Redeeming the Ordinary

Often I struggle to know what to share, what to write down, what to record.  There are so many things that happen every day with the kids (and everything else).  People remind us how important it is to share our story, but I don’t always see it.  We are so very ordinary.

After all, we wake up early & groggy in a regular home, a normal quiet neighborhood, load up our stuff and the kids & drive to work like everyone else, work hard all day long, then hop in the heavy flow of traffic toward home, feed the kids & play for awhile, hurry to finish chores after the kids are in bed, then rather anti-climatically, we crash pretty early and repeat the process the next morning.  (p.s. that long run-on sentence is sometimes what life feels like now!)  From the zoomed out view, it’s all rather trite and mundane.  But when I take the time to think, I know that isn’t true.  I know that when I make the time to breathe, to rest and slow down — God allows me to see all the beautiful ways our life has changed forever.  (another p.s. — I don’t think this is exclusive to our lives as Foster Parents, but all of us…)

Of course our life is chaotic, but there are so many beautiful moments.  Moments like when we are sitting in traffic and little brother starts up a very joyful, yet indistinguishable song — then little sister joins in.  They are both loud, off pitch, can’t really speak words yet, and it is perfect.  We also have so many sweet moments of both kids sitting in their beloved wagon, going for a walk in the neighborhood — both will be giggling, laughing, pointing at every critter and creature they see & waving at all the neighbors and shouting ‘bye!’ — please note, they’re saying ‘bye’ not ‘hi’ — it’s cute and bizarre.  I certainly cannot forget the sheer glee little brother has when he sees a garbage truck — it’s as though there is no other happiness in the world aside from that trash truck.  There are countless other beautiful moments — and often, I fail to cherish them.  I often fail as a father to look back throughout the day and ponder and reflect.  I get task-oriented and move on to the next item without giving myself the grace to enjoy the tremendous blessing this all has been to us thus far.

Truthfully, I want a different life — maybe a new way of living.  I don’t want to live in a manner that I don’t enjoy & cherish the memories as they’re being made.  I don’t want to be so focused on being efficient and getting things done that I miss out on the daily miracles in our home & lives.  So now that I am realizing this a bit more clearly, I need to make some changes (although I suspect I will come to this realization more than once, as I have wanted to slow down and enjoy before & at some point after, allowed myself to get swept up in the hustle and bustle).

We are nearing 4 months into this little adventure with Thing 1 and Thing 2 — and I don’t want to look back in a year, or five years or 15 years and not have tried to experience all the beautiful, miraculous things God is doing in these kids (and our) lives each day.

So here’s to a fresh refocus on my part — and an exploration in setting new boundaries for myself and learning once more, to prioritize well.  In the spirit of new beginnings — I want to cling to these passages from Scripture and hope they help me focus on the restoration God can, and wants to bring — I will pray for His help to surrender well.

Perhaps our life is ordinary — but if we slow down, it’s in the ordinary that I believe God shows us the most beautiful things.  He is able to make ordinary broken people & their lives quite beautiful when we surrender and trust Him completely.  He is redeeming the world around us, He is making things new each morning and bringing joy to our normal, ordinary, seemingly humdrum & unremarkable lives.  And for that, I am grateful today.

Lamentations 3:22-23 CSB:
“Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!”

Psalm 30:4-5 ESV:
“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.”

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Instant Parenthood

I love that title, it’s borrowed from a dear friend in Oklahoma (with some Bonus Boys) — and ironically fit with a blog post festering in my mind lately.

Being a foster parent can be a lot to swallow at times.  Gosh, even really thinking of yourself as a parent is a challenge.  For folks who have babies, they have months to prep and ease into parenthood.  And it’s still overwhelming then too!  But sometimes I wrestle with acknowledging myself as a parent.  I fear others would receive me viewing myself as a Dad, without birth kids yet, as cheapening their parenthood.  So sometimes I shy away from really thinking of myself as a Dad.

But the reality is, that’s not true or fair (to myself or the kids).  When you are up several times a night, when the whole family gets sick one after another in a week, when the 1-year old is getting 3 teeth in one day (and hasn’t really learned how to soothe or be comforted), when you have baby gates everywhere, when everything is baby proofed, when you have changed 3 diapers (on one kid) before leaving the house at 7am, when you have to think 8 steps ahead to avoid unnecessary 2-year old meltdowns… you’re a Dad.

When your back hurts inexplicably (but you know why…), you’re a Dad.  When you get just as sick as the kids were & you have to power through, you’re a Dad.  When you worry about coughs & congestion, and spend an absurd amount of your money on medicine to help, you’re a Dad.  When you are gently hold your hand on your nearly asleep baby girl, praying that God will help her grow up strong, brave & true — you are a Father.  It doesn’t matter if you had 9 months (or years) of preparation for the baby — or if like us, you had 3-4 hours of warning before everything changed. 

I may not be my children’s birth father, but I am their father.   My kids may have been a Friday morning surprise in February, but that doesn’t change our love for them and our hope that they can remain forever.  God has entrusted us with these precious children (and difficult children, let’s be real…) — and we are called to love them completely and accept them fully, just as God loves us.  The expectation is no different from parents who have given birth to children.  God loves these kids SO much more than we possibly could — and we are just His hands and feet to protect them, love them, guide them, shepherd them, make them laugh & love them.

That afternoon when the kids came home, we became parents.  It’s not always easy to remember, sometimes it still feels like it’s a dream we had — but it’s true — we are parents.

Instant parenthood is still parenthood —
and foster parents are indeed, parents — Moms & Dads.

In all the overwhelming and fast change we have had, and keep having — a few verses come to mind often during the chaos & quiet.  I suspect they come to mind as a prompt from the Spirit to listen and ponder — I should listen more.  This is one of the verses that comes to mind most often:

“Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for His mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness!”

— Lamentations 3:22-23 CSB

Terrible In-Between

We are just slightly over a month into this new adventure.  It’s mind-boggling to consider all the changes in such a short amount of time.

  • There are baby gates everywhere in our home
  • Thanks to baby-proofing — no one, including adults, can open any drawers in the kitchen
  • All door knobs are harder to open with kid-safe handles
  • We sleep very lightly thinking every noise is a kiddo waking up!
  • Dad has gotten to be a master of getting two kids loaded and unloaded into the truck for school
  • Mom is master of being two steps ahead of any possible kiddo meltdowns
  • Cookies & kid snacks are hidden in all bags, coats, car, etc…
  • There really is no such thing as ‘free time’ anymore… or staying up late!
  • And SO many more…

And every one of those changes is totally worth it.  Because these kids are a gift, a treasure to take care of and love well.  For now, whether forever or not, we are their family, their Mom & Dad, their home.

I am convinced, even after a month, it is incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to really love kids the way they need to be loved without getting attached.  Kids need the reassurance & confidence of a home, family & unconditional love — and it’s difficult to give those things and keep the children at a safe distance where you (and the kids) don’t get attached.    You could give them a safe place, bed and food — but if they do not feel safe, supported, affirmed, loved & that they are home — it is lacking.  Kids need to know they are home.  But that means you AND the kids will get attached, because that is what home does to us — it draws us in & makes us safe — we want to abide & remain.

I say all of that (and it’s wordy…) because it is incredibly tough to live in the anguish & torment of a VERY unknown future.  Now of course we all know that nothing is guaranteed and each day is a gift — but rarely do we really live that way.  But with our kids future so full of uncertainty, we are faced with that terrible in-between every single day.  We don’t know if the kids will get to stay with us and we don’t know what their Mom’s future holds — but we do know they are a gift.  They are a gift from God, a treasure that we are to cherish & love as long as we can.  If that is for a short time (which is a painful thought) or if it is forever (hard for different reasons) — we promised to love those kids and raise them in the Lord for as long as the Lord had them in our home.  It is painful to consider the outcomes (for a lot of reasons), but we will lean on the Lord & trust His will — because we want to, and because honestly, we have no other choice.

There is a song, by Andrew Peterson, that you would do well to listen to — it’s called “You Can Always Come Home”.  It’s on one of the kids albums I have downloaded on my phone and it is excellent.  I can’t listen to the song & sing-along without tearing up.  Here’s a link to go listen (it’s a random video of someone’s kiddo, but the song is excellent:

You Can Always Come Home

6 Days a Momma…

6 days ago we got our first placement call. I can honestly say that pure excitement took over and the logistical side fell to my husband. If you know us, that probably doesn’t surprise you. The response to our first placement call was a very loud yes. The Lord was so kind to us in how he wrote this part of our story as foster parents. It just felt (feels) right and I would say yes 10,000x’s over.

As I would imagine most placements go, the first few days are a whirlwind. There are times you aren’t sure which way is up, yet it’s so so sweet. As I reflect on my first 6 days a mom (although, arguably I have been ‘mom-ing’ 4th grade kids for 8 years now) I am humbled, and the last 6 words of Esther 4:14 ring through my mind…“for such a time as this.”

Being a foster mom was not in my plan. My husband was the first of us to approach the topic and I was apprehensive at best. The Lord softened my heart in a way that only He can, and I am grateful.

If I had said no my husband and I would have missed out on an opportunity to love these kids. To share our Hope with them. I believe that can be accomplished even when your kids are 2 under 2. God doesn’t need me to be the ‘savior’ to these kids that are coming from impossibly difficult situations. I don’t want to be. God’s the savior and His name stands without me speaking it — but do you know what is so special about all of this? God has invited us here. We are joining in His work. Not for His sake, but for ours.

Much the same as we have been invited to love these kids, God invited Esther to join Him in saving the Jewish nation. If Esther had refused, God would have still saved His people. If my husband and I had said no, God would still be putting people in place to love and save these babies, but we would have missed this opportunity. This is our opportunity…”for such a time as this.”

God’s providence the past 6 days has been sweet. His timing has not been a mistake. I can confidently say with such confidence (between yawns and cold coffee) that we are placed here, and the kids are placed here, now, and …”for such a time as this.”

So friends, enjoy the ride. There will be hot coffee later.

45 Hours Later

So I woke up Friday morning like normal. I let Beau the Border Collie outside & then gave him a cookie for going potty. I hopped in the shower quickly (and singing, of course) and in words I can’t quite explain, I was sort of ‘overcome’ with this feeling God was doing something, but didn’t know what. I finished up quick (still singing though) and got ready for work. Beau and I went outside to play catch & then I jumped in the truck to ‘brave’ the commute. Little did I know that Friday, February 9th, would be the day everything changed.

Friday mid-morning, we got a call. There are a lot of details why & soon when I can sit still for more than .8 minutes at a time, I will attempt to map out God’s providence (to the best of my current knowledge & liberty to share) — because it’s amazing.

But Friday, February 9th, 2018 is the day that we got a call. And much like anyone (but us) would have guessed, it was a call for a little boy & little girl. They are just 10 months old and 22 months old — and precious. We completely expected to get older kids since we were open to older sibling groups, but let me just tell you — they are here, they are little & everything has changed.

Seeing as we didn’t know what age to expect, we had very little baby stuff. In less than 24 hours we have almost everything important for now. We have a crib, we have blankets, we have clothes, dishes, changing stuff, diapers, bathtub toys, etc. — it is AWESOME. Our family, friends & church family have just come out of the woodwork to help prepare us & provide for us immediately, and in less than 24 hours. Which is such a blessing since we were trapped until we got car seats — which we have now & need to install!

The beautiful thing about this (and I have a list of beautiful things to share with you) but we were not prepared for this. We couldn’t be prepared for this. How can you wake up on a Friday morning, sing in the shower, and a few hours later you rush home to tidy up the house because 2 littles are coming to your home at 3:30? But it’s okay, because God is faithful. And in these circumstances He has proven over & over & over how faithful He is. He has provided for us through family & friends who listen to God’s prompting to help us. Thank you to those amazing people.

And furthermore, He humbles my heart to accept the help. Because we cannot do it on our own, we can’t! It’s totally overwhelming and good. Overwhelming because, well do I even need to explain why… 2 littles under 2, Friday morning we had 0 littles, much less any kids period — overwhelming. But it’s equally so good because God get the glory for showing up to provide all we need. God gets to humble my prideful heart to accept the help and love of people around us who care deeply. Friends & family get to be the hands and feet of Jesus — helping care for the least of these. God gets to remind me over and over again of His goodness & faithfulness — and I have probably teared up more times than I can count. And I don’t care, because it is worth it.

February 9th I woke up and went to work. February 9th I went to bed (sorta… let’s be honest… I was awake most of the night) as a father of 2 precious children.

The beauty of this new life along with the brokenness that caused it to be is often too much to bear. Thankfully there are 2 littles under the age of two in our formerly clean, decorated, non-kid proof Home. There isn’t much time to really dwell too much on that stuff — you’re chasing 2 littles!

I honestly have not spent much time thinking about Scripture the last 40+ hours, but right now the verse that comes to mind as I am writing is this one below. It’s one of the times in the Bible where Mary’s reaction is stated to all the things happening around her after Jesus came to her home:

“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Luke 2:19

It’s not super profound — but sometimes real life isn’t that profound at first glance… but it’s where we are right now — and have been for 45 hours. And we are going to keep treasuring these things in our hearts.

Timing & Waiting

I don’t know about you, but a lot of people in my life often speak a phrase, “well God’s timing is always perfect” or “God’s timing is best” or something like that.  Perhaps you haven’t ever heard that, maybe it’s just the circle and community in which I find myself.  But regardless, it’s something I hear frequently.

Just to clear the air, I must state it — I certainly agree!  It’s a simple statement, but it’s true — I have seen it in my life, and the lives of others.  Recently with this whole Foster Care journey, I think I am understanding that phrase in a fresh way.  Of course it is likely with a certain amount of providence that I am being allowed to “re-learn” this old adage, about “God’s perfect timing”.  That said, we are not terribly impatient to have our Foster Kid(s)/Placements in our home, but we definitely are eager — as anyone is on the cusp of a new adventure.  But I’ve seen anew how “perfect God’s timing is”.

We began our paperwork/home study process way back in August/September of 2017.  Potentially we could have been through with paperwork, Foster Classes, Home Study & preparations by early-mid December — but it didn’t work out that way.  We will sign our Final Home Study on this Thursday, 1/25/18.  Thankfully we truly haven’t been annoyed or felt like it was dragging out.  In all honesty, I believe both Clara & I have been mostly okay with however long it takes — we know that everything is about to change and whatever time period we wait, we probably needed the margin of time.

As it turns out, December was kind of a tough month.  If it weren’t enough chaos with the holidays & end of semester chores, we had a lot of major stuff happen.

  • We gutted and rehabbed the hall bathroom that we’d been putting off
    • Thankfully a husband of a great couple in our Foster Class is a contractor and was willing to guide and teach me how to rehab the bathroom alongside him, so not only did I get to save money by helping, I learned a lot of things I hadn’t really done myself before.
    • All that to say, in our 1.5 bathroom house… we were without our main bathroom for a little over a week… it’s perfect now!
  • My grandfather passed away — right in the middle of the bathroom remodel.  Naturally for any family that is a major blow — and we needed time to spend with family and mourn and work through that (which naturally will continue for awhile).
  • We did NOT have our kid room ready at all.  Who knew (we didn’t…) it just takes time to order bunk beds, pick up mattresses, find good kids bedding, paint furniture, rearrange your entire home & organize all the toys and books given by friends/family.
  • I ended up with the Flu & also had a ton of changes at work.
  • And a ton of other little details that are seemingly unimportant until they are added into the collective list of December/early January ‘chaos’.

