Thursday, September 14, 2017

Foster Care is Messy for the Soul

It's no secret things at home have been difficult with our foster daughter as of late. The honeymoon phase ended and we have been dealing with intense behavioral issues that are unlike a typical "threenager" and are of course, a direct result of the trauma she has been through.  To say it has been exhausting is an understatement. I told my husband, this emotional exhaustion is unlike anything I've experienced and it requires so much of me there is really nothing left for the rest of my family. It has not been easy.  The supposed "30-60 days" we were to have her ended long ago and I had grown angry that we still had her, upset that we were dealing with issues her parents should have been dealing with. Just flat out spent.

I reached a point where I was ready to throw in the towel and have her moved to another home. I know, I can't believe I am typing that but I was at a loss. 
I could not forsee myself parenting her behavior any longer and I was worn in every sense of the word. I headed to church one evening amidst my turmoil and sat in the very back (which is completely unusal for me) while I silently cried the entire night. I couldn't sing because I couldn't say the words because I wasn't sure I believed them in that moment. I faked a smile and escaped as quick as I could when service ended. This is how I would manage many of the upcoming days and conversations I had.

I was counting down the hours until I headed back to work. The idea of not parenting her all day every day was the only thing that gave me hope. 

Our hope for her, from the beginning, has been that she would be reunified with her family. That's the goal of foster care and the goal of our family. As the weeks went on and things became more difficult with her, I felt myself shutting down, closing myself off and going into survival mode. I lived for naps and bedtime. They were mile markers of hope along the weary road I was traveling. 

We called in our prayer warriors, I texted  to my most trusted confidents, the most raw things I've ever said. I spoke with her caseworker and shared how difficult things had been, I shared with her the behaviors we were dealing with and requested additional support for her and our family to be able to best serve her. And before I could stop myself, I started saying "our hope is to see her reunified with her family, but if that does not happen we would be willing to be considered an adoptive resource"

What in the world is wrong with me?? What have I done? Who am I? Somebody stop me!

I had this outer body experince, where I saw myself saying these words and I yelled at myself to STOP! What are you doing??

But I couldn't stop myself. I was just as shocked as anyone that I was saying such things especially after how hard things have been. I mean- I'm not exaggerating. 

I hung up the phone and texted Trevor. "I did something" was all I could muster. HA! Later as I recounted things to Trevor , I began crying when I processed what had happened. 

I suddenly saw that I had to take myself all the way to the end. I had to go all the way in my brain. 
I *had* to think "What if one day she became my daughter?" How would I parent her in these tough situations? How would I handle her viceral words towards me, her second by second demands, defiance and tantrums. How would I mother her? How would I go about this situation if she were mine forever? And in that moment my perspective shifted. It shifted in how I saw her, and how I saw myself. I physcailly felt this barrier, which I didn't realze I had, disappear. I mean, I'm
the one who advocates for getting attached!

I will not pretend this solves everything and it won't mean every moment I will be able to have that perspective, because let's be real- that is just not realistic- but it means I can see outside of the situation better than I had before. 

Will she be with us forever? No, most likely not.  We want to see her return home, but I will love her like she is staying because in that space is where I can best parent her. 

There is much discussion about the brokeness of these children, but I have come face to face with my own brokeness time and time again.

In times like these, the lights shines brightly on my selfishness and my desire to control and I must die to myself over and over again. The chipping away is painful, but I believe there is something incredible being revealed. 

As we come to grips with our own selfishness and stupidity, we make friends with the impostor and accept that we are impoverished and broken and realize that, if we were not, we would be God. The art of gentleness toward ourselves leads to being gentle with others -- and is a natural prerequisite for our presence to God in prayer.

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭43:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Three Months and Counting

We have now had Sunshine longer than we had Little Man.

We suspected we would have Little Man for a lot longer that we did. His reunification story was sooner than anyone anticipated, it was successful, and not many people thought it would be.

Sunshine on the other hand, was supposed to be with us 30-60 days tops. In fact we were originally told not to worry about finding childcare/school for her come September because she wouldn't be here. We don't know how long we will have her now and I've learned to not even guess. 

