not shrinking back

Friday, June 20, 2014

SimoneAnne-1834Caseworker visits always bring with them a sense of unease. Foster care is unpredictable, and as soon as you think you know what’s going on, you find out that you really have no clue. The minute I think I understand how it all works, something new gets thrown our way. When Sweet M’s caseworker came earlier this week, I completely expected a curveball. When none came, I honestly was a little more uneasy after she left than when she arrived. Is a smooth, easy case too good to be true? I’d like to think it’s not, but my experience doesn’t lend itself to trusting the system.

We are expecting a court date within the week for the state to get permanent custody of Sweet M. It’s expected to be ruled on immediately, not even actually going to trial. After the state obtains custody, then we can apply to adopt her officially. The agency is required to have an adoption matching meeting within 30 days of custody where the committee decides which family to permanently place Sweet M with. As far as we know, there are no other families in the works, we have the advantage since she’s been in our home for almost a year, but it’s still unsettling to know that anything can happen. I just can’t allow myself to feel any sort of relief just yet.

With all of this in my head, once Sweet M started breathing just a little weird later that night, I was definitely unable to get any sort of rest. I just sat in my room, watched Netflix on my ipad, read some poetry, hands shaking just a little while I listened to her sleep. A couple hours later, I packed up some stuff for the hospital. Ridiculously. She was sleeping. Her breathing was just vaguely abnormal. I knew I was being silly, but the fear has a bit of a grip on me right now. I just can’t allow myself to relax. Even now, while she’s sleeping in her crib for a nap (which is highly unusual for her because she really prefers to be held for naps, thank you), I feel like I constantly have to be at the ready. The day she went to the hospital she slept a really long time in her crib before she woke up screaming and then fell unresponsive. So this day, when she is still sleeping hours later after I put her down, I feel tense.

I’m not sure when I’ll feel at ease, but I’ll continue to surround myself with truth. With joy. I count gifts, I enjoy the moment, I say yes more than I say no, and good grief, above all else, I get my chores done because you never know when you might have leave suddenly and your mom has to pick up your house. I can’t shrink back from the uncertainties, either in foster care or just in life in general. I move forward in spite of fear. I must give my children a legacy of life and health and peace – and one of risk. Living fully alive, because I can’t be destroyed by worries of the future or pain from the past.

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
Hebrews 10:39



[image: death to the stock photo]

gift after gift after gift

Saturday, June 14, 2014


because I’ve been recently reminded that each moment is a gift and not a single one is guaranteed,

because I’m fairly confident that I’m currently parenting our very last baby,

because my oldest is going to be a teenager in three short months,

because I will never get back this time in my life…

I’m back to counting gifts. It wasn’t formal, but after we got home from the hospital, I found myself recording them in my head all day long. It’s a practice I never gave up, but this week I decided I needed a more conscious pursuit. Something to commemorate my days. Something to focus my eyes towards the eternal. Something to heal my heart and put fresh air in my soul.

- tiny toes pushing against the bottom edge of the high chair tray
- the way her hair is starting to curl on the back of her head
- that brief moment when I barely recognized my son because he’s just so tall
- the bluest of blue skies
- cleared brush and wide lake views
- the smell of the water
- staying awake past midnight just talking, like we used to before we were both so tired all the time
- a phone full of texts of love and prayers during a crisis
- little boy tears over The Ugly Duckling story
- when the best part of their day is playing with one another
- tiptoes trying to reach magnets a little higher up on the fridge
- packing up a little girl’s backpack for her first overnight with her favorite cousin-friend
- how happy my boys are at the ball fields
- watching my not-so-little-anymore son play ball with the big boys (who shave. and drive) on the Babe Ruth field
- the kindness of a coach who has changed our son’s whole outlook
- so many spontaneous baby kisses
- six teeth
- fludrocortisone – a little yellow pill that has dramatically changed my life
- sleeping babies and husbands, affording me rare quiet time to think and write

How do you stay sane? How do you focus on what matters? Is there a spiritual practice that has changed your life like this one has mine? I’d love to hear your stories.

open hands

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In the quiet of the ultrasound room with a galaxy of projector-stars overtop and classical music playing on the radio, I put my hands on Sweet M’s unresponsive little body and finally felt some of the emotion of the day seep through. Not too much because the tech was in the next room speaking with the radiologist about the results. I wasn’t about to be embarrassed in front of the medical professionals.

I had felt fairly calm until now. When I called Wendell to come home because something was wrong with the baby, when I decided he hadn’t arrived quickly enough and called 911, when I called my mom to come get the other kids, when I changed into pants (because my jammie shorts were surely not appropriate for hospital wear), packed my purse with all the papers we might need and a phone charger while Wendell took vitals and tried to get her to respond, I was calm. Preparing. I was calm in the back of the squad as Wendell drove us to the hospital so both of the medics could work on her in the back. I was calm in the trauma room when what felt like 80 people were all asking me questions at once. I was calm in the ER room while we waited on testing and tried to keep her breathing regularly and begged her to just wake up.

But in that dark, peacefully painted little room, I was left briefly alone with her. That’s when I started my own begging with God. Please. I can do surgery. I can do disease. I can do special medical needs. I can make this work long-term, but please, oh please don’t ask me to let go of this baby in this way before she’s even really mine. I laid my face beside her too-still body, and just whispered ‘open hands. open hands. open hands.’ Because if I said it enough times, maybe I’d surrender to it completely. Maybe I’d mean it in my heart, not just say it with my mind.

I know. I know none of my children are mine, and if there’s anything foster care does really really well, it’s to remind you of that fact. We live with open hearts and hands, and it all feels so good and right and holy until that moment when all you want to do with every fiber of your being is grasp as tightly as you can and never, ever let go.

IMG_2857Through the next two eternally long days in the hospital, through the eight different blood draws, the countless vitals checks, the room changes, the sleepless nights, I whispered it over and over in my head. This baby. She’s not mine. Every moment I get to spend with her is a gift. Every smile. Every lick-kiss. Every time her little voice says ‘mama’. Every single moment is grace.

We’re home now, she seems well, and we have no answers. We have no guarantees it will never happen again. A part of me feels like it’s not over yet. A bigger part of me wants to forget it ever happened at all. There’s that moment burned into my memory of getting into the squad with this sick little baby while the rest of my children are sobbing on the porch. That’s a part I’d just as soon let go of.

So I continue to pray the same words I’ve been praying for days now, knees to the earth:

It’s all Yours, Jesus, and it’s all grace. Here I am, all of this for You.
Open hands.

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