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Archive for April, 2012

Weekend number two with Claire has put fostering into more of a realistic light.  It’s already one hour past the time I told her to get ready for bed and she is just now crawling under the covers.  We had a couple moments today when I got to see those not so pretty sides of fostering.  So far, fostering to me has been weekend vacations.   Caleb came and we played outside, went to the lake, ate junk food…Claire came and we modge podged, baked cookies, and made all sorts of messes.  I really didn’t have to say “no” to either of them.  I didn’t have to cut their activities short or put anyone’s needs above theirs.  Today I had to be more than the weekend fun-house.  I had to be the mom.  I had to set limits and boundaries and allow lessons to be taught the hard way.

There are so many incredibly wonderful attributes that Claire possesses.  I caught her washing dishes today while I was getting ready (and man do those dishes shine!), last night she let me pick our activities and snack because this was my week to make the decisions, she is sweet and happy and completely chatty.  She’s silly and loving and creative.  She is always thinking of ways to encourage other people, whether it’s me, my sister, or her foster mom.  Claire really is an incredible kid!  I just wish she wouldn’t let the fire in her burn up her sweetness.

We went to the lake today and paddled around on a little blow-up boat while we soaked up the rays of the sun.  She did really well.  She didn’t purposely tip us over into the lake, we worked together as a team to make it to the shore (you always have to be looking for these teachable moments), and she was quiet enough that I even got some rest while we floated around.  But then I had to be the mother who was protective of her daughter.  Sunblock.  She wanted suntanning lotion.  I wanted her to put on sunblock.  We decided to “compromise” and I let her got out with just sun.  No block.  No tanning.  Just plain skin verses the sun.  I warned her.  I told her when her skin started turning pink that it was time to listen.  She didn’t.  She burned.  We bought aloe.

Lobster girl and I came home and ate and looked up crafts on the computer.  She was jovial and happy and content eating pizza for the second night in a row, not having to worry about anything.  Then she selflessly decided to make foster mom a present for mother’s day.  Sweet girl, right?  So we went and bought a 64 pack of crayola crayons to create one of those iconic Pinterest projects.  You know, the ones with the hairdryer and crayons.  She wanted hers in the shape of a heart.  All was going well and good as we stripped the paper off the crayons and ordered them by color.  And then came the glue gun, the gluing, and the undoing of all that happiness we had built up today.  Those darn crayons just wouldn’t stick for her.  The glue would melt the crayon and then dry before she ever got it on the poster board.  She was so frustrated.  All the labels she’s had stuck on her by psychiatrists and doctors and social workers…those parts of her came out.  She tore off the crayons, swore a little, teared up, scolded me, criticized everyone who has ever had success with this project.  Everything came out.  I, thankfully and miraculously, stayed calm but firm and helped her get through this rocky patch.  Once she realized I had no problem getting the crayons to stick to the board, she settled down and we finished the project.  Crisis solved.  She created a masterpiece heart shaped, crayon colored poster.  I’m proud of her.  She finished.

What has today taught me?  That I am strong, but not nearly as strong as I gave myself credit for.  I almost snapped under the pressure of her attitude.  I wanted to tear all the crayons off myself and throw the whole thing in the garbage can instead of patiently gluing them on for her.  I wanted to make fun of her lobster red skin instead of gently soothing her back with aloe.  I wanted to throw my hands up and give up on everything I’m doing instead of sitting quietly, waiting for the storm to pass.  But I didn’t.  I kept calm.  I kept strong.  But maybe it’s not about staying strong all the time.  Maybe, like today, it’s all about getting through the day in one piece and clinging to those moments of happiness and hope, like the colorful heart at the end of the day.  Maybe it’s about stepping back and looking at the finished product believing that every trying moment in between the beginning and the end was actually worth the struggle to get there.  Maybe it’s about getting through the monotonous moments, moments that seem to be simple shades of black and white and gray, to at the end get to look back and realize that all along your life has been filled with the most beautiful shades of color.

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Remember Claire?  The first foster kid they offered me that I stressed over and prayed over and lost sleep over?  The one I ultimately decided was not the best fit for my life?  Well, apparently what I thought was the end of my involvement with her was actually just marking the beginning of our journey together.  Who knew that a few weeks after turning her down she would end out staying two weekends with me?  I would actually get to see if I made the best choice.  This weekend marks the first of our time together and here’s what I learned.

