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.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

when she met them for the first time

We were both admittedly anxious about meeting her family for the first time.  They were driving a long way to be here and we had no idea what to expect.  My Love took half the day off so he could be present for the visitation too.  

I pulled into the parking lot and saw the social worker walking through the parking lot.  She helped us out of the car and I looked up and there were three people coming toward the building at the same time.  She started crying as soon as she saw her.  "[Sweet Pea] looks just like [him]!" Having only seen one picture I knew she would have that reaction.  Seeing the face of your baby on that of another would bring anyone to tears.  They had never met her before.  We walked inside and instantly peace started washing over me. 

My Love arrived a few minutes later and we spent the next 2 1/2 hours talking to Sweet Pea's relatives as they held her and kissed her and played with her and fed her on the floor of the social worker's office.  It really couldn't have gone any better.

Admittedly My Love and I would have loved for Sweet Pea to be forever ours, but God never made us that promise.  And in this brief meeting we could see a glimpse of his plan for the next chapter of her life.  We could see our purpose for this season.  We could see even more how much our Sovereign Lord loves her.

It will likely still be months before she leaves our arms, but in the mean time both sides are at peace in the waiting knowing that God is in control and is Lord over both our households.

I asked if we could pray together before we said goodbye and with our heads bowed in this government building and we agreed together seeking God's face on behalf of this precious baby girl.  How cool is that!?

The more I draw near to him the bigger God reveals himself to be.  I am overwhelmed and humbled by his love for the least of these and that he has called my family to serve him in this way.

Friday, March 14, 2014

goodbye bentley boy (part 2 of 2)

The drive seemed so short.  Through the tears we shared stories of our Boy.  "Remember when we picked him up from the breeder?" I said.  We laughed thinking about the tiny puff ball that he was at 8 weeks.  We had brought our huge wire crate in the back of the Volvo to pick him up.  He looked so tiny.  "Yeah," My Love said smiling.  "He threw up in the car and I had to pull over to clean it up."  We both laughed.  Then silence and tears again.  We recalled such sweet memories spent together as a family with our Wups over the last seven years.  Road trips, hikes, camping trips, bed and breakfast get aways.  How could we even make new memories in our little family without him in it?  It seemed impossible.

As we pulled up to the vet's office, I was weeping uncontrollably.  We took a minute kissing him in the back of the car before stumbling into the office.  People sat there with their pets smiling and laughing.  The clip board required us to sign in with a space to fill in the reason for our visit.  I couldn't bring myself to write it down. They brought us into a room right away.

We took care of some logistics and then spent the rest of our time with him petting him and kissing him and crying on him.  We kept telling him how much we would miss him and what a good boy he had been.  He was laying peacefully in My Loves arms when the techs stepped out for a minute and a sweet song came to mind.  A song we have sung to our human children since they were babies called Snuggle Puppy.  Through tears, My Love and I sang it to our furry firstborn on the floor of the vet's office.  

The vet came back in and it was time.  I won't share details but it was terrible.  His spirit left him and I couldn't bring myself to even look at him after that.  I was doubled over wailing and yelling about the obvious realization that had just happened.  My Love had to help me to the car as we exited out the back door leaving our boy behind.  There were more tears as the car felt extremely empty.  And then it was like the tears were all gone.  I don't remember crying again after that.  We talked more on the ride home and felt emotionally drained but the grief morphed into something else.  We had just about gone through all the stages before this day and found ourselves just missing his presence.

We drove up to our house just the two of us and thanked our neighbor and friend for blessing us with such a precious memory.  We had both been there when Bentley was welcomed into our family and we were both with him at the end.  I can never repay her for that gift!

In the midst of our sorrow, there was God's overwhelming grace wrapped up in a precious baby girl asleep in an upstairs room.  During the time that we lost our Bentley Boy, Sweet Pea's presence in our family became a soothing balm to our aching hearts.

That Tuesday night, My Love and I were just numb sitting next to each other on the couch while the TV played.  He was really gone.  I had asked friends on Facebook to share stories of our sweet dog and we spent the rest of our night smiling and laughing as we recalled his crazy antics.  He was loved well by so many.  

Good bye Bentley Boy!  When we brought you home in 2006, you made us a family and we are better for knowing you.  We miss you terribly and wish we had more time before you had to go.  But oh how sweet the memories will always be in our hearts!

(February 2014)

before the end (part 1 of 2)

Our next door neighbor offered to come stay with the kids on that Tuesday evening so I could be with My Love.  What a blessing!  No hard goodbyes in front of the kids.  It was bad enough I broke down the day before after making the worst phone call of my life.  "Mommy's OK," I reassured them as they came to comfort me.  "Are you sad about Bentley?" he asked already knowing the answer.  "Yes, buddy.  But God can heal my heart," I said.  Did I just schedule that appointment?

