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Archive for June, 2012

Someone from church told me this week that God gives more grace to mothers.  I don’t know if that is biblically correct or theologically sound, but I know it certainly feels that way at times.  I have been wanting to throw in the towel lately.  Not just throw it in, but rip it to shreds and dispose of it to never have to look at it again.  If I’m completely honest, I have been in the pit this week of wishing I wasn’t a foster mom.  I don’t want to wake up anymore to green paint on the carpet, spills on the kitchen floor, and toothpaste splattered on the bathroom wall.  I’m tired of endless questions of “what if” and “why”.  I don’t want to be lied to and argued with and cut down.  I feel chained to my own house – a house piled with laundry and dust and endless piles of dirty dishes.  I’m tired of being blamed and misunderstood and taken for granted.  But mostly I’ve just been tired of failing every day to conquer my own flesh and feeling so very alone.

This last week I have had not one kid, but two.  Claire is back in my life while her new foster family is out of town enjoying the beach.  Lydia and Claire have gotten along remarkably well, other than the occasional “Why does Claire get to…” and the girls bossing each other around.  They have done well together.  But beyond that?  That’s a whole other story.  Claire managed to get herself kicked out of camp for getting into a fight and using inappropriate language with a boy.  Lydia came home with pink eye, and despite her puffy face and redness, she and I have been butting heads like two mountain goats.  From morning to night it’s been arguing and fighting and tears.  I am so exhausted from it!  I have been letting my flesh win over and over again.  I wake up early and beg God to give me the patience and compassion to deal with each thing that I would face.  But each time I had an opportunity to respond with grace, I responded with anger.  This week I have been a despicable, un-nurturing mother.  But thankfully God’s grace is not like mine…

In the midst of the chaos and stress, God has allowed me such sweet pictures of His presence and grace.  Grace, you must know, that I am completely undeserving of!  I told some one the other day that I feel like God is almost testing me; He brings me right up to the very end of what I can handle and right when I’m about to give up or say something I really regret, He swoops in on wings of compassion and wraps me in His grace.

The first of many this week was a day that Lydia and I had been arguing and finally had a chat to apologize to each other.  Really, it was the eight year old who took the first step.  “Miss Shelly?  Do I ever hurt your feelings?”  “Miss Shelly, when you tell me what to do, can you promise to start talking nicer to me?”  “Miss Shelly, I’m sorry.”  And I said buckets of apologies for not responding well and agreed to try to show more understanding and patience.  We picked up Chinese food for dinner (because sometimes you just need take out!) and sat at the table to eat.  I poured her some sweet and sour sauce for her chicken and when we looked on the plate, it had formed a perfect red heart.  That’s when Lydia (the girl who has more spiritual awareness than most 30 year olds I know) said, “You know, I think God made that heart for us.  He is saying that even when we don’t love Him, or we don’t love each other well, He still loves us.  You can’t ever out love God.”  What?!  Who is this child?!  God wrote her a love note on her plate and used it to slap me in the face.

God’s love is SO big!  It’s so beautiful.  His love is so full of grace and compassion.  God has extended more grace to me than I possibly deserve.  Even today He covered me in love through my sweet Half Pint.  She was all cuddly and affectionate and apologetic.  A perfect angel.  She kept telling me how much she loves me and how I’m the nicest person she has ever known (really, Lyd!?  Me?!).  She begged me again to adopt her and said that a couple more months just wasn’t enough.  What have I possibly done to deserve this much grace?! I have screwed up so much yet not only does God still love me, but He has allowed all my faults to disappear in the eyes of a child.

I’m so thankful for the “more grace” that He gives to mothers.  I’m thankful for love letters written in sweet and sour sauce.  I’m thankful that when I am the least deserving, God continues to give more and more.

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Yesterday evening I came home from a long day at work and Lydia exclaimed, “I’m going to remember today for the rest of my life!”  Coming on the cusp of her good-bye visit, you would’ve thought she was talking about the last time she got to see her mother.  But no.  She was talking about the day my dad taught her to ride a bike.  I will never forget the moment I came home and saw her peddling down the street without her training wheels.  Having her ride away with a new found freedom and independence, was the perfect picture of what happened during the first half of the day.  The day she said goodbye.

Half Pint spent two hours on Friday with her mom and two brothers eating ham sandwiches and playing in the park.  Lydia brought pictures of herself to give her mom and some final words she wanted to say.  I couldn’t be at the meeting, but a full report was given back to me from the DSS case worker and adoption specialist.  I promised myself early on I would not judge the parents for what happened, especially in this case, and try to find the good in everyone.  But the report I got back caused me to wonder if there really is much good to find.

