I’d find our son squeezed in the fifteen inches between the bottom rail of the bed and the wall. Safety was not found in our home until he clearly understood where the walls were, until he knew that we had boundaries here to keep him safe.

One of the first things I learned as a parent is how well children respond to boundaries. They push against them, complain about them, and yet, they are most at peace when kept within them. A teenager in one of the youth groups my husband and I led once told me that she wished her parents would just give her more rules. She didn’t imply it. She didn’t dance around it. She flat out said she wanted more rules. She felt unloved. She felt uncared for. She wanted the safety and security of parental fences.

Given all this, it’s a little ironic that these past couple weeks, I’ve found myself chafing against the boundaries in my own life. I look at the perceived freedom in someone else’s life, and I want that for my own. I feel like if I didn’t have these specific fences in my life – my own four walls, my body, my family, my calling – well, if some of those things were changed or moved, then I would be happier. Then I would wouldn’t be straining against the edges. Things would be easier, less complicated. I wouldn’t be complaining anymore.

I’m neglecting to recognize that true security comes with boundaries. I fail to remember that I feel most safe within the fences God has in place for me. The edges of my life aren’t to keep me captive, but to give me freedom.

We are grieving for an incarcerated family member right now – the very evidence of what happens when we fail to respect the boundaries and fences in our lives. If I’m honest, I have to admit to myself that I, too, need fences. I need the security of having boundaries in my life. It’s not about rules; it often just looks like life circumstances. These are the facts of my life, but these are also the very things that give my life the margin I need. The things that hem me in. That give me purpose and joy and contentment, should I recognize it.

Many years ago, I learned a verse while sitting in a stranger’s living room (for BSF’s fellowship week – if you’re not familiar, I realize it sounds weird. It kind of is.):

“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
Psalm 16:5-6

I really didn’t identify with this verse then, but what is fascinating is the fact that when I typed that verse out just now I didn’t have to look up the words. I knew them by heart. Even though I did not understand what that meant for my life that sunny Texas afternoon that I first heard that passage, God planted that seed in my heart for this very time in my life. More than a decade later, God’s Word is rooted in me. Alive and active.

Today, when I need it most, I know in my heart: God alone is all I need. He alone makes me secure. It’s not about where I live, what my health is like, what my family looks like, how my family behaves, or even the good things I’m doing (or not doing) in my life. It’s about God. Even though my feelings fail me, and I’m overcome with jealousy and doubt, His boundary lines for me are in good places. I have a delightful inheritance.


past 1000, still counting:
1037. a lesser sentence
1038. grace and mercy
1039. a praying husband
1040. circling the wagons
1041. reaching out
1042. children who not only love, but also pray
1043. last day of school
1044. my children’s morning journals – the reading of which is my absolute favorite time of year
1045. the last time the older two run into the door as a first grader and a fourth grader
1046. clean carpets
1047. to-go lunches for a long trip to family
1048. contented crawling baby, so very glad to be home
1049. sleeping in, even for twenty minutes
1050. online TV shows, allowing me to catch up on shows that I can’t normally watch
1051. upstairs air conditioners
1052. graduation parties
1053. showering all three littles quickly and easily
1054. clean smelling hair, kisses goodnight, sweet sleep
1055. the Body
1056. laughing at ourselves, finding humor in tragedy
1057. an evening of ‘tapas’ with my sisters

sunday [14]

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Today, I pray for rain…

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

April Rain Song - Langston Hughes

five friday links

Friday, May 25, 2012

Five links this week – ones I’ve been hanging on to for awhile, savoring over and over again from my bookmarks, one that are newer, and almost all of them moved me to tears. Maybe you won’t have that reaction, but if you do, I offer my apologies in advance.

Meditations on a Messy Life - Lisa Qualls for Empowered to Connect: "When we love people, we invite their brokenness and mess into our lives. Mess is inconvenient; it takes our time, energy, and sometimes money to make it better. Despite our efforts, the mess cannot always be fully contained. It spills over and touches the people who dare to stand near.”

Until a Better Love - Shaun Groves: “We know there’s a better love, a more profound and generous and beautiful love, but this love is all we have sometimes. And this is family isn’t it? Commitment that isn’t circumstantial, whose roots wriggle way down to stretch deeper than feeling, relationship with a memory longer than the present moment.”

one thing that will make your soul explode - chatting at the sky: “Our souls were not made for fame. Our souls were made for the Famous One. O God, save us from ourselves.”