Raising a teen is so different than raising a child.  And raising a teen with OCD, ADD, and ODD is so different than raising a “normal” teen.  Having Claire stay with me has really been a test of the type of parent I am and the type I really want to be.  It’s hard when, at 8 years of age, you are treated like an adult, to be a 13 year old and submit to being a kid.  I understand.  I understand that she had to grow up fast. She talks about things I didn’t even know about until I was in college.  She’s had to fend for herself, take care of herself, and protect herself.  She didn’t have a mom that offered safety.  She didn’t have a dad that stayed around.  She didn’t have grandparents to take her in.  So she grew up and she learned to control what she could.  She learned to be in charge.

That control is what I’ve been wrestling with this weekend.  That need to have her own way and be the boss and make all the decisions.  She has the uncanny ability to push the envelope and get her own way before I even realize what has happened..  A 10:00 bedtime turns into 11pm.  “One more cookie” turns into three.  Turning off the computer becomes “just 30 more minutes”.  Waking up for the early service at church turns into getting an extra hour of rest.  Finishing a craft the next days turns into me doing it for her.  How do these things happen?  When did I become such a pushover?  Where is my authority?

This past week God has been dealing with me and some areas of sin and pride and very timely He has brought me to the book of Proverbs.  The verses that pour out Solomon’s words with the way God disciplines those He loves has spoken so clearly to my heart and has washed over me in a very fresh way.  “He who heeds discipline shows the way to life.” (10:17)  “He who spares the rod hates his son.” (13:24)  “Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die.” (15:10)  “He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” (15:32)  All these verses have been for me.  Every time I read them I hear God saying, “I love you.  But with my love comes discipline.”

Why do I think I should treat kids any differently?  I think I’m so afraid of having a negative impact in their lives that I forget to keep structure and order and discipline.  Don’t get me wrong, I did not let Claire run wild.  But I think I was focused so much on building rapport that I forgot about building character.  I was so focused on her having a good time baking cookies and making friendship bracelets and modge-podging picture frames that I overlooked opportunities for gentle rebukes.  I am learning.  Maybe before next weekend I’ll have it sorted out.  Maybe I’ll get the hang of this thing called mothering before I get my first placement.  In the meantime, I hope God continues to give me clarity in my own walk with Him so that I may be one who experiences life.

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I really need to start a sub-blog for all my rants and raves that have nothing to do with fostering.  I was busy washing dishes, excited that I finally had a moment of productivity when my mind began to wander and ended out here.  Normally I’d write these epiphanies in my journal because that’s where I store all the rest of my randomness, but there is laundry to do and dishes to wash and a floor that has needed to be scrubbed for four weeks now.  My fingers are faster than a pen, so here’s my thoughts.  I just read a post from a girl at church who was talking about a guy that had started going to church and whose heart was beginning to open up and everyone was excited that he was beginning to change.  But, alas, something happened with someone in church leadership that caused him to completely close down.

Here’s my rant and it’s probably unfair and un-biblical to even say these things, but I am sick of people closing their mind to Christ because one person in the church does something stupid.  It would be like having a teacher hurt your feelings once in school so you swore off all education for the rest of your life.  And not only that, but you hated all the teachers and students in that school because one person told you something you didn’t want to hear or did one thing that was ungodly.  People say they hate Christianity because of certain experiences they’ve had with pastors or church members.  But really, the problem is not leadership.  The problem is Lordship.  You can’t throw out the whole of the gospel because one imperfect human being did something that hurt you.  I know painful things happen.  Sometimes they are big enough to move you to a different church or cause you to cut ties with an individual.  I understand.  But you don’t throw out Jesus on behalf of His people.  I believe 100% that as Christians we’re supposed to be set apart and different from the world; we are held to a higher standard.  But for goodness sake, I am not perfect and I pray to God people don’t judge Him on account of me!  I just wish there was a way for the world to stop looking at Christians and start looking at Christ.  He does a much better job of being God that we ever could.

