Decisions, Decision, So Many Decisions

I make millions of decisions each day.  The first is generally whether to get up and exercise or turn off my alarm clock and keep sleeping.  The last is usually whether to read my Bible before bed or Harry Potter.

Kirk and I have had to make many decisions in our married life.  Some have little effect on our lives (i.e. What show should we watch tonight?) and some have changed the course of our lives (i.e. Should we become foster parents?).

Some decisions are made in a split second and some have time to be prayed over for days or weeks or months.  Someone once told Kirk that as long as your decisions are in line with the big picture of where God is calling you, it doesn’t matter the specifics of each “little” decision.  I say “little” in quotations because when I say little I mean decisions like whether or not to take a specific foster placement.  I’d like to share some examples of three decisions we’ve made in the past few years that have changed the course of our lives.  Many people have seemed surprised that Kirk and I would chose to uproot our family and move to Chattanooga, TN but each “little” decision we have made has led us to this big decision for the well being of our family as a whole (and God making it very obvious that this was His leading).

IMG_4809Two and a half years ago I was driving my cousin to the airport to go visit her family for Thanksgiving break.  It was the day before Kirk’s sister and her family were to arrive to spend Thanksgiving with us.  I got a phone call from my case worker (as a waiting foster parent, I always answered the phone when she called).  Could we take a two year old boy?  He was going to an emergency placement that night but would be brought over the next day.  “Yes,” I said, “I’ll need to double check with Kirk when I get home but assume we’re saying yes unless I call you back.”  Kirk was more hesitant.  We had a lot going on with family coming into town, my birthday the next day, Thanksgiving, etc.  After an hour of thinking about it we decided to take him.  Fast forward two years later and it’s Daniel’s adoption day.  We love Daniel and he’s an awesome kid.  He’s gone through some rough stuff in the first few years of his life and is still growing emotionally…putting him developmentally as a 5 year old but emotionally more like a 3 year old.  A decision made in an hour that has changed our lives forever.

20141025_072846One and a half years ago we had been doing respite care every few weekends for a former placement to help his mom adjust to suddenly becoming a mommy of a newborn.  We were so tired and sleep deprived having had back to back newborns for several months and after sending him home on Sunday decided to take a little break.  On Monday I got a call from our case worker (this time I was in a meeting and missed the call).  Could we take a 6 week old boy?  He was with a wonderful family but they would not be able to continue to care for him.  I was hesitant and called Kirk.  He said, “Yes, if we want to continue to grow our family we have to keep saying yes to placements and following through in however we can serve each kiddo and their family.”  Fast forward and we have a very active, very heavy, very strong-willed and rambunctious 21 month old who, Lord willing, we will be adopting this summer.  Baby K is constantly on the move and began showing toddler-like behaviors at the age of 18 months. He’s an awesome kiddo but a lot of work to keep up with.  We decided to take Baby K after asking one question, “It looks like we’ll be adopting Daniel who is an African American so we’d like to only take Baby K if he is an African American so that Daniel won’t be the only black kiddo in our family.”  It was an instant decision that changed the course of our lives.

IMG_5368Accepting Baby K mostly changed the course of our lives a few days later when we found out that he had an 18 month old sister that might come into foster care in the future, “If she does, can you take her too?”  We had weeks to make this decision.  It was a hard decision because we knew that if we said no we would likely have to say goodbye to Baby K because they would find a home for them both to be together.  But at the same time we were feeling very stretched as a family and wanted to be careful not to take on more than we could handle.  We didn’t know her and what level of care she would need.  Two months after Baby K joined our family, Girly K joined us too.  God knew our limits and didn’t give us more than we could handle.  We had several months to decide if we could handle being a family of seven and had to pray through a lot because we knew taking Girly K would change the course of our lives.

IMG_5333Fast forward to today.  We have five children.  Our two oldest are very stable, having normal sorts of needs and issues.  Our biggest stress for them is making sure that they get enough attention from us.  The youngest three all have needs that we anticipated in varying degrees.  I love them each so much.  They are hard to parent for various reasons, all of them displaying toddler-like behaviors.  Having three toddlers is hard work.  It’s especially hard when Kirk is gone most of the weekend.  When we were presented with the opportunity to move to Chattanooga where Kirk’s work schedule would match up with our kids weekly schedule we jumped at the opportunity.  It’s hard to image weekend life with two parents available after being the only parent on weekends for 10 years.  I am so excited about being able to go on family adventures on Saturday mornings (or even sleeping in).  I am so excited about going to church with my kids AND my husband.  I know that Kirk’s presence on the weekends isn’t going to instantly change the behaviors of my kids or their needs.  But not being the sole grown-up responsible for de-escalating each child, disciplining each behavior, and comforting each child is something I look forward to.  I am so thankful to the Lord who has given us this opportunity to move to Chattanooga where we can focus more on the health of our family.  (And I haven’t even begun to talk about how excited I am to live so close to my in-laws, my sister, Kirk’s sister and her family, and my brother and his family…and in a few years my parents.)

