Grateful-Day 1

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This year, I am participating (or attempting to) in a Grateful challenge.  2013 was terribly difficult for me, and too many times I found myself wanting to just hide under the covers.  It all seemed so dark anyway, where was the light?

The Light was there, but I was too far under those covers to even attempt to see it.

This year, I’m looking for that light.

I am choosing to find the light everyday and document it in some way.

Some days it will be in my journal.  Some days it will be on Facebook.  Some days it will be on Instagram.

But every day, my goal is to be find what I am grateful for during my day.

God has been trying to get me to see them, but I chose to ignore them.

Today, this is my first Grateful post.

Today, I am grateful for Chandler.  He is my 2nd oldest son.  He is delightful.  He is hilariously funny, doesn’t mind dressing up, can laugh at himself, enjoys being nerdy and fun.  He is a proud “bandy” at school, and doesn’t mind who knows it.  He is kind and compassionate.  He is completely unashamed of his salvation and his remarkable relationship with Christ.  He doesn’t mind sharing Christ with anyone:  from the gorgeous, perfect cheerleader at school, to the homeless man on the street.

He is my Baby Whisperer.

The church ladies fight over him in the nursery.  He can make any child smile!

I could not have fostered or adopted without him.

He is my support, and at times, sadly, my moral compass.  He isn’t afraid to tell me when I’m “being dumb”.  He keeps me spiritually on my toes.

He will make this world a better place.  He will change the world.

I am grateful for this child that God blessed me with.

I am grateful for my Chandler.

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Trading post

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Fostering and adopting has changed everything for us.  Some of the changes have been the biggest blessings for us, and some have taken some getting used to.  There are some changes that people tell you about:  the children change your heart and how you view the world.  And some changes people don’t tell you:  it’s very lonely. 

-I’ve traded eating out at most restaurants for cooking.  EVERY meal.  Sometimes that’s no big deal, but some days, like Sundays after church, I’d love to take the crew to a pizza place…or a Chinese buffet….or even McYuck’s…err…McDonalds.  Eating out is a luxury when you have {almost} 7 children.

-I’ve traded Quiet rainy days reading my favorite book (or reading ANY.THING) for playing Bouncer to what seems like a rowdy club, refereeing wrestling matches, and playing all-around Overseer of Everything. 

-I’ve traded my perfectly manicured nails and monthly trips to the nail salon to letting my 6 & 7 year girls paint my chipped, splitting, and dry nails.  The colors probably won’t match, and I’ll end up with more on my fingers than my nails, but the company is phenomenal and they are so eager to please.  In their eyes they are pampering ME, and that’s just what we’ll leave it as.  Who cares if my nails match the seasons or display the newest character from a kid movie…. {sob sob} OK, I care sometimes.  I really miss that pampering.  But my girls are precious and that’s all that matters.

-I’ve traded my cute car in for a sport SUV, to a bigger SUV, to something that now holds  all 8 of us….except that there is a 9th coming next month (and no I’m not pregnant).  At this point, I need a 12 passenger van.  Seriously.

-I’ve traded sitting in front of the TV, watching my favorite show while eating our dinner, for family dinners actually around the dinner table.  This has been a really, really nice change.  There is mounds of laughter, talk of the day, and discussions on every topic you can imagine.  There is no TV in the dining room, and rule states the TV in the living room must be off.  Always.  Yes, we really do family meals at the table.

-I’ve traded ordering ooey-gooey pizza from Papa John’s (my personal FAVORITE pizza place) for homemade pizzas made by the kids.  The girls, don their adorable aprons, with ingredients scattering the counter….laughter bouncing off every surface in the kitchen.  These are wonderful memories.  Some days I miss Papa Johns, but most days I don’t.

-I’ve traded invitations to just about anywhere, for staying home and making memories with my {not-so-small} family.  On one hand, this has been the biggest adjustment, and the hardest to accept, and on the other, it’s always nice to be with each other.  When you have {almost} 9 of you, people stop inviting you to things (“They have 6 kids!”).  It gets lonely.  Sometimes, it gets really lonely.  No more fun night outs playing games with friends or just having dinner together.  There are no invitations with the fun groups from church to go out after the service.  People don’t invite you to the parties or holiday get-togethers.  Just accept it.  Learn to make your own fun so your kids won’t notice what they are missing.  Start your own traditions.  It really will be OK…..you’ll need to remind yourself of this. 