From Lydia’s perspective, things went great.  Her mom spent almost the whole time with her, talking to her, and answering all her questions.  She got to see her brothers and catch up with them.  But somewhere in the course of their conversation, Mom thought today would be a good time to tell Lydia that she has a little sister she has never met, a sister I didn’t even know existed.  A sister that DSS never intended the kids to learn anything about for a while.  A sister that Lydia will never meet and now desperately wants to know.  So, not only did Lydia lose a mom on Friday, she gained and lost a baby sister.  She came back feeling more lost and confused and abandoned than ever.

But that simple bike ride, the moment when Lydia realized she could learn, that she could rise up above her struggles, almost made her forget about the pain of the afternoon.  It’s like the moment the wind starting flying through her hair and her legs pumped the peddles without her falling off her bike, helped her realize how intelligent and special she is.  Her confidence rose and her tears disappeared at the sheer elation of learning something new.  She can do this.  She can get past her good-bye and ride forward to a future of freedom.

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Letters

Last week Lydia wrote a note to her brother and it was absolutely too precious to resist posting here.  Plus it really gives good insight into the mind of an eight year old foster kid.

A special note for you.  How much I love and miss you.

Dear Isaac,

I really miss you.  I wish you were still here with me.  I wish you could keep me company because there really isn’t anybody to be with or talk with.  By the way I’m sorry for saying that I’m not your sister, because I can’t choose if I’m your sister or not.  I will always be your sister – Always.  I can’t wait until our next visit.

With love

Your sister,

Lydia

PS. How are you doing at [the Group Home]?

PPS.  I feel kinda miserable.

Then today she came home with a few notes for her mom in preparation for the good-bye visit tomorrow.  She had cut out strips of paper and then colored them to match her feelings for each note:

Red: “My love for you, never stops.”

Yellow: “You make me and my heart shine.”

Orange: “No matter what, you’re still my heart.”

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I love watching Lydia grow up.  No joke, I think she’s grown an inch since she’s been here.  Her body is getting stronger and healthier and she’s starting to fatten up in all the right places.  Her hair is beautiful and blond and long (except for that lovely spot on the right side of her head that I still have to flatten down with hairspray and clips) and I swear her freckles get more and more cute each day.  She smiles more and talks more and is getting more creative.  Her manners are improving and she is growing in awareness of others outside of herself.  She is growing up.  And I am falling in love with her.

And the more I fall in love with her, the more my heart aches for her.  Today she had to be stronger and braver than a little girl should ever have to be.  The first day Lydia was in my care she was carrying a toy house down the hall and dropped the thing right on the ridge of her foot.  It was a hard fall too.  I ran to her side expecting tears to be flooding her eyes.  Nothing.  She looked at me straight in my face and said really stoically, “I’m okay.  I didn’t feel anything.”  Whenever she falls or stubs her toe or gets a scrape, same thing.  Straight expression, clear eyes, feeling nothing.  The callouses she has built around her heart are thick.  Today, however, those callouses were torn off and her little heart was left open and bare and broken.

At 4:00pm a therapist and an adoption counselor showed up at my house to have “The Talk” with Lydia.  I picked her up early from school and thanked God that she has had five fantastic days to at least cushion today a little bit.  Her spirits were high, she was happy.  Happy as a clam until she figured out what was going on.  The adoption counselor sat on the floor with her and started talking about families.  She brought a book she had made for Lydia explaining the process of what was next, but she didn’t even have to open it before Lydia realized what was happening.  “I don’t want to be adopted!”  She looked panicked and confused and cut to the core.  And she started to cry.  She sobbed at the thought of never getting to go back to her mama.  “I wish none of this had ever happened!  I wish I could go back home with my mama.  I wish I could live with my brothers again.  I wish I had a picture of her so I could look at her whenever I’m sad.”  Her pain was so raw I could feel it.  Nothing tears apart my heart like seeing that sweet child just melt.

The counselor did an incredible job of explaining things to Lydia, of staying calm and comforting.  She explained how this wasn’t Lydia’s fault; how her mom is sick and can’t take care of her.  She said she’s looking for the best family possible so Lydia can live a happy, healthy life; that she’s not losing a family, she’s gaining another one.  The therapist read her a book on adoption and tried to twist it in a positive light by talking about successful adoption stories.  But twist as hard as you can, at the end of the day, Lydia still loses her mama.  And to her, that’s all that she heard.  I am thankful for how patient the two of them were with her, with us.  They were soothing.  Understanding.  Compassionate.  Even talked about the strength and presence of God.

By the time they left Lydia had calmed down and was back to her goofy self.  She even set her Barbies up as adoptive sisters, just like her.  She’s already starting to refer to herself as “adopted” even though that process is still in the beginning stages and she has no idea who her new family is going to be.  Tomorrow Lydia will be writing a letter to her mom and we’ll go print out some pictures of herself to bring with her to the family good-bye visit on Friday.  Lydia will come up with a list of questions and final words to say.  She doesn’t fully understand, but I think she’s beginning to.