I’m so thankful that my future lies in the hands of an all-knowing and all-loving Heavenly Father and that he has led our family into this new adventure.

 

No Time for Tears

I rarely blog anymore.  I rarely even update my facebook status unless it’s something funny my son, Sam has said, or a vague comment about the stress of having a large family.  I don’t have time to blog and the things I think about sharing on facebook are either to personal/private to my heart, or confidential to my extra kiddos’ lives.  So I share with my husband, my family, and my fellow soldiers in the foster trenches…some of it I bottle in to deal with later.

But Kirk and I rarely have time alone together to share our thoughts and feelings.  When we do it’s a struggle to leave the stress of caring for our kids and family behind.  I want to relax and enjoy my wonderful husband, but it seems to take work to put the stress to the side.  Our marriage is stronger than it has ever been and I praise the Lord for His grace in that.  It grows as we struggle together through this calling of caring for “hurt children” that the Lord has placed on our family.  Graciously God finds little bits of time to give us rest.

Our two littlest kiddos have a visit with their dad on Wednesday mornings.  We’ve been trying to use that time to have a date.  This past Wednesday was the first time we didn’t have something else that had to happen or somewhere else one of us had to be (car issues, field trips with other kids, etc.).  It was wonderful to have a whole hour to sit together and talk (go ahead and laugh that a “whole hour” seems like a lot these days).  I told him that at any point I felt like all the emotions I’ve been bottling up were going to come out in waves of tears.  I managed to hold them in at that moment, sitting in the window of Einstein Bagels…I’m not a huge fan of crying in public.

Instead we went home and greeted our cheerful littles and moved on with lunch and naps.  Then the mad rush to clean the house before our foster licensing worker came to visit and ask how we’re doing with having five kids.  Any major changes in your life?  Sign this, date that.  Have you done any more training hours?

Then we moved on to our next topic of conversation: Adoption Subsidy Paperwork!!!!  That’s right, we’re getting to keep Little D.  It’s been a bit of a crazy journey over the past 15 months with several unexpected turns of events.  We’ve desperately wanted to keep him forever and things just kept coming up…and God kept showing up and saying, “Nope, he’s supposed to be a Ward forever.”  (There’s always still a small chance that something else crazy could happen but my mustard seed sized faith is resting in God’s sovereignty over his life.)  Strangely we found out that we’d get to keep him right in the midst of some of his worst behavioral regressions.  It’s very sobering to accept the calling to have a kid when you are in the midst of dealing with their rages and aggression and anger.  It’s so much easier to say “yes” to the little baby bundles that sleep all day and just want to be snuggled.  But there is a confidence in the Lord that has caused us to never waver in our commitment to being D’s family forever, even though we know his struggles so intimately.

It looks like by the end of the year he’ll be ours forever.  New birth certificate.  We can post his handsome face all over the web if we want.  A “new” start for his life (though it really started 15 months ago).  And a new name.  This is when the waves of tears started to flow.  I couldn’t even tell our licensing worker the name we’ve chosen for him, it has such deep meaning to our journey and his journey.  It’s makes it seem so real, to say his name out loud, like this is really going to happen.  We get to keep the little boy full of energy and giggles and questions.  This little boy full of anger and anxiety and a desperate need for attention.  How do we name someone we already know?  How do we honor his biological family?  How do we honor his cultural heritage?  How do we honor his future family and our Biblical heritage?  Our other kids each have two names which honor our family and our Biblical heritage?  But Kirk found a perfect name and I can’t wait to share it…sometime at the end of the year.

Little DPsalm 9:7-12                                                        But the LORD sits enthroned forever;                        he has established his throne for justice,       and he judges the worlds with righteousness;            he judges the peoples with uprightness.         The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed,     and stronghold in times of trouble.         And those who know your name put their          trust in you,  for you O LORD, have not                forsaken those who seek you.                    Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in      Zion!                                                              Tell among the peoples his deeds!                   For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;            he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

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.