-I’ve traded any semblance of a clean house and organization for anything close to sanitary.  Just keep it sanitary.  Just pick up YOUR things.  Just do YOUR chores for the day.  Just wash YOUR body.  No, no…you don’t need to wash your BROTHER’S body….just worry about yourself.  And pray no one comes over.  If they do, just apologize.  A lot.  There’s no blood on the floor TODAY.  You should have been here yesterday…..

-I’ve traded a modest ability to keep everything together and running smoothly…..to just keeping everyone alive through the entire day.  Most days, I fly by the seat of my pants.  I have no idea what I am doing or even supposed to be doing at this point.  I’m not even sure everyone is even mine….but really, when you have so many kids, does it really matter?  If my phone is ever lost, what tiny thread of organization will be gone.  My calendar on my phone keeps me going.  If “breathe” is not written in, it’s not going to happen.

When you foster and adopt, you trade a lot of things.  Some will be good and some will not be good.  I have to remind myself sometimes what is a NEED and what is a WANT.  Nowadays, we focus on the NEEDS.  And while everyone else around me is focused on Black Friday shopping and what sale item they want…..I am focusing on the more important things…..like changing children’s lives.  I’m focused on trying to save “just one more”. 

Go visit an Emergency Children’s Shelter near you.  I promise it’ll change your perspective.  And hopefully you’ll start “trading” in a few things too. Winking smile

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I am a suburban housewife.

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Nevermore in my life, have I ever been slapped with such a stereotypical label.  Nevermore in my life have I ever completely felt it and owned it.

I am a suburban housewife.

We went to birth mom’s court hearings.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, except that I watched The Practice and I remember my mom watching LA Law.  So I knew a little bit of how court works.  I’m not an idiot after all.

And then The Practice quickly turned into Night Court.  Not at all what I had expected. 

For a suburban housewife, the only handcuffs I am used to are the ones that come in a package complete with holsters and little black cowboy guns with orange tips on the end.  Here sitting in front of me are 2 rows of convicts with bright orange jumpsuits all handcuffed and chained together with very large chains. 

All of them look very scary, and none of them look at all suburban housewife-ish.

I am completely out of my element here.  Even sitting in the “audience”, I am out of my element.  It is a completely different world than I am used to.  No judgment from me….just an observation.  One of the difficult realizations:  so many were just MONTHS older than my son.  So so young. 

I was there to testify at an Aggravated Hearing for the birth mom’s sentencing.  She pled guilty to child abuse by injury and waved a jury trial to have the judge sentence her.  Again, all of this is new to me. 

And they wanted ME to testify.

Terrified does not even begin to describe what I was.

When her turn came, she was moved out of the row of seats holding the other inmates, to the seat in front.  My name was called to testify, and I had to walk directly in front of her….she could have tripped me I was so close to her.  Again, terrified….not of her, just the surroundings in general. 

The Prosecuting Attorney asked me question after question about my beautiful Jeremiah.  “How old was he when we got him?” (3 months) “Where did we pick him up from?” (Local hospital after he was released after 3 weeks in Intensive Care.)  “What was it like bringing him home?”  (SCARY!  He was so fragile!  He cried a lot.  A*LOT*!  I did a lot of holding:  cooking, cleaning, sleeping, I held him.  He had days all he did was cry from the pain.  He still has days like that.) “Was there any special care needed for him?  Any special instructions?”  (He had to have lovenox injections in his stomach twice a day, exactly 12 hours apart.  If we missed one, the blood clot could move and he could die.  We carried a cooler with us whenever we left the house to ensure a dose would not be missed.  Every day, EVERY day, our goal for him was:  DON’T DIE!  Just DON’T DIE!)  “Does he have any lasting effects from the abuse?”  (Epilepsy.  He has epilepsy which he takes medication for.  He will take it the rest of his life.  We carry an emergency backpack with us wherever we go just in case.  He’s already had a seizure at Church in the nursery.  It’s just something we all have to live with.) “What is his prognosis for the future?”  (We have no idea.  Every day is a gift from God.  If he is mentally retarded, we have to be OK with that.  If he reaches an age and progresses no further, we are OK with that.  The future cannot be known.)  “If sentencing were up to you, how would you sentence her?”