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I’ve been thinking lately about foster kids and my students and people in general and started thinking about the words we tell people to encourage them toward a better life.  One of our favorite things to do is to tell people exactly how much potential they have.  Oh, we do this with people all the time when they’ve strayed from the life we wanted them to live.  They could have been a doctor or preacher or business man.  We say ridiculous things like, “they had so much potential” and cringe at the fact that their life is now worthless and ruined because at this moment it doesn’t look a bit like our own definition of greatness.  It seems good to tell someone they have potential, that they could be more if they did such and such or behaved a certain way, but what if we stopped focusing on the potential and started pointing out all the good that is already there?  What if we didn’t tell someone what they could be but started reminding them of who they are: fearfully and wonderfully made, created on purpose, crafted in the hands of God.  What if we told people they are smart and beautiful and that they matter to us, to their community, to God?  One of the most beautiful things about God is that He already sees us in our perfected form.  To Him, we are already great.  We need to start reminding people of who they are.  Tell kids as they grow up how God sees them.  We need to speak truth into the hearts of the next generation so they can cease striving to reach their potential and start living out the greatness they already possess.

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“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12

Last night I spent way too long on Facebook looking at all my friends with their husbands and babies and blogs about how to be the perfect homemaker.  I clicked around a blog that a girl I went to college with writes, and she has become the epitome of what I always wanted to be.  She stays at home and crafts and bakes and cooks (always from scratch, of course!) and decorates her home for every season…with decorations she made herself.  She coupons and sews and runs 5Ks.  She has a beautiful family and travels and has perfect style.  And I started comparing my life to hers.  And then my life to everyone else’s.  And my heart started to feel sick.  I started thinking about the life I am now entering into and how different that’s going to look from everything I have always dreamed about.  I’m going to be a working mother without a husband raising broken kids.  My days are going to be filled with little victories, but they are often going to be filled with a lot of exhaustion and tears and dinners purchased in the frozen food isle of the grocery store.

As I was trying to sleep last night, bemoaning the fact that my life is over, I started to think about fireflies.  As a little girl I would go out at night and chase them around the yard, desperately wanting to catch them so I could keep them locked safely inside a mason jar.  I would catch a dozen or so and sit at the table watching them light up.  They were lovely.  They were what I wanted.  But eventually I had to let them go or they would die.  I think perhaps some of my dreams are like that.  They are great dreams.  They are the hopes that most girls have when they’re young.  I get a little taste of some of my dreams coming true and they completely illuminate my world. But some dreams, I need to let go of.  And if I let go of those dreams, maybe God can take them and use them to light up the whole night sky, instead of just the little jar I had locked them in.  So here’s to letting go of dreams and hoping for ones bigger and brighter than what I’ve been holding on to for so long.  Goodbye fireflies.

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Yesterday my parents were in town and we spent most of the day working in the back yard tilling up the soil, raking out the grass, pulling up weeds, and planting almost perfectly straight rows of vegetables.  I now have a garden hiding hundreds of tiny seeds: cantaloupe, watermelon, spinach, squash, onions, beets, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, corn…I can’t even remember everything we planted!  Every time I work outside whether it’s pulling up weeds or planting flowers, I cannot get over the analogies that nature gives us regarding every day life.  As I begin to water and care for these tiny seeds, I am struck again with the incredible gift I have been entrusted with in fostering.  Kids will be coming to me as seeds needing complete nurture and guidance and support, or they may come to me as a little sprout that just needs a healthy place to live so it can continue to grow.  I may be given a tiny tree of a child who needs pruning and shaping and extra love.  And I’m responsible for all the tilling and watering and fertilizing of these little seeds and plants.  I can sing to them.  I can clear away all the things that could cause them harm and stop their growth.  I can keep away anyone that would want to uproot them and tear them down.  But one thing I cannot do.  There is one thing that no matter how much I wish I could control I can’t.  And that thing is growth.  I cannot make anything grow.  That is the role of the sun and soil and rain and more importantly it is the role of God.

My Dad sent me a link to YouTube video that is all about growth.  When planting a vegetable and herb garden it’s only a matter of weeks before you see the fruit of your labor.  Working with foster kids is not going to be quite like that. I may see glimpses of growth after a few weeks, but it could be years before there is any sort of real growth or change or maturation.  The better example of growing up foster kids would be to watch bamboo grow.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJ3C9SP8xRE

For years you may be pouring out all your energy and emotions and see nothing.  Not a glimpse of green.  You don’t even know if the seed is still growing of if anything of value is penetrating the soil and helping.  One year.  Two years.  Three.  Nothing.  You wait.  And work.  And pray to God something is working.  Then all of a sudden, growth.  Real growth.  Growth by leaps and bounds.  Those are the moments we labor toward.  That is the day we hope to see.  Remember as we labor, we do not labor in vain.  I fully believe with each child that steps into my house, I will reap a harvest if I do not give up (Gal. 6:9).  I may not see it for years.  But one day, there she is.  Grown.

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