How To Love and Support Foster Moms (Dads/Parents/Families/Etc.):

Evidently it’s National Foster Care Month (what do things that like even mean?).  There’s an instagram thing going around with a different prompt for each day of the month.  It’s appealing, but there’s no way I would actually follow through with it.  I have, however, had the start of a list rattling around in my head for some time and thought I’d share it here.

How To Love and Support Foster Moms (Dads/Parents/Families/Etc.):

  • Pass on the clothes your kids have outgrown (if age/size/season appropriate).  My church family has been GREAT at this (we have TOO MANY clothes for the girls!)  What a huge blessing it is to not have to spend much money on completely new wardrobes anytime there is a new season or a new placement.
  • Food.  Society creates meal sign-ups after a family welcomes a newborn–it is just as much of an upheaval to *boom* have a new child (of any age) show up in your house.  Meal planning is just mental energy that has to go elsewhere much of the time.  And this doesn’t have to just be when a new placement first arrives.  Meals are welcome any time (don’t ask, just do).  One of my sweetest memories is when our first placement was placed back with her mother and a sweet woman from church made us a chicken pot pie.  How precious to just eat home cooking through our tears.
  • Keep calling/texting sweet messages that you’re thinking of us, but don’t pressure us to respond back timely.  It is LIFE to know people are walking this road with me, but at the end of the day my ears are ridiculously tired and the thought of a long phone calls sends me over the edge.
  • Stop saying how special/awesome/admirable we are or what a blessing we are to these kids.  The kids don’t want to be in foster care, and it’s not their fault they are here.  They aren’t necessarily thankful for us.  And keeping hounding on how saintly we are for doing this just brings to mind all the moments my halo has fallen off but no one has been around to see.  I am angry and impatient.  I am learning.  I am no better than the average mom on the street.
  • Go through whatever process your state requires to be approved to watch the kids.  It takes a little time and probably some money, but getting that background check brings so much life to our hearts.  We can’t just leave these kids with the average 15-year-old babysitter.  And thus, there is not much time when The Fellow and I are ever together without the kids.  Having someone to watch them every once in a while so we can have a date night, or at least knowing there are people we can call in an emergency takes a huge load off.
  • When we’re venting about bad behaviors, don’t offer unsolicited advice.  Much of these kids’ behavior is trauma-induced and typical parenting/discipline methods don’t work and don’t get to the root of the issue.  It’s a big learning curve to not just be trying to modify behavior but to actually heal wounds and re-wire brains.  Your matter-of-fact statements of what to do don’t really help things, and make us feel even more misunderstood and alienated.
  • Pray.  Pray, pray, pray.  This is hard work and most days leave us feeling defeated and wondering if this is really for us.  We need wisdom.  We need patience.  We need breaks.  We need lots and lots of Jesus.

There are many people who are walking this path with us, and helping us navigate these waters of what we need and what brings us life.  Having a church family that wants to support us has really made all the difference.

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Prayers of the Saints

I attended a prayer meeting Tuesday.  A meeting where I assumed dozens of women would be attending.  I showed up and there were only four.  A bit disappointing, but I wasn’t there for a party.  It was my first time attending this gathering, and after a few minutes of explaining the order and vision for our time, we dove in.

And friends, I couldn’t help but cry.

These women didn’t pray extraordinary prayers.  Their words weren’t exquisite.  They were down-to-earth and somewhat matter-of-fact praises and petitions.  But something about it was overwhelming.  Each of these women could probably have been my mother.  They’re each different, wonderful people, and their prayers each had different characteristics.  But with each one, I knew I was on holy ground, and the Lord was delighting in a pleasing aroma of His saints.  These women were praising God, using straight words of scripture.  And I couldn’t keep up!  Their knowledge of the Word was humbling and comforting.  How I want to be like that!  How often do I go to praise God (not often) and know enough to speak His truths back to him (hardly ever)?  What a motivation to spend more time in scripture!

