“I am Safe. I am Strong. Jesus Loves me.”

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“I am SAFE”

“I am STRONG”

“Jesus LOVES ME”

 

Trauma doesn’t begin when children are taken from their home and placed in foster care. Often times, children have endured a lifetime of trauma and traumatic situations before they are removed. Even a baby removed at birth can have a history of trauma. Children in the foster care system have been hurt by those they trust and they carry that hurt with them in their day-to-day life. The hurt shows itself through behavior such as: anger, self-harm, depression, rage, anxiety, and a whole host of other emotional manifestations.

 

Lately we have been working through a lifetime of toddler anxiety. All toddlers go through an anxious stage, where they are clingy, maybe afraid of the dark or monsters or bugs. But trauma behaviors are so much more. More than being afraid. More than needing to be held by mommy. I pray fervently that you never have to see your two year old have a full-blown panic attack, because it is one of the deepest hurts I have had to endure. It is helpless. And as irrational as two year olds are under normal situations, anxiety riddled toddlers have zero control over any irrational thoughts or behaviors.

 

Toddler anxiety in our home looks like extreme fear, sleepless nights, and a lot of tears (both from toddler and mommy). Having a routine, melatonin, deep hugs, and recently our little mantra have been helpful, not a cure, but helpful. And this morning we saw a mini-breakthrough. As the puppy started to get riled up, as she would normally start to cry and jump into my arms, she looked right at him and told him:

“I am SAFE”

“I am STRONG”

“Jesus LOVES ME”

My sweet girl is starting to speak words of truth over herself as I have spoken and prayed over her for months. She may not fully believe it, and it may be a lifetime of needing reminders, but these are the truths we are sowing in her little heart. I pray she always knows safety, uses her strength, and feels the love of Jesus.

 

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Change the Conversation.

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I never say, “He committed suicide.” I always say, “He died of mental illness.” My dad was sick. The sickness was fatal. The sickness killed him. And the sickness is taboo and often time brings awkward feelings when I talk about it in normal every day conversations.

There are so many terrible fatal diseases in our world and mental illness is one of them. It is a sickness as serious as any other fatal illnesses that have touched your life. It is why I know, when I tell others that my dad was sick for a long time, and eventually succumbed to his illness, I know I am not lying. Mental illness is real, it is ugly, and it can be fatal if not properly treated. Your friend, your cousin, Kate Spade, Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, my dad. They didn’t just choose to stop being. Their brains were broken.

This week, I have seen mental illness shake my personal community, and the world as a whole. Mental illness induced suicide has rocked my personal world more than anyone should have to bare. I’ve been on the sidelines as friends and relatives spiraled. I’ve known it was coming and I have been shocked when I received the news. And until mental illness is treated with the same respect, perseverance, and dedication to knowledge as other illnesses, we are still going to be shocked when we lose another precious life.

 

The conversation has to change.

 

“Just pray more.”

“He must have not felt loved.”

“I wish you would just decide to be happy.”

“Don’t take those pills! When I feel sad I just hit up the gym.”

“I didn’t even know she was depressed!”

“I don’t understand why he chose to take his life.”

 

Have you ever said or heard these things when talking to others about depression, bipolar disorder, ptsd, or suicide? It is ok if you have. I was there too at one point in my life. But first hand experiences and education changed my tune. If you have ever been touched by mental illness (you most likely have, by the way), make a choice to be informed. Decide that you want better for this world, for your friends, your family, yourself! Be aware of friends who start to party unusually hard, family members who have pulled away, habitual canceled plans, interest that start to fizzle. Care with a fierce intensity. Use some of the many resources at our fingertips to start changing the conversation about mental illness in your circle. Because as your circle changes so will the world.

