Archive for September, 2012

Dress Rehearsal for Good-Bye

I’ve changed my mind.  I don’t want to foster.  I want to go back in time and reverse what I decided.  All along I have said that I would be able to handle it when the time came to say good-bye.  I think I may have been just a little wrong.  Okay, I think I may have been tremendously wrong.  I think when the day comes for me to pass Sweet Pea on to her forever home, my heart will shrivel up and die.  I made a mistake.  I’m so good at guarding my heart and keeping everyone at arms length.  I put up iron walls around my heart and guard it with a whole army of unspoken thoughts.  But I messed up.  Somewhere along the line I let down my guard.  I stopped protecting myself.  When that precious little girl came to live with me, I gave her my whole heart.  I held nothing back.  I fell in love with her.

I’m sitting on my couch sobbing because Lydia’s adoptive family just pulled out of the driveway with her and her brother in the car.  The pathetic thing is, they didn’t load them in the car to move them up north.  They loaded them in the car to take them out for ice-cream and to get their wiggles out at Monkey Joe’s.  Ice-cream and bounce-houses and I am crying like a baby.  What will I be like three months from now when they move my sweet heart four states away?

The kicker was as they were getting into the car and Lydia was giving me a hug good-bye she said, “Aren’t you coming with us?”  I told her this was her special time with her family and she clung hard to me and said, “But you’re my family.”  How will it be after we’ve carved pumpkins together and eaten our Thanksgiving dinner and decorated the Christmas tree?  If putting a roof over her head and helping her with homework and laying cool cloths on her brow when she’s sick has made us family, what will the holidays do to my heart?

I knew my role from the beginning was to be a transitional home for her, to help her overcome her struggles, and prepare her for this next phase of her life.  I knew it.  From the beginning, I knew she would leave.  Why did I let myself fall in love with her?

But even as I write this I hear Jesus gently whisper in my ear, “It is worth it.”  Lydia is something special.  She can have a tantrum, hit me, throw things at me, mock me, refuse to obey, run away from me, and slam the door in my face…but at the end of it all, she comes back.  Every single time.  She comes back.  And repents.  And loves.  It is worth it.  I have watched her transform from an insecure, fragile creature to a confident, strong child.  It is worth it.  She has taught me how to open up and stand up and not give up.  It is worth it.  She has grown two inches and is gaining weight but still wants to sit on my lap and read a book before bed.  It is worth it.  She started out closed and timid and broken in her mind and now she laughs and tells stories about her day and thinks about Jesus.  It is worth it.

Each battle, each sleepless night, each tear.  Worth it.


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Half-Birthday Blues

It’s the end of the day and I’ve spent most of it on a business trip in Charlotte and the rest of it at Home Group, but now that I have finally stopped moving and networking and pouring into my precious small group, I am realizing how desperately sad I am going to be when I have to say good-bye to Sweet Pea.  I am in the middle of writing an email to her soon-to-be adoptive mom and I don’t even want to finish it.  I don’t want to help coordinate a visit with the kiddos this weekend or share church time with them or celebrate Lydia’s half-birthday with them.  I don’t want to entrust my kid into their care for two days and not be there to make sure everything is going smoothly and my baby is being taken care of.  And I hate being fake so I’m having a hard time putting the words together to sound pleasant and supportive and not at all selfish.  Lately the fact that Lydia is not going to be with me forever has felt very real.  Devastatingly so.  I had a parent/teacher conference on Monday and her teacher was talking about a trip to Columbia that the class would be taking next semester and as soon as I said, “Oh, we don’t have to worry about that.  She won’t be here by then” I almost burst into tears right there in that little 3rd grade classroom.  I want her to still be with me.  I don’t want to have to say good-bye.

Almost daily now I have some contact with the adoption specialist, the DSS worker, my Bair caseworker, our therapist, or the adoptive family from out of state.  My life no longer consists of just Lydia and I.  It consists of our whole team of people trying to prepare sweet girl for a huge transition.  She is no longer “mine”.  She is caught somewhere in the gap between mine and theirs.  And I hate that feeling.

Monday Lydia was on the phone with the adoptive mom talking about horses and braces and school and Lydia all of a sudden said, “Let me ask my mom” and turned to me with her question.  The irony hit me like a ton of bricks.  She doesn’t know it yet, but that woman she is talking to on the phone IS her mom.  I’m just a fill in.  A temporary mother.  Part of me wanted to say, “See!  I am her mom!” but the other part knows how desperately hard it is for the other family to wait and wait and wait.  It’s a strange feeling to want to keep a child because you love her so very much but also want the adoption to go through quickly so the other family can finally be whole.  I didn’t expect to love her new family.  I didn’t expect to have conflict inside of me with both joy and pain at the thought of her moving on.