And then of course I woke up the next morning and had forgotten.  And let me tell you, having a scripture verse come right to mind would have been very handy when Little One had diarrhea in the bath tub that night (while my mother-in-law was visiting)!

I’m so thankful for women faithful to Christ, who are a beautiful example even as they go about living their own lives.  I don’t have a deep relationship with any of these women.  But they welcomed me in and just continued in their faithful walk.  May one day my prayers be as edifying to others as theirs were to me this week.

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A New Year

In a few moments the calendar will flip to a new page with a new year.  2017.  In so many ways, saying this brings relief.  I have high hopes for 2017.  I am so weary from 2016.  And yet, I need to pause.

I need to not hurry into the freshness of the new without reflecting on the sweet moments (and the learning moments!) of 2016.

A year ago at this time, as the clock was ticking, I had no idea that this year would finally entail us acting on our dream of becoming licensed foster & adoptive parents.  I had no idea that we would get our first placement, and have our hearts ripped out so soon afterwards.  I had no idea that our next placement would involve me reading parenting books, articles, blogs, Facebook help groups, and everything in between.

A year ago I didn’t anticipate losing a friend from college and processing grief in a new way.  I didn’t realize that “leading” my church’s clothing give-away outreach event would show me so much of my sin and really just empty me.  I didn’t believe we’d go through 6 months of the fellow’s unemployment, and I for sure didn’t believe I’d still be living in this house.

I’m thankful for a year of growth in 2016, but I am so, so tired.  I’m praying for kindness and patience in abundance (in me) for 2017.  I’m hoping for a foster placement that won’t be scared or uncertain of the fellow.  I’m hoping for more time to clean and organize.

I’m thankful that Jesus makes all things new.

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Christmas is for Foster Parents

Christmas is for foster parents.

It’s for the ones who’ve dreamed of a Christmas morning with children for years, but are now thinking how much more enjoyable it would be without them.

It’s for the foster mom whose husband won’t have very much under the tree, because she just can’t handle another shopping trip with potential melt-downs and misbehavior, and her brain is too dead-tired in the evening to scheme up some great idea.

It’s for the foster dad whose children still cry when he tries to help them brush their teeth or get in their pjs.

It’s for the parents whose foster children scream and hit walls and make them feel like they’re doing everything wrong.

Christmas is for the foster parents whose own parents go on and on about wanting grand-children, and the care you’re giving to your children feels second-class.

It’s for the foster mom whose kids tell her they want to go live with their mommy, even in the midst of you meeting their needs better than they’ve been met before.

It’s for the parents whose kids are hearing the story of Christmas for the first time, and you wonder if they’ll remember hearing it wherever they are next Christmas.

It’s for the foster mom who didn’t get to watch “White Christmas” this year.

It’s for the foster parents who have to repent daily for losing their patience, speaking out of anger, and wishing things were different.

Because Jesus came at Christmas.  And Jesus came for the messy.  He came for the children who can’t regulate their emotions.  He came for the tired moms pretty sure they’re doing everything wrong.  Jesus loves these children from hard places, even when there are days you simply cannot.  Jesus came to bind up the wounds of the broken hearts from broken families.  He came to love the unlovable.  He came to give strength to the weary.  And as foster parents, we need all that.

We need to remember that Jesus came for kids like these, and parents like us.  He didn’t come for the picture-perfect Christmases.  He came in a messy barn where things were most like not all calm and bright.  My Christmas won’t be calm or bright either.  But I can still sing “Silent Night” and the rest of the Christmas Carols because I know.  I know that this baby came to defeat the author of confusion and the prince of despair.  He came for the broken families and the traumatized children and the tired, lonely foster parents.  This Christmas, foster parents, is for you.  Jesus came so that your weary soul may rejoice knowing that this is not the end.  There is hope.