It has actually been a tremendous blessing to NOT be licensed until the end of January… because we NEEDED that time to deal with a lot of change, prepare physical accommodations, make major house repairs & emotionally work through a lot.  God knew we needed more time, God knew things were coming down the pike that would require more physical, emotional & financial strain than we needed to have with new kids in our home.  I can’t imagine how extra hard it would have been for kids to come into our home in the midst of all that ‘chaos’.  I am so thankful that God’s timing is perfect, that His timing is best — because had the timing been my choice, my preference, we would have not been prepared, we would have struggled greatly.

Now there is no promise we will not still struggle, and the strain emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc. could (and probably will) still be incredible.  But thank The Lord, we have some of those things behind us.  We are a little more prepared than we were.  And thankfully God used this season of life to help remind us that His timing is good — and that He is trustworthy, that He is faithful.

 

 

Expecting

Foster Care & Adoption are interesting scenarios — especially in the world we live today.  We generally like to know what to expect, when to expect it and then of course any other details we can gather.  We are not typically fans of the unknown.  Sure we like to go on vacation and ‘see new things’ or go have an ‘adventure’ — but those are short lived ‘unknowns’, we settle back into the ‘normal’ when we’re ready.  Major life shifts, like having a baby or getting married are permanent changes, you cannot click the undo button (without more major permanent change).  In most scenarios however, we have time to prepare, process & ready ourselves for those permanent changes like having a baby or getting married — they are rarely immediate.  We have time to ‘expect’ the coming changes.

Foster Care is a very different scenario — not better or worse — just different.  We had dinner last week with a lovely family of 8 who was also in our Foster Class (long story, but they are Mom & Dad pros!).  In our conversation with them we were struck with a beautiful thought I have been mulling on for nearly a week — that we (Clara & I) are indeed ‘expecting’.  It’s an exciting thought — but one that usually is not associated with Foster Care.  That said, we were talking about how excited we were, how we know nothing about the kids (ages, numbers, gender, anything) who will be coming to our home soon — and how exciting that is!  It is of course the exciting/anxious/nervous/thrilled feeling… you know what I mean.  The indescribable emotion of anticipation in the total unknown!  We had not thought about it like that prior to last week, but we are expecting — and it looks totally different than the normal ‘pre-kid’ expecting.

Now we don’t have children yet, we have not tried to have children by birth yet — so my knowledge is limited to watching family and friends go through the 9 months of anticipation for their newborn baby — which is beautiful!  It’s a joy to watch them get excited, shop for baby stuff, be blessed by family and friends with support and prayer, and wait with eager expectation.  Of course there are some unknowns, and a variety of things can happen unexpectedly — but by and large we know what is to be expected at the end of a generally consistent amount of time.  A beautiful baby!

We are expecting, but don’t have much of a time frame, knowledge of how many kids, their ages, their health, their background, etc.  It’s all up in the air.  And it’s been really good (something I can certainly attribute to a great deal of prayer from friends and family).  It’s been really good because it’s caused us to lean into Trust — trusting God that He called us to this, and He is preparing us.  It’s helped us to surrender and not hold onto trying to ‘figure everything out’.  We can’t!  We can only wait in eager expectation.

Whether it’s a direct result of that trust or not, I have slowly and steadily seen my wife flourish and grow.  She is becoming a Mom, even though we have no idea what to expect.  Watching her enthusiasm for decorating the ‘kid bedroom’, shopping for bunk beds, mattresses, bedding — sorting through toys and stuffed animals given by friends — is amazing.  The transformation, in a relatively short amount of time is so beautiful.  She is quickly growing into a Mother — one who eagerly is expecting a child (or children) in her home.  I have even seen my priorities shift dramatically — when in the position to spend money on a new ‘toy’, I quickly realized it was time to set that phase aside and choose to make a ‘Dad’ decision — and say no to the purchase that is non-essential, because the kids we are expecting are so much more important.  In some ways slowly, and in other ways quickly — Clara & myself are being given the mind and heart of parents.

So in all of that — we have grown to be very ‘content/anxious’ with our period of ‘expectation’, which thank God, because it’s an expectation that may not have a sense of finality.  And depending on whether kids come and go or stay, we could be in a period of expectation for a long season.  I suspect God will teach us more than we can fathom through it all.