Little Man, at 7 months, was easy to love. He was sick a lot which was really hard- but he was cuddly and needed us, and while you know there were things going on in his brain and heart, he didn't have the words yet so he just clung to me. He never yelled at me or said "I hate you".
Our boys loved him immensely and still do.

Sunshine is almost 3. Sunshine is extremely articulate and verbal and smart. Sunshine has a broken heart and it is manifiesting in her behavior. She will fight us on every "no", "not right now" or anything else she doesn't care for. She will scream bloody murder, hit me and yell boldly in my face "I want my OTHER Mommy". She does things to tick of my boys on purpose and bless their hearts they are trying so hard to be patient but even they are over it at the end of most days.

It is exhausting in every way imaginable. She is not always so easy to love. 

Yes it's the trauma she's endured.
Yes it's not her fault.
Yes it's sad and not fair.

But it's where we are.

After she yelled at me earlier I really just wanted to walk away but I fought my instinct, relied on what I knew instead of what I felt and scooped her up and said:

"I know you're mad, I know you're sad and I know you have a lot going on in your little head and heart and I am sorry and I love you no matter what"

With Little Man I felt physically secluded because of all the sickness he had that kept us from going places.
This time around I feel emotionally secluded. I'm just below the surface trying to come up for air every now and then and reaching out to whatever I can grab. 

Parenting kids from hard places is hard. It's okay to not be okay and it's okay to feel both love and anger at the same time.

Here are 3 things I've learned 
  1. You can't do it with just love. You're not enough and love isn't enough. You have to equip yourself with knowledge and resources- whatever that may look like. 
  2. It's okay to take breaks. It's okay to get respite, it's okay to be excited for school to start, it's okay to want to run away every now and then.
  3. The sweet moments in between the hard moments will be what get you through the day. The "I'm sorry" the "I love you" the gentle eyes at the end of a long day. And the emails from bio families thanking you for what you're doing. 

She's loveable. She IS sweet. She is smart and funny and silly. She is brave. She is a fighter and when she's gone I will miss her. 

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Friday, August 18, 2017

Willing to be Broken

I have been broken in a thousand ways and yet I keep returning to the thing that breaks me.

There is something in this space that is holy and sacred and I'm undone. 

I was a resister for so long- why hurt, why sacrifice, why be burdened?
Why add more to our full plates, change our family dynamic and enter a system of utter chaos?

I'm good here, where I am. Thanks.
I'm being challenged, no doubt.
I'm giving monthly to sponser kids, I'm going on trips to third world counties for goodness sake.
I'm not ignorant to the needs around me.

I whispered
"I'm willing... you know.... to be used, God."

So often those are empty words.
They are meaningless because they come with an asterisk.
A hidden clause that says, "except for this"

Anything but_____ fill in your blank.
Maybe it's unknown but it's there because you resist and resist and resist. 
It's timing
It's space
It's finances
It's security
It's whatever 

People are doing awful things. People are caught in vicious cycles of addiction, abuse, poverty and illness and they do awful things when they are stuck. 

And then there are the children.

The ones we say "Don't you dare abort because that's a life and you'd be a murderer!!"

But when those children are born into the arms of addiction, abuse, poverty and illness- and where are those voices saying "Here... let me help you."

Where are the those voices when the Mothers cannot care for the life they gave birth to and deeply love?

Where is the
"Let me care for your children while you seek help"
"Let me link arms with you, and your brokenness and help you be your best."

Are there people holding signs that say:

Whatever you need- we will help you.
However long it takes. We believe in you.
We will hold your baby for as long as is needed or forever if that is what it takes.

If we are pro-life then we best be willing to stand in the gap when there is no hope and no answers and be willing to get some skin in the game. 

Otherwise our so called Christianity becomes a banner we wave instead of a lifestyle we live. 

I have never felt closer to Jesus than when I've been rocking a baby who's Mother is doing her fighting best to get him back and I'm weeping at the thought of him leaving along with a peice of my heart.