Is Living a Good Story Always Exciting? - Rachel for Prodigal Magazine: “Instead, I think, a good story is about loving others, even when it’s hard. It’s about learning from them. It’s about having hard conversations about race, poverty, justice, love, pain. And doing something about that hard stuff. A good story is told in the quiet moments of laughter, love, and perseverance.”

And finally, my favorite clip of the week. Maybe it’s stupid to tear up when one of your favorites leaves a TV show, but I couldn’t help myself. Goodbye, Kristen Wiig – we’ll miss you on Saturday nights!

complicated emotions

Thursday, May 24, 2012

After a lengthy day away, sweet Baby D crawled all over our living room with delight. It’s the first time I’ve noticed that he has appreciated our house. He smiled when I brought him in the door, and he played happily for a couple hours. (Highly unusual behavior for him in late afternoon/early evening – typically he’s crying this time of the day.)  A couple weeks ago, he crawled up in my lap voluntarily. Last week, he reached for me when I picked him up from a visit.

All of those signs point to the fact that he has started to attach to me. Finally. I expected it long before now. We’ve never cared for a child so attached to his mom and dad. Which is good – so very, very good. However, it’s made my job in particular a little more difficult. It doesn’t feel so good to foster a baby who is so attached to his parents. It doesn’t feel so good to just feel like the babysitter day after day. Right now, I don’t want to be more than the babysitter. I want him to stay attached to his mama. I just don’t know how long he’ll be here, and I think time is running out for us to continue our relationship as is. I don’t believe this in-between stuff is healthy for him long-term at his age. Either he needs to really start shifting his allegiance to me, or he needs to go home with his mama for good.

This is a highly unscientific post. There is no tangible evidence that what I believe about this situation is true. It’s just my gut, and I have learned to trust my mothering instincts. I’m just continuing to pray that he is reunified with his mama soon because I really believe that’s what’s best for him. All of the mixed-up feelings about safety and dysfunction and what’s best for children swirl in my head daily. Fortunately, it’s not up to me to make the decisions. All that’s up to me is to balance the emotions and the facts and just to care for this sweet baby the best way I can. Even after all this time, even after several placements, foster care continues to be the most difficult, most complicated, most rewarding thing we’ve ever done.

in the criminal justice system…

Monday, May 21, 2012

Matlock was my favorite TV show growing up. I desperately wanted to be a private criminal defense attorney or even a public defender. Life has a funny way of bringing your dreams to you, I guess. I’m not spending my days working on behalf of my innocent-clients-who-are-accused-of-terrible-crimes like Matlock, but I do find myself spending a good part of my time these last three years heavily involved in the court system. I feel like I’m always waiting on verdicts. Verdicts for my children, for their parents, for others’ children…I’m fasting and praying nearly every single month for the judges, the attorneys, the case workers, the children.

This is not the way I expected to be involved in the courts when I was in high school, but I find myself involved nevertheless. I’ve sat in that long hallway that they call a waiting room right across from the lady who is high every single time she comes to court, listening for our case to be called. The guard knows me by sight now when I go through security; he no longer asks what I’m there for. I’ve sat in the gallery of the courtroom. I’ve seen custody transfers, custody removals, and visitation denials. I’ve sat in the judge’s private chambers, answering questions that no matter how longed for, I wasn’t prepared to answer. I’ve watched my husband testify in a huge empty federal courtroom. I’ve watched people flat out lie on the stand. I’ve testified myself, with a cough drop hidden in my cheek, with hands clasped so no one could tell how nervous I was. I know where the bathrooms are, which way to go to get to the elevators, exactly how long it takes to be buzzed into juvenile hall.

Today, I’m in that waiting room again. Not in the literal waiting room that I’m familiar with at juvenile court, but we are awaiting a verdict for a family member. A verdict that could mean years of jail time, double digits served in a penitentiary, not the local jail, and a loss of relationship between parent and child. The feeling is the same it always is - the knots in the stomach, the butterflies in the throat. An inability to focus on the tasks I need to accomplish today. The desire for mindless distraction.