At this question, my heart stopped.

How do I answer that?  Laws and sentencing I don’t know.  I only know Jeremiah.  I only know that his life has been forever changed because of what happened to him.  It never goes away for good behavior, the scar on his head will never fully heal even after a sentence in jail is finished.  The boy he was died that day.  The boy that is left is what he will be forever.  I cannot sentence her in years, I only know Jeremiah will forever live his days effected by the atrocities done to him.

And that is how I answered.

At NO time during my testimony did his mother look at me.  She stared straight ahead.  Never showed emotion, never winced with a memory or regret.  I couldn’t look at her, even though she was sitting close enough I could have spit on her if I had so desired, I couldn’t look directly at her.  I could see her in my peripheral vision, which was hard enough.  I looked at the Attorney who didn’t scare me; my body was shaking bad enough as it was! 

It was a terrifying experience for this Suburban Housewife.

I went back to my seat and sat down and listened to the rest of the hearing.  Devastating to THIS Momma’s heart.  We learned that it was not the first time she had abused one of her children.  It wasn’t even the second.  Sitting in the very back of the courtroom listening to the Attorney recount the birth mom’s confession of what she did, then tell of her 2 year old daughter (at the time) that came in with marks all over her back and torso and legs….then 3 months later being turned in by her 10 month old son’s physicians (at the time) for neglect….then hearing that my beautiful Jeremiah wasn’t the only one abused that day….all of it was new to me….and all of it left me with tears streaming down my face.  I remember twice hearing a sob escape my lips.  It was just too much for my heart to hold in.

Not once did she react.  She stared straight ahead and did not react.

Words just cannot express the pain I had that day.  I was such a mixed bag of emotions all rolled into a heart that could not hold it all in.  Sentencing was finally handed down…..

20 years in prison.

Then, she reacted.  Then she broke down and cried.  Only then when she realized she was NOT going home that day did she crack.  Not in remorse for her actions, but in realization that she was not going home as she had planned.  That was hard to see, hard for me to witness.  Don’t cry over your lost freedom, please don’t do that.  Weep over this beautiful baby that will never be the same.  Weep for him, please don’t weep for yourself.

Regardless over why she was crying….it was hard to witness her sobbing.

My sympathetic tear ducts couldn’t handle her crying, and I cried with her.  Cried for the loss of her children.  Cried for the abuse that happened to my children I love so much.  Cried for the life wasted.

And then, something I was ill-prepared for:

She turned and glared at me.  Not once, but several times.

I saved your children from a terrible future.  I nursed your children to health.  I love them like they were my own born children.  I sent pictures to your family knowing you would get them.  And I am a doggone NICE lady…glaring at me was the same as a punch in the gut.  And I guess it still effects me. 

Blame someone, ANYONE, when you cannot come to terms with the monster you were.

And somehow, God turned this into something beautiful, something wonderful…..a blessing.  Sitting in front of me as I sat as-quietly-as-I –could sobbing….was a news reporter.  And, as I sat sobbing, she turns to me and asks if she could interview me….in all of my mess, and TRUST.ME, I was a MESS!  And out of that interview came a very unexpected gift:  a new addition built onto the back of our house;  I have a teenager already ready and waiting for a room! 

The next little gift from God:  the birth mom was moved to a certain part of the jail where she is able to attend the ONLY Celebrate Recovery….and she is going!  Yes, that may sound like a strange “gift” for me, but it is.  My heart doesn’t hold malice for this woman.  Hers was a life wasted, but with God, she can become the woman REDEEMED by His grace!  God can raise her out of the ashes that was her past and clothe her with JOY and GLADNESS.

And that is what I want for my children’s birth mother.

Even though that day was terrible to experience, it was a life lesson for me:  I am a Suburban Housewife, and I thank God for it!

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The Day is here!

So today has been a RUSH of emotion!  Lots and lots of tears!

Today was ADOPTION DAY!!

Today was the day the Suggs family grew by 6 feet!  We are so proud to announce the additions of Lizzie, Jaxon and Jeremiah!

