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Archive for November, 2013

Happyness

A cheerful heart is good medicine,

but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

The first time I watched the movie The Pursuit of Happyness I remember thinking how hard life is and how often we need to fight for joy.  We live in a world that pacifies pain and struggle with a coat of makeup, some pills, and a shot of alcohol.  Rarely do we push through the pain and fight for happiness.  Rarely do we fix our eyes on the joy found in Christ and choose joy in the midst of a broken world.  Maybe I’m alone in this, but sometimes finding something to be joyful about is just plain hard.

When Little Girl and Boy joined me six weeks ago I saw more pain than joy.  Sweet boy was pretty care free, independent, self-sufficient; he dealt with his pain by stepping up and taking charge and protecting his older sister.  But my little girl has been a completely different story.  Last week was a rough one.  When she was placed with me she was on six different medications.  Six!  She popped pills better than I could.  She was on two for ADHD, one to act as a mood stabilizer, one for heartburn, and two for allergies.  I fed her pills three times a day and each time a little part of me cringed.  A child her age shouldn’t have to be on that many drugs.  I know there are two sides to every coin, but I believe in a lot of cases foster kids are put on meds to calm them down and shut them up so no one has to deal with their negative behaviors or teach them how to walk through their trauma.  I know this isn’t always true, but I have seen it several times already in my two years.  So, six drugs, popping pills three times a day, and having melt down after melt down after melt down.  She was pitiful!  She would cry at the drop of a hat, wail and scream and hit.  Her eyes were droopy and she’d fall asleep sitting up on the couch after school.  Her teachers were frustrated because they couldn’t get any work out of her.  Her after school care workers said she was so quiet and withdrawn they didn’t even think she could communicate verbally.  I was frustrated because it was day after day of tantrum and tears – like a mom trying to soothe a baby without knowing why she’s even crying.  It broke my heart.

So I’ve been praying that God would give me wisdom on how to help her.  I hated pumping her full of drugs but if this was keeping her healthy and safe, maybe it was best.  But long story short, my DSS caseworker has done a super job of not answering my calls, texts, or emails so one by one I ran out of little Girl’s pills and without an alternative to provide medical help for her, I let them dwindle down from six to three to finally one.  And bless her heart she was so sad!  I couldn’t stand it!  She was not a child but a medicated zombie.  No child should be like this.  I definitely don’t recommend doing this without consulting a doctor but this weekend I decided to take her off her last medication and see what happened.

The results were amazing!!  Sunday morning she woke up, came into my room bright eyed with the biggest smile I’ve seen her wear and she said, “Miss Shelly, I’m so happy!”  Even she noticed a difference in herself!  I wish everyone could’ve seen her transformation!  She started helping around the house, playing, and laughing like it was her first time she’d ever experienced joy.  And maybe it was.  Her teacher emailed me and said “something’s different about her this week.  She has really come out of her shell.”  And her day care worker said, “She chattered like crazy and played with other kids.  What happened?!”  She has been bouncing off the walls, running around, playing with other kids, talking everyone’s ears off, and yelling to the world, “I’m so happy!!”  I met with her teacher today and she even said she was so happy that she had to give sweet Girl a check mark this week for not paying attention and talking too much because it was such a positive change.  How many parents get to hear a teacher say they are glad your child got in trouble?

It has been such an amazing transformation.  I have this sweet little girl living with me now.  She’s off all her meds except a nasal spray and so far is doing fantastic.  Today I’ve just been thinking about how very good God is.  I was so frustrated with my case worker because I wasn’t getting the help I needed but through that, through her not doing her job, I was able to discover this little fun-loving, charismatic, talkative child.  What a sweet blessing to see that!

What a sweet blessing that in the midst of their chaotic, unpredictable life, we were able to find happyness.  That’s a gift that can only be truly provided by God.  He is way better to me than I deserve!

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The Bystander Effect

It was close to 10 pm.  I had dropped the kids off at respite and was driving down the dark interstate trying to navigate my way to my friend’s house.  It had been raining.  The road was wet, mist spitting off tires that sped along at a steady speed.  I hate driving I night.  I mutter a prayer to God that He would keep me safe and help me find my way through the traffic.  Cars pass me, headlights blinding me from behind.  I keep my eyes focused in front, trying to read signs and listen to my GPS as I move forward.  It’s quiet.  My mind wanders as I plan my week ahead and pray silent prayers for those I love.  I’m in my own world.  That’s when I hear it.  It sounds like a crunch, metal hitting metal.  Red taillights light up in front of me.  Traffic stops.  I swerve cautiously to make sure I don’t add to the problem.  Smoke rises up.  In front of me two cars sit totaled on the interstate.  No one stops.  In a moment of panic, I analyze.  No one is stopping!  There is an accident in front of me and dozens of cars slow and drive around but no one gets out to help.  No one checks to make sure those involved are okay.  Are they even alive?  Fear grips me as I consider my options.  I can drive past.  Or I can take a risk and stop.  Another car pulls off the road ahead.  My decision is made.  I pull on the other side of the crushed vehicles and jump out of my car.  I’m running.  I see a girl sitting in her car, door crushed open, smoke engulfing her.  She doesn’t move but she is alive.  No blood.  No broken bones.  But she is sitting there in a car of smoke, shocked.  The smell of burning rubber and oil nauseate me.  My head is spinning.  Glass is everywhere.  The other guy that pulled off comes up to the door and we help her out.  She walks dumbfounded to the grassy bank.  I sit with her, rub her back, let her know she’s okay.  Firetrucks come.  Paramedics write down vitals.  I stand on the bank and watch.  I still can’t believe I witnessed this.  I can’t believe everyone is okay.  I can’t believe no one else stopped.