I've never felt nearer to the clear Biblical call to lay down my life for the sake of others than when I'm comforting a little girl who cries out for her Mommy and Daddy at night- unable to fall asleep unless my hand is touching hers.

I am broken. I am undone and isn't that what Jesus was for me?

Wasn't He wounded and crushed for me?
Wasn't it the broken that He became broken for?

“But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:5‬ ‭

If I am to live like Jesus than wouldn't my life speak of brokenness as well?

And it's there again- plain as day....

 “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me . . . I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me..." (Matt 25:35-40)

       You just . . . can’t be afraid of a broken heart. And that what matters most is not if our love makes other people change, but that in loving, we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone, we become more like Someone. Regardless of anything or anyone else changing, the success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving.

       Loving broken people when it is inconvenient is the way to have fuller inclusion in the life of Christ

So I will keep stepping into a hurting world allowing myself to break again and again.

My pride, my entitlement, my security, routine, all of it- broken again and again because all of this messy world is worth it.  

So I'm praying for others hearts to be broken...
I'm praying for others to be broken for the things that break the heart of Jesus and that more people would enter into a broken world and change lives.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I will admit to appreneshion at our foster daughter returning in two days.

I will admit to feeling the anxiety of known and unknown things.

I will admit to recognizing the hardest part is not in fact loving her or any other children in care- the hardest part is playing well with the other adults involved. It is not in loving and losing- though that is heart wrenching. It is in the juggling of government run programs and broken families.

I will admit the break we've had for 30 days has been so nice it's tempting to say "let's just keep it this way"

I will admit the temptation to return to selfishness and self seeking lives is ever present and only when I return again and again to scripture and I see it laid out before me, clearer than anything...

 “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭16:24-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Only then do I push in harder.

I push against the ease my worldly heart desires and I say no.

No. Our family will do life differently. Our family will sacrifice ease, comfort, luxury of ignorance and we will press into this life. My children will learn now their world does not revolve around them and this world is broken and they can be a part of mending it. 

So I will role up my sleeves, wash the clothes, locate needed items, and we will create "welcome back" signs and again eagerly await her arrival.

She needs us yes, but we need her. 

We need her to remind us of the why- to show us His grace- to remember we are here to serve, to be used and anything less than a life of sacrifice is a lie. It's an afront to the way of Jesus. We will not participate in westernized Christianity that says you can have your cake and eat it too. We will be broken for the things that break His heart because that is what has been asked of us. 


"Stepping out wholly dependent on God to come through, stepping away from what is secure and comfortable exposes the holes in our faith. And then if God comes through, it expands our faith. Something about stepping off cliffs where God leads allows God the opportunity to move in greater ways. When we step off and he shows up, we see him differently than we would if we were standing safely looking over the edge"

With our minutes and days and decades, we build houses and savings accounts and busy calendars full of activity. And in some deeper way, we build our reputations and friendships and invest in our kids and careers. We are looking for this life to matter. No, we are actually looking for ourselves to matter. So we keep so busy, so distracted, so in love with everything but our invisible, patient, jealous God. Christ said, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33)

{Excerpts from the book Anything, by Jennie Allen}


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Reflections on the Past and Discovering my Calling

As I was searching back through my blog, the years and years of postings, I saw such a diverse platform.

This blog started out of a broken place- my miscarriage. It was a place to share raw truth and find healing in pounding out my soul onto these keys, plastering my heart onto a screen.

It quickly morphed into a space where I met dozens of other people who were either expecting or had twins like I was about to. Twin life is unlike any other and I was desperate to connect with others who know what I was going through and  to see that others thrived.
I was being paid for advertising, I was getting asked to review products and in turn receiving free items.
I had a huge following and a schedule to follow and a network of people to bond with.

And then I began to feel pressure to keep up. I felt like if I didn't post 3 times a week I would lose everyone and what once started out as a joyful place to document our weeks and months turned into an obligation that wasn't a priority anymore.
 I had three kids under three and keeping up with the blogosphere world wasn't what I wanted. Sure, many SAHM's turned blogging into a full time lucrative business and I was heading down that path, but I didn't want it that bad. I didn't want to be tied to my computer. I had quit my job to stay home with my kids, being on my computer all day didn't mesh with my goals.