As Mr. Therapist and Ms. Counselor were leaving, I got up to walk them to the door.  Lydia, fear stricken, jumped up and said, “You’re not leaving me too, are you?!”  Oh, baby girl, I wouldn’t leave you for all the money in the world!  Then she jumped in my arms and hugged me tight and said those words I was absolutely dreading.  “Are you going to adopt me?”  I wanted to be the person at that moment to tell her that I was always going to be there for her.  That she could stay with me forever.  But I had to tell her that I have the amazing privilege of being her foster mom to help her get to her forever family.  “But I want to stay with you!” she cried.  “I love you more than I love my mama.  Wait…I still love my mama.  I love her more.  But I love you more…” and the conflict inside her little mind continued as the battle in mine began.  How precious she is to me!

I realized this morning as I was talking to Ms. Counselor on the phone that another 60 days with Half Pint just isn’t going to be enough.  When I finally started talking time frame and putting names with concepts, it all began feeling very real.  Some day soon, possibly by the end of the summer, I’m going to have to say my forever good-bye.  I knew going into fostering that I can’t keep her.  But today more so than any before, I just wish I’ll never have to let her go.

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Wanted: Friends

I don’t ever remember life without friends.  My earliest memories from preschool involve sitting on my nap time mat drinking grape juice with my friend Amanda.  I was five years old.  Every moment after that includes a friend.  Friends to have sleepovers with, to sit by on the bus, to share lunch with at school.  I had friends to play “school” with, to play barbies with, and to play in the creek with.  I had friends to share secrets with, to go to for advice, and to just kick back and laugh with.  As I’ve grown up those friendships have taken different forms, and some friendships have ended where others have blossomed.  There were periods of time with I didn’t have a friend living in close proximity to me, but I knew I always had one on the other end of the phone.  How often have I taken friendships for granted?!  Having a foster child puts it all in a new light.

Lydia doesn’t have any friends.  She has no one that she plays with at school.  She has no one that she hangs out with or laughs with or shares secrets with.  She is miserable in her own loneliness and longs for a friend.  I keep trying to find a friend for her.  I’ve called the children’s home down the street (they don’t have any kids her age now), I talked to my case worker (no other kids her age in our area), I’ve looked at church and in the neighborhood and talked to my friends.  None.  I can’t seem to find a friend for her.

I don’t know if it’s true with all foster kids, but I know it’s true with mine.  It’s like they wear some sort of scarlet letter on their forehead that tells other kids that they should stay away.  It’s like foster kids are a different brand of child and other kids aren’t quite sure what to do with them.  Or maybe it’s just my kid.  I understand their hesitation.  It’s hard as an adult to reach out and love the person that no one else wants to give love to.  Kids are no different.  They look at Lydia and see a kid who just arrived, threw a tantrum like a five year old, chopped off her hair, and talks about some pretty inappropriate things.  They know she’s different.  And different scares them.

Lydia’s daycare teacher told me last week that Lydia wasn’t connecting with other kids.  “They all have their own little clicks already,” she said.  “Someone like Lydia just doesn’t really fit in.”  Like that is some sort of excuse for them shunning my child.  Like that gives them permission to criticize her and ban her from their games.  So what if she’s new?  Shouldn’t the teacher be teaching kids how to embrace diversity and love other kids?  Or maybe that’s just Jesus in me.  Maybe in state run daycare facilities they don’t care about growing well rounded, fully adjusted kids.  I mean, why would they want to actually prepare kids to be successful in the real world?

So every time I look in those big blue eyes and ask who she played with or who her friends are, and she responds with “no one”, a little piece of my heart breaks.  I want other kids to see how extraordinary Lydia is.  She’s different.  But she’s a good different.  I’m begging God to allow one kid to see past the big F (foster kid) on her forehead and love her for who she is.  I want one kid to play with her and accept her and invite her into their circle.  I want one kid to be Jesus to my sweet child.  Where is that one?

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I realize today is almost over which means Father’s Day is almost done, and I’m a little late in getting this post up to honor my Dad.  This morning I had to sit down with Half Pint at breakfast to make sure she was aware that today was Father’s Day.  I knew at KidSpring they would be talking about fathers and making a “#1 Dad” picture frame, and I wanted to make sure she was going to be okay being inundated with reminders of a past I know she would rather forget.  Her response was “I want to kick my dad in the face for what he did” which turned into another discussion on how her life has been altered ever sense.  She told me today that she really believes she has forgiven her dad, and I want to believe her, but her actions and thoughts would tell me there is so much work yet to be done.  She is still so broken.  I almost canceled Father’s Day altogether because I wasn’t sure she was ready.  I wasn’t sure I was ready.  But I couldn’t neglect it in its entirety because I have an entirely different sort of Dad.  So, in Mother’s Day like fashion, here’s a letter to my Dad.