Fear of the City

a great post by my husband about why we live where we live and do what we do…

Worship In The City

One of the realities that we deal with in STL is the fear of the city. Many people who live in the greater St Louis metropolitan area are afraid of going into certain parts of the city. For some, the line is north of Delmar Ave. For others, it’s east of Skinker. One person I met in St Charles, once told me that they never cross “the bridge” into St Louis COUNTY!

There are several reasons for this fear being perpetuated in the community. Some of it is racism – this place that people fear is predominantly black (our neighborhood is 98% black). Some of it is class-ism – there’s not a lot of money in our part of town. Some of the fear comes from the myth of a violent and chaotic inner city perpetuated by the media – all the news stories that come from our community are about violence. Sometimes people…

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Finally…a Job

After what feels like three years of waiting and sanctification God has finally given me a job. A week ago we picked up “baby M”. We don’t know how long she’ll be with us. There’s a pretty good chance she’ll get to go live with her Daddy soon and we’re very happy for that option. It feels so good to finally feel like we have a direction to our wandering path.

We believe that God has called us into fostering and pruned our hearts and attitudes a bit over the last three years to make us a bit more capable of this job. We’ve been excited about serving in this way and now are praying that He would give us the skills needed. Skills to love unconditionally, a child not born to us; bio parents who are in enough crisis to have their child taken away. Skills to balance doctor appointments, WIC appointments, home visits, visits with bio parents, court dates…along with regular life and two other children and a spouse.

God has made my heart full.
"baby M"

Healing through Creating

We spent the summer healing from the grief of not getting to adopt.  We spent the summer building and creating, together as a family.  We set out to build a chicken coop, we sawed and hammered and drilled.  Together as a family we accomplished what we set out to do.  It felt so good, in our journey of growing our family which at that point was seeming so unproductive it was exhilarating to accomplish a task successfully.

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Now months have passed and the chickens have grown, one has started laying eggs, two began cock-a-doodle-dooing and are relocated.  The kids have gone back to school.  Fall is over and winter is on it’s last leg.  The grieving is still in my heart.  I am thrilled that Simeon is getting to grow up with his mommy.  But my mommy heart is still aching to be filled.  I ask God, “What is Your will for me?” “When will You see fit to use me?” “When will I get to be a mommy to another precious one?”  

God is a gentle and loving Father and has been gracious to show me that He is answering my prayers, the deeper longings of my heart to become more like Jesus.

He has broken my heart.  My heart breaks for the mother who is unable to parent her child. I weep for the mommy who writes me to say she’s considering giving away her child because she can’t provide for him.  My prayer changes from, “God give me another child” to “God provide for this family so that they can keep their baby.”  God has moved our hearts from wanting a child for our own to wanting to foster kids with the hope of helping heal families.

God has helped me to be useful in this time of waiting.  I get to bake, take Derby on long walks, have tea with friends, babysit, sub at the kids’ school.  I get to run errands by myself, learn to play the piano, and fill out paperwork for our foster license.  

Time goes on, God works at making my heart more in line with Jesus’.  I pray for kids we hear about.  I pray for God to give me patience.  I pray for God to use me and my gifts in some way each day.  And we wait.  

Psalm 13:5-6  “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.”

The City to Come

My women’s Bible study at church has been doing a study by John Piper called “The Blazing Center: The Soul-Satisfying Supremacy of God in All Things.”  His main theme is that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”  This week he added onto that “…especially when we maintain joy in him in suffering.”  He brought up four chapters in Hebrews that support this.

Hebrews 10:32-34 talks about Christians who were willing to go to prison and suffer for the sake of knowing Christ.  And also Christians who were willing to be connected with those suffering and “joyfully accepted the plundering if their property” for it.  Why? Because they knew they had a better possession in knowing Christ.

Hebrews 11:24-26 talks about how Moses refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter when he grew up.  He chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoy the “fleeting pleasures of sin.”  Why? “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”

The ultimate example of joy in suffering is of course Christ.  The author of Hebrews (12:1-2) tells us to look to Christ as our example.  Christ endured the cross…”for the joy set before him.”

Lastly, Hebrews 13:12-14 calls us to be willing to bear the reproach (disgrace, shame – I had to look it up in the dictionary) that Christ endured “for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”

“Through Christ then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”       (Heb. 13:15-16)  Piper refers to all these believers as “strange people” doing strange things but that we should daily be praying that God would make us into strange people too.  What strange things are you doing for the kingdom of God?