My teenage heart longed for this legal-life-calling, and God clearly has a bent towards irony. This just looks different than I thought it would. I might have thought I’d be on the prettier, more put together side of the courtroom. The one where it’s my job, not my life. But here’s where I find myself today: in the middle of the mess, in the middle of the brokenness, longing for redemption and restoration. Clinging to Jesus.


1000 gifts and beyond:

1017. a welcoming playground
1018. a happy mama
1019. babysitting for a long, long baseball game
1020. babies in sunshine
1021. a sister-in-law who prays faithfully
1022. Chik-fil-A sauce
1023. relaxing mornings at home
1024. home games
1025. fluffy pink and white peonies filling the whole house with their fragrance
1026. giving up the evening so the little trees can be mowed
1027. late night suppers with just him
1028. new pillows
1029. claiming the last bit of my birthday present
1030. an hour long quiet sanctuary, the massage just icing on that quiet cake
1031. a cleaned-up mud room, welcoming me every time I enter the house
1032. babysitting for TWO long, long baseball games
1033. watching my son succeed – 3 innings pitched with just 1 walk and only 1 run
1034. clean sheets
1035. a working air conditioner
1035. celebrating yet another May birthday
1036. praying with my husband and children before bed

fostering as a family–in their own words

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Our family approaches foster care from a whole-family perspective. While we definitely do not share everything with our kids, and we aren’t operating completely democratically, we do consult them, ask them to pray, involve them in whatever ways are appropriate, and listen to them when they have cautions and concerns. We’re all in this thing together, and the kids have to be committed to it as well, or we wouldn’t be very successful as a foster family.

In that vein, I saw a terrific post at The Forgotten Initiative blog about how fostering affects the ‘bio’ children. (Side note: for those of you who go to the same church as I do, check out The Forgotten Initiative – looks familiar, right? They’re doing the same things we’ve done as well!) I wanted to do the same thing here, to involve the kids further in what we’re doing and to give you all a picture of how it can work to foster as a family with children already in the home.

Ben is 10, Maggie is 7, and Brenden is 4. They were all VERY thrilled to be interviewed. We definitely don’t talk about foster care all the time in this home, so a lot of the kids’ answers are just their impressions from having done this for three years rather than actual reasoning that we’ve given them the words for. Here’s the interviews:

What is foster care?

Ben: Are we talking about adoption? Or we just talking about foster? Which one? Well, It’s when you take a child into your home and you keep him there for a little while. And when their house or parents and guardians are ready to take them, when their homes are safe, they go back to their home.

Maggie: It’s taking care of somebody. It means taking care of someone when someone else is sick or can’t take care of them anymore. It means also that you take care of them but not keeping them. Like, Baby D had to come here because his mom couldn’t take care of him. If someone couldn’t take care of their babies or one of their kids, they could give them to someone else to take care so they can fix what they need to fix and then we will give them back when they have everything they need to be fixed fixed.

Brenden: We’re babysitting Baby D because his mama got sick. We’re taking care of someone because their moms might not feel good. But when you’re sick, I don’t have to go to someone else houses.

Why does our family foster?

Ben: Because it’s the right thing to do.

Maggie: Because someone asked us to take care of their babies. Because we wanted to do it because we’re good at fostering babies.

Brenden: Because we thought we could say yes when they could give Baby D to us.

Are you glad that we foster?

Ben: Yes and no. Yes, because it’s really fun when they’re at our house, and no, because they have to go and leave.

Maggie: Yeah, because umm…we have another baby in our family and he’s really fun and funny and he laughs when we tickle him. And I like it when we have babies.

Brenden: Yeah! Just because. I just like being foster care.

Why do you think more people don’t foster?

Ben: Because they don’t have enough room or money to foster.

Maggie: Because they don’t want to foster because they have other children that they need to take care of and they can’t take care of all them at once.

Brenden: Because they work, I think. Because they have other babies.

If someone felt like they should do foster care, what would you say?

Ben: Umm…would they speak to me first?
Umm…I would tell them to do it because it’s fun, and it gives the children an experience of their lifetime.

Maggie: That they should foster because it is good to foster and it is nice to the people who need you to take care of their kids while they can’t do it. It’s also nice when they let you foster their baby even when they don’t want to.

Brenden: Yes, so that they could have more babies.

Do you think that you will foster someday?

Ben: Yes!! Because it’s fun, and it helps children to be happy.

