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Archive for October, 2012

I understand a little bit tonight how much I must break the heart of God. He tenderly loves me, protects me, provides for me, and I lash back and yell at Him and question Him and mock His holy name. I complain about what I have and throw dirt in His holy face. My sin must cause the heart of God to painfully ache. Because that is how mine feels.

They warned me about this. They said to not expect too much and to not feel hurt when a kid pushes you away. They warned me. But I didn’t listen. I thought we would be different. We could rise above the statistic and show all those could-be foster families how successful our transition could be. But we didn’t show them. I love my Sweet Pea. Love her. I would do anything for her. I have devoted my life during this season to protect her and provide for her. I opened up my home to her and her brother so they could be together again. And she has taken it all in her precious hands and thrown in back in my face. And my job is to keep loving. Over and over and over again. I am to love her when she yells at me. When she says, “No” right to my face. When she shoves me away. I’m to love her when she is rude and when she disrespects me. I am to love her when she destroys my gifts to her. And when she makes very bad choices. I love her. And I need to love her. I need to keep loving her so I can prove to her that not everyone leaves. Not everyone hurts her. Not everyone takes advantage of her heart.

We had therapy tonight and so much came out in our hour together that I don’t know where to begin in processing it all. I’m always a little skeptical about therapy and especially art or play therapy. But Mr. Intern had us do an activity tonight that was very eye opening. We talked about family and what each of our roles are. Lydia said the role of a mom is to keep kids healthy. David said the role of a mom is to keep kids safe. I said my role is to love them. We described Lydia’s role as being nice, being a kid, and growing and learning. David’s role is to not be mean and to adjust to his new life. Then Mr. Intern had the kids draw a picture of their family. David drew me first (which shows he understands order and who is in charge), drew himself second, right next to me, and drew Lydia on the other side of me. Lydia drew two people. Me and her. That’s it.

All of a sudden so much made sense. Lydia is hurt. Our family changed and it has stabbed her heart. Anytime tonight Mr. Intern tried to talk to her about something serious she would walk away or do a handstand or crawl under the table. Talking about things means admitting there is pain. And opening up to someone when eventually you will leave them is risky. Being vulnerable is hard. Our therapist explained it well: It’s like pain and hurt and rejection pile up inside of you, one step at a time, until finally they reach your neck…then your chin…then that big gaping hole they call a mouth. And out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. Lydia has been lashing out at me because she is in pain. I thought the pain was being reminded of her past; her brother is here now and she has a daily reminder of what has happened. She sees how well he, a boy, is doing and is filled with shame at being a girl. And while I have no doubt David does bring back these feelings, the words that came out tonight were not addressing that pain. They were addressing one very dear to my heart. Our some-day good-bye.

Lydia started sobbing and told Mr. Intern how much she loves me and how desperately she wishes she could live with me forever. I am her family. She wants me. And the pain she has been feeling is partially jealousy from having to divide my time between two kids, but the other part is the realization that some time soon we will have to say good-bye. The little family she has learned to feel safe in and thrive in will be no more. She said that every day that she is with her adoption family she will cry tears over not being with me.

I can’t stand to see that sweet girl cry over me. I’m going to have enough tears for the both of us when that day comes. We are family. As crazy and chaotic and broken as we are, we are family. And I just love that sweet girl. And I love her brother. I love his hugs and the way he giggles and the tender way he loves on Max and says things like “I’m going to pet that silly wascal (rascal)”. He is the most precious five year old I’ve ever met. Even he got all nostalgic and cuddly and had me wrap my arms tightly around him tonight while he said again, “I get to live with you forever” and “I don’t want to be adopted.”

As much as I’m failing I must be doing something right. Two precious kids love me. And I could paint you a picture of the thousands of ways I love them too.

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Colored Truth

I sometimes look at my kid and wonder if she will ever get through her issues and have a day where she doesn’t have to struggle any more.  Today I was just angry.  I was angry at what happened to her, angry that she can’t catch a break at school, and angry that try as hard as I may, I simply cannot save her from the pain she struggles with every day.  We have been making so much progress and then these past few days I noticed not only a back sliding, but some new behaviors that have begun to show up.  At first I was ignoring them because surely I was just seeing things but then I looked the other way because sometimes it is just easier to pretend things aren’t wrong than to admit we have another problem on our hands.  I am tired.  I am just getting over strep throat and trying to get back on top of laundry and homework, so yes, it was a lot easier to look the other way than to address the problem.  Sometimes it’s just too painful to look into the blue eyes of my child and see the depth of the pain she is facing.  It hurts to know there is only so much I can do and the rest is up to God.  It’s hard to be out of control.

