Wednesday, May 09, 2018

An Ode to Pigs in a Blanket

Well, I'm not actually going to write a poem about pigs in a blanket (if I had more energy I might), I just really wanted you to click on my post, so I gave it a weird title.

I am going to write about pigs in a blanket though. But first, I'm going to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, we became parents, fairly abruptly, to three boys, ages nine, eight, and three. These boys, while precious and fun, were also in desperate need of all the love, safety, structure, energy, and attention that we could give and more. During this same time, we lived in a different state than our families, had recently switched churches in an effort to connect with a more local body, and had a very limited support system. It was, certainly, the most challenging season of our lives.

The same week our three year old moved in for good, we were invited to a new support group for foster and adoptive parents hosted by a local church (not a church we attended). We dragged our exhausted, introverted selves out to this group because the organizer was the agency therapist on our foster care team, and I'm pretty sure we would have shaved our heads and joined a cult if she told us it would have been beneficial to our boys. (Side note: Jenn Ranter Hook is one of the most knowledgeable, compassionate, and creative trauma-informed professionals I have ever met and I value all the time we were blessed to have her as a part of our family team).  

What we found in this group over the next several years was very definition of support, camaraderie, and empathy. However, the most striking experience I took away from the group happened after that first meeting. A week later, the group organized a meal train for our family and, twice a week for six weeks, complete strangers showed up to my house with food for my family. I have told this story so many times and every time I say, without exaggeration, that this changed my life.

I grew up in the church, yet I don't believe I've ever seen a more pure expression of the love of Christ in action in my life than in those weeks. Strangers fed my family. Strangers, you guys! They didn't ask me to volunteer, join their church, donate to any cause, or even ask to sit down and chat. They showed up, dropped off great food, and left. Every time I think about it I tear up.

That experience became the foundation of my theology of hospitality. Food connects people, it shows love, extends kindness, offers blessing. It seems so small and insignificant, unless you're the over-tired mom staring down the barrel of three hangry kids and no dinner plan. To her, it's a lifeline.

Once I gained a little more capacity in my life, I began to put that theology into practice. Hospitality, more specifically food, is my ultimate love language. My response to every hard situation in life is to provide food or baked goods. Ask around. It's my knee-jerk response. Why? Because when I was drowning in the waves of life, someone fed my family so I could catch my breath. That act was so life-giving that I want to do that for others.

So, back to pigs in a blanket. We're in the midst of a few hectic weeks, nothing like those early days of parenting, but still challenging. This week my dear friend Christina took the time out of her busy life to drop off two meals to my family. Today's meal: mac and cheese and pigs in a blanket. It took me 30 seconds to serve to my children, and they loved it. My Middle Crazy prayed for the meal and thanked God for Miss Christina for making food for us. I just teared up again typing that.

Meeting basic needs does something to and for us. Hospitality is life-changing. Even when it looks like pigs and a blanket.

Thank you to all those wonderful people who were and are a part of the Replanted Ministry. You are a blessing. Thank you to my dear friend Christina and her family for loving us well. 

Much love from #thecrazyhouse tonight. Let me know if you need some comfort food. I've got you.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

The Weight of Risk

I get it. I understand why a lot of people are terrified to be foster parents. The risk. Risk of getting attached, risk loving and losing, risk of losing that false sense of control we have over our lives and families, risk of getting hurt, risk of losing friends, risk of being wrongly accused, risk of heartbreak. There is a lot of risk when it comes to love of any kind, and the love and loss of foster care sits in a pretty high-risk category.

I am feeling the weight of that risk right now. It feels massive and a little unfair. In fact, I'd like to throw a bit of a tantrum about it. However, I'm currently studying the book of Esther, (because I still believe that God has a sense of humor), and girlfriend was all about risk. What Esther risked wasn't her reputation, home life, or heart. She risked her life. She hesitated (4:10-11), she weighed the risk, but she resolved to move forward in faith and with courage (and respect for those in authority over her). So, basically, I'm not super happy with Esther right now.