I think the reason this is all culminating tonight is not just the fact that I have no idea how much longer I have with her (although it does look like it will be through the holidays because they failed to file some paperwork almost two months ago.  Another story for another time…) but because I realized today how much I’m going to miss out on.  Today she turned 8 and 1/2.  God brought her to me five days after her 8th birthday.  I won’t get to be with her on her 9th.  This is the only birthday I get with her…and I have to share it with her adoptive family this weekend.  I won’t be with her when she looses her next tooth or gets her ears pierced or learns to shave.  In just a couple months I will be reduced from the position of mother to the woman who sends her cards at Christmas time and presents on her birthday.  I may never get to see the final product of this beautiful masterpiece that God is diligently painting.

I know this change is going to be good.  In fact, I know it’s going to be amazing!  Her adoptive family loves her and her brother so very much.  They have turned their lives upside down to welcome these kids into their home.  They passionately want to serve Jesus and bring Him glory.  They are a fantastic family.

But there is just one thing missing.

Me.  So I’m going to cling to every hug I can get and every laugh I can hear her giggle.  I’m going to tell her daily how wonderful she is and how much I love her.  I’m going to pour into her every day like it’s the last one we’ve got.  Because very soon, it will be.  And I want to be as ready as I can to let that sweet girl go.

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The funny thing about life is that we can come at it with our to-do lists and recipes for what the future is going to look like and rarely, if ever, does it turn out that way.  When I began the journey of fostering, whether I admitted it to myself or not, I had certain expectations of what it would look like, what I would be like, and how things would turn out.  Some of those expectations have been met.  Others still linger in the back of my mind and have become quiet prayers that I whisper in the night.  But there is a whole other set of life changes that I never considered when I began fostering.  I don’t think I ever stopped to think about how fostering would change me.  I wish I could say all the changes have been positive, but if you’ve been following my blog at all you know that I am imperfect and have responded poorly on many occasions.  There are so many days I feel the inadequacies of my maternal nature and give into the temptation to react rather than respond.  This is a change for me.  This was not on my list of expectations.  But there are other changes that have crept in ever so subtly that I wonder if I’m the only one that has noticed it.  A change like the ending of one season and the beginning of another.  Today I woke up and realized my whole house was chilled and the sun slept in longer than usual and the air felt crisp and clean.  When did this change start to occur?  How did I miss the subtle beauty that accompanies the ushering in of Autumn?  Sometimes we just miss a transformation because it happens so gradually and we live in it so closely that it somehow becomes a part of who we are and we morph right along with it.  This is what fostering has done for me.  I have slowly, almost without notice, morphed into a new person.  I have changed.

My outlook on life is so different than it was six months ago.  I am so much more content and happy and settled.  There are still things I long for and crave out of life, things I dream about and wish for, but the hunger for those things isn’t as strong as it used to be.  I don’t need “more”.  All that I want is sleeping in the room down the hall, tucked in under purple covers next to her teddy bear.  I don’t crave the busyness of life anymore.  I feel settled.  I get a strange satisfaction out of doing laundry and cooking meals and putting dishes away.  I like laying in the middle of the living room floor playing board games and laughing.  I don’t need to be entertained anymore.  I embrace the joy of the moment.  Petty disagreements and annoyances don’t bother me like they used to.  My feelings don’t get hurt as quickly and I’m not so quick to judge others.  I have learned to put myself into someone else’s shoes and see life from another perspective.

But the biggest way I have changed is in the way I carry myself.  I know it’s probably not noticeable to the outside world, but I have gained a confidence in who I am that I never thought I would find.  I have an inner strength that although it could rear it’s head when circumstances required it to, normally lay dormant beneath my shy exterior.  Not anymore.  I have been able to push through more and endure more and give more and do more than I ever dreamed I could do.  I have earned the love and respect of a person who doesn’t give it out very quickly.  And somehow, through her transformation, I have been altered too.  I don’t doubt myself as much as I used to or give in to others.  I am a fighter now.  It could be something as seemingly insignificant as confronting a co-worker or telling a doctor we demand to be seen.  It’s like once I started fighting I couldn’t stop.  I don’t mean in a “I’m going to beat you up” way but in a “This is the right thing to do and we’re going to get it done” way.  I finally understand why God has wired me the way He has and how all my quirks and idiosyncrasies were actually designed on purpose for this exact calling.