And I’m scared.  I don’t like to admit it because fear is something I’ve struggled with most of my life and now that God has set me free from it I’m almost afraid to be afraid because I don’t want to get caught up in this nasty web again.  But if I’m truly honest with myself, I am scared to death that we are heading down a very dangerous, slippery slope.  For the most part Sweet Pea has been struggling with “normal” issues: acting out, being defiant, distracted, inattentive.  She has struggled with school and self esteem and loneliness.  Nothing too out of the ordinary.  But lately she has been crossing over into a psychological realm that I am unequipped to deal with.  My sweet child has been pulling out her eye lashes and ripping out her hair from her head.  I found a clump of hair all knotted up where she had clearly tore it from the back of her scalp.  And her eye lids were swollen because they are trying desperately hard to heal where the lashes have been pulled away.  It kills me to watch her struggle like this.  I try telling her not to do it but it just seems to get worse.  Her teacher even wrote me a note saying she had to keep clearing the lashes off of Lydia’s desk because there were so many.  Apparently I can no longer pretend this isn’t happening.  I have to face the fact that my child is struggling more deeply than I can imagine.

I came home at lunch and knelt by Half Pint’s bed and just sobbed my eyes out pleading with God to intervene.  The only word I could seem to utter was “please” and hope that was enough for the Holy Spirit to fill in the blank.  Please heal her.  Please let her know she is loved.  Please don’t let her be in pain.  Please don’t let me lose her.

I don’t know what the root cause of this behavior is.  I talked to Sweet Pea later tonight and she chalked it up to being bored and not knowing how to deal with the “overwhelming” feeling of being in school.  Several weeks ago I took a stack of 3×3 inch colored cards and made a notes with all the things I love about Lydia on it.  “You are beautiful.  You are smart.   You are loved.   You are more precious than gold.  You are worth it.”  Thirty plus cards with statements of truth.  I made them and then stuck them away in a pile on my desk.  When I was praying today I felt an overwhelming sense of need to post these around her room.  So I took some tape and littered her room with truth statements.  I put them on her wall, on her bed, on her shoes.  I placed them on her bookcase, on her closet, and on her desk.  Then I took blank cards and wrote the words “I LOVE YOU” and stretched them out over her wall.  Then I stood in that colorful room and prayed my heart out again that God would use these words to minister to my broken daughter and to somehow bring healing into her hurt.

When Lydia saw her room after school she was so touched she said, “I almost cried happy tears.”  I took her in my lap and explained to her that these statements are all true and told her how much God and I love her.  I hugged her and squeezed her and let her just bask in our love.

I am still afraid.  I am still uncertain about the future.  I still worry about her hair and her eyes and her mind.  But I realized as I prayed in her room this afternoon and placed those notes lovingly around that I am not in this alone.  How ever much I love Lydia, God loves her a hundred fold more.  The good I see in Lydia, God sees in perfect form.  And the hope I have for Lydia, God can bring to life more than I could even imagine.  So I pray.  And I wait.  And I beg God to continue to write this story for us and turn it into something beautiful.

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Community

A few weeks ago I got a call from our therapist to gauge whether or not I would be able to handle having two kids that I was in charge of.  Two broken kids with high needs that needed to be fed and taken to school and bathed and taught.  He voiced his concerns, not for the well-being of the kiddos, but for my own protection.  He mentioned the same things my case worker had said, my family had thought, and my friends had questioned.  Do I have enough strength to raise these two precious souls alone?  And the answer I gave him was no.  I don’t.  But I have a community of friends and family and neighbors that will make sure I am never alone.  But I have to admit that even as I said it I was a little hesitant to believe that we really would be okay.  Would everyone really step up to the plate and reach out to me and these kids?  Would they uphold their end of the bargain or were they just being good friends giving pat answers.  I wanted to believe they would be there, but I wasn’t sure.  So I committed anyway, in faith, that somewhere God would provide the support to take care of these kids.