There are times when I am confused or unclear about what God is doing. My viewpoint has looked fairly murky for the past few months, but I know the character of God. He has a track record, not only in my life, but in the lives of those I love, in history, in the book of Esther. Not only does He have a track record of working a good plan, but we have been told to expect not just risk, but sacrifice and hardship on the path to loving God and loving people.

I'm still feeling the weight of risk, I'm rumbling with it as BrenĂ© Brown would say. (The rumble is when "you’re too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light.") But I still believe more are called to move forward in faith and with courage into the high-risk world of foster care. I don't know what it will look like for everyone (social worker, foster parent, advocate, mentor), I don't even know what it will always look like for me at this point. But I do know this, the system is not just broken, it's shattered into a million pieces, and the most innocent bystanders of the ricochet are the children in foster care, and coming alongside them is worth the risk of some cuts.

Much love from #thecrazyhouse

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

From the Trenches

We are here again in the stage of being emotional containers, of seeing the hard journey through the trauma, of being deep in the trenches. And, because life is sometimes a perfect storm of sh...a word my mother would be disappointed to hear me say...the last two weeks have been CRAZY HARD. And that is quite the understatement.

But, there have been some really bright spots, because I have some incredible people in my little village and they are showing up for us right now and saving my life and anchoring my soul.

And, since I know that it's hard to figure out how to support people in an out-of-the-box situation like families who foster, I'm going to tell you about them so that maybe you'll be better equipped to support someone else in your life who may be walking the foster care road.

The things that are currently giving me life (in no particular order):
  1. When friends take time out of their day to text, call or send me snaps regularly, telling me they are praying for us, asking me how we are, how I am, how did today go, am I still breathing, am I still standing, am I still sober...and on and on. Sometimes in the trenches you can start to feel forgotten, which is disheartening. When someone takes time to check in and let me know they have not forgotten that our little crazy life might be imploding and we might not be handling it very well, that is helpful and encouraging.
  2. When a friend drops off food (homemade, or of the drive-thru variety), takes my frantic calls at 8:00am on Sunday morning to talk me down off a ledge, tells me I am not bipolar, and stops over just to give me a hug. It's so helpful to have someone who understands something about the life we live, and won't pass judgement for the craziness that is this type of parenting.
  3. When the smartest behavioral specialist I know texts me to ask if she can help in any way, give me any support, provide me with any strategies. When she sends special packages. When she checks in in the midst of her own life's crazy.
  4. When a friend holds my hands and lifts me up in prayer. When she doesn't ask when I might give up on a child, but instead prays "God, we confirm this calling we know you have given them" and prays for strength in the midst of the mess. 
  5. When family mobilizes and makes sure everyone has clothing and toys and no one is left out, and everyone knows they are loved.
  6. When friends give us furniture so everyone has a bed and a place to put their clothes. 
  7. When my pastor preached this message on Sunday (9/3). Because we're in the mess, but that doesn't mean we're not doing the right ministry. (Seriously, give it a listen).
  8. When I listen to this song on repeat. All day. And no one judges me because music is good for the soul.
Thank you to everyone in our village who is helping us keep our heads above water. You are the best.

Monday, August 14, 2017

I need you to know this...

I read a blog post a few weeks back about adoption and trauma and it made me sick. I've been thinking about it ever since, and I need to write a response to it because I need you to know a few things. Now, I'm not going to link to the post because I don't want you to read what I believe is an inaccurate response, in light of the Gospel, to raising adopted children who have been traumatized.

What I need you to know is this:

First off, my belief in Jesus, my Christianity, and my whiteness qualify me to be the savior of exactly zero people. I can't even save myself (Romans 3:10-12), I certainly cannot save anyone else. I did not save my children, only Jesus (who, in fact, was not white) can save.

