Thursday, October 19, 2017

Even When: A Foster Care Manifesto

I will be faithful with what is in front of me, even when I cannot see the finish line.

I will give up my need for control, even when nothing ever feels sure again.

I will surrender the need to know every detail before I show up.

I will move intentionally through my day as to not miss a moment where His grace might leak through.

I will move closer when I want to push away.

I will be lay things down at the feet of the Father instead of carrying them around like a badge of burden.

Even if I never see good come from this, if I never glimpse redemption this side of heaven- I will remain.

I will embrace the chaos because that is where I am needed.

I will be a bridge and not an island.

Even when the storm is relentless and wreaks destruction all around me, I will hide myself in the only place I know that brings peace.

Even when things don't go as planned and my heart aches for justice- I will remain.

I will count all as a gift because there is treasure hidden to find if I am willing to dig.

I will submit to a continual death of myself in order to gain life in full.

Even when I cannot see any hope-  I will remain.

I will trust, even when.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Why I Share My Story

I do not have anything figured out.
I’m learning as I get older I actually know less and less. And I’m okay with that. 

I am no where further along in my journey of faith than most.

To be honest, most of the time I feel like I’m on my hands and knees trudging through the hard stuff because the weight of everything keeps me from being able to carry it and move forward otherwise.

 BreƱe Brown says “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do”

The reason I share my journey is not so others might feel sorry for when things get hard, or feel I’ve somehow attained a level of faith you’ve yet to taste. It’s because I want to be honest about where God is taking me and that the journey is hard and not without causality. 

I want you to know it’s okay to doubt God. It’s okay to doubt where you find yourself and it’s okay to wrestle with the hard things in the life and the bottom line is I want to point you to Jesus.

Why do we foster kids?
Because Jesus.

Why do we give to others?
Because Jesus.

Why do we choose a lifestyle that looks different than one commonly accepted in culture?
Because Jesus.

I only want my life to point to Him.
I’m not going to get it right all the time.
I’m not going to love living sacrifically with my finances, my belongings and my love all the time.

My heart truly desires to have people see, that I hope to lead my life in such a way that people might ask about who Jesus is.

My story isn’t better than yours.
My heart isn’t better than yours.

I am a broken person who has accepted the grace given by Jesus and because of this I am compelled to share that grace with others- it drives everything I do. Whether that be foster care, partnering with women globally in business, mentoring teen moms, working with students, teaching my kids their world is bigger than they realize.

If you’re limping along and feel like you can barely hold your life together, let alone help someone else out. That’s okay. That’s where Grace meets you where you’re at and your story won’t look like my story- it shouldn’t.

Don’t be afraid to tell your story because it’s different. Your story matters.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Happy Birthday Sunshine- A Letter to my Foster Daughter on her 3rd Birthday

It's your Birthday today Sunshine. 

You entered this world three whole years ago but I've only known of your existence for four months.

I didn't hold you and smell your newborn self. I know from paperwork they induced your arrival a few days prior to your due date because your cord was around your neck. You were just three whole pounds but full term and perfectly healthy- see my sweet, you've been a fighter since day one.

I didn't see your first steps or hear your first words. I don't know what your first foods were or if you liked to be held facing out or in. Were you swaddled or rocked to sleep? These things I do not know like your Mama does. She knows every part of you in a way I never will and you loves you so very much. I know she wishes she was with you today, that hers was the first face you saw this morning and her voice was the first to whisper you Happy Birthday. I'm sorry you are not with them but we are thankful you are with us. 
The love everyone feels for you is not
less because they are not with you. Love is timeless and has no boundaries or rules.

This is most likely the only Birthday you will spend with our family so I am taking a lot of pictures. I don't want this to be a "missing Birthday" for you. I don't want you to wonder what happened on this day when you are grown. I want you to know how special we made it because you are special to us. 

You were placed here for a reason, you have big important things to do with your life and while we may not be there to witness them all, know we are cheering for you.

There are big moments ahead of you, yet I cannot promise all good days. There will be days where you have to be braver than should be expected and I want you to know that wherever you go, our love goes with you. 

We gabe you the nickname Sunshine on your first day here and today we celebrate with rainbows because those are a symbol of God's promise. There may be stormy days ahead but there is always light and hope to follow. 

Remember that even though you are a fighter and so very strong- there is someone who is fighting on your behalf and will be your strength when you have none.

Happy Birthday Sunshine- I love you

Mommy Krystle 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Four Months

Sunshine* showed me a picture she had made with her parents at a visit. It was a leaf rubbing and on the bottom it said "Sunshine*, Mommy and Daddy"

She said, "I color with Mom and Dad. I have two Daddies and two Mommies"

It's been four months since I watched a two year old, quiet, docile, curly-haired blonde walk into the CPS office unaware of the events that would unfold before her.