Last night I went to a birthday party at a restaurant completely unsure if my new little family was even ready to make a public appearance.  I had every intention of rushing in, dropping off a card, giving a brief hug, and rushing back home.  But that’s not how things went.  I went into that restaurant and felt like I sat down with family.  I didn’t even know half the people, but there was some bond there that pulled me in.  We stayed an hour and a half and my kids were talked to, played with, held, and loved on.  And I got to sit there and soak it all in.  I felt so refreshed and supported and loved.  Just sitting.  So I’ve been thinking a lot about community and how much the presence of God thrives when believers do life together.  One of the core values of my Church is “I can’t do life alone.”  These sweet people have taken me in and embraced not just me, but my foster kids as well.

But it’s even more than that.  God continues to work on my behalf and whisper secrets into the hearts of those around me telling them exactly what I need.  It’s unfathomable how His Holy Spirit moves!  Every morning I get a text from another random student or friend saying that God had laid me on their heart to pray for me.  Every.  Single.  Morning.  And my precious neighbor offered to cook us meals.  Weekly.  And my friends come and fold my laundry and scrub my toilets and fix my tub.  They watch my kids so I can have a moment to catch my breath.  But the greatest thing my community has done for me is to pray.  I feel the prayers.  I know my friends are uttering the words to God that I do not have the strength to say myself.  When I can’t hold up my arms any longer, they lift them for me.  When I’m about to give up, the assure me I’m normal.  They laugh with me.  Cry with me.  And overwhelmingly love me.

This is community.  My Family.  This is what the Body of Christ is meant to be.  Sometimes I wonder if God didn’t allow these two precious kids to come into my life so my eyes could be open to all the wonderful gifts He has given me in the lives of those around me.  I am blessed.  Beyond measure.  And filled with incredible joy.

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Guilt

Sometimes the heaviest thing a child carries has nothing to do with external objects but the internal battles that they drag along with them through their journey.  I have seen the crushing blow of abandonment and abuse and rejection and how it has dragged my child down.  But nothing prepared me for the weightiness that has started to pile up on Sweet Pea’s shoulders.  A new burden has been added to the load she already carries and I worry for her and am afraid that this burden will crush her.  It’s a burden called guilt.

Lydia has been doing so well since her brother came to live with us.  She has had to adjust to not being an only child, to having to share my attention and affection, and having to be put on the back burner while David learns his boundaries and rules and what it means to be a part of a family.  She has done phenomenally well in setting a positive example at meal times and staying focused on her school work and using all her good manners.  But then yesterday things started to go South.  She started to push the limits and toe the line and make poor choices.  One of the unfortunate side effects of positive growth is that now I know what she is capable of and when she reverts back to her “old self” the patience that used to be there is hard to muster up.  I don’t put up with her antics because I know she is capable of greatness.  So yesterday when she started back talking and acting up and arguing and shushing me and being utterly rude, I yelled at her.  I shouldn’t have.  But I did.  And as soon as I did I knew I had crossed the line.  I didn’t say anything ugly like swear at her or tell her I didn’t love her, but I did raise my tone and say stupid things like “fine then, I won’t help you on your homework”  and used sarcastic phrases like “obviously” and “my goodness child” and “really?!”  Nothing constructive or helpful but more like a middle school girl.  I couldn’t believe myself.  And neither could Lydia.

A few moments after my sarcastic rant, it hit Lydia that she had truly messed up and an ugly cloud of shame engulfed her.  She started crying buckets of tears and apologized and said she couldn’t believe she was so naughty in front of her brother when she was supposed to be setting a good example.  She said she deserved punishment and could never forgive herself.  Guilt is a nasty chain to bear.  It takes you when you’re down and kicks you over and over again right where it hurts the worst.  Guilt morphs into other monsters too like fear and anger and hopelessness.  My sweet foster daughter was instantly thrown into a pit of guilt-ridden shame.  And it was I who pushed her in.