Maggie: I don’t know, but I want to!

Brenden: Yes. I wish I could have one boy baby and two brothers and two sisters.  (editor’s note: in case you’re unfamiliar, that’s the exact make-up of our family)

through her eyes

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My happy sunshine-girl runs in through the front door; I barely get my hand up to wave the bus driver on – precious package received, kind sir – before she thrusts her giant handmade Mother’s Day card and the styrofoam cup with a wilted pink begonia into my arms.

My heart sinks a bit when I see that the card contains a survey “all about my mommy”. You know the feeling. The moment of panic where you’re just not sure what your children will awkwardly misinterpret – what they have said or written or colored that will flush your face with mortification.

I think you also might share this other bit of fear that I have – the one where you fear that what your children see and hear from you is your worst self. The nagging, the yelling, the dirty looks, the time spent not giving them your full attention. That’s my true panic setting in. What if my children disclose all of the bad stuff? What if that’s all my children know about me? What if that’s who I really am?

I open the card with trepidation. I read through the age and weight guesses. Either I’m 24 or 34. I weigh 10 pounds, and I’m 20 feet tall. My favorite food is salad. My favorite color is green. When I go shopping, I buy bread. Then I get to the good part – what is your mommy’s job? Oh great, I snark, here’s where she puts ‘my mama ignores me while she surfs the internet’. But no, it reads: “My mommy’s job is to foster a baby.” Well. That’s true enough. Maybe I’ve got one thing going for me.

The survey continues: ”My mommy’s favorite household chore is cooking dinner.”
”My mommy’s favorite drink is Pepes.” [Pepsi]
“My mommy always tells me she loves me.”
”My Mommy loves me because I am her girl.”
Sigh.

Turns out our children do see the real us. They notice us cooking them dinner. They see us living out our callings. They hear us tell them we love them. They know they belong to us, and we belong to them.

While we spend our time praying that they will develop amnesia so they can’t remember that time when we just completely lost it, while we worry over the legacy that we’re leaving for them, while we waste hours determining whether we’re any good at all of this, they’re spending their time resting in our love.

In their eyes, they don’t see stretch marks, smudged mascara, or greasy hair. (because when does a mama have time to shower?) In their eyes, we’re beautiful. Only 10 pounds and 20 feet tall with “I like your make-up, Mama” thrown in for good measure. In their little minds, there will be dinner because we love to make it for them.  In their memories, the words we say most often aren’t “Clean your room!” or “Cut it out!” or “Be quiet!”, but instead, “I love you.”

And in their hearts, they know why we love them: because they are ours. Simple as that.

mother’s day and grace enough

Monday, May 14, 2012

Five children sat at my dinner table the night before Mother’s Day. Five children, from three different mamas. I’m the only one who got to spend this holiday with them. My mama’s heart threatened to leak out in tears. What about those other mamas? What are they thinking tonight? Who will give them cards and presents tomorrow? A celebration tinged with brokenness and grief. I snuggled close and prayed that the baby feels loved. He has a mama; he knows and I know that I am not her. I kissed heads and hugged tight, and thanked God that I am Mama forever to the rest of my four.

A mama forever, but not the only one they have.

Later that same night, with trembling fingers, I messaged back and forth with my children’s first mama. Write, delete, write, delete….how do I talk with her? What words can even express all the things I want to say? I wanted to talk about my children. Her children. Where do I even begin?

Do I tell her how our girl potty-trained in something like 3 days? How when she smiles, it lights up the room? Do I tell her how good our son is at sports? That he is the sweetest, most sensitive child I’ve met? What do I say when she asks how they’re doing? I can say they’re doing so well. They’re happy. They’re healthy. They are healing. The thing is, that’s just the half of it.

She knows it too. She talked about regret. She acknowledged mistakes. I still don’t feel like I can tell the whole story. I can’t say anything about the hours that we’ve spent teaching our sweet boy that this set of parents is never going to leave him. I can’t explain that those four months where Niah just sat in a car seat has literally caused her brain to form differently than ‘normal’ children’s. I can’t explain to her the fear that permeates Brenden’s thoughts about his past. I can’t tell her that our daughter needs therapy to combat some of the damage she experienced as a newborn.

