Big Changes in the Ward Family

As an MK (missionary kid) I crave change.  If you don’t believe me, just ask my husband.  We have been married now for just under 12 years.  The first year of our marriage we moved from Chattanooga, TN to St. Louis, MO and both started new jobs.  The second year of our marriage we had our first child.  In the third year of our marriage we had our second child.  The next year we bought a house.  Then we got licensed by the state as an adoptive family, and had a pre-adoptive placement for about 6 months.  Then we recovered and got a dog.  Then we got licensed as a private adoptive family and had and lost a placement.  Then we got chickens and built something tangible together as we recovered.  Then we got licensed as a foster placement and had change after change (one time we received a new placement the same day one left).  That’s a lot of change and in the midst of it we have welcomed one more kiddo as a Ward and Lord willing will welcome the other two on a permanent basis soon as well.  We’ve also added and lost cats, added and lost lots of chickens, and added another dog.  I love change but it can also be exhausting and as a family we were ready for a year of just settling in to who our family is now and enjoying a slower pace as we move out of the fostering stage of life and into the “no more adding babies” stage of life.  This year was going to be our year of REST.

God has other plans, plans that we were not looking for or anticipating.  This year will be the year of the biggest change yet.  Moving again.  Kirk and I moved here as a newlywed couple twelve years ago.  This summer we will be packing up our family of seven humans, two dogs, one cat, and seven people worth of stuff (the chickens will be staying behind) and moving them all back to Chattanooga, TN.  I like to joke that we just came to St. Louis to have children.

This change has come as a shock to most people, it was also a shock to us.  Kirk was asked by Chattanooga Christian School to consider applying for their job as a Upper School Band teacher.  Though we’ve never expected to leave St. Louis, we started thinking about it…making our pro and con lists.  Pro…Kirk would be off on weekends and summers.  Con…he hasn’t really taught in type of setting before.  Pro…we have lots of family in and near Chattanooga.  Con…we love our church family in St. Louis.  Pro…CCS has a desire to improve their diversity.  Con…we love The Freedom School and the diversity it is dedicated to.  Pro…all the kids can go to the same school.  Con…we’ll miss our foster support…wait, can we even take our littlest two????!!!!!

This last “con” has been the biggest question mark in our minds.  God seemed to be opening door after door that was leading us to Chattanooga but we knew we wouldn’t leave our youngest two kids behind.  Their case is moving toward adoption but would it move fast enough for us to be able to move this summer.  This is still a question mark in our minds.  It feels like God is testing our trust in Him through it.  The last door to open was the official job offer.  Now the only thing that would hold us back is the St. Louis City court system, not the most efficient or time-sensitive entity in the world.  We have a great team working with us for the permanency of our kiddos but we really have no control over how things will play out.  WE NEED PRAYER!  We need prayer for God to move the “mountain” which is the court system so that we are at a point in their case that we can move them out of the state.  We need prayer for us that we will be able to trust God in whatever the future holds.

The Bible verse sitting on my kitchen window these days is so common that it’s easy to skim past all the wonderful encouragement…Philippians 4:6-7, “DO NOT BE ANXIOUS about anything, but in EVERYTHING by PRAY and supplication with THANKSGIVING let your requests be made know to GOD.  And the PEACE of GOD, which surpasses all understanding, will GUARD your HEARTS and you MINDS in Christ Jesus.”

A (Sun)Day in the Life

Sundays are one of the hardest, least “sabbath” days of my week. Kirk and I have a unique situation in our family dynamic due to his job, as well as our choices in growing our family (i.e. adding three kids in the space of 1 year through foster care). Before I make some observations about our “sabbath” I need to make some disclaimers…
1. I LOVE my husband and I am so thankful that he has a job that supports our family, that he loves, and that he is gifted in.
2. I LOVE my children. I love my big girl and her helpful, big sister attitude. I love my big boy and his extreme patience with his little siblings. I love my middle child and his charming nature. I love my giggly little girl. And I love my chunky ball of baby joy.

