Tuesday, September 27, 2016

simple phrase

We have been living in a difficult season for awhile now.

Some days are really hard.

My Love will come home and I share with him the struggles I went through.  He gets to hear all the raw emotion and sordid details.  Maybe a week later I might sit down with a friend and recall the same experience with less passion.  Perhaps a month later I will update a relative on the phone and again talk about that day weeks ago in just basic facts.

With each passing day that overwhelming moment in time gets shorter and shorter.  The emotions felt and the memories relayed get foggier and less significant.  

Recently I have heard several people share their testimony and it struck me how much life must have been lived in just a single statement relayed.  How many tears shed, knees skinned, checks bounced, dinners made, sins revealed, fears felt, forgiveness given, miles driven, hours worked, prayers lifted and years lived all wrapped up in a simple phrase describing a whole season of their life. 

"During our marriage, we lived in Germany and California before spending the last seven years in Virginia."

13 years full of all kinds of memories.  13 years of God trying to mold us to look more like him.  13 years of building this family. 

It hasn't been easy.  Ever.  But somehow I find both grief and comfort in knowing that all that we are currently living and walking through will one day just be a few short words in a brief story of our lives.  A story God is writing and knows the ending to.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

radical love

Her text came on a Tuesday morning.

"...my dad died last night..."

I lost my breath for a moment and then my heart burst into a million pieces for my friend.  She had already grieved the loss of her mother before we met 13 years ago and I couldn't even begin to imagine the pain she would be feeling with such unexpected news.

It didn't take long before I got the crazy idea to go to her.  By some strange and divine appointment, My Love eventually supported my plans.  After playing out each scenario out loud, the best travel option was decided for me to drive there with our four happy little travelers.  It was going to be a spontaneous 700-mile adventure.

We decided to tell my friend of my intentions to come for her father's funeral.  Plans had been made and accommodations booked.  And as we predicted, she insisted I didn't need to make the trip and would rather us come visit later on after the shock had worn off.  She wanted to have something good to look forward to.

"Ok," I said.  "I can respect that."

I hung up the phone and turned to My Love and said, "She told me not to come but I'm going to anyway."  And by another act of God, he was still ok with it.  My Love's travel points paid for our two night hotel stay and a friend was willing to help out with the dog while My Love worked.  It was time to pack for our road trip.

In what was essentially a grand gesture of God's love for my friend, I drove through four states with no expectation of spending any real time with her.  I was merely going to give her a hug and show my moral support by attending the funeral.

I loaded up the kids in the minivan at 2:45am on a Monday and arrived at our final destination in a small town in rural Indiana 13 hours later.  The kids took a swim in the hotel pool and we ate dinner locally before calling it a night.

The next day we made our way to the funeral home prior to the Catholic Mass being held at a church nearby.  I saw her from the back in an adjacent room off the main hallway and I gently touched her arm.  She turned toward me, jumped back with a gasp and covered her mouth trying to hold back tears.

"I didn't respect your words," I said.  "But sometimes a girl has to give a friend a hug."  She burst into tears.

We hugged and cried and hugged some more.  She held the baby and snuggled each of my older children as I in turn hugged on the two of hers.

"How long was that drive?" she asked worried about all the trouble I had gone through for this moment.

"It doesn't matter," I reassured her.  "Sometimes you do hard things for people you love."

More tears and hugs.

The service was beautiful.  Even though I had never met her father, I felt like I knew him.  What a sweet man.  My friend looked in my direction as she walked down the aisle following behind the casket to her seat.  In that moment as she blew a kiss my direction with tears streaming down her face I knew in my heart I was right where God wanted me to be in this world.  We visited with her and her family briefly a few more times before it was already times to say goodbye.  In God's grace, the four children had been perfect little travelers.  We packed up the van and took one more sleep before starting our 700-mile road trip back home to Virginia.

As I drove on the beautiful roadway that is highway 64, I couldn't help but think about how radically God loves.  And now that I knew I was capable of being used by him to show love in a big way, it was now time to allow his radical love to flow through me in my own home--toward my husband and children.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Counting the days

635 days ago there was a knock on the door and a woman walked two precious dear skinned children into our lives.  They were visiting for respite care.  We said yes knowing we had two biological children and one bonus foster baby.  It was only to be an 8 day visit and we could fit 5 children into our Volvo XC-90.  Thank the Lord we bought that third row seating 9 years ago before a single baby was a twinkle in our eyes.

It was an adventure to be sure.  One that included a paternity test if I recall correctly.  They also screamed terribly every night at bed time.  But Buddy Boy and his sister Ladybug arrived with smiles and ratty hair but with no inhibitions about staying with complete strangers--which bothers me every time.  They just seemed happy to have children and toys to play with.  Brother and Babydoll are the gateway to our home for so many hurting kids, I tell you what.  God is using them in our family ministry in a mighty way.

The week came and went and My Love and I took a deep breath and gave each other a high five.  We survived the week.  The kids were a joy but it was nice to return to our termporary family of five again with our easy going bios and low key infant.  Never again did I expect to see them.

A month later the phone rang again.  Another respite was being sought as their caregivers would be traveling again.  We said yes for continuity sake.  They were precious after all.  The case worker sort of let on that the situation might be changing with their current foster home where they were living with a youngest baby brother of the five siblings.