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I will have to blog more about this.  So many many emotions today!

RELIEF, excitement, happy crying, tears for the family they lost, RELIEF!

Do you know what you felt when you were finally able to leave that hospital with your brand new baby?  You walk in your home with that brand new baby with all of that knowledge that there is no staff to help if you need it, you don’t have to answer to ANYONE now, and that freedom of knowing they are all yours?

Yeah, it feels just like that.

Only, we’ve been cooped up in that hospital for 18 months now and we’ve just been released!  Good and scary feelings all at the same time.  Sometimes having someone to ask questions to is really nice!  But not having to answer to someone for EVERY drs visit or trip to the next town over is really really nice!

The VERY best thing?

Knowing they’re mine.

They won’t be leaving.  No one is going to come and take them away from me.  They are mine.  So amazing.  They aren’t going anywhere!  Such RELIEF.

And don’t worry….God is definitely not finished with us yet.  He has already placed us in the path of another young person in need of a good, loving home.

So don’t stop praying for us!

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Who should NOT foster children.

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I LOVE fostering!  I love doing this!  I LOVE that God called me into this Mission!

Is it easy?  Not at all.

Is it glamorous?  Only if yoga pants and not showering have become glamorous.  (A girl can dream…)

Is it worth it?  Absolutely.

I believe with all of my heart that God was very specific in His call for EVERYONE to help the orphan.  He even gives very specific ways to do that:

Deuteronomy 10:18, “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.”

Deuteronomy 14:28-30, “The Levite (priest), because he has not portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”
Deuteronomy 24:21, “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.”
You get the idea.  God did NOT give specifics on WHO should do this:  “Only middle aged, married white couples should help the orphan”  “Only old, retired people who have raised children and now have no life, should help the orphan.”  There is no age, there is no race, there is no marital status to any of these commands.  He just said DO IT.
But…..here is my disclaimer:  not EVERYONE should directly foster children. {gasp} “But you just said….blah blah blah” That is right, I just said God commanded all of us, but He did not say all should directly, hands-on adopt or foster children.
Let me be very specific here, there are MANY ways you can help the orphan and foster child without directly being that hands on person.  Let me share the WHO should not directly foster children:
If you do not like children…you probably should not foster children.  Goes without saying, but important to begin the list.  ;)  If you do not have a solid LOVE for children, find another way to help foster children.  Period.
If you do not like children that did not come out of your body…or from the body of your spouse, you probably shouldn’t foster.  Could also be translated as not liking OTHER peoples children.  Same concept.
If you prefer one s e x/race/nationality over another…you probably shouldn’t foster.  And you can be VERY specific with what child you’d like in your home, so taking a boy over a girl when you really don’t like boys….is a pretty mean thing to do.  If you would rather have Creek Indian over a Cherokee, you can choose that, so taking a child that is something you do not prefer, is not fair to the child.
If you are not patient, especially with children…you probably shouldn’t foster.  Foster care is probably the EPITOME of patience!  We work with “broken” children that need healing.  That healing can come very very slowly.  It will not happen at all if we lose patience with them.
If you are doing it for the money…you SHOULD NOT FOSTER.  These are the people I want to punch in the throat.  (And I’m really not a violent person!)  This reason makes me angrier than most reasons.  And people can deny it all they want, but if the words have EVER come out of your mouth, stop fostering.  Get out.  GET A JOB, fostering is not the “job” for you.  Children are expensive, and what little reimbursement you get for fostering, you will always be in the hole (if you are fostering for the RIGHT reasons).  To put it in perspective:  I made almost TWICE the amount of money babysitting one child a month, than fostering.  No joke.  If you need money, babysit someone elses child and don’t foster.
If you want recognition…you should not foster.  It isn’t a glamorous life.  It’s hard.  It is the opposite of pretty.  It is also very lonely.  Applause and accolades cannot be heard at 2:30 in the morning when the child has just barfed all over your brand new bedspread.  If you want recognition, become a famous movie star.
If you cannot put a child’s needs/desires over your own…you should not foster.  This is, as it should be, all about healing a child and giving them a safe, loving home.  If your child wants to play football and you hate football…guess what?  Grab your bleacher seat because you need to let him play football.  Or soccer.  Or basketball.  Now, I just used sports because I have 4 boys and I find sports to be VERY good for them.  And I am not saying give in to their every whim, but some desires are healthy!  Now, NEEDS are a totally different creature!  If they NEED new shoes, you buy them!  If they’ve grown out of their jeans, you buy them!  If they NEED deodorant, you buy it!  If you can’t do this for whatever reason (can’t afford it) then don’t foster.  PERIOD.
If you are selfish by nature…you should not foster.  Fostering becomes all about that child (or children) and you take a back seat.  That’s just the name of the game.
If you cannot handle special needs…you should not foster.  All foster children will have damage of some kind:  emotional, physical, psychological, etc.  They require more care in general.  They require more doctor’s appointments, therapy, etc.  It is our responsibility as their foster parent to get them whatever help they need.  If you can handle some special needs over another, be specific when you go into this.  And remember, you can say NO to any child you do not feel is right for your family.
I’ll be the first to say WE NEED MORE FOSTER PARENTS!  But I will also scream just as loudly:  BUT ONLY GOOD ONES!  There are too many bad ones out there as it is.  Let’s get some GOOD ones!
Be kind to others and help the orphan and widow often!  :D
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Letters to Grandma