Having said that, Sundays are the hardest day of the week for me as the wife of a music director and the mother of five children. Sundays are the hardest days of the week due to the physical and emotional stresses I have.  They are also one of the most refreshing to my heart and soul and my steadfastness in the Lord. In the midst of the chaos and exhaustion, God meets me and restores my soul so that I can make it through the next week.

Kirk leaves for church at 7:30 (hopefully the little kids are mostly fed, I’m mostly fed, and the big kids are out of bed). We attempt to leave at 8:00. This means making sure 5 kids are dressed, fed, teeth brushed, and have used the bathroom. Two can do all of this on their own, one can do some of it on his own, the other two need help for most. We do our best to get to church on time but sometimes I realize as we leave that I haven’t finished getting myself ready, or one of the little ones poops in their diaper, or we realize the car is out of gas.

Being the wife of the music director means that Kirk is engaged elsewhere for most of the “worship”/singing part of the service, the part when all of the kids are with their parents. I can’t do it by myself and have had to humbly ask for help. My plea for help has consistently been greeted by overwhelming acts of love. One family from our house church takes my very heavy, very squirmy baby from the moment we arrive at church until they’ve dropped him off in nursery. Most Sundays I can handle the other four kids. But any time there is a transition or change in our life the middle kiddo’s life feels out of whack and that generally leads to a decrease in his ability to control his emotions, behaviors, impulses, etc. Sometimes we can calm down in the middle of the service, sometimes it takes a minute in the foyer.  And now and then it takes several minutes sitting and calming down in the bathroom.  I need someone who can sit with my other three kids while I deal with these behaviors.  Once again I ask for help and have never failed to find someone extra to sit with us.

Our church has recently gone through some scheduling changes and I have really loved the new changes. Kids ages 4 and up sit with their parents through the sermon. Today was Little D’s first Sunday in the sermon. We know that this will be hard work for him to learn to sit quietly for this amount of time. But we also believe this is a skill that he needs to learn.  Kirk is with me for this part of the service so I am thankful that we can work together on this skill for Little D. It’s also proven to be a wonderful time to give Joanna and Sam some much needed “snuggle” time. 🙂

Between the first and second service there is about and hour and a half during which the kids have Sunday school and there are also Adult Ed. classes. I have enjoyed how much this has slowed down our Sunday mornings. Kirk and I are able to spend time together between services playing with the little kids and having conversations with other families. It’s been fun to get to catch up with other church members that in the past I didn’t have time to keep up with because church felt so rushed. Once the little kiddos are more settled into our family I look forward to attending and Adult Ed class. We rarely have done this in the past because they used to take place in the late afternoon and Kirk, and I, are generally wiped out from our morning responsibilities.

I get the kids home around 11:30, make lunch, and put the little three down for naps…wow, sounds easy when typed out. Kirk gets home around 1:45 and I’ve enjoyed taking the time while I wait to try to blog again.

Though it’s hard to focus on the singing of church, God continues to encourage my heart through the songs we sing. Though it’s hard to focus on the entire sermon, I can get the general gist of the message and I am weekly reminded of God’s love and grace and His call for us to serve Him in our daily lives. I need these reminders that the hard work of caring for my foster kids and their difficult issues is the good work of God’s kingdom that He’s called me into.  I’ve come to think of “sabbath rest” as less of me getting to have what I want (focused worship, contemplative Biblical instruction, sitting on the couch and watching TV all afternoon) and more of a day of serving (serving my husband as he serves the church, serving my kids and working to teach them how to worship the Lord, serving our neighbor’s daughter so she can come to church, working to find little bits of rest along with my family rather than in solitude).  God meets me and encourages me, even though sometimes it’s just through a small comment during the sermon or part of a song…

“Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.” (Power of the Cross, Keith Getty)

 

Joy and Sorrow

It’s my first day alone…in so long. I had four kids all summer. I love and delight in all of them but it was hard work negotiating the appointments of two new foster placements (back to back) and daily life with 4 kids. School started this week and I have so much work to catch up on. But I find myself scrolling through facebook and my mind wandering. My brain hasn’t had time to process for the past several months, it’s going crazy with all the silence in my house.