Somehow in becoming a foster mom I have learned who I am.  And I pray to God I’m helping my sweet kid figure out who she is too.  I’m hoping the lessons I’m learning at 30 are somehow making their way to her little eight year old heart.  I’m hoping together we will continue to change for the glory of God.


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Ready for a Second Dose

I know it sounds crazy and nonsensical to even think about fitting another child into our already hectic, packed life, but lately that is all I can think about.  I can’t stop thinking about a blond haired, blue eyed little boy sitting in a group home 40 minutes away from his sister.  When I was  eight and my sister was five, and anything happened to her, I was a mess.  I remember my mom having to take her to urgent care one night because she had a bug in her ear or something random like that, and I sat through all of dinner just boo-hooing because I was worried about her and needed to know that she was okay.  Any time something bad happened to her, it tore me up.  Oh, we’d fight over who got to play with what toy and which one of us got be the teacher when we played “School”, but I always had her back.  We were each others playmates and roommates and friends.  I cannot imagine if, at eight, I had to be taken away from my sister and leave her in a home with other kids and adults who were referred to as “second shift” or “third shift” workers and not “mom” and “dad”.  It would’ve eaten me alive to have to go two months between visits and not getting to be with her every day.

This weekend Half Pint’s little brother came to stay with us again.  When I went to pick him up from his “home”, he ran up to me, hugged me so tightly and said, “I missed you so much!  I just love, love, love you!”  He could not wait to come home with us.  And if that didn’t tear my nerves enough, the other three precious darlings in the room came up to me and clung to me and begged me to take them with me too.  This weekend was almost like a trial run.  There has been a lot of drama lately with the adoption process and certain people trying to poison the water so that these two precious kiddos don’t get adopted together.  Their to-be-adoptive mother and I have spent all week texting and emailing and praying our hearts out begging God to work something out so these two kids can be together again.  And when I get a burden in my heart and an idea in my head, I do not rest until it is finished.  My burden…my thought this week…Lydia’s brother.

I wanted to write down all the fun memories we had picking apples, hanging out with our neighbors, and just hanging out at home playing.  But mostly tonight I just want to write about how absolutely burdened I am for this sweet little boy.  Does he know tonight how much he is loved?  Does he know he is wanted?  Is someone tucking him in and reading him Bible stories and praying for sweet dreams as he rests?  Is anyone making sure he is held and hugged and spoiled?  Is anything causing him to belly laugh like he did all weekend with his sister?  Who carries him when he’s tired?  Who makes sure he’s getting a proper education and expanding his mind?  Does he know he is precious and valued?  Does he know how significant he is?

People tell me I’m crazy.  That they could never foster because of how hard it is to say goodbye.  I know that will be hard.  Painfully hard.  But it’s harder for me to sit back and know there are kids out there without loving homes when I have a home and a heart that is capable of taking care of them.  Lydia asked me today if she was still my favorite.  I got to explain to her how our hearts grow and how love is something you can never run out of.  Just because I love her brother does not mean I love her any less.  There’s not a cap on love.

People also tell me I’m too stressed already.  Can I really take care of another kid?  And as hard as it may be to see from the outside, and as stressed as I may appear to be, I can honestly say having two kids, while twice the work, gives me twice the joy.  It feels natural. It feels right.  I felt like our strange little family was complete this weekend, like it should be.  He belongs with us.  Yes, he will be one more mouth to feed, one more bed to make, one more kid to get ready in the morning.  He will be one more to pick up after school, one more to to tuck in at night, one more to teach about right and wrong and the love of Jesus.  But maybe, just maybe, we were meant for “one more”.

Right now I don’t know where he would even sleep, how he would adjust to starting a new school, and whether or not his sister is ready to be an “older child” instead of an “only child” again.  But I know I want him.  I know I want big things for him.  And I believe that God has a plan for him that is good.  Maybe, just maybe, we could be that something good.

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Navigating the Maze

I was sitting on the couch with Sweet Pea tonight just pouring truth into her little mind.  We have been so crazy busy and focused on behavior and obedience that I realized it’s been a while since I just sat with her on my lap and told her all the wonderful things I love about her.  I told her how I love her heart for people, her fiery spirit, her intelligence, and how brave she is.  I told her how I love her heart for Jesus and how she didn’t give up even when she had every reason in life to quit.  She’s kept going.  And I love her for it.

That’s when Half Pint got to thinking about things and her life and Jesus.  “You know,” she said.  “Life is really like a maze.  There’s all these twists and turns but God takes his finger, dips it in ink, and marks the way we should go.  (as you know, God’s finger is bigger than our feet, so that’s how He marks the path)  But in the maze there are also bombs and dangers that get in the way.  But when we get to the bomb, God leaves a letter waiting for us telling us how to fly over or around the struggle.  Life is like that too.  God wrote us a letter (the Bible) so when we’re walking along and start to struggle, we know how to get over it.  He always tells us which way to go.”