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Twice now, I found myself standing in front of the greeting card section at the grocery store with the same confusing thought: 

“What do I get the grandma that lost her grandchildren?”

There isn’t a Hallmark card that says:  “Sorry you lost your grandchildren” or “Merry Christmas to the family that gave up their children to the foster care system” or “Happy Valentines Day to the “OLD” grandma”

So I always stand there confused.  This grandma isn’t the one that comes over and babysits when I have to go to the dr.  This grandma isn’t the one that bakes cookies with them every Christmas and shares her beautiful aprons with my girls.  This grandma isn’t the one that is so good we call her Grammy….because she’s AWARD WINNING!  And this grandma isn’t the one that hugs and kisses them so tightly when we come over for a visit.

No, this grandma is the mother of the one that lost her children to abuse and neglect.

She committed no crime.  She committed no heinous act of abuse.  But she suffers because she is the mother of the one that did.  She couldn’t say yes when DHS called to take them.  She didn’t have a choice and her heart is broken for the grandchildren she lost.

So when our fostering agency emailed and said the grandma cannot take them, but she would like to know how they are doing…..I couldn’t say no.

It was the hardest letter I think I have ever written.  I had no idea what to say. I had to rely on Christ to give me the words to say because I didn’t want to mess it up, say the wrong thing, hurt feelings…

But I wrote it, and she returned the letter!  I sent pictures and she sent some back!  It was so hard to see pictures of our Diva Princess as an 18 month old baby.  I wasn’t prepared for that and I cried over it.  I tucked it away to put in her photo album.  It was weird to see their older sister in the photo.  It was odd to think that these 3 babies weren’t always mine, weird to imagine them with any other parent but us.

I had to learn the heartbreaking way that sometimes we have no control over other peoples actions and through no fault of our own, we must pay the price for someone elses mistakes.  I may blog on that more later.  But some hurts are just too deep.  :(  But sometimes, like in the case of thousands of foster children everywhere….their family did nothing, but must pay the price for the hurt and pain caused by the parents.  This grandma did not harm her grandchildren…she was just unable to say YES to keeping them.

In a way, this has been healing to my heart and it’s taught me things about myself I didn’t know I lacked.  It opened my heart a little bit more to include this family I do not know.  It softened my heart to those caught in the middle in an awful situation, and that we can help heal those wounds.  I told God when we began this journey that I would share His love and His grace with whoever He wanted me to, and in this case, at this moment….it’s through

Letters to Grandma.

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Post script:  (sounds all smart and stuff! LOL)  I encourage those that are fostering, when it is possible, find out about sending letters or emails to the grandparents.  I understand that it is NOT POSSIBLE in all circumstances, but it’s healing when you can.

What fostering has taught me…

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We are anxiously awaiting the date of our upcoming adoptions of all 3 children, and now, I am looking back over the last 17 months with these children, and I am amazed.