Dear Popsie,

A few days ago while I was cleaning out some cabinets at work, I ran across a bag of tiny toy compasses.  Those tiny objects triggered such an overwhelming sense of nostalgia that has lingered through the week to today.  I can’t even count how many Sunday afternoons we would track through the woods with nothing but your black compass to guide us past trees and over creeks into the middle of who-knows-where.  As long as you were with me, I never feared getting lost.  We could be surrounded by woods and mossy forest floors and the sun could start setting and I knew you would always get me back, safely home.  Those days as a little girl are over, but the feeling has stayed with me for life.  I still know that as long as you are with me I have someone to go to for guidance, for direction, and for help getting back home.

You are the man who taught me to believe in myself and my dreams and my God.  You’re the one who has pushed me to the next level of character and strength.  Because of you I am confident and bold and do things that seem at times a little crazy to the world.  I do them because you have proved to me over and over again that it’s okay to color outside the lines.  When we live that way, life itself becomes a whole new form of art.

I am so thankful for a dad who modeled hard work and servitude, love and compassion.  You are sacrificial and selfless.  You model integrity, honesty, and grace.  You are brave.  You point me to Christ and challenge me to seek God through His Word.  Thank you for being an example I can follow.

The longer I live with a child who had the opposite of what a dad should be, the more thankful I am for you.  Thank you for things that seem like reasonable expectations; for responding in grace and not anger, for treating me with patience and respect, and for never giving me reason to fear you.  Thank you for teaching me what love really means so I would have a healthy picture of a heavenly Father.

Dad, I am so proud of you.  I say sometimes that there aren’t many men like you; there are NO men like you.  You are a jewel of a man and I could not have wished for a more wonderful Father.  I know this letter is random and doesn’t even begin to describe how wonderful you really are, but I hope today and always you know how thankful I am for a Dad like you.  I am forever blessed.

Your crazy girl,

Daughtsie

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Raising a foster child is hard.  Raising any child is hard, but a foster kid comes with her own set of DNA that is slightly different from a “normal” kid.  Lydia fits the mold of a typical foster child, except for one thing.  She lies and is impulsive and defiant at times, she has low self esteem and struggles with post traumatic stress disorder, but one thing I think makes her different from other foster kids.  Lydia has an incredible heart and a spirit so sweet she can engulf you in her love with a single hug around the neck.  Anyone who has met Lydia for a moment can tell you she is something special.  Every morning before we get in the car she writes “I love you” in the dew sticking to the edge of her door.  The first words out of her mouth this morning were “I love-es you”.  Today has been all “yes ma’am” and “excuse me” and “I’m sorry.”  Today has been completely about rebuilding what she spent the last two days tearing down.  My gosh, that kid is exceptional!

I realized yesterday what part of the problem is.  Or most of the problem.  The problem tends to always rest on me.  I do not know why God is so determined that I have to be the one to learn all these lessons (aren’t there other people He needs to teach?!), but I am noticing a direct correlation between my relationship with God, my submission to Him, and how my day with Lydia goes.  I don’t know if that even makes logical sense, but somehow they are all very intricately connected.  Good old Beth Moore said last night in her Bible study that “If we’re not surrendered to God already that day with our hearts and minds guarded by Scripture, we’ll more likely react by impulse than by the Holy Spirit.”  She must have written this study with me in mind!  I have been spending time with God, but it was rushed and more like a cry for help than deliberate seeking of His face and will.  I realized, without meaning to, I had allowed myself to take some of the place of God in Lydia’s life.  I began thinking I could be the hero.  Beth says “there are two reasons God allows us to have – and to be – fallen heroes.”  God knew I needed to be removed because He “is jealous for our true enduring hero to be His own Son.” (Esther, pg. 183)

So this morning as I painfully pulled myself out of bed, I prayed that God would completely remove me from the equation.  If there was any therapy or progress made in sweet child’s life, I wanted it to be from Jesus.  In my hands I just botch the whole thing up.  So I asked Jesus to take over.  Again.  I feel like I’m always giving Lydia up but then look down again and still see my pinky clinging to hers.  I need to give her up completely and trust God to be the hero.

The ironic thing is yesterday I was asking why God wasn’t showing up on His white horse to save the day.  I’m beginning to wonder if He was waiting for me to stop fighting Him so He could pick both me and Half Pint up and bring us to safety.  I thought the one we were fighting against was the kid and her behaviors.  Maybe we were really fighting against my own demigod mentality.

But for whatever reason (and because of LOTS of prayers from His faithful saints!) God decided to show up today and spoil my face off with a perfect child.  You know she actually asked me if she could finish washing the dishes for me?!  Sometimes I think God just likes to show off.  Thank you God for making this a show worth waking up for.

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