There are so many godly principles that I take for granted having been taught them my whole life.  Forgiveness and mercy are two of those concepts.  Concepts that a child who has faced so much trauma cannot understand.  I realized last night how much I have to teach my children about the grace of God.  I spent an hour consoling Lydia and telling her how loved and forgiven she is.  I admitted I had sinned by losing my patience and prayed out loud for Jesus to forgive me.  I confessed to her, accepted her forgiveness, and then explained to her how I did the same.  I tried to reason with her; to show her how far she had come and to explain that everyone messes up.  I told her I wasn’t mad and let her know that we could move on.  But she didn’t hear those words.  She heard the words of Satan telling her what a failure she was.  How unlovable she had become.  How wretched she is.  I read her scripture, prayed that God would lift her burden of guilt, read her Snuggle Puppy and sang her to sleep, but she would not stop crying.

This is a new battle for me.  At first it bothered me that she would right out disobey and then say, “I deserve to be punished” because, in a selfish and completely ungodly way, it took the satisfaction of punishing her away from me.  If she didn’t even care if she was punished, how could I correct her behavior?  But now that she has taken it to this extreme, I worry about not extending enough grace to her and having her feel like she can’t be good at all so why should she even try.

I watched a DVD a couple weeks ago about kids with ADD and ADHD and how they often develop ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) because they give up on themselves and buy into the lie that their hyperactivity and inability to focus will always keep them from behaving, so they decide it’s easier to be defiant from the beginning than try to be good.  I worry that Lydia is on the cusp of falling into this trap and I am praying desperately hard that she would understand that in Christ she can over come.  And that through Christ she is already forgiven.

I fear that my failures will ultimately lead to her ruin, and that’s a lot of guilt for me to carry too.  So tonight I’m just asking God to remove this weight from Sweet Pea and to lift the weightiness I feel on my own shoulders for my mistakes.  It’s been semi-encouraging today to talk to so many parents who blow it but are still amazing parents.  I just hope I’m one of those and I hope God sees fit to raise my child above the suffocating pressure of shame.  Isn’t that what Jesus died to do anyway?  To set us free from our burden of sin?

Lydia already has a lot of burdens to bear and skeletons to sweep out of her closet.  I don’t want guilt to be another link on her heavy chain.

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A New Addition

Maybe some day my heart will learn to just go with the flow and not be so affected by the constant changing and uncertainty that comes with fostering.  I was just trying to adjust to the idea of saying goodbye to my Sweet Pea when I got a text from a caseworker asking me if I was ready to take David as a placement.  A text message.  About a placement.  Really.  I’m going to go off on a quick rant here and then I promise I’ll get back to my point.  I don’t want to put down “the system” and especially don’t wish to deface any individual, but everything about this process has been chaotic and unprofessional.  Working through the Bair Foundation has been a God-send because if I was working solely with county DSS I would’ve given up a long time ago.  It is the government agency that “keeps forgetting to file paperwork” and postpones the adoption.  It’s this agency that puts a kid into my car without having a discussion about whether or not I’m ready for my first placement.  It’s the same people that visit my kid at school without letting me know and tell her her brother is coming to live with us…and send me a text message asking me if I’m ready…and have me sign a “release of child” on a torn out sheet of legal paper.  I had no documents to enroll them in school, no information on their history.  If it wasn’t for my love for these kids, I would’ve quite fostering before I ever finished training.  Thankfully I have a strong support from my amazing Bair caseworkers who have offered me support and information every time I’ve asked.  Thanks girls!

But sorry.  That’s not what this post is about.  It’s about my heart.  And these kids.  I had a discussion with Lydia the other day reassuring her of my love for her and how nothing could change that.  I told her that when we add a kid to our lives it doesn’t divide my heart in two; it multiplies it.  Basically adding David has given me a second heart.  Which means in a few months I’ll have a second heart to break.  Gosh I don’t know where I’m going with this post!  So much has happened the past four days!  I’ll just give a run through and come back later and decide how I want to make it sound thought out and organized and structured.

Last I had heard, the adoption was scheduled for the middle of November, around Thanksgiving time.  So, I had almost given up on the idea of David coming to live with us.  Until I got a text while I was at work from his caseworker asking if he could be placed with us.  I left work a little early on Thursday to try to get some things together to welcome him home, because of course I said “yes.”  I had a talk with my little sister about moving out so David could move in.  Our wonderful neighbors are letting her stay with them until she can find a place of her own.  I made phone calls and cleaned and got my house ready for the caseworker to stop by and make sure we were ready.  One of my dear friends came and helped me clean and even scrubbed my toilet and bathroom floor (such devotion!) and I was all ready for the caseworker to come on Friday until she cancelled.  So I waited until Friday night and told Lydia the good news.  She ran into her room and screamed and cried happy tears.  My lovely Bair worker had all the needed paperwork and I signed piles of sheets committing to taking care of David and protecting him and treating him well.  Then Saturday I finished preparing the house and helping my sister move into her new abode.  Today at noon I went and got him.