This week is a mix of emotions. Saturday night a teenage boy in St. Louis was shot by a cop. The details of what happened are contradictory. One side says the boy attacked the cop. The other side says the cop harassed the boy and shot him repeatedly as he tried to run away. I don’t know the truth, I wasn’t there to see it.

But what I see on the news is heartbreaking. The racial divide is so obvious. The boy was black, the cop was white. The cops saying the boy was in the wrong are white. The witness saying the cop was in the wrong is a young black man.

As these racial tensions are high in my city, my kids started school. We dropped of our two white kids and one brown kid at The Freedom School. I sat on the floor with my brown skinned 3 year old, D, helping him feel safe in this new environment. Beside me sat a young black man with his 4 year old brown-skinned son. As I left my crying little guy I looked back to see this other dad reaching out his hand to comfort D and invite him to come and play with him and his son.

I think about conversations we will have to have 10 years down the road with our sons. With Sam, my white son, we can talk about following traffic laws and the conversation can end there. Obey the law and you won’t get into trouble. What if D stays with us permanently, in 10 years we have to have a conversation with him about obeying traffic laws. But then we have to talk about making sure you don’t do anything than makes you look guilty. Keep your hands out of your pockets when approached by a cop. Make sure you are completely respectful to those in authority. Don’t run, keep your hands visible so it’s obvious that you aren’t armed.

According to some, the boy who was just shot was shot as he ran from the cop, hands in the air, stating that he was unarmed. How to I prepare by brown-skinned babies for this?

I have joy as I see my kids growing up in an environment where they are building friendships with people of other colors than themselves. I have hope that God’s kingdom is coming and that one day we will be able to live in peace with each other. I have joy in the little glimpses we get to have of that in our life here in St. Louis and at our school and church. I have sorrow that this world is so broken.

Vicious Cycle

I feel like we are stuck in a vicious cycle. There are several things that we feel committed to as a family but at times these things seem to be in conflict with each other. Lately this has become most apparent in our desire to grow our family through adoption.

Commitment: Kirk’s job at New City Fellowship. We know this is where God has placed our family. Kirk is good at his job and enjoys it. God is using him to show love to the nations by pursuing multicultural music. Our church also believes in walking with the poor. They pay Kirk enough to support his family but not too much to make him unable to sympathize with those around us who are poor. This has been a good thing in our life as we humbly are able to understand what it is like to live paycheck-to-paycheck, almost. New City Fellowship is a good thing God has put in our life.

Commitment: Sarah’s job as a stay-at-home mom. I believe that the best thing I can do for my kids is be a stay-at-home mom for them during the first few years of their life. This gives them the chance to have a stable foundation as they go on into the world. It is hard to be a full-time mommy but also so rewarding. I have loved being able to fully invest myself in my kids, my household, and BAKING! Being at home full time also make me able to spend the time needed to work with a newly adopted child as they mourn for the loss of their first family and attach to ours.

Commitment: Living in the inner city. We moved into our house three and a half years ago. We wanted to live near the church office. God has blessed us with a wonderful block full of wonderful people. We happen to be the only non-African American family on the block. I love it! I love the environment for my kids. I love that I am pushed to step our of my comfort zone to go the the grocery store where I will be the only white face. I love the connections I have made and the acceptance I have received from those around us. I am glad that our AA adopted children will have people around them with the same skin color. And that I am having the opportunity to taste what it is like to be in the minority.

Commitment: Love and compassion for the orphan, the widow, and the refugee. Jesus’ kingdom. This is what has drawn us to pursue adoption rather than having more biological children. We have the space, love, and community that make us good candidates for adoption. Our compassion does not end with children who need a family, we also feel deeply for mom’s who are facing crisis pregnancies. Our desire for a child is balanced with a desire for moms to be able to raise their children. We are also committed to trans-racial adoption. We believe that God has equipped us to be a good option for an African American child because we will be able to raise him/her in an environment where they will be involved with other trans-racial families and have positive African American role models in their life through our neighborhood, church, and school.