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When Eating Pizza was the most Spiritual Moment of your Day

Tonight a friend from church invited us over for a casual pizza dinner. Me, the fellow, and both the girls. We ate pizza with this little family of 3 and I got teary-eyed when it was time to leave. We don’t know this family very well at all, but their invitation was a cup of cold water in the desert of foster care and motherhood.

These last few weeks have been really, really hard. Tantrum after melt-down after hysterics. I am so tired. It’s becoming normal for me to cry a tiny bit each night because another day seems just a little bit too much to handle. I’m sad at myself for being so un-Christ-like. I’m having a hard time loving these girls. I don’t enjoy my time with them. I find it hard to like them, even when others gush how cute they are.

Being in the midst of their messiness makes my longing for our first Little One even more sharply felt. I miss her every day. I constantly re-visit pictures of her and the few videos I captured on my cell phone. I wish she was mine. And I don’t feel that way about these two here now.

I’m tired of their questions, tired of their whining, tired of constantly washing peed-on sheets. These are the things they don’t teach you in foster care classes. They tell you it’s going to be hard. They don’t tell you what to do when your child is screaming with hysterics so much after a visit with birth mom that you can’t even get them buckled in their car seat. Foster care, in theory, seems very glorious. Oh the heroics of helping those who can’t help themselves. Oh the blessing of loving “needy” children. But when you have to hear that same whining question 20 times in a row, when you have no idea how to answer the question from the mail man of “where did you get them from?”, when you have more meetings and appointments in a month than you’ve had all together in your entire life, it’s not so glorious. It’s lonely. It’s a “um I was just thrown into this and I didn’t have the first 3 years of life with this child to learn how to do this.” It’s, “will I ever sit down at the dinner table without having to get up until the meal is over ever again?”. It’s “do they even stop cringing when I brush their hair?”

You can have a supportive community, but when it comes down to it, you’re the one with two young children in the process of being potty trained, at a park with no bathrooms, and no idea what other moms do. You’re the one who forgets what Peace feels like. You’re the one who is tired of saying “no”.

So dinner tonight, it was a life raft thrown to a drowning semi-mom. It was a “our kids aren’t the same age, but let’s be together” evening. It was good to see another kid screaming. It was good to see another mom saying no. This parenting thing, it’s no joke.

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The Human Heart

This past weekend my church hosted a winter clothing give-away to the homeless and refugees in our area.  This is the 4th year, and more and more people keep coming.  I’ve had a more involved role this year, and while it was definitely worth it, I’m feeling a little bit of post-event trauma.

I know my heart in the daylight is out-of-order when my dreams at night become weird and vivid and memorable.  They’ve been all these things since Sunday, and I keep waking up exhausted.

Here’s the deal.

I know this event was awesome.  I know God used it, I know He was there, and I know we were being obedient to Him in doing this.  I also know that way too many things went wrong, that evil human nature was encountered, and that I can’t help but feeling both a mixture of responsibility and being taken advantage of.

Two memories stand out the most.  One is too raw to process out on the internet.  The other is this:

There is a refugee family–I don’t know how many people are in the family.  It seems they are a large group of people somehow all related.  They are allowed one bag per person, but they seem to have several extras.  I explain about 5 times that they may only have one bag per person.  They pretend I don’t know what I’m talking about, and push their way into the coats.  The rule is that each person is only allowed one winter coat.  They are trying to sneak and stuff several coats in each of their bags.  Their bags are already too full, having been over-stuffed with other winter clothing.  We pull extra coats out of their bags.  They try to lift their bags and clothing topples to the floor.  We ask them to leave the extra clothes for other people.  They keep stuffing the clothes back into their bags.  We escort them to the door to leave, and the still keep turning around trying to grab more on their way out.  It was hard.  I felt mean.  I was angry.

I’m still angry.  Their sense of entitlement was too much for me to handle after encountering so many other desperate situations that day.  And yet I falter.  Have their lives been so troubled thus far, that they truly feel they have to fight tooth-and-nail to get what they need?  Do they have so few belongings that the chance of actually owning more than one of an item fuels their portrayed selfishness?  Are they trying to grab extras to ship to family overseas who haven’t been able to find refuge in our country?  I don’t know.  It could be any one of these things, or it could be nothing but pure selfishness.