Today as I was driving home I was thinking about the accident from Friday night, about how many people drove past – the “bystander effect”.  I started thinking about foster care and the need for people to stop driving past the kids that are stuck in horrible situations.  Nationwide more than 400,000 kids are in foster care, many of whom move out of a bad situation and land in another one.  I want people to see the wreckage, look through all the smoke, and feel a desire to stop what they are doing and help.  I know foster care is something God has called me to do and He hasn’t called everyone to stop driving through life and take in a child, but too many people are driving past assuming someone else will stop and help.  What if that person is supposed to be you?  What if you are the one that is supposed to pull off the interstate, rescue a child out of a smokey situation, and sit with them on the grassy bank telling them they are safe?

What if no one had stopped driving?  What if we hadn’t gotten out of our cars and inhaled the smoke and took the woman by her arm to lead her to safety?  I’m sure someone else would’ve stopped…but maybe it would’ve been too late.  Someone else may step up and take in a child, but maybe, just maybe, that someone is you.

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Easy Does It

I got a text tonight from the woman who watched my kiddos while I was away on respite.  Her and her husband are new to foster care and these two kids were the first ones they had kept in their home.  After 48 hours with them, this is what she said:

My heart just aches for that sweet girl.  I wanted to hold her and tell her no one would even hurt her again, and I couldn’t…and it just hurt my heart.  I have just prayed so much for them.  (does it get any easier?)

I wanted to be able to tell her that it gets easier, that hearing their stories and walking them through their pain affects you less as time goes on.  But that’s not true.  It doesn’t get easier.  You are always going to wish you could do more.  It’s always going to break your heart when you find out that someone could do “that” to their own child.  You’re always going to wish Jesus would just hurry up and come back so no more kids would have to go through this.  You’re going to hate the system and the way fallen humans fail to do their job.  You will always wish there was some magic words you could say to make everything better.  And when you realize you can’t, you will ache.  You will feel a choking in your heart that you can’t explain to outsiders.  You will feel alone.  The goodbyes don’t get easier.  The adjustments don’t get easier.  The uncertainty of the future will always leave you a little on edge, wondering when you will hit the next road block.  I wanted to be able to tell her that this all goes away, that the pain is fleeting and the joy is swift.  I’m no expert, but in my almost two years of foster care I have learned it doesn’t go away.  Every kid you meet stays with you.  Their hallow faces will haunt your dreams.  You will always remember the first time you met them, where you were, and how you felt.  Sorry friend.  It doesn’t get any easier.

But while it doesn’t get easier, the load gets lighter.  I wish every person I meet could experience the depth of grace I have gotten to taste these past two years.  Fostering is hard.  Therapeutic foster care is draining.  But somehow, in ways I can’t even quite put to words, joy starts to seep in.  Perspectives change.  It’s like God places on your eyes a new set of lenses and you get to see something that was never quite in focus before.  Fostering has helped me understand the strength of God more than anything else in my life has.  For a season I felt mostly dead, automatically moving through the day, yet somehow in the midst of my dry bones walking, there was strength.  There was breath and life and freedom.  I learned so much.  I learned the sweetness that comes from a relationship with Jesus.  And when I sing songs in Church declaring that Jesus is enough, I can finally believe it.  But it doesn’t get easier.

Things change, though.  What I told this sweet woman was that although it’s not easy, it’s so worth it.  The first time they trust you with their stuffed kitty, the first time they give you a kiss, the first time they accidentally call you mama…it’s worth it.  When you learn to understand the lispy words of a six year old, when you teach a five year old how to write his name…it’s worth it.  When a child goes from more bad days than good to more good days than bad…it’s worth it.  The first time they say “yes ma’am” or smile at you or take your hand in public…it’s worth it.

When I look into the eyes of my two new kiddos and see their countenance change over time…it’s worth it.  So to the lady on the other end of the phone, as you’re preparing to open your heart and home up to a child, I must tell you that it doesn’t get easier.  But you will never regret saying “yes” to following God through foster care.  It’s worth it.

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