Lately I have been frustrated with how our commitment to transracial adoption is being blocked by our financial commitment to being in our church which makes us a good option for a transracial adoption. Arg!

The best way to learn to trust my Heavenly Father is to be forced to trust him. I’m learning this, slowly.

Please pass around our adoption profile to anyone and everyone: KirkSarahAdoptionProfile.wordpress.com.

Eventful Friday

Yesterday was an interesting day with lots to think about. Kirk was off work so the morning was spent relaxing together, eating cinnamon rolls, chillin’ in the back yard.

Next came our meeting with our adoption specialist where we discussed a potential child and some crazy new developments…no case is typical we learned in class and now we get to learn it on a practical level. But God is faithfully keeping my emotions in tact and continues to encourage me that He knows what kid we are right for and will bring him/her at the right time. Sorry, no further details in this public of a venue. 🙂

Then our friend and neighbor dropped by while he waited for his wife, who had the house key, to get home. Kirk had a wonderful conversation with him about adoption, city living, and the grace of Jesus. He is a believer who is feeling dissatisfied with his church where so much emphasis is placed on what separates them from others that they can’t just love people and see similarities. And also his desire for ministries of mercy. Kirk had a great opportunity to talk about New City and our core values of grace and justice.

Next big event was playing outside with the girls from next door. I won’t go into my conversation with one of the girls about how the Most High said that we’re supposed to wear skirts, not pants. As Bethany and I sat out there chatting we noticed some “suspicious” activity down the block. She’d walked down there earlier and seen guys in a car with a whole bunch of money…and guys hanging out in front of houses that are not occupied. So I finally got up the gumption to make my first call to the police to report it. This was a big step for me! A bit later two cop cars drove by, pulled over, chatted with the guys. And then sure enough handcuffed a man and a woman and spent quite awhile out there. Not sure what else happened but hopefully it’s a start to a safer block. It makes me think about the woman arrested…was it for prostitution? has she fallen into prostitution because she’s addicted to drugs? does she have children? will they go into state custody? will she be able to get over her addictions so that she can be a good mommy?

Lest you begin to think that city life is all crime and cops…this is the occurance at one end of the block while the rest of the block is made up of wonderful, neighborly people.

A Little Reminder

For those who don’t know it, I grew up in Kenya as a missionary kid.  When I was one year old my parents moved to Kenya and we lived in a rural setting.  My life today is very different and my children are growing up in a VERY different setting.  However, there are some similarities.

1. God loves variety.  I grew up in a white, American family with black Africans around me.  The school I attended in Nairobi, though mostly white was still very diverse.  My kids get to experience God’s blessing of diversity in our neighborhood and in our church.

2.  Bare feet!  I grew up running around barefoot and playing soccer barefoot.  Though I don’t let my kids play out front in barefeet (too much broken glass), they are always barefoot out back (still some broken glass but not as much).  When it rains they go through several sets of clothes from jumping in puddles and playing in mud.  I hate the laundry but love the experience they are getting.

3.  Wildlife!  Sure, we don’t see giraffe and zebra when we go out for a drive or on a trip through the country.  But we have cats and we’ve seen some possum and even a bunny and birds at our bird feeder.  This new little friend has made his home on our sunflower.  As a child there was a praying mantis who made his home in our kitchen.  This little guy reminds me of my home in Muruu (and here are some other pictures of our garden).

Summer Company

This summer an old (as is for many years, not many years old herself) family friend is staying with us.  Our family’s friendship goes all the way back to Kenya where our parents were missionaries.  She is doing an internship at the St Louis Post Dispatch.  She’s been a wonderful breath of fresh air to our life so far and a joy for our kids and the kids in the neighborhood.  Here’s a little video she made of a couple of the boys on our block.