She hardly said a word the first few days, the shock and confusion left her voiceless except for at bedtime when she would cry unless we laid down next to her while she fell asleep.

After 30 days with us she spent the next month with a family member who we were told would be getting guardianship of her and we may not actually see her again. 
Of course, nothing goes as planned within this framework, there are too many moving parts as with any system, and as things would have it not only would she return to us but that plan of guardianship would fall through and we would have her indefinitely.

The "30-60 days maximum" became a no end in sight and we scrambled for childcare with my impending return of work and the school year. We made room adjustments, found more clothing and toys and shoes and adjusted upcoming plans for trips. 

The quiet and docile little girl found her voice, and we began to see the effects of her trauma in full display. It got hard. Really really hard and our entire family has been living in this weird limbo ever since. Knowing this isn't forever but not knowing how long it will be has brought about new conversations and adjustments and a new mindset. Not all bad, just more work. 

We've gotten better at parenting her unique needs, we've carved out once a month respite weekends and we've maximized the time with our three boys as much as possible. Things are possibly better, but possibly we are just getting used to this new normal. 

She loves us dearly and we love her.
She had a little routine where she asks us our names (she knows them well) and we say them again and she says "I lub you" It's as if she's reassuring herself we are still here, we are still Mommy Krystle and Daddy Trevor and she loves us.
She knows all of our nighttime songs, and requests her favorites. She's learned to calm herself and apologize when she's done or said something unkind. She loves to help and folding towels is her favorite. She loves my parents and gets so excited when she sees them out the window. "Sloaney" is incredibly patient with her putting blankets on top and being bossed around.
She hates to be changed and will run from you nearly every time. She sleeps amazingly well even though she still hates to go to bed. 
She will curl up into my lap and tell me she loves me and then tell herself that Mommy Krystle loves her and takes care of her.

No matter how hard this is, I will break in a million pieces when she leaves because I have been her Mommy. I have done the middle of the night rocking and feeding and clothing and caring for and you can't help but attach.
She has been a part of us and because I don't do things half way, she will remain a part of me forever.

I am desperate to see her family get this right and never be in this situation again. I pray daily for health and safety and reunification and new life for them together!

 I am hopeful that the best will be done for this little girl long term. I am thankful for the people who understand this unique situation and offer helpful encouragement and I'm thankful for those who have no idea what we are going through and show up anyway.

She is not unique. There are hundreds of children like her in our area and yours. They need a safe place to get angry, to act out and mourn and heal while their family does their best to reunite with them. 

Studies show that after every visit with a family member the child grieves after and he grief hey feel is as if they just experienced the death of their parent.
 Every. Single. Time. 
Those are massive emotions for anyone let alone a child. We are committed to walking her through those devastating moments, the confusing days and unknowns that lie ahead.

Because we love her, because she was not placed in our home accidentally. Because we took her in when it wasn't convenient and we will stay the course when it gets harder.

Because she is worth it a thousand times over. Because I have been loved in my hard moments- I will choose to love others in theirs.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Be Still

I am a people person.
I need to be around people, I need to be doing something and I need it to be fun.

But I also need to recharge.

Since having kids I have lost the ability to just be. I feel like I constantly have to be doing something even if it's watching old Jimmy Fallon videos online. I really suck at resting. I am horrible at just sitting and being quiet and still and because of that I've become easily distracted and in need of some sort of brain stimulation nearly all day.

Clearly I know this isn't healthy and you know this isn't healthy, but it's hard to reteach yourself something especially in a fast paced world with 24/7 data at our fingertips. 

"Even when we are relaxing or daydreaming, the brain does not really slow down or stop working. Rather—just as a dazzling array of molecular, genetic and physiological processes occur primarily or even exclusively when we sleep at night—many important mental processes seem to require what we call downtime and other forms of rest during the day. Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life." (Scientific American

I do myself a disservice in more ways than one if I don't allow my brain to rest and my body to take a break.

At the pace I'm going these days with work, volunteering at church, my work with Every Child, photography, raising our boys, Fostering a 3 year old, on top of maintaining friendships and everything in between I'm pretty much tapped- I have zero margin for anything else.

I have to get creative in finding space to rest and make the time or else I will not be able to do a good job as a wife, Mom or friend. If I can't take care of myself I can't take care of others. 

So in addition to eating healthy, getting my body moving and being in covenental friendship with people God has placed in our lives- I must make rest and stillness a habit. Even if that means timing myself to see how long I can go doing "nothing" HA!

What about you? How are you at resting, finding quiet moments and being still?

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.