Which brings me to the next thing I need you to know. Adoption is a tragic necessity. I'm sure it's odd for some to read those words coming from me, but I believe it is absolutely true. Even our own adoption as sons and daughters of God was Plan B to our life in the Garden of Eden in perfect relationship to Him. And while our adoption by God is beautiful, it was born out of a devastating reality. This is exactly true of adoption here on earth. Every adoption comes in the wake of a tragedy. A child loses, from whatever circumstance, their first family. No matter how that came to pass, it is devastating. I believe that first families are always Plan A. But the heartbreaking truth is that sometimes (and not even in every case that ends in adoption), children cannot be with their first family. I hope that breaks your heart. Families are sometimes broken apart. That is devastating. And, while I rejoice in my family, I believe that it was not Plan A.
I believe that adoption can be good and happy (obviously), but I need you to know that while I love my family like crazy, we were born out of something I grieve deeply – the breaking apart of families. I am comfortable walking that line, because my children need to know that I still grieve that loss with them and that they can feel the weight of that whenever they need to without the concern that they may hurt my feelings.

Finally, for today, I need you to know that when I react poorly to my child's trauma response to something, that is on me. Repeated early childhood trauma alters the brain, and therefore, it alters the response to situations, the way the brain learns, the life that is lived. That alteration is not the fault of my child, and when I lose patience in response to that I am the one at fault. Listen, it's difficult to parent at all, and yes, it's crazy hard to understand trauma and parent it well. I am failing at it approximately 99% of the time. But, I am the adult, I am the protector, I am the educator, I am the responsible party. I do not get to blame my immaturity on a child who is sorting through all the complexities of life with additional confusing facets to navigate.

I needed to write this so that I can be sure I've been up front with you about my view on adoption. So that if you happen to come across something that declares that adoptive parents are saviors, or that adoption is God's perfect design, or that adoptive parents who are parenting children through hard things deserve praise, I need you to read that with a discerning eye and rotate that viewpoint to see it from all angles so you can reject it for the nonsense it is.

Much love from #thecrazyhouse tonight.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Making Beds and Welcoming Girls

Today I made up a bed in my home for a child I've never met.

I tried to pick sheets I think she'll like, based on absolutely nothing, since I have no information about her other than her name and age. While I put the lime green and blue striped sheets on the bed I prayed for this little girl who will be staying with us for a few days. I prayed that she would feel safe in our home. I prayed for her mom, that she would be able to be with her daughter again soon. I prayed for her siblings.

I hope those of you who know us noticed that I wrote "little girl" and did a double take. The Crazy House, full of boys, is welcoming a girl into our house. It's not even the first time this month we've welcomed a girl into the crazy.

I've said a lot of things to God in my life. I've told Him I can't (or won't) do a lot of things. I said I wouldn't get married. I said I wouldn't move back to Michigan. I said I wouldn't have babies or girls in my house. After all that, and more, I really believe God has a sense of humor, and I laugh at myself a lot these days. Especially when I'm in the store buying baby food and little girls' clothes.

It's one thing to say you can't welcome a child into your home when it's a hypothetical question, when the need isn't right in front of you. It's an entirely different feeling when that child has a name and needs a place to go. I've found that now, when the crazies are doing so great, and if there are no great safety concerns, I am compelled to say yes a lot more.

Please understand, I don't say yes because I'm full of energy or feel I am super prepared to parent all. the. children. I say yes because I believe God has called me to this, to care for His little image-bearers, and they aren't all boys between the ages of four and 12.

I share this because I want you to know that I struggle with where God is calling me sometimes, but I know He equips us to do His work. So many people have told me they just couldn't foster, because they couldn't love a child and then let go. But that is all parenting, right? We love them while they are in our home and let them go when they leave. In foster care, the timeline is just accelerated.

It's so easy to say no to a hypothetical, but these kids aren't hypothetical and, chances are, they are in your city. They need people to care for them and make their beds and pray for their parents. Can you do that?

Sunday, August 07, 2016

The Crazy Move and More Foster Care

The crazy house relocated two months ago. To be perfectly honest, I have had an incredibly difficult time with the transition to this place that should feel familiar to me. I do my best to daily list all the wonderful things about this new place that I call home, but doesn't quite feel that way.