Amazed how far the kids have come:

Diva Princess has matured and grown so much.  She has bonded not only with us as her parents, but with her siblings.  She doesn’t have that deep FEAR of everything and everyone, and her circumstances and her new family and not being LOVED!  She is BEAUTIFUL and so very HAPPY!  She is a joy to my heart!

Little Man is TALKING!  Whole sentences!  And while it still sounds as if he is talking with a mouthful of marshmallows, it is COMMUNICATION!  He has gone from a TERRIFIED child, afraid to be touched and held and rocked, to CRAVING it.  His favorite past time is sitting on my lap in the rocking chair.  I love that past time.  He was so afraid of leaving the house (afraid he wouldn’t be back) and strangers coming to the house (afraid they’d take him away)….and he has such FAITH and TRUST now.

Baby Boy is a miracle.  I cannot say that enough.  He is walking….more like running.  He is a climber.  He has this unbelievable CURIOUSITY about him, he wants to know what everything is and how it works.  He is beginning to try to communicate with words now instead of screaming or pointing.  Medically he is healing so well.  He has epilepsy, and yes, honestly, it does break my heart for him, and yes, we must carry an emergency backpack of medication for him wherever we go….and yes, it will effect the rest of his life down to the sports he will be able to play, or even the Christmas lights he will hang on his tree….it isn’t a death sentence.  He was given a death sentence in the hospital, and that is gone.  He has been given LIFE and I want him to live it and enjoy it to the FULLEST!

This is what fostering has taught me:

I am so much stronger than I ever imagined.

I am not going to sugarcoat fostering.  There is always struggle:  emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, etc, with the children, with your family, in your job, with your spouse.  Some days, it hits all at the same time!  But, being able to carry on, keep living, muddle through, PURSUE and let LOVE win out, is the ability to adapt and grow and change.

I had this image of fostering before we did it:  angelic children, cherub babies and fat chubby baby thighs….smiles and laughter…..OK, well, I wasn’t that delusional, but close. I knew we’d have damaged children, physically and emotionally.  But it’s so much BIGGER than that!  And being able to HANDLE all of it has surprised me.  I can do this!  But I couldn’t have done this without Christ.  I could give you story after story, example after example, of parenting moments I had to LITERALLY, physically leave the situation, get completely alone, and just for a second, cry out to Jesus.  “Holy Spirit, I have NO idea what to do here.”  “I have no idea how to parent in this situation.” “Help me to understand.”  And every time…..EVERY time I asked, He did.  But I had to humble myself and understand that alone, I will fail.  I had to know enough about myself and enough about God to know, HE KNOWS WHAT TO DO, I don’t.  My plan fails every time.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Phil 4:13

Love changes everything.

So cliché right?  But I know the difference, I’ve seen the difference!  I’ve seen fostering done for all the wrong reasons, and I’ve seen firsthand what it costs the child.  We decided to foster out of obedience to God and out of the OVERFLOW OF HIS LOVE FOR US, no other reason.  If we had treated these children as “foster children” or a “pay check”, that isn’t love and we would have failed.  If we had just stuck the child in the back of the house and played music or the tv so loudly it drowned out the sounds of the baby crying, we would have failed.  We can’t count the days or weeks or years til they were “gone”…that isn’t love.  We can’t look down on them for their parents or their upbringing, their s e x or their age, ethnicity or culture.  If we did, we wouldn’t have been doing this out of LOVE.  We had to go into this knowing we were going to have LOVE through very ugly situations bigger than us and had to go to Someone bigger than us for help.

I had to know the One that loves me first, in all of my wretchedness, before I could love someone else, especially a broken, abandoned, abused child.  I had to be willing to set myself aside, my selfish wants (sometimes needs) aside, to show LOVE to these children….even when it hurt, even when I was exhausted, even when I had NO idea what I was doing.  I had to SHOW LOVE.  Every day.  In every circumstance.  If I couldn’t show MINE all the time, I had to show Christ’s.  And that saved our family, our children, our lives.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 1 Cor 13:1-3

Fostering is worth it.

I hear the giggling of the Littles playing together, I hear all 6 of the children playing a game together and my heart rejoices.  I see one of the children reach a milestone or achieve something and I get excited.  It’s worth it.  Every dime spent, every mile driven for medical, every therapist, every hour of sleep lost, every tear cried…..all of it:  they are worth it.  They are worth our time and energy.