Another grown woman is complaining to me about how she hasn’t been served a cookie yet while others have gotten two, and I about want to shake her.

PEOPLE!  Life isn’t fair!  You’re right–it’s not fair that one person has two cookies while you have none.  You’re right–it’s not fair that you’re only allowed one bag of clothes and one coat.  I want to say, “You know what else is not fair?  That we, everyday people who still have needs and wants and struggles like the rest, are giving you FREE CLOTHES for nothing in return!  That’s not fair!”

And then there is Jesus.  Our God is not fair.  As my campus minister Kevin Hass used to say, “The last thing you want from a holy God is justice!”.  God is not fair.  He gave the ultimate sacrifice for nothing in return.  His wrath was poured out on His perfect little boy, that all we might know is love.  That’s not fair.  Yet I so easily accept it.

Why can I accept the unfairness of what others have sacrificed for me, but can’t move past the unfairness of what I have sacrificed for others–who don’t appreciate it.  The reality of course is that God experiences that every day.  How often I am ungrateful for what He gives–constantly trying to get more, fight for more, complain for more.  And He gives and He gives and He gives.

I am not like Christ.  I am still hurt and angry.  But someday I want to love.  I want to still enforce the boundaries, but with a smile and a loving heart and a desire to hear people’s stories.  Maybe that’s why God put me in this role this year–to use other people’s sinfulness to show me my own.  “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good . . .”

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Thoughts on Thirty

I’ve been looking forward to turning 30 for a few years now.  I’ve always felt older than my age, so in my head I’ve been 30 for awhile.  I’ve always thought it would be the best compliment for someone to call me an “old soul”.  But now it’s less than a week until that number is official.  And somehow, all the sudden, I don’t feel ready.

Maybe it’s because growing up I always made my favorite Barbie (named my favorite name–Stacey) be 19 (the perfect, mature age), and she was married to Ken and had baby triplets!  If my life had gone as Stacey’s did, I’d have three 10 year olds by now!  Triplets aside, 30 still feels like you should have at least one kid.  But I don’t.

30 feels like your house should be decorated just like the cute hip magazines, you’re passing on your wisdom to those young folks in their 20s, and you don’t wonder what you’re here for anymore.  But none of that is my life.  So how am I turning 30?!?

On the other hand, I don’t want to be the dramatic girl who completely has a crisis over turning 30 and afterwards tells everyone who is 29 how awful it is to turn 30.  I want to be a graceful, thankful 30.

So instead of dwelling on the “should”s and lamenting how my existence is pointless, I’ve started making lists.  The first is a list of 30 major happenings in my life.  It includes trips I’ve taken (Egypt, Myrtle Beach, etc.), major life events (getting married), and things I’ve done to make a difference (donated a kidney, etc.).  It’s really helped me to see how full my 30 years have been.  I’ve been on exciting adventures, and also haven’t wasted all of the time and resources God has given to me.  I like that list.  The second list is a list of 30 people in my life who have helped me to grow spiritually.  This includes pastors I’ve had over the years, youth leaders, friends, older women who would let me hang out with their families while they showed me what it meant to live as a follower of Christ, people I had one-time life-changing conversations with, and others.  This list has shown me how loved I am, how I value my relationship with Christ and the bit of theology I’ve studied, and how certain people have come along at just the right time when I’ve needed what they had to offer over the past 30 years.

I’m still contemplating more lists.  Maybe a list of 30 people I have loved with my life, to remind me that my 30 years haven’t been all about me.

30 still seems a little daunting, but it also has a friendly smile to it.  I may still freak out on the actual day.  But one thing I know for certain: Christ was enough for me at 29, and He will be enough for me at 30.  (Whether I have kids or not.)