Even with all of that, I still fought nerves – will she like me? Will she wish her kids had been adopted by different people? Will she be thankful they’re safe even if they’re not with her? Will she think it’s weird if I tell her I love her? That I’ve been praying for her? That I want her to make it?

I was scared. I am scared. This isn’t just my story. This isn’t just my children’s story. This is her story too. Was this the right move? Will we regret that we picked this moment for contact? Maybe it’s ugly, but sometimes I wish that I was my children’s only mama. It would be so much easier. Complicated isn’t my favorite word. I hate hard.

A pause. I breathed. I remembered that hard is good. Hard is what brought our children to us. Hard is what has changed me forever – for the better. Hard is what is teaching our children to be strong. Hard is what is making us all more like Jesus every single day.

What I ended up typing came out quickly; I pressed send before I could change my mind. Mistakes? We won’t pretend like this isn’t part of this story. Pain? It’s silly to not acknowledge that part. Here’s what I can say: The God I serve has a love that is big enough for you. No matter your past choices. What I know for sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that no matter your past, God never runs out of second chances. Everything, EVERYTHING, can be redeemed. Even for this story, brokenness and regret and joy and pain and love all included, there is grace enough…


And this week: One Thousand!

996. quiet news days
997. hope that nothing will come of it…
998. baby kisses
999. streaming sunshine through my blinds
1000. grace. all of it, everything, 1000 gifts – all grace
1001. long phone conversations with friends
1002. cancelled meetings
1003. unnecessary car rides without children
1004. cold and rainy baseball games
1005. birthday presents
1006. a husband who gets me
1007. Wot-A-Dog birthday dinners
1008. bad news phone calls – a catalyst to find the grace, even in this
1009. my in-laws
1010. dinner with my sisters and friends at my very favorite restaurant
1011. This American Life live show – everything I wanted it to be
1012. quick reflexes to catch a tumbling baby an inch before head met blacktop
1013. the parental walk of shame – baby with a blown-out diaper
1014. ending the baseball game on a high note – exactly the confidence my son needs
1015. raspberry cake
1016. Mother’s Day dinner with four generations, thankful for the legacy of faith

sunday [mother’s day]

Sunday, May 13, 2012

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them…

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,t neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:28, 35, 37-39

music for your weekend

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Here’s the music playing non-stop and LOUDLY at our house this week. The kids consistently stop what they’re doing to dance to this song. And as with any song we play here, Maggie is likely to soon start butchering the lyrics. It’s all good.

fresh friday five

Friday, May 11, 2012

1) Last week, someone found this blog by searching for the phrase “planning my death”. I’m not quite sure what to think about that.

2) Need a last minute Mother’s Day present? Try Mother Letters – sharing the mess and the glory. It comes in Kindle, Nook, and ebook editions. It is just simply beautiful – the perfect last minute gift for someone you love (or for yourself. It’s very reasonably priced at just $6.99; you can click the link above or the button to the side to purchase. 

 

3) Last night, I went to see This American Life live in the theater as a birthday present from my sister. It was everything I hoped it would be. Exactly true to the radio show, but better because there was live music and dancing. And Peter Sedaris and Mike Birbiglia. And Ira Glass. Does much more need to be said? I loved it immensely; it is definitely my favorite birthday activity this year!

4) Today, there are 1076 children 16 years old and up on the national photo listing site for kids in US foster care. The thing about it is, kids that old have to choose to be listed. They don’t have to be adopted; they can just age out of the foster care system if they wish. So let me repeat, 1076 older teenagers who WANT A FAMILY. 18 year old adults, who are still children, who are putting their pictures and descriptions on a public website to try and find a family to belong to. My heart breaks.

5) I think our sweet Baby D is actually going to let those first teeth poke through this week. They are right on the edge.

And that’s five.

if you’re going to do foster care

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Usually, I say different things to people considering foster care than I say to people already in the trenches. We all have a tendency to paint rosier pictures of things that we’re trying to convince people to do. I’ve been trying to formulate concise and helpful thoughts…here’s the top things I would want to say to you if you told me you were considering foster care.

 

1) Have a clear calling.
This is not a job to take lightly. It will take everything you have. There are many times when our certainty of our calling was what carried us through. If you’re uncertain, it will be infinitely more difficult to do well. (If you’re married, my recommendation is that both of you feel equally committed to doing foster care.)