The top three items on this list are as follows:
Proximity to family and lifelong friends.
New (instant), neighborhood friends for the Crazies.
All. The. Lakes. (God bless you, Michigan)

These always make the list. I love these things even when it feels like my home is actually somewhere else.

Today I was reminded of another thing that should land on this daily list:
Foster care.

Foster care moved to a back burner in my home life for a little while because we had the privilege of adopting our crazies. And now we're trying to get settled before we get our license here. But foster care is taking a new place in my life in this season, and occupying some of my professional time.

Today I organized an event for families involved in foster care, as a part of my new job. I spent a few hours with people who are eyeball-deep in other people's messy lives. Kids, foster parents, relative caregivers, bio parents. They had fun spending time together and I got to sit there and witness it and take pictures. It was easily one of my favorite moments in this new place.

Then, this evening, I had a text conversation with a fellow foster-mama-friend about all the feels of letting go of a child who has lived as a part of your family, in your home. It's worth celebrating when a child returns to their first home, or goes to their forever home. It's also heart-wrenching to say goodbye to a child you gave your everything to for a time. A child who called you mom, whether you encouraged him to or not. A child who played alongside your other children like a brother. A child who grew up a little in your home. It's such a strange mix of emotions.

I love being a foster parent. I love walking alongside those involved in foster care. Not because those things are easy or fun all the time, but because it is good work. It is the work of reconciliation and redemption. It is the work of the Gospel. And now I get to spend my working hours being a part of foster care too.

And for that, I love this new place.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Life comes hard and fast many times. It rushes over you like a massive, overwhelming wave and it drags you along, tossing you around so you forget who you were before and where you were going.

I’ve found myself in very similar conversations with a few dear friends recently about this dizzying wave we are being swept up in. Brave, remarkable women who I cherish and cheer for daily ­– women who are trying to figure out how to ride the wave after being suddenly thrown into parenthood (whether it be step, foster, or new parenthood), or moving their life across the country to a lonely place, or dealing with intense illness, or going through a difficult divorce. The wave is strong and it disorients, and we’re left feeling like we don’t even know ourselves.

I know this feeling. The largest wave life has thrown me came three years ago when my world exploded and my heart found home in three precious crazies. It doesn’t matter that I marched into the ocean looking for a wave, ready to embrace it. That wave still took me down and sent me careening.

I would go against that wave again in a heartbeat, and I will face others like it in the future. The next time though, I will be a little better prepared. I will take little anchors with me so I remember who I am and where I’m going in the midst of the undertow.

I’d love to impress you with how spiritual I am and tell you that I’m talking about reading your Bible everyday or memorizing Scripture. But that would be a lie. Yes, spiritual anchors are vitally important. I don’t have that figured out; and sometimes my spiritual anchors look a lot more like desperate prayers for survival and one single verse I cling to instead of daily devotions. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that’s all right for now. Not only that, but most of the time I find that my other, “non-spiritual” anchors actually point me to Jesus because I remember who I am in Him or the gifts He blessed me with, which might be hard to see now.

Sometimes my anchors are silly, like a song that reminds me of an important or exciting time from my past. Sometimes it’s a thing or activity, like a painting I love or making time for a small craft. Other times it’s something intellectual, like reading a book or taking an online class. Often it’s a person who has walked through life with me and seen me in many seasons. They remind me of that time I was adventurous and wild, or thoughtful and logical, even if the wave beats some of those things out of me temporarily. These things remind me that the wave does not define me. It will be part of who I am, but it is not everything I am or have been. These anchors don’t stop the waves from hitting, but they keep me from getting fully swept away.

The first six months of life with my crazies were especially difficult. It was a shock and a struggle; I was lost to the wave. It was a lonely and discouraging time. I didn’t know what I needed. Now I understand that I needed anchors, and I understand that I can be that for others.

Many people are getting hit by a wave right now or trying to find footing in the undertow. Let’s help them find anchors.