To my friends who are in deep dark places of hurting: I have been there. I have spent hours in a hot shower trying to get the sting of panic and depression to lessen. I’ve felt the weight of the world pressing on my chest. I have poured over scripture begging God to change my brain. I have spent days in bed willing the world to care. My dear friend gave me permission to use her words, words that be both deeply believe, and you can too…

“I want to remind everyone to persist. If you feel alone and disconnected from everyone in your life, maybe to the point you feel them losing interest in your struggle–persist. If you have been stuck in a rut for 5 years, even with professional help–persist. If you feel as if you’re just “done”–persist. Nothing lasts forever. Neither happiness nor sadness. Please persist. I’ve been there and I still end up there occasionally. But when it’s good, it’s really good. And life is surprising. Just keep persisting. Remain here and see where you end up. It’ll be worth it. You owe yourself as much time as possible. Persist.”

Jesus cares. And He sees you. He knows what it feels like to be hurt and betrayed. He loves you. He gave us brains to use, hearts to feel, and souls to love. He also allows doctors to use their knowledge to learn how to heal and treat this terrible sickness. Let us use our God-given brains, hearts, and souls to focus on changing the conversation surrounding mental illness.

 

Here are some fantastic resources to start and continue a healthy conversation about mental illness:

https://twloha.com/learn/

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/

https://www.mentalhelp.net/

My (first) Mother’s Day.

This is not how it was supposed to be.

 

Dreams of my first Mother’s Day filled my head years ago. I’d have a snuggly little newborn baby girl with a big hair bow and a floral swaddle. I would walk into church beaming and bragging to everyone of the sleep she had blessed me with for Mother’s Day. And we would all worship as a family and celebrate what God had given us.

 

But that isn’t how it goes.

 

This Mother’s Day, the children who call me Mommy are not my own. This Mother’s Day I will see the children who call me Mommy long enough to get them dressed in play clothes and send them out the door to biological family members. This Mother’s Day my children do not even know their first mother, the woman who gave them life. This Mother’s Day I am navigating the insane emotions of loving the children who call me Mommy without abandon while also knowing next Mother’s Day they most likely will not call me Mommy anymore. There isn’t a neat bow wrapped around the package of motherhood that I’m living.

 

So tomorrow I will go to church. I will worship and celebrate all that God has given me. I will praise Him for the children who call me Mommy. But there is a hole in my heart that is bleeding open because of the brokenness that this Mother’s Day holds.

 

Please celebrate your moms with such extravagant love. Do not feel ashamed for going above and beyond, for blasting your gratefulness on social media, for being thankful for the beautiful children you have.

 

But also, remember the unconventional mothers. Those of us who don’t quite know where we stand. Who are waiting (seemingly endlessly) to feel life in our womb. Who are praying hard for our babies first moms. Who are wishing we had a relationship with our baby’s second mom. Who miss their moms extremely harder on these days. Pray for the enemy to lose and for God’s perfect plan to be revealed. Because even as we know that He wins…our hearts are still sad.

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Passion and Fire

16406678_10155036637612792_5087112724171773469_nIt wasn’t an “ah-ha” moment, a sermon I heard, or a book I read. I cannot even pinpoint a moment in time when it was decided. It was just in me and slowly it bubbled forth. I knew long before my sweet husband knew. And even with every conversation that ended opposite of how I envisioned…deep within me…I knew. Someday we were going to be foster parents.

Maybe it was in junior high when my first close friend entered foster care. Maybe it was highschool when I went on short term mission trips and saw the brokenness of hurting children right in my own backyard. It possibly was college as I wrestled with what my purpose was and if I even wanted to be a mom someday. All I know is when we started dating and soon got married, it was a pretty constant conversation. We were going to be foster parents.

It took a few years of conversations, and moves, and strategically placed scripture for us to be on the same page. And even in that season of waiting, God was preparing our hearts. For heartbreak, hurt, and unmeasurable joy. God was preparing us for foster care.

Our journey to foster care wasn’t exciting or attention grabbing. But it might be right where you are. With a tug on your heart without a place to land. Maybe your spouse is so not on board you think you’re hearing wrong from God. Or maybe you are passionate about orphan care and aren’t sure if it’s the right time.

Just know, God does not make mistakes. He does not place a passion in your heart or put a fire in your belly without purpose. Our journey to foster care was long. