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

Anchors

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.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

To my crazy boys on the night before your adoption

To my crazy boys on the night before your adoption,

Dad keeps saying we're going to be a hot mess tomorrow. Well, the joke's on him because I'm already a mess.

There are so many things I want you to know and remember about the day before we finalized your adoption. I want you to know that I barely held it together today when we gave you the special family shirts we will wear to court tomorrow. And that when I told you that after tomorrow you will never be in foster care again – that you will never be foster kids again – my words caught in my throat for a second because I think those were just about the happiest words I've spoken in my life.

I want you to know that tomorrow simultaneously changes everything and nothing at all. After tomorrow we will have a single name that identifies us. Dad and I won't have to ask anyone else if we can send you on a field trip, take you to a certain doctor, send you to your grandparents' house, or take you on vacation. I won't need to write "foster mom" on forms, I'll just sign them as your mom. These are important things to me.

More important though, I want you to know that this changes nothing about the love I have for you as my sons or the daily life we share as a family. Ask me anytime about the day I first learned your names, or the day I met you when your faces were etched into my heart forever. I will gladly hold your hand and tell you about the day you rocked my world. I will tell you that I knew you were mine even then, and no piece of paper or last name could alter that. My love for you is a force to be reckoned with, and I have and will use that force to protect you for the rest of my life. I don't need DNA or a judge's ruling to promise you that.

Tomorrow will solidify in your minds the special place you hold in my heart and my family, and I cherish that. I want you to be secure in your place in this family, that you will never have to leave. I want you to know that everything I do is for your well being, even when I get it wrong. I want you to know that the only people who love you more than God, Dad, and me are your grandparents. I know this because of the way they love Dad and me and have done everything for our good.

I want you to know that life will move on somewhat normally for you after tomorrow. You may not notice a big change, and that's the way it should be. Tomorrow does not mark the day you became my sons. You have been my crazy boys from the day I met you and this will continue to be true forever. Tomorrow is the day this fact goes on public record: We are a family. Forever.

I could not imagine a more wonderful love story than ours. I would not change a single thing about our life together. All the chaos and calm, the meltdowns and precious memories. I love it all because we're living it together.

You boys and Dad are my whole world. I would take a stormy day with you boys over a sunny one with anyone else. Sometimes I still can't believe how blessed I am to have the privilege of being your mama, but I am honored.

Love you forever,
Mama

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Résumé, Please

What if when you were pregnant your doctor handed you a résumé for your unborn child containing all of the difficulties, bad behaviors, and poor decisions your child would make in the future?

Your Precious Unborn Child
Due Date: March 2017

Infancy Highlights: 
-Will wake up every two hours screaming bloody murder
-Very colicky
-Won't sleep through the night for at least a year
Toddlerhood Highlights: 
-Will throw fits and pull hair often
-Scream bloody murder often
-Color with permanent marker on the wall
Elementary Highlights: 
-Will bite a kid in Kindergarten 
-Won't pay attention in school, very disruptive in class
-Swear at his 3rd grade teacher on a dare and get suspended
-Will be diagnosed with ADHD
Middle/High School Highlights: 
-Will have an insufferable attitude
-Pick constant fights 
-Be disrespectful 
-Slam doors constantly 
-Crash the car you bought him

After reading all those things would you then say "Uh, actually, this child is not the right fit for my family." You probably wouldn't, because you know that all those things would be worth it because you already love your child and know the positives outweigh the negatives. 

But that is exactly how foster care works. 

Caseworkers give foster families this type of résumé for foster kids who need homes and then hope someone wants to take a chance on the kid anyway. I get it. We need to be prepared for what we will come up against. But so often, these kids become defined by their résumé, and then that's all they are.

Think about it, do you want your résumé to be all you are to a potential employee? Sure, your résumé communicates valuable information about who you are and what you've done. But it is not all you are and does not describe all you can do. Don't you always want an interview – to be more than a list of facts and actions?

This is foster care. "Applying" to get a position in someone's home, in their family. Except that the kids don't even get to write their résumés. They don't get to say the good stuff, the important stuff, the things they are proud of. It's more often a résumé of failure being delivered to foster parents (imagine sending that into a potential employer). As a result, a lot of times, people are hesitant to take them in because all they know is a list of negative facts and behaviors.

But you and I are more than our résumés, and so are these kids. They need the opportunity to show themselves and others that they are more than their experiences or bad choices – that these things don't define them. They need someone to take a chance on them and work at training them for life, because most of them have never had that. This is what we need to offer these kids, as foster parents, mentors, friends, and extended family. We need to let them be more than their résumés.