It was just four months before that we even noticed a change in Bentley's behavior and demeanor.  We took him to the vet inquiring about his recent pee accidents in the house.  They suspected a bladder infection and prescribed antibiotics.  It didn't work.  After a series of more tests, we pursued a second opinion and felt more confident with the care he was receiving at the new vet's office.  More tests were done.  His symptoms continued to develop and worsen.  At some point we came to the decision that we could spend hundreds of more dollars just to confirm a diagnosis that we already knew we would not choose to treat, or we could accept his assumed illness as it was.  Brain tumor.

At the end he was down to 64 pounds I think even diligently eating his regular two meals a day.  My heart sank the day I noticed he left a few morsels of his breakfast in the bowl.  That was SO not our boy.  It had been weeks since he ate something off the counter or even off the floor.  His legs were weak and he refused to climb any stairs.  He was going blind and walked into walls and tripped over toys.  He incessantly paced around the house every evening and when he wasn't doing that he was sleeping.  He continued to have accidents.  My Love came home before us on Valentine's Day to find Wups had pooped in the house and blindly tracked it all over the family room.  Caring for him became so stressful trying to anticipate when he would need to go out to pee and literally having to carry him back inside.  He would slowly wander in the front yard and down the street before he heard our voice calling him back and he would try to follow it.  He was disoriented.  No leash necessary.  We hadn't gone on a Family Walk in quite awhile. 

The Monday I made the call I could tell he was done.  When I took him outside he would walk just a few steps and then lay down in the grass.  It was a sunny, breezy day so at one point I just lied down with him spooning my furry firstborn in the front yard.  It was one of the most beautiful moments I ever shared with him as I  watched his fur blow in the sunshine.  No photo was necessary.

My heart was breaking.

Wups had been sleeping in a crate when we were away from home and at night for a couple weeks.  Monday night we brought him to bed with us and he slept for a few hours right between us before he woke up anxious.  It was beautiful.  My Love put him on the floor next to his side of the bed where he would normally sleep and he stayed there all night.  It was so nice having him in the room with us again.  

When Tuesday morning came, every thing about that day was excruciating.  Knowing the exact time caused me to count down the hours with such pain.  I was extremely irritable with my innocent human children wanting to spend as much uninterrupted time with Bentley as I could.  It was his worst day yet.  When he came inside from not going pee, he stepped just inside the front door and laid down there sleeping for the the rest of the day.  My poor Love had to spend the day at work.  While the kids were "napping", I once again just lied down with My Boy and pet him.  Every once in awhile my weeping would startle him to sit up and I would try to calm him back down.  Five more hours.

I spent part of the day removing some of Bentley's items from their normal places.  As hard as it would be to come home and see them missing, I knew it would be even harder to see them there empty and unused when we got back that evening.

For some crazy reason My Love got home later than usual from work that day.  His alone time with Wups was limited.  Eventually our neighbor came over and the kids said goodbye before running off to play.  My Love carried Bentley to the car and lifted him into the back of the Volvo.  Was this really happening?  The first few minutes were driven in silence with bursts of weeping from both of us.  With each mile that we drew closer to our destination, my heart sunk deeper in my chest...  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

sweet pea

"We are on our way to pick up a baby girl right now so we need an answer like, right now," the social worker said.

I called My Love.  We were both open to walking through this process with God again.  The circumstances that were shared implied that she might be with us much longer than the previous children.  Let's do this, Lord.

An hour or so later on that Thursday night, I had a beautiful infant in my arms.  Her sleepy, big, blue eyes stole my heart right away.  After the recent addition of three little ones, just one seemed like it would be a breeze.

Sweet Pea spent the first several days sleeping as we all got to know each other.  She entered our home at such a sweet time and brought joy when there was about to be so much sorrow...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

hello, goodbye

Just as quickly as they arrived, the three precious angels who entered our lives left again.  Our world was rocked for six days.  We were literally still in blissful survival mode.

Remember the prayer request My Love mentioned on his drive home the day we got the call?  Well that developed into a stomach bug that evening.   It turned out to be a huge blessing that he was sick because he stayed home from work the next day and was there to welcome the children (feeling mostly better by that point).  Fast forward to Sunday night and I was the one puking my guts out.  All. Night. Long.  My Love took Monday off to take care of all five kids solo while I stayed in bed.  Tuesday afternoon, I was waving goodbye to three beautiful children that I held in my arms.  