 

2) Be ready for a broken heart.
Tip: Never tell a foster parent that you couldn’t do what they do because you’d just love the children too much and you wouldn’t be able to give them back. Ugh. I can barely write that statement out. OF COURSE you love the children that much. To approach this with anything less would be such a disservice to the children (and to you). You love each child with everything you have. You ‘give them back’ because they weren’t your children. It does hurt when they go home, but it is a good hurt.

The broken hearts come when you see and experience first-hand the pain and trauma that these children have gone through. Things that most of us can’t even imagine living through. The broken hearts come when you have to comfort a child in the middle of the night who is just missing her mama. When you hug a baby close while he cries because he just doesn’t understand why everything is different. When a little boy comes to you after 3 months of living with you and asks, “Are you my mama now?” That’s when your heart will break. Again and again and again.

 

3) Have a strong marriage.
Our marriage had been through some Very Hard Things before we started fostering. We are stronger now than when we started, but one thing I know for certain - if our marriage had not been strong when we went into this, it very well may have torn us apart. We have had little time to spend alone with one another. We have had little energy to do anything except concentrate on parenting the children in our home well. The rules and regulations of foster care make it complicated to do a date night or to get away. We have shared our room with children. We have spent hours and hours a day in a trade-off dance spending time one on one with a needy child. This journey is difficult. It is a huge stress on a marriage, so you better make sure yours can withstand the storm.

 

4) Be willing to get dirty.
Things are complicated in the foster care system. Families are dysfunctional, yes. Abusive, sometimes. Neglectful, often. But loving? I can’t think of a single person I’ve met while doing this that didn’t love their children to the best of their ability. Situations are rarely clear cut, and poverty, mental health, drug addictions, and more can make an already messy situation even dirtier. Things can’t be solved with simple solutions. ‘Get a job’, ‘stay off drugs’, ‘the American dream’, and other phrases of the like are quickly found to be less than sufficient when you’re working in the trenches. If you do foster care, you will get dirt on you.

 

5) Have a solid support system.
We literally could not have done any fostering without our support system. Our family, who has babysat an extremely high number of times, our church, who has loved each child like they have our own, our friends, who have prayed for us and cried with us and loved on us…we just could not have done it. Not to mention a beautiful online community where we have found support, encouragement, and a real understanding of all we’re going through.

 

6) Be flexible.
This is just one of those practical things that wasn’t truly explained to us before we began. Fostering takes a lot of time. There are appointments. So many appointments – doctor visits, mental health appointments, physical and occupational therapy appointments, parental visits, team meetings, school meetings. Strange people come into your home multiple times a month. You’re adding to your home, so schedules are disrupted, space is at a premium, and time is scarce.

 

7) Have a life ready to be changed.
Because it’ll change in every way imaginable, and while some days you just wish for a regular life back, you won’t have traded any of it for the world. National Foster Care Month’s tagline is ‘change a lifetime’, but if you start down this journey, you’ll find the lifetime that’s been changed the most is yours.

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to my mama {mother letter}

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dear Mama:

Thank you…

…for sitting at our kitchen table, hot tea in hand, bible open, prayer journal to the side, every single morning of my life.

…for teaching me to memorize Scripture. For Isaiah 55 and John 14 and a myriad of other passages that I maybe couldn’t recite word for word, chapter and verse right now, but that are rooted deeply within my heart.

…for laying your hands on my head and praying blessing over me before I went to school, before I went to camp, before I left to start my own home.

…for being home, with cold iced tea and fresh baked cookies, when I came home from school. Even in the years when we were all in school and I was a teenager, when many mamas would have gone back to work, you were home. Those after-school conversations, on the side porch, sitting in the sunshine, making the most of the brief time between when I came home and when the rest of the family came home: they helped shape my life.

…for opening our home to others. To college students, to exchange students, to young married couples - as a place for them to live, to eat, to share our lives with. Thank you that I can barely remember any holidays that we have spent with just ‘family’. That our table and our home was always big enough for whoever comes. That our family was never more important than others.

…for living a life of sacrifice. For teaching me that stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean you stay at home. Thank you for showing me a schedule that’s sometimes busier than the busiest of paid employees because you’re giving to others. You’re mentoring young women and couples, serving the community, serving at church, attending ball games and concerts, visiting the elderly and young alike, being the hands and feet of Jesus all over our area. Thank you that when I go out in the community that I am recognized because I’m your daughter. Because people know who you are through your service.

