Friday, November 14, 2014

God Will Add

You came to us tonight.  Much too late for a little one like you to be awake.  You were tired and hungry.  You munched on goldfish and drank milk while we signed stacks of papers.  Papers that define your past, but not your future.

You came with this bag.  I saw it, and my heart broke.  Everything you own fit inside: a few changes of clothes and two toys.  No wipes or diapers.  No cups or extra shoes.  No blanket or pillow.  Your past was in that bag, but not your future.

We rummage through it to find pajamas.  Only one pair in the whole bag.  One.  As I dress you for bed, you struggle and cry.  To you I am just another stranger in a long line of strangers that have come and gone in your short life.  Some have been kind.  Many have not.  I am sure you are wondering what kind we will be.

I tuck you in.  You look at me, study me, then try to get up.

"No.  It's bedtime."

You whimper.

"Would you like me to sit with you."

You stare.  I take that as a yes.  I sit beside your bed and pat your back.  Your eyelids flutter as you fight sleep with every fiber of your being.  I pray for you to feel safe.  For you to sleep.

As I pat your back I wonder how many times I will have this privilege.  Will you be with us for a month?  A year?  Forever? 

I pray with all my might.  Just the first of many to be offered up to our loving God.  And finally you surrender to sleep.

Your name means "God will add."  Dear one, we pray God will add you to our forever family.  Until then, I will pat your back every night.  I will bathe you, play with you, protect you. 

I will love you everyday you are my son - starting today.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Evil Socks

I was minding my own business: doing my nightly motherly routine.  Put the kids to bed.  Check.  Straighten up the house.  Check.  Find something else to do so I can give myself another check.  Check.

It is possible I may, perhaps, have a mild to do list fetish.  I love them.  They make me feel good inside.  If you are not a lister, you cannot understand this joy.  I shall write down "feel sorry for you" on my list.  Sorrow felt.  Check.

Feeling rather proud of myself, I sat down to fold laundry.  Almost all done.  About to give myself another check.  My last check of the night.  Thence was when I was accosted by these evil socks:

Evil socks.  I think they may have fangs.
Think they look harmless?  Look again.  Note the size.  They belong to our precious Mr. Apple Jack.  They somehow did not make it into the boxes when our 36 hour notice came.  I packed with a mental list - careful to send everything to his new home.  Check.

Now I have to take that mental check away.  But that is not why they are evil.  Their true vileness lies in their ability to make one cry.  Scratch that.  Not cry.  Sob uncontrollably.  The more I stared at these socks, the worse it got.  This was not pretty crying.  I'm talking my shirt was wet and snot was everywhere.

I'd pull it together then start back up again.  Patrick, my dear husband.  Bless his heart.  I don't think he quite knew what to think.  Good gravy, it's a good thing the kids were asleep.

These socks had unleashed tears I did not know I had.  Tears I thought I had already cried.  I realized I was mourning for a lost child, the same as if he had died.  

Yes, yes, I know he is not dead.  In fact, he is placed with relatives not far from us.  We feel good about this placement.  They seem to truly love him.  However, the reality for us is we will likely never see him again.

When we said our goodbyes, our prayer was for him to choose Jesus.  Even though he is gone from us, we have the hope of meeting him again in Heaven.  Someday we will hug again.  His laugh will ring in my ears once more.  I will see his eyes crinkle shut as he smiles.

Since beginning this road with our family, many have expressed their fears about us getting hurt.  Very valid concerns.  We have been hurt.  Fostering is crazy hard stuff.  But we are not alone in our sorrow:

God has called us to it.  It is worth every tear.  We would do it all over again to ensure that our Mr. Apple Jack was safe.
But I do hate those evil socks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

36 Hours Notice

Well, we have reached a milestone.  Mr. Apple Jack has been with us for one fourth of his short, spunky life.  In that time, he has become our son.  Most mornings begin with his voice on the monitor, "Mommy?  Daddy?"  A far cry from the child who would stay in his bed for hours after awakening.  No one used to come when he called.

We are there for things like birthday parties, playing outside, and smiles.  Lots of smiles.  We rejoice with him over each new learned word and give about a thousand fist bumps a day.

We are there for things like the flu, shots, and poop.  Lots of poop.  We soldier through the terrible two tantrums knowing we may never see the fruits at the end of this phase.

He comes to us when he is hurt.  When he is scared.  When he is happy.  Our cup runneth over with love for this little boy.

But somewhere on some desk of somebody is a home study.  These papers are Mr. Apple Jack's future.  Our future.

"He's probably leaving.  You'll get 36 hours notice so you'll have time to pack up his things and say goodbye."

Oh.  Thirty-six hours.  How kind.  It makes me think of the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride:

"Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning."

In the movie, Westley has to wait three years before returning to Princess Buttercup.  At least it hasn't been that long.  We've been waiting in this crazy reality for the past six months.

I am a doer.  Sitting and waiting just does not work for me.  So, how do we prepare for the very real possibility our son may be leaving?

1.  Pray.  Please join us.  God knows this little boy's future.  Our job is not to save him.  Our job is to love him.  We know this in our heads.  Pray for this to be written on our hearts.  God is sovereign.

2.  Prepare for the transition.  Our first days with Mr. Apple Jack were difficult.  We knew nothing about him.  Likes.  Dislikes.  Fears.  We were going into it blind.  In an effort to make his possible move smoother, we created this All About Me sheet.  Our plan is to fill one out with as much information as possible each time a child leaves us to go to a new home.  Other foster families - feel free to use it, change it, make it your own.

Printable version: All About Form

Labels to pin onto items.  Printable Version: Favorite Things Labels
Blank labels to pin onto items.  Printable Version: Blank Labels

Saturday, April 12, 2014

This is My Story

Last Sunday during church, I held our foster daughter in my lap.  Usually she is happy to play with the other kids at children's church.  This week she was fearful.

She snuggled into my arms and quietly sat listening.  My momma heart swelled as we began singing a hymn from my past.

     This is my story, this is my song,
     praising my Savior all the day long;

I have joyously belted out this song innumerable times from the second row of church.  Watching my momma play the notes on the old piano.  Waiting for my daddy to get up and preach.  Sitting beside my grandmother.  Church filled with family and friends who loved me.

This is my story.  My legacy.  It was not perfect, as no one's life is.  But I was loved and knew the love of a gracious Savior.  Isn't that all that truly matters?

     this is my story, this is my song,
     praising my Savior all the day long.

I rested my head on Hope Child's golden hair and tried to sing, but I was choking on the words.  Her story?  How foreign it has already been from my own.  Heartache deeper than the ocean.  Loss of the bitterest kind.

When you love someone, their story is joined with yours.  Their pain is felt in your deepest soul.  This beautiful little girl's story has shattered my own.  I will be forever indebted to her for this.  This opening of my eyes and heart.

Hope Child's story cannot be rewritten, but we can help her turn the page.  It will not be perfect, as no one's life is.  But we can write love and the love of a gracious Savior on her heart.  Isn't that all that truly matters?

It makes singing the final verse of the song possible:

     Perfect submission, all is at rest;
     I in my Savior am happy and blest,
     watching and waiting, looking above,
     filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

If you are interested in helping a child in foster care write love on the pages of their story:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mr. Apple Jack

He came to us late one night.  Beautiful curls.  Almost two years old.  With a heartbreaking story.

Having witnessed much and suffered even more, our first goal was to make him feel safe and loved.  He fell into our family so naturally.  Like he was always supposed to be there.  His laughs.  His smiles.  It was like music in our home.  So easy to forget that he is not truly our child.

Reality strikes the morning of his first parent visit.

I slowly pack up the kids.  Every fiber of my being screams against this.  On the drive there, my mind is racing.  What is he going to think when we send him back to his dragons?

She is waiting as we pull up.  All excited.  My girls openly stare.  I know the questions are welling up in them.  He hesitantly walks to her.  Seemingly unsure if he is supposed to go with her or stay with us.

We have to drive away and leave him.  With her.

My oldest spoke my fears:

"Mommy, isn't that the lady...?"

"Yes, baby.  We think so."

"Then why are we leaving him with her?"

My heart is so heavy I can hardly speak to answer.  I force myself not to cry.

"Because we have to baby.  The CPS lady will be with them the whole time.  And so will God."

We pray together.  There in the car.  For this new love of our heart.  Facing his dragons.

The song that keeps swirling in my head is "In My Arms" by Plumb:
Clouds will rage and,
Storms will race in.
But you will be safe in my arms.
Rains will pour down.
Waves will crash around.
But you will be safe in my arms.

For a while I felt this was my song to Mr. Apple Jack.  I didn't know what would happen to him tomorrow or the next week or month or year, but I knew while he was with us, he was safe.
But the more I look, the more I see.  He is not safe when he is in my arms.  He is safe when he is in God's arms.  He loves him more deeply and truly than I will ever be capable of.
Foster parenting is no-joke-hard.  And the hardest part is learning to trust God.  It is easy to pray for God's will to be done in the life of a child.  It is harder to mean it.