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The Milestone of Year One

It’s been one year. A whole year! As with most major life events, in some ways it feels like it was just yesterday, and in other ways it seems like it took places years and years ago. I have lived 365 days with only one kidney. (You can read the story here).

I’m a rather nostalgic person so when important dates come up I like to ponder them and not let them pass by unrecognized. I’ve truthfully been mulling over this event all week! But I mean, it’s my KIDNEY. To me, it’s kind of a big deal.

I don’t remember all the details. I wrote a lot of things down during the weeks leading up to the surgery, but didn’t do a whole lot of processing afterwards while I was recovering.

It’s funny the certain things that stand out above the rest:

  • I remember the PACU nurse and my transplant coordinator waking me up to tell me surgery was over. I didn’t believe them until I touched my head and realized my hair-net/bonnet had been removed. I reached up to rub my eyes and they yelled at me. I asked why I couldn’t. They said I would scratch my corneas. I still don’t believe them.
  • I remember being so happy to see my mom, sister, and grandma to let them know I was okay and everything went fine!
  • I remember the face of the nurse who took out my catheter.
  • I remember I was finally cleared to eat real food in the middle of the night when the cafeteria wasn’t open, so the nurse brought me some tunafish. I think tunafish is gross, but MAN it tasted good that night.
  • I remember my sweet friend from college, Nikki, visiting me and telling me she was pregnant.
  • I remember the car ride home being bumpy.

 

Jesus is good, isn’t He? It’s true that He would still be good if things had went horribly or I had died or my kidney had been accidentally thrown away (yes, that has happened). But being part of something extraordinary like this really wakes the eyes of your heart up to see His beauty. How wonderful that He preserved these memories for me! How wonderful that my recipient is still doing well! How wonderful that I’ve been granted another year of life! Thank you, Jesus, for milestones, and thank you, Jesus, for extra kidneys.

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How I Want My Heart to Break

The phrase “your heart breaks in all the right places,” streams out of the speakers in my car.  One of my favorite singer/songwriters catches me off guard again.  I want to be the person he’s singing about.

But I’m about as far away as a person can get.

So the past week I’ve been wondering, what would it look like for my heart to break in all the right places?

Less heartbreak over being left-out, rejected, made fun of, forgotten.  Fewer tears over someone not liking me, trivial things frustrating me, or stress getting the best of me.  Less sorrow from being over-looked or misunderstood or not the funny one in the room.

Instead my tears might flow over the injustice of racism, prevalence of poverty, and horrors of trafficking.  I would be weeping for the orphan, the widow, the homeless.

I care about those things.  But not as much as I care about myself.  That’s why someone offending me burns a much larger hole in my heart than the story of a homeless man dying from cold out on the streets.

I want my heart to break in all the right places, but I have such a long way to go.  May the process of my sanctification and yours take us ever closer to that point.

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2014 is Scary

Does the start of a new year scare anyone else besides me?

Sure, I get excited with everyone else about the start of a fresh year, and I watch the ball fall in Times Square, and make a lot of noise at midnight.  But after that exciting moment passes, the uncertainty starts setting in.  Will I accomplish anything this year?  Will I make a difference?  Will I screw up as much as I did this last year?  What if this year will be a boring existence of living the American dream?

Fresh starts excite me, but they’re scary because I know I’ll mess them up.  2014 has potential to be a great year (as has each year in the past), but it could also be full of me making a lot of bad choices or wasting my time.

2013 was a full year with lots of major events.  My sweet grandpa died, one of my precious guinea pigs died, I joined my church, donated a kidney, fell in love, and my sister got married.  2013 also brought deeper realization of my sin.  I’m full of entitlement, grumpiness, lack of self-control, and really thinking I’m always right.  I do not enjoy realizing these things about myself.  So it can be scary to image what 2014 will reveal!

No one can predict what 2014 will hold–for me or for anyone else.  But there is one thing I know.  Whether it’s a new year, or just a new day, the goodness of the Lord will sustain us.

Lamentations 3
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

 

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