…for showing me what it means to support and love a husband. For teaching me what marriage looks like as a partnership. For modeling what a husband and wife who are best friends looks like.

…for loving my children. For taking any moment to teach them spiritual truth. Thank you that when my son was in some random 10-year-old emotional crisis, and we told him that if he didn’t want to talk to us, then we would help him find someone else he can share with, that he said, “Like Grandma?”

…for inconveniencing yourself to help us follow God’s calling on our lives. For babysitting when you’d rather not, for loving every child we bring into our family, for being the reason we can do this whole thing well. Thank you for praying and believing in their future even when I doubted. Thank you for seeing God’s hand at work when I was too broken to notice.

…for showing me the Jesus way of living. Watching you go through trials, whether it’s financial, parental, familial, or even life and death, has shown me what it means to trust God in every season. That no matter what happens, no matter what I understand or don’t understand, you showed me choosing God is always the answer. The way to live is to die. Sacrifice is better than spending my time concerned about my future, my money, my family. Thank you for teaching me that it’s all about grace.

…for now we’re coming full circle. Thank you for the mornings that we arrive at your house, my own children running ahead and trailing behind into the kitchen, and they can see you still sitting at your kitchen table, bible open, hot tea in hand. Still seeking Jesus. Still learning what it is to walk this road with Him all of your life. Still humbly following Him faithfully.

Thank you.

 

 

1000 momsThis post was inspired by Mother Letters and is linked with 1000 Moms.

last minute gifts

Monday, May 7, 2012

Running a bit behind today. Well, ok, a lot behind, but I don’t want to neglect this vital part of my week.

It breathes life, gives margin.
This is what matters:

975. fresh weeks and fresh starts
976. new haircuts
977. grass stains on baseball pants
978. a daytrip with my mama and sister
979. the Ohio Freeway Service Patrol
980. a kitchen full of small children, family and love
981. the love of a baby for his mama
982. sweet times with my own tired baby
983. peace and rest
984. free live streams of conferences I can’t afford to attend
985. the bondage breaking, burden bearing work that I’ve been called to
986. touchable, costly grace
987. government and church working together
988. the local church – the answer to EVERY global crisis
989. a panel of women, sharing their hearts and hope, bringing healing through their words to other weary women
990. baseball season
991. bright blue shirts, dusty cleats, happy boys
992. the field on which boys learn to be men (thanks to my mom for that one)
993. a PT cousin who can give me an emergency treatment on the table in the fellowship hall of our church – the return of limited mobility and the slight easing of pain
994. late afternoon sunshine bathing my sons and their father in its warmth while they play catch and build memories
995. the breathtaking beauty of a family built by God

 

sunday [12]

Sunday, May 6, 2012

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

'sunrise' photo (c) 2005, David Biesack - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
Isaiah 58:6-12

five things on friday

Friday, May 4, 2012

This week, it’s all about five things I love.

1) Summit VIII: As our budget and scheduling did not allow us to travel to southern California to attend this Christian Alliance for Orphans conference this year, I’ve been really appreciative of the live stream. I’m sorry we missed, but the livestream has made up for some of it – especially because it allowed me to watch Crawford Loritts break down Isaiah 58 (my favorite Scripture) in the context of orphan care. Oh, it’s good stuff.

2) Simple Bites: Fantastic website that I enjoy all the time, but it gets picked this week because I happened to win the Queen for a Day giveaway. Check out this post for discount codes for all the items in the baskets. I am beyond excited! Thanks SLM and Aimèe!

3) (in)courage: Also a site I read daily that happens to get picked this week because I won a giveaway. (I know. Best week ever.) This is the item I picked to win: Redeemed Lovely by Design Overnight Bag

4) The Ohio Statewide Freeway Service Patrol: A day trip to visit family a couple of hours away was rudely interrupted by a flat tire on the side of an extremely busy highway near downtown of a major city. I haven’t changed a tire since high school, and I was extremely doubtful of my abilities to do it on a minivan. Plus, I couldn’t figure out how to get the spare off of the bottom of our van. We were an hour away from help, and I was uncertain what to do. Until this very nice man employed by the State came by. He set up cones, checked out the tire, plugged it until we could get straight to the tire store. What a blessing. Kudos to the State of Ohio for providing such a valuable service.

