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.












Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Desert Season: It's okay to not be okay

I live for Fall in Southern Oregon.
I enjoy winter, tolerate spring and wish summer away just so I can get to Fall. I know we are incredibly blessed to actually experience each season in their truest forms, from the occasional snow and ice, beautiful lush green, hot summer days and all the autumnal colors of the leaves you could imagine.


Sometimes it's hard to find the good in the seasons. Maybe it's an endless season of bitter cold winter that leaves you feeling dry, the early darkness settles over you like a winter coat and you never take it off. A numbness creates a callous layer over your heart and instead of feeling everything, it just slides over you. It's too much. You long for a spring breeze to melt away the ice, to see new life spring up from the frozen ground and maybe catch glimpse of a rainbow promise in the sky.

I've been there. In fact, earlier this year, one disappointment after another amounted to a whole lot of lost hope and doubt in God.

I was done with the whole thing. I was done pouring my life out only to feel like all I was getting in return was neglect and that I'd been forgotten. I felt like God probably loved me, but He didn't actually care about me. It wasn't anything massive, it was just a lot of little things that piled up. 

In fact I was most angry about this part. I'd never doubted when a close family friend died quickly of cancer, when my own Mom was diagnosed with cancer, when we faced a time where we thought we might be leaving our church, when my family broke apart. I clung to God and took great leaps and bounds in my faith during those times. I was angry that this season, this series of little events was derailing my faith.  

I was angry. Our family was nearing the end of our first ever foster placement which put incredible strain and exhaustion on our family, albeit moments of great joy. We literally had our lives put upside down and I felt like God just kind of forgot about it all, didn't care, couldn't be bothered. 

I stopped talking to God. I made a conscious decision to not pray. I'd never been in a place like this before. It was scary, it was very real and I was determined to not show up unless God did.

I did let my husband and my close friend know what I was walking through. I decided to read Henri Nouwen's book about when he walked through a similar time. I needed to know others were praying for me when I wasn't, and I needed to know it was okay to be in this "spiritual crisis". 

Everyday I said, "I'm not praying, but if you're there you need to pursue me- because I'm not going to do it". 

I read up on Mother Teresa's own season of spiritual doubt, and incredibly she went through a very long season toward the end of her life, and some say she died still feeling that way. We don't often hear that talked about, but it made me feel better. If Mother Teresa was doing all she was going and giving her life away while living in a desert of sorts, I guessed she wasn't the only spiritual leader that had walked through this thing. 

I did more reading, and more searching all the while avoiding my Bible because I was still angry. I cussed at God. I told Him how I felt, often. I continued to tell Him that he had to make the first move. I was tired of the one-way relationship and I wasn't having it anymore.


When seasons change it's not very sudden. There's a gradual shift in the daylight, the grass slowly turns brown, the leaves turn one by one, each day looking a little different than the one before.

That's how it was for me. Nothing changed overnight for me. God didn't show up in some mighty way, cementing that He was in fact there and that He did in fact care for me.
It's just that my heart slowly softened, I remember the day I actually prayed instead of telling Him off. I picked up my Bible and asked for Him to show up. 
I didn't rocketship out of the desert I'd found myself in, it was a slow army crawl. One day I just realized I wasn't mad anymore.

I knew deeper in my soul than I ever had before, that while God cared for me, it was not in the way I'd been looking for. My carnal eyes saw the finite things and longed for God to show up in the areas I expected outright demanded Him to. God cares in the infinite ways, in the eternal ways and those are beyond my comprehension. His timeline is endless, unlike mine- His is forever. It's the soul he longs to win and capture. 


It's okay to not be okay. It's okay to wrestle and question and probe- God's mercy allows us that, His Grace covers it and His sovereignty redeems it.

It's October now but life feels like summer- a season of abundance and joy, and while it feels so good to be here, I am thankful that I can look back and see how God gently guided me.


He carried me here, into this season and as the seasons change, because they undoubtedly will, I can say with absolute certainty I will be okay. Even if I'm not okay. 




"I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me."
Psalm 16:8

Friday, August 26, 2016

From Work to Home and Back Again: A Mom's Tale

I didn't know much, but I knew that one day I would be a stay at home Mom. I had known that from the time I was pretty young. I never felt pressure to do so and in fact my own Mom had worked part time outside of the home most of my growing up years. I just knew that was what I wanted to do.

I decided at orientation day, after registering for my first semester at SOU that a traditional 4 year college was not for me. After spending a few more years working at a local coffee shop that I had been working at since I was 16, I decided to try something that had always fascinated me. Phlebotomy. A dear friend of ours had just gone to school and then been hired at a lab and encouraged me to do the same. I was pumped. I nailed every test and quiz and practiced drawing blood on my supportive family and friends. I immediately got hired at a integrative doctors office and began my career as a Phlebotomist, Shortly after being hired they began to expand and I set my eyes on becoming a Medical Assistant for the new Endocrinologist in town. I was trained on the job and loved the new challenges it brought and I would spend the next few years there working full time.