I know this is an overly simplified version of what’s happened, but basically I’m just trying to remember it because God has been so faithful and so good and so evident.  Church today was amazing.  Clayton King talked about unleashing our weaknesses so God’s power could be made stronger.  How much weaker can I be than a single woman trying to raise two broken kids?  Ha!  I have no strength for this!  But I am so excited for the ways God is going to show up and show off through this new addition.  Stay tuned for more scattered posts from this woman who is slowly learning how to trust God through this incredible journey.

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My Redemption

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

This morning I am just overwhelmed with the undeserving grace God has poured out on my life.  This passage in Isaiah where he talks about God turning our blood red sins into pure white completely defines how cleansed I feel today.  One of the awesome things about God is that not only does He wash away our sins and remember them no more, but He has this incredible ability to impart that attribute on His children.  He allows His children to so forgive each other that it’s like the sin never happened.

Lately I have been struggling with remaining calm and positive and patient with my Sweet Pea.  The beginning of the school year was so rough that I have honestly been wondering if we would make it through this storm unscathed.  Relationships cannot be built on nothing but a couple hours of wrestling for homework and scarfing down dinner.  Relationships are built on time and communication and love.  So, understandably, I began to wonder if I had blown it.  If all the work and dedication I had put into Lydia over the past five months was single-handedly being destroyed by this foster mom.  But then something amazing happened last weekend.  Maybe God got tired of watching me struggle and realized He needed to show up before I ruined all the work HE had done.  Or maybe God remembered my humanity and how weak I am and realized He needed to show up before I was ruined.  But whatever the reason, we had a reversal this week that has left me flabbergasted.

As odd as it may sound, I think it began when I sat Half Pint down last Saturday and reassured her of my love for her and how, whether her brother comes to live with us or not, nothing will ever change that.  And I think not only did something shift in her but my heart did a dramatic change of focus.  It’s funny now that I think about it.  These past several weeks I have been so fixated on Lydia focusing that I never realized how unfocused I had become on what I needed to be doing.  I was pushing her to do better in her homework and behavior and completely neglected my areas of growth.  But after we had that talk I realized how very few weeks I have left with my sweet child and I began to look at her with a new perspective.

And this brings us to this morning.  Lydia and I have had a fantastic week of building our relationship, hanging out, staying in touch with each other.  But there was still this twinge of guilt that I’ve been carrying around because I had failed in the past.  Well, this morning God decided to let me know exactly how far He had removed my transgressions.  While I lay sleeping, Lydia slid a letter under my door.  This is what it said,

Dear Ms. Shelly,

I love you so much.  You make me so happy.  When I first saw your face you were nicer than I thought.  When I am in trouble you speak calmly to me and tell me what I have done wrong.

With love,

Lydia

P.S. I know I’m your best girl!!

Only God can take our biggest struggle and make it to the eyes of those around us one of our greatest attributes.  Lydia does not even see or remember or think about the times I lost my temper or responding un-compassionately.  She remembers me speaking calmly.  Because of God’s grace, she sees me white as snow.

Friday night we went camping in the mountains with some students and friends from work.  Lydia got to sit by her first fire, eat her first s’more, and sleep in a tent for the first time.  She loved it!  And I don’t know if was the burned dinner that night or the daddy-long-leg spiders, the time we spent coloring together in the tent or simply the clean mountain air, but Lydia turned all nostalgic and spent the hour ride home gushing over how much she loved me.

“I love you more than all the words in all the languages in the world…times infinity and beyond.”

“I love you so, so much, I’m about to cry.”

“I love you less than one percent less than I love God.”

And when I told her she had to stop being so sweet because my heart was melting away and soon there would be nothing left she replied, “That’s okay.  You’ll always have my heart.”

Tell me this isn’t just the grace of Jesus abounding to those who least deserve it!

This is my redemption story.  How incredibly sweet it is!

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