5) Perfect Strangers Video Game: Oh Balki. This game is ridiculous, but to be honest, it’s pretty fun. I may have played it more than once this week.

There’s my five things. What things are you loving this week?

foster care awareness month

Thursday, May 3, 2012

foster care month

In total and complete honesty, I never, ever wanted to be involved with foster care. Adoption was close to my heart for many years, but this is not an area that I was even interested in. For all the same reasons that most people don’t do it. It’s kind of distasteful to the modern, pretty, white-picket-fence sensibilities that we are bred to appreciate as Americans. It’s dangerous because you have to ‘give the kids back’. It’s not appropriate because it’s working with the government, and well, we all know how terrible they are at things. I would get too attached. I would love them too much. It would be too painful. I could write an entire post of all the things that people say to me when they try and defend why they don’t do foster care. (I say defense because I don’t ask them why. They just volunteer this info guiltily without prompting.) I offer no judgment on those reasons because they are virtually all thoughts and opinions that we had to deal with in our own hearts when we began this journey.

Without my husband to push me and the legacy of grandparents, cousins, and friends who had already walked this road, I would never have travelled down this path. When I look back now, the foundation of this calling was built into my being from a very young age. My grandparents fostered children before they even had their own. I didn’t even know that for most of my life, but I did know my grandparents. They helped form who I am today, and a part of that formation was most assuredly their own background in caring for needy children.

I grew up in a family and an entire church community where the regular practice of many was to take in those people who needed a place to stay into their own homes. Most of it was not formal foster care, but there was one foster family in our church. I grew up close to them and their children, and the legacy of their foster care experience took root in a deep place of my heart from a young age. They have had a significant voice (more than they realize) into our situation currently as well.

Even in my own home, I spent a good part of my childhood living with other people. College students mostly, married and unmarried, sharing our home, our meals, our lives, our family. I didn’t realize until I was older how that impacted my character. As I meet more and more people who are concerned about ‘family’ time, I appreciate the legacy my parents gave us of a family and a home that was bigger and more inviting than just our own nuclear unit and blood ties.

So this month, I want to honor those who have gone before us as well as help those who are coming behind. We’ll talk about some of the myths and misconceptions regarding foster care as well as the joys and the reasons why we do it. If you have any questions you want answered, myths you want debunked, or reasons to move ahead where you feel you’re being called, please email or comment; I’ll do my best to answer them!

to lift up the mamas

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

All mamas need some encouragement now and again. Most mamas need it more often than not. Sometimes my words flow eloquently, and I can speak where it’s needed most. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed just like everyone else, and I rely on the encouragement of others to pull through… Here’s the posts that have helped me pull through this past while…

The Lie I've Eaten - Sarah Markley: “I’m pretty sure I’ve been fed a lie that I’ve eaten, gobbled up, slurped up and digested. It’s a lie that tastes really good, looks even better and goes down easily. The lie was that I needed become more than a mother….”

In which the daily life can be fearless in its own way too - Sarah Bessey: “Just more. More coffee. More cleaning. More books. More mess. More toys. More noise. More need. More kissing. More laundry. More bills. More doorbells ringing. More meals to be making. More kilometres to be running. More love. More joy. More peace. More star gazing. More rain falling. More sparrows arriving. More leaves blooming. More more more moremoremoremore….”

Pleasantly, I’ve discovered I’m not the only one who feels like this about children and spiritual life and baptism and all of the magic. Not to mention the shared affinity for Once Upon a Time and my predilection to share the deeper spiritual story of that very TV show with everyone I know. Megan Tietz shares my heart with her words -

dinner table theology and why I am The Worst - Megan Tietz for A Deeper Story: “And then, as often happens when I talk about our spiritual beliefs, I feel myself standing outside of myself. I hear the words coming out of my mouth even as somewhere deep inside, I hear myself and I think this all sounds very cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs….”

 

This: liturgy - the beautiful due. No text for this; it’s a poem that you have to click through to read. This is the most profound, most beautiful thing I’ve read in a very, very long time. This is the truth I’ve been chewing on with my husband, my friends, my sisters. If you need validation, read this. This is exactly right.

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