I felt uninspired and when I feel uninspired my writing sucks and it's forced and so I quit.

I let my domain lapse (regrettably) and I transferred everything to this domain and basically started over. Many of my pictures are lost, my followers long gone, but the content is still here and I'm here.

I write when I'm prompted to and it usually comes out full force, like a tidal wave. I have to sit and get it out or I will burst. I've learned to be okay with writing when I feel like it, and trusting in the fact that the people still reading this will glean something from it. The bottom line is, I write for myself, and I'm honored when my words meet someone else where they are at.

This season of blogging looks a lot like this: FOSTER CARE. That isn't my whole life but it's become a huge part of it and there is so much I am still learning and discovering and wanting to share about that it dominates my thoughts.

I have seen and experienced things I can't undo. I have been exposed to a world right here in my own community that is desperate for people to change, to not turn a blind eye to, to engage.

I get frustrated with people who seem to care less, I get annoyed with the frustrations and selfishness of others when there is real crisis happening in their backyard. I get real fired up and God is teaching me to slow down. I was once unknowingly ignorant too and I can't expect people to be at the same spot I am. I can only use my voice to share with others and hope they link arms with me.

The fact is, this is right where I am meant to be.

I desire to encourage, equip and advocate for people on the fringes and those who serve them. I want to mobilize the church specifically to do good work within the foster care system. I want to create a strategic pathway that is nationally reproducible in order to impact this broken system in a positive way. I want to lead, train and equip people to make a difference
Creating, training, equipping and advocating. 

That is my calling. 

Definition of calling

  1. 1:  a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fostering the Whole Family

A lot of people get into foster care for the children. They feel like "if I can advocate for this child I can make a difference!"
And that is true, but the goal of foster care is reunification so unless you take into consideration the entire family and not just the child you are doing a disservice to these kids.

Let me sound harsh, but I am talking to myself mostly. I knew this reality with our first placement, it was easy to wrap around his mom to love her to encourage her to support her I had no problem with that. It was second nature to me, I didn't even have to think about it… I was doing it before I even realized it. 
Seeing her succeed as a Mom was incredibly gratifying.

This time around is been harder. Our situation is a little different in that we are really just a temporary home in the truest sense of the word temporary. Once our foster daughter leaves our care she won't be returning to her parents, she will be going to other family and that family will have her until she's reinified or they adopt her.

When we first got the call and we were told it would be 1 to 2 months because of the situation it felt easy, like absolutely we can just be the placeholder until this goes through! The fact that I don't work during the summer made this seem like a no-brainer.

As this has unfolded it has been far messier than I anticipated.  To say loving the entire family and playing on their team is a lot harder, is an understatement .

In the last few days I found myself in this mama bear mode where I felt like I would do anything to fight for her but I didn't care so much about the family. Things were said or not said to me, plans made against what we had worked out and I got mad. Real mad. 

This morning I had a real reality check. 

It is so like our Gracious Father to gently yet firmly convict you of your wayward self.

I was reminded of why we got into this- reminded that this is once again not about me and yes I am learning so much through this process but what is the bottom line? Do I truly care for this entire family? I need to. I may not agree with how things are happening right now,  I may not understand it at all and I may feel less support than I did last time because this is so much harder to explain.... but if I am for this sweet precious girl then I must be for her family and for what's best for her even if I don't understand.

To be sure, if I saw things happening that I thought were truly damaging to her I would speak up, and in cases where the reunification would be the most damaging of all- I would fight like mad for that not to happen. The reality here is that what I see is just the norm for the system and there's not much I can do about it. 