It was the most crazy-beautiful six straight days I have ever had.  Noise, laughter, and running feet.  Wiping snotty noses, changing poopy diapers, and comforting night terrors.  It brought me so much joy to see our home full and being used for God's glory.  These three children had no idea what foster care was.  They thought they were just with us for a sleep over.  It is amazing how God protects the minds of children.  Thankfully they had someone already in their life who was willing and able to care for them.  We feel so blessed to have offered a soft place for them to land for those six days.  And forevermore our hearts will be changed as we pray for their futures for the rest of our days.

It wasn't far into the morning of day one when the oldest of the three said the most heart-wrenching and genuinely loving compliment I have ever received.

"I can tell you act like a good Mom!"


We knew Tuesday would be the day we would find out how much longer they would be staying with me.  My Love was back at work by then and when the phone rang this time I got the news I was expecting.  But somehow I was still saddened.  The unknowns, the what ifs, the we-didn't-do-enough thoughts.  

Just in case things changed again, I decided to wait until the last minute to tell the children (including my own) that the fun was over and they would be returning home after nap.  I braced for tears but none came.  Instead they left with happy smiles just as they arrived.  Not a care or fear in the world even while being shuffled about.


It overwhelms me to think about God's sovereignty in all of this.  How he prepared our hearts two years ago for such a time as this.  To provide them a loving home even for such a short time.  He loves them so much.  

A week after they left, My Love and I still hadn't sat down and had a real talk about what we had just walked through together.  We learned A LOT.  We learned that we work well as a team.  That My Love has a sincere servant's heart --which I already knew.  We saw how our top priorities had quickly fallen by the wayside in the name of survival.  In the future that could NOT be the case.  We felt peace in our home of chaos knowing we were being covered in prayer.  It really was a sweet time.  The children were so precious and we think back to those days fondly.  

How thankful we are to have said yes and obeyed God even when it felt scary.  If I am truly honest, it wasn't until the social worker was on his way with the children that I really believed it was going to happen.  We went through this once before when God asked if we were willing and then after he got the answer of "Yes, Lord" he promptly said, "good to know," and those two children were placed somewhere else.  

The real truth is though it wasn't us at all.  The Lord even saw fit to allow us to both be vomitting during that time to remind us that we can do NOTHING in our own strength.  For six days we were literally just empty shells being used by Him for his good purpose.  It was a busy time but it was also so peaceful.

Like I said, we hadn't even decompressed fully days after the children had exited our lives. We knew we needed to be really praying about what this meant for our family continuing to serve God through foster care. "Those social workers loved us, My Love," I joked.  "They will probably call back.  We need to be ready with an answer.

Nine days later around 4pm, the phone rang again.  It was the Department of Social Services...

Monday, March 10, 2014

take me deeper

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Thursday, March 6, 2014

the phone rang

I was waiting on a phone call from the vet, so I answered the ring coming from the unfamiliar number with that expectation in mind.  

It wasn't the vet.  

It was the Department of Social Services.

"We have a sibling set of three children," she said. The voice coming from a woman whose name was mentioned just the week before in our home in different context.

"Do you think I should call them and tell them to take our name off the "list"?" I asked My Love.  He said no.  If the phone rang, we would deal with it when it came.  Even though it had been nearly two years since we started the process of foster care without a single placement.  I was ready to close the door completely.  He told me to leave it ajar.

"We will be bringing them into care tomorrow afternoon," she continued.  More details were shared.  The children were 5, 2, and 1.  It would likely be temporary.

I was shocked to say the least.  I mean, we were just talking about this very moment.  What we would do when the phone rang.  The thing was, I knew My Love would be unreachable for the next few hours.  I knew he would be calling at some point to find out if the vet had called yet.  I knew it would be difficult to make this decision over the phone.

He finally did call in one of his classic I-can-only-talk-for-a-second calls.  They don't happen often but when they do I have to cram as much information into two sentences as I possibly can.  By then the vet had called so I shared that news and then I told him DSS had called and literally had no time to elaborate beyond that.  He responded with "I have to run back in now.  Can you please pray for me?  I am about to do my briefing and I am really not feeling well."  Um.

Poor guy called me an hour or so later.  I told him what I knew about the potential placement.  He was on a longish commute back to our area and asked if he could call me back after he had time to pray and think about it.

The phone rang thirty minutes later.  We were on the same page.  The page we had kind of been on from the beginning of this process.  We decided to say yes.  Little did we know what was to come... 

so...I might be back

Now I know I said THE END so dramatically and all, but part of me kind of thought I would wind up here again.  I mean, I did pretty well for awhile convincing myself that the season of blogging was behind me. Mostly because months had gone by with no real inspiration or anything interesting to share.  Ultimately this blog was always for me though.  To be a place where I could be reminded of God's faithfulness in the mundane and miraculous.  It just seems like the right time to write again.  I am not making any promises of returning full force, but I would like to chronicle how being Thankful In All has prepared me for such a time as this.

So here we go...