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.

Sitting in the Dark

I’m sitting in my 3 year olds room. In the dark. On the edge of his bed. Hoping he falls asleep before my phone’s battery dies. I sit here to trap him in bed, vainly hoping my presence will help him feel safe enough to fall asleep.

We’ve hit a roadblock in parenting this little guy who joined our family 9 months ago. I love him to death and hope and pray daily that he’ll be mine forever. Sometimes I feel he’s sucking the life out of me.

Bedtime has become a nightmare. One parent cleans up the kitchen, helps the big kids get ready for bed, connects with the big kids over some Narnia, and tucks them in. The other parent gets D ready for bed, reads books quietly, sings songs, rubs back, prays, and says goodnight. Then puts D to bed. Then puts D to bed again. Then puts D to bed again. To be transparent, this happens until they have to ask for a sub because they have become enraged.

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We’re starting a training in a couple of weeks based on Karyn Purvis’ “The Connected Child”. It can’t come soon enough. My three year old’s brain is wired differently than my bio kids who haven’t experienced trauma our neglect. Did you know that by connecting with a child from a “hard place”, you can change the way their brain functions? Did you know that you can teach a child to trust again? Did you know that you can help their brains not go directly into fight or flight just because you asked them not to touch the hot oven?

I feel so honored and humbled that God has directed Kirk and I into the business of changing brain chemistry.  I’m so thankful that He gives His Holy Spirit to sustain and give us wisdom through this journey.

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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I Lost My Job

I suppose a better title would be “I’ve Completed My Job”.  It looks like baby M will be going home to her Daddy tomorrow.  

As we finished up our foster license Kirk always prayed that God would give us a placement that we’d be able to carry through to the end and reunification with the child’s family.  I secretly, and selfishly, wanted a placement that we’d get to keep.  Well God more than graciously answered Kirk’s selfless prayer over my selfish one.  But in the process He has changed my heart again.  I have spent a little over a month getting to know baby M’s mom and dad.  Mom’s got some things to work on and she’s throwing herself into it believing God has given her another chance to be a mommy.  We pray for her that God would bring healing to her body.  Baby M’s dad hasn’t had a newborn in a long time and is going to be learning a lot in the process.  But I love that I’ve had the privilege of watching him snuggle with her and answering his questions about napping and formula and car seats.  He’s going to make a great daddy.  We are hopeful that we will remain in some sort of contact with baby M and her family as they adjust and will get to be a support to them. 

God is a good God!  Baby M’s dad is constantly thanking us for what we are doing but I feel like it has been such a gift from God to get to do this.  

baby M's blanket

baby M’s blanket

On to the next adventure! …in the meantime we have a new hen laying eggs (5 eggs today) and I’ve started planting the garden.

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.”