Buddy and Ladybug spent another fun filled week with us.  I think we went to pumpkin patch.  It wasn't long after that when we had a meeting with all parties involved in their case.  After praying about it, we agreed it was best for the two of them to come live with us.  Baby J would stay in his current foster home.  Seriously, what were My Love and I thinking?  I mean, five kids?!  Five kids?!  There was something in us that felt like God opened the door for us to love on these children and who were we to say no out of fear now.  It wasn't until six months later that Punky Pie left our home to live with relatives who later were able to adopt her.

So much has happened in these past 635 days.  It has been a long hard journey for our little son's heart.  Ladybug of course eventually left our home too to live with her biological father.  I think that shook Buddy the most as I don't believe he ever dreamed they would be separated.  But about six months ago it became official that he was going to be able to stay with us and we were free to pursue adoption.  As much as he longed for his first family to get things together and make it right he knew in his heart and mind pretty early on that he was right where God wanted him to be.  The anxiety and stress he had been carrying around in the unknown had disappeared and he was finally free to just be without fear.  The case worker and lawyer have been busy checking all the burecratic boxes but for all intents and purposes Buddy is our forever son.  We couldn't be more humbled to hear him call us mom and dad.

Last week we were sitting on the couch and Buddy turned to me and said, "Mom, if I grow up and be like Dad, I would like that."  Cue tears.  He has come so far and really we are still sitting in awe watching God do miracles in his heart and mind.

635 days is far too long to be living in limbo.  How excited we are to have a reason to stop counting up those days and just moving forward into our future together.

Friday, April 1, 2016

i'm back

How can it be two years since I last blogged?  I think in an effort to allow for the children in our care to remain anonymous and own their own stories, I neglected to share my heart during mine.  So much has happened in our family since Sweet Pea left us after a short 6 month chapter.  We loved on Punky Pie for 10 months during her first year of life and had to say another hard goodbye.  And just this past December, we hugged Ladybug and returned her to a relative after 13 months of her calling me Mommy.  

Here we are 16 months into parenting our Buddy Boy and starting a new chapter yet again.  One that includes me being 8 months pregnant and expecting to adopt our bonus son in the coming months.  We have witnessed God do miracles.  We have felt pain.  We have screamed.  We have held onto our marriage for dear life.  And yet somehow, God still manages to be present and guiding the growth of our family as we learn to trust more of our lives to him.

So join me once again as I attempt to navigate these waters.  As we take a pause from this long, lonely, amazing chapter of our lives that included fostering those God specifically included in our bonus family to focus on these four precious permanent children who have been entrusted to us.

Friday, March 28, 2014

looking for a bedtime snack

not protecting our hearts

A lot of well-meaning people keep telling me there is no way they could ever do foster care.  I mean, it would be so hard to say goodbye.  They gently suggest that I protect my heart in this process.

My responses have been fine tuned over this past month.

First, in our own strength we can't either.  It never dawned on me to open my home to children in need of a loving family before two years ago.  God planted that desire in our hearts for his good purpose, so even though it is us holding and kissing this precious Sweet Pea each day, it is really Him.

Second, I spend very little time thinking about the day we will say goodbye.  How can I be fully used by God today if I am worried about the "someday" that may never come?  We have no idea how long and complicated this journey will be so it became very clear to us early on how pointless it would be to dwell on something that we have no control over when will actually happen.

Third, we have chosen not to protect our hearts.  How could we possibly?!  She needs our whole hearts today.  And God is capable of healing our broken hearts as he is in fact already doing.  I have cried over this Little One more than once and I expect to many times more.  What an honor it is to cry for her!  Why do we as believers fear pain?  God is good in the heartache and the joy!

This song spoke to me years ago and has more relevance now.  It was not written as a song about foster care but it applies completely to our feelings toward this season we have with Sweet Pea.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

lingering heartache

I have never experienced real grief before.  Isn't that amazing?  A 32 year old woman whose heart has been guarded from such loss all this time.  It seems silly that my first grieving experience has been for a dog but then again maybe not.  Bentley was a part of our family.  Our daily life.  His absence is deafening.  I wonder how long it will be before I don't look at the calendar on the 25th day and calculate how long it has been.

One month.

I haven't cried since that day we said goodbye and yet I am in this surreal place of believing he is really gone.  I think that stage is called denial.  I had my first dream about him two nights ago.  He was walking out of the woods toward our house and I just kept yelling for My Love to come see.  That he wasn't gone after all but had only be missing in the woods all this time.  

But it was only a dream.

I vacillate through the anger stage too.  Almost every time I see someone walking their dog in our neighborhood--especially another  golden--I cringe.  Do they even realize how good they have it?  I wish I could walk our dog.  We used to take a Family Walk most days.  Those walks have a whole different feel now and don't happen as often as they used to out of necessity.

Brother started showing signs of missing his Wuppy Brother.  He found an old framed 4x6 of Bentley that we had up in his old bedroom before we moved to this house.  I found it in his bed one morning and watched him as he carried it around the house and stared at it for a day or too.  "This is our dog.  He died though, " I heard him say to his visiting Auntie.  Very matter of fact but also a hint of sadness for missing him starting to come through in his own way.

We were eating dinner at a friend's house when she unknowingly complained about the dog hair around their place.  "You'll miss it someday," My Love said under his breath.  He's right.  I had expected to see more lingering evidence of his previous presence in our home but it is just gone.  All that remains is this lingering heartache.

For the most part, life is business as usual around here.  But our hearts are still aching and I don't expect that to dim any time soon.