Trevor and I had been married for 5 years when we decided we wanted to expand our family. I left work just a month before Jack made his nearly 4 week early arrival. It was an incredibly hard adjustment, not really going from working to being home- but caring for an early baby with reflux and the sudden feeling of isolation. On the hardest days when I was lonely, crying and holding a crying baby I would think..."Would I rather be at work right now?" The answer was always no. The hardest, craziest days at home would always be my personal choice over working outside the home and having someone else holding my baby for me. I just couldn't fathom it. And so we trucked along.

A mere 2 1/2 years later the twins were born. I was now home with 3 kids under 3 and it. was. crazy. I was a wreck at times and loved my breaks away from the chaos...but I couldn't keep away long. I'd rather the chaos than the feeling of being away from them.

It was hard. Not just emotionally. but financially. We went from a double income and no kids to a single (pastor's) income with 3 kids really fast. We rented for 7 years, we said no to a LOT of extras and we had a lot of financial setbacks due to necessities for our family. For us, it was worth it. A million times over.


So, here we are 8 years and 2 months since I left my job outside of our home and we are entering a new season. A season where all three of our boys will be full time in a wonderful local public school. I really can't believe we have arrived at this point, but we are here. It made sense for me to look for work outside of the home again and so at the beginning of summer we started talking about what that would look like. One thing led to the next and now here I am, just a few short days away from starting work again. I have the great opportunity to work part time at my boys school. It's so fantastic I can still hardly believe it. Getting to be where they are, and home when they are home including breaks and summer...it's just amazing. Being that it's part time I still get to do the volunteer work I've been doing as well, and even coffee dates with friends and lunch dates!

I am looking forward to this new adventure, this new reality for our family and this next season. I would be lying if I said I wasn't sad my boys were at this stage, or nervous about re-entering the workforce after 8 years. Those things are normal, and I will walk through it all with my biggest fan of a husband.

The past 8 years at home have been some of the hardest, best, exhausting and yet most rewarding moments of my life and I am so thankful I got to be with my kids every single day- raising them, holding them and being there for every first. The hardest, ugliest days were still worth it.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Good Parts of Saying Good-Bye

I've shared so much about the heartache of saying good-bye to our foster son. But honestly, having him here was really really hard.

There have been a lot of good things since he left and I wouldn't be telling the whole story if I left those out.

I was in a pretty dark spot for awhile when Little Man was here. I wasn't able to do the things that keep me afloat and I was struggling. So many people were willing to help, but I didn't even know what to ask for, or how to ask it. After he left we talked a lot about what sort of things would need to happen if we were to take another foster child in. There would be things we would have to do differently if we were going to not just survive in it, but thrive. It's so important to have the hard and honest conversations about how this sort of thing affects you and your family, otherwise you set yourself up for burnout and failure.

Jack really started to hate school. He's an amazing student, extremely smart and has lots of friends, and yet getting him to school became a battle all of the sudden. He started having stomach aches and I got a few calls from the office. He may not have been able to verbalize everything he was feeling, but what we got out of him was that he was at school and Little Man was home with me, and even his brothers were only in school for a short amount of time. He was feeling left out, sad that he was away from me and he wasn't angry at Little Man but he definitely felt the transition of this in a different way.

The boys miss Little Man a lot, and ask about him often. Jack even asks if we can adopt him. There was not a lack of love and acceptance, and only once did one of our kids say they were annoyed by him. That doesn't mean it wasn't hard to share not just their space, but their time with another child.

We've loved the freedom again to just pick up and take off, go on a trip or head out of town to the beach for the day. I don't miss changing diapers. I don't miss the mess of a new eater and I was so over making bottles! While I loved rocking him to sleep, I missed my sleep. Our boys are great sleepers, and for the most part have always been. I took that for granted!


Since Little Man went back with his Mom, we've been much more in tune with each of our kids needs. We've been more intentional and it's been a good time for us to evaluate. I've also been able to be a lot more honest with myself about what I'm capable of, as a stay at home Mom of three (then 4) boys and the kinds of things that I need in my life to be able to function in a sane way.

It's a tough balance. Figuring out the part that says "sacrifice will hurt" and also "don't kill yourself or your family". It looks different for every family, and while I don't want to scare anyone away from doing foster care....you have to be able to honestly asses what you and your family are capable of long term.

As we move forward in evaluating our lives and schedules, it's important to us we continue to have those honest talks and stay involved in some way. The need is desperate, I cannot stress that enough. We hope to be an example of a normal family with young kids that took a leap of faith and despite the hard parts--it was worth every single second.

Even if we didn't have the relationship with Little Man's Mom that we do, it would be worth it. I'm so thankful for the added bonus of our continued involvement. I am looking forward to seeing what God does.