In my come to Jesus moment this morning,  I am once again faced with my failings as a human and the inate selfish nature. So I take a step back, let Jesus fix it and do my best to love. I have been loved at my worst, who am I to withhold that from others?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Finding Contentment

I have this thing about me, I think of it as a superpower, but for a long time I thought maybe I was crazy. Thankfully I took a "Strengths Finders" test and this thing came up #1. My strength is in activating things. I love to work on new things, be a part of a fast paced collaborative team that makes decisions that we actually carry out...and then I like to move on to the next thing. I'm not one for managing things, I've never wanted to manage and it turns out, I wouldn't be good at it anyway. I'm also highly relational, so whatever I'm working on should be about and with people- in other words, don't stick me with data, forms and input. I will die a not so slow death. Sometimes this strength can be a weakness because it can lead to distraction and discontent, and an unwillingness to be challenged in areas that are outside of that scope.

I've never been a person who had "one" thing they wanted to do. I've never been someone who just had this big dream that was easy to pinpoint. I didn't attend a 4 year college, mostly because going down one path felt like a plastic bag over my head. I like doing cool stuff with cool people and helping others find their passion and purpose in life. I love mentoring, encouraging and collaborating. The good thing about this is, I have been able to do a lot of it in recent years and I never get stuck doing one thing for long. The bad thing is, when I don't have something I'm working on that fits that strength and passion of mine, I feel like I have to go looking for it, and fast. I feel this sudden dread of discontent and boredom. I panic...what should I be doing with my life?! So I start researching things. I research schools, degrees, certificates, jobs, positions etc. I look to fill up my empty space without really letting God just move.

We have a busy life, but it's a good life. Being married to someone in full time ministry means our weekends are just as full as our weeks if not more, and there really is no such thing as "clocking out". Add three active boys and my part time job plus volunteer work and life is full. I am never actually bored, but if there isn't this pressing exciting matter at hand- I feel bored. I know, it sounds crazy. Trevor thinks it sounds crazy too, thankfully he loves me despite my spaz tendencies.

I didn't really know what it meant to "dream" until a few years ago. Some of our friends helped several of us walk through what it looks like to dream big and act on those dreams, trusting God had placed those on our hearts. Even then, I didn't feel like I knew exactly what I was doing, and my dreams felt more like goals. Or I just through out stuff that sounded big and cool because everyone else had something big and cool. Also, I fear dreams can tie people down. I imagine sometimes we hold onto a dream so tightly in our fists, they aren't open when God wants to drop something else in there. For me, there just wasn't this one elusive thing I wanted out of life that I was too afraid to speak. There still isn't. I just want to keep doing cool things with cool people and be willing to jump when God says jump. And we've done that, most recently with foster care.

I'll admit I've been feeling some pressure (from myself) to have something more to work towards. I've wrapped up projects I was working on, we aren't currently fostering, I'm not in an "activator" type season in my ministry and admittedly, I've felt a little lost.

Home is good, work is good, church is good. Life is good.
I realized I had become somewhat discontent with my actual life, the one I live day in and day out.

My kids are growing fast, lighting speed. Our family dynamic isn't like anyone else's that I know. Three boys, so close in age- two of whom are twins. It's just different I promise. I was coming home to the same ages as the kids I had spent 4 hours with at work. I was struggling to find margin in my energy and patience for them. I just wanted to get to bedtime.

I was gently reminded that all I really ever did dream of was being a Mom. Having kids and being home to raise them. I am living out that dream of mine every day. It's not always pretty, but it was, and is my deepest desire.

Sure I have other areas of passion and gifting, and things outside of my family that fill my tank. I just forgot to look inside my walls first, I hadn't been as intentional as I hoped to be.

I finished Jennie Allen's newest book Nothing To Prove this week. In it she says "The lie is, if it isn't big, it doesn't matter. When we believe that, we make influence the goal rather than loving God and people"

Finding contentment in a culture of hustle, even among the Christian circles of leadership and influence will be tough for some, and possibly the ultimate battle. I know I can fall in this category and I plan to be much more aware of that in myself moving forward.

As I continue to learn how to dream, allowing God to ask anything He wants of us, and being ready to jump, I am also making a more concerted effort to find joy and contentment in my actual daily life. I have to learn to let God move first, not manufacture my own thing and trust in His timing and purpose for my life.