In Church today I realized something.  Something God has been convicting me of but I’ve kind of been ignoring.  I have gotten lost in this maze called life and have lost my passion.  I have lost sight of my first love.  My very first love is Jesus, of course, but the love I have really taken my eyes off is fostering.  Fostering was a passion of mine.  For years I dreamed about the day I’d get to be a foster mom.  I prayed scripture over my children.  When I bought my house I walked through and begged God to one day allow me to foster in it.  Now here I am, five months in with my first child, wondering how I got to the point that I am no longer passionate about fostering.  Oh, I guess I know why.  Life happened.  School happened.  Sleepless nights happened.  But that shouldn’t matter.  So I am praying for my passion to return.  I’m praying I’ll pursue not just my passion but the child that God has placed in my life, for this moment.  I’m recommitting to the chase.

Pastor Snowzell from Freedom Church in the UK preached today about passion for the Church.  He said passion was “when you put more energy into something than is required.”  That hit me like a rock.  I’m putting in energy and time to raise my sweetheart, but lately I have not been putting in more than is required.  I want my passion to be reignited so I can experience more moments of sitting on the couch learning from the spiritual teachings of an eight year old.  I don’t want to miss these moments because I’m so focused on the task that I’m missing the precious person in front of me.  I want to spend more time reading God’s letter telling me how to fly over struggles and help both Half Pint and I make our way through this maze called life.  I’m recommitting to look for the finger prints God is using to guide us down this path.  I want to see them.  I want to see Him.  I want to love what I’m doing and love the child I’ve been entrusted.  This could end out being one of the most a-maze-ing journeys I’ve ever been on.

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Four Letter Words

I hate homework.  It’s really a combination of two four-letter words and makes me swear like a sailor, at least inside my head.  I hate having to write “sixty five thousand, four hundred ninety two” into standard form and alphabetize words like acceptable, accidentally, and amateur when they all start with the same letter.  I hate mechanical pencils with their lead that jams in the barrel and pink erasers that leave marks across the paper.  I hate how it takes two hours to do ten math problems and write five spelling words and how by the time we’re done it’s bath and bed with no time to just love on each other.

But mostly I hate the way I feel when I’m left in the aftermath of a battle of spelling and arithmetic when I realize how poorly I responded to an eight year old who is just as frustrated as I am.  All I want to do is stuff my face full of chocolate cake or extra buttery popcorn and just shut off my mind with whatever sitcom happens to be on TV at 8:30 at night.  Homework is bad for my waist line and is, ironically enough, killing my brain cells.

Last semester with only three weeks left in a school year, and two of those post end-of-year testing, there was very little homework to do.  I think we did one week of spelling words and then called it good.  Second grade was a breeze compared to this.  Apparently third grade is that pivotal year where 75% of material learned is bran new, verses fourth grade where 25% is new and 75% is reviewing what’s already been taught.  If it takes two hours out of class to do ten problems, how in the world is Little Bit going to learn this much new material during a school day?  I am discouraged for her.  I know she is frustrated with herself and her focus and her fat green Math book.

I honestly thought I would not have to worry much about her education.  At first DSS said she would probably be in her permanent placement by August…then October.  But then I found out today that the TPR (termination of parental rights) hearing scheduled for tomorrow is just to file the paper work saying we want a court hearing about the father’s rights.  Then the actual court case isn’t until December 5th.  So based on that, I’ll get to keep my sweetheart until at least January…or March…depending on how cooperative dad is.  So, education has suddenly become not just a priority, but my responsibility.  And I am failing miserably!

I do not know how to help my kid stay on task.  I want to grab her brain and hold it still so she can focus on one thing at a time.  I want to grab her pencil out of her hand and just write the answers down for her.  But I know that won’t help.  I know it’s my job to give her a love for learning and teach her about perseverance and confidence and struggling through to accomplish a task.  That’s what I’m here for.  That’s what moms do.  But for Pete’s sake, is there some sort of pill I can take to simmer down my racing mind that is screaming “don’t you see the answer?!”  Gosh I can be such a monster!

How can I possibly let the peace of God rule in my heart and mind?  Is it really possible for Him to take my homework driven temper and replace it with calming thoughts and joy?  Will there be a day when I’ll get to look at Lydia and see a well rounded, well educated, incredibly whole person?  And will that day come before I tear out the Math book page by page by $@#! page?

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