More of us should do it.  Not EVERYONE…trust me, there are some that should not do this and I understand that.  But so many good, patient, wonderful parents are out there that CAN do this and aren’t.  I am begging you…..look into it.

The system is hopelessly broken.

I cannot even begin to give an answer that will fix this problem.  The longer I do this, the more I see it is an iceberg:  I only see a tiny piece of it….when underneath is a whole societal issue, and society cannot fix itself until society as a whole wakes up and gets involved.  It isn’t just MORE foster parents…it’s fixing the broken adults that are creating the foster children.  It isn’t a better foster care system or better workers.  I’ve seen AMAZING workers!  I’ve also seen the awful, lazy ones, don’t get me wrong.  But these people see unbelievably heartbreaking situations and they change lives for pennies.  Their job is hard and pretty thankless.  Well, from my family to all the wonderful caseworkers trying to change the world:  THANK YOU.

If you can get involved in some way or the other, do it.  Please.  I don’t pretend to know all the answers or claim to never to have failed.  But I have loved, wholeheartedly and unapologetically, whether we keep them or send them home….I have loved.

adoption

The days we live for

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I’m here.

I’ve woken up from the coma to discover that none of this was a dream.

It’s reality.

And somehow, it’s taken me 10 months to figure it out….and then

WAKE UP.

Yes, we’ve had the children for more than a year now, but after that 10 months I figured out that I probably should get a life now.  Or at least what may pass for a ‘life’.

That is something that no one tells you….after those precious foster children come (or foster CHILD, as not everyone jumps in feet first like we did), there is a time period where something happens, and you just fall asleep.

The world as we knew it ceases to exist.

It stops turning for you.

Nothing is the same.

We wake up, we function to the best of our ability, and then we go to bed.  It’s almost robotical in nature.  Wake, care for kids, eat, do laundry, sleep.  Repeat.

And we look around quizzically at everyone else as their world continues to spin.  They function normally.  Or we just stare at them and don’t even comprehend that.

Holidays come and holidays go.  Milestones are reached and surpassed.  Clothes grown into and out of….

…and we just sleep.

Ours eyes are open, but we aren’t really there.  We have slipped into a coma.

And I stayed there for 10 months.

It isn’t that the dream was a nightmare, it was just so far from what I had imagined in my rainbow and glitter world, that I was overwhelmed.

I have 6 children:  3 birth children and 3 foster children (soon to be adopted children).

Life takes a HUGE jolt when this occurs.  Laundry quadrupled.  Laundry room didn’t get bigger.  The washer and dryer did not give birth to baby washers and dryers which would make the laundry doing easier, the laundry just GREW.  And grew.  And grew. The house that we had more than enough room in, has now shrunk to the point that I have now given up on any semblance of storage, and just live like a semi-hoarder.  Except we use all of our stuff.

We need some growing room desperately.  On land.  Please, Lord?

Bellies are constantly hungry….even when they are not, they think they are. ;)

Emotional baggage needs to be tended to.

Spiritual lessons need to be learned.

And 6 children that need love.  Sometimes all at the same time.

And somehow anyone to sit and listen to me rambling disappeared.

They’ve grown.  They’ve changed, and somehow I feel like I missed part of it.  I now have a Junior in high school:  rugged, good-looking, no longer playing football, but hunting and fishing instead….and getting to be more and more of a man.  I have one in 8th grade:  swooshy hair that the ladies swoon over, singing, and my Baby Whisperer.  My baby Princess is 1st grade now:  and we can no longer spell things we don’t want her to know about, she loves having younger siblings, and yet, even with 2 of them in the same room with her at night, she is still afraid of the dark.

Then I have my foster babies:  my Diva Princess who grew up caring for herself and doesn’t seem to need (or occasionally want) a mother to help her, who is in serious need of fashion help, and some days frustrates me to no end (I am looking for opportunities to bond more with her, she needs it even if she doesn’t know it).  My Little Man that may just be the sweetest little boy I have ever encountered, that loves for me to hold him, and still has issues with allergies and eczema.

Oh then we have that mischievous, miracle monkey-baby:  who’s walking and climbing and into everything ALL at the same time, who’s curiosity may just be the death of me, and his laugh stops my heart.

Some days are amazing and wonderful and I can hear the angels singing back-up to our crazy family band.

And then some days I just look up to the sky and wonder what in the world was God thinking.  How could He ask so much of me.  How could I give up so much.  Was this reward or punishment?  Are You still there?

And then I marvel at the sounds of the 3 little ones giggling and playing in the backyard and I’m greeted daily by new chalk drawings all over the driveway and front porch.  I see my miracle Baby Boy figuring things out in his head that is supposed to be damaged….

….and I wonder what Life was like before they came.

We’ve had updates like a letter from their bio-grandmother and then more recently, the heart-stopping letter from their bio-mom.  (It’s all good. God is still good.)

And we’ve had set-backs like Diva Princess testing behind in school (again, very normal) and the adoption that had a slight hiccup.  It wasn’t a major one, just a minor one…..paper work, and nothing more.  Praying for the end of the year.

But this is the OTHER side of Fostering that no ones warns you about.  It isn’t always sunshine and butterflies….but some days it is.

And those are the days we live for.

Sweetest words ever spoken

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“Hey, I’m headed to Sam’s today….”

I know, to most people, those words are nothing at all special.  But, let me share with you why those words brought such tears to my eyes….

Remember my pity party  honest post a few weeks ago?  The one where I shared I feel alone most days?  Like I’m living on an island separated from the “real” world?  I know, I know, it was depressing….probably all too-real, and a terrible lapse in judgement more than likely.  But, I am a real person, and I write real stuff.  That is a real moment I feel all-too-often.

Well, I had a very sweet friend call me last week and she started the conversation with:

“Hey, I’m headed to Sam’s today….”

Why would that make me cry?

It was a reminder that I wasn’t alone.  It was someone reaching out, knowing how hard mission work can be (even if it is fostering in the United States, she understands), and offering some help.

Something so small…..such a simple question:  “What do you need?”

Usually, offers of help come in empty promises of “Let me know if there is anything we can do to help….” I know this, because I’ve made them myself on occasion.  I don’t actually EXPECT them to ask me for anything.  And offers of help like this put the Asker-of-the-Help in the position of having to make the first move.  It means humbling myself to a level where I have to admit, I need help.  I’ve never thought of it like that before….until we had 3 foster children.

Now? I’d rather bite my own tongue off before admitting I could use some help sometimes.

Some weeks are “lean”.  Some weeks everything piles on top of everything…..

Baby needs diapers….Out of formula….Tire blows…..Someone (or two) outgrows their shoes (again)….Birthday…..another Birthday…..”Mom, I need blah blah blah”…..”Mrs Suggs, it’s your week to provide…”  Camp comes which means no work, no vacation pay for a week….plumbing issue (again)

Life happens.

And Life with 6 children happens…..a LOT.

So, instead of offering empty promises of “just let me know….”, Miss Jan gave a destination where she was going, and even offered ideas “cheese, spinach (a personal favorite), tortillas, etc”.

What do you need?

I’ve posted before, different ways that EVERYONE can help the orphan. Here are some suggestions for ways to reach out and help the foster families (or ANY family that may need it):

“I have a free night this weekend…..why don’t you 2 go out by yourselves?”

“I’m picking up a pizza for my family, let me add a couple more.  Any allergies?”

“I have some free time….can I swing by and fold laundry?” (hahahaha a personal favorite)

“My son/daughter’s outgrown some things, when’s a good time to bring some clothes over?”

“Can you meet me at the gas station?  I’d like to put some gas in.”

“Can your family come by after church Sunday?  We’d like to have lunch with you.”

“Hey, I’m headed to Sam’s, can I pick you up something?”

Now, let me show you what her generosity did for my family:

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It made AWESOME chicken, fresh spinach, cheese quesadillas!  The kids LOVED them!

So, from now on, no more will empty promises leave my lips.  From now on, “What do you need?” will replace it….

Along with the help.

Thank you, Miss Jan….amazing Sunday School teacher to my daughters.  They adore you!  Not only do you TEACH them about Jesus, but you SHOW them about Jesus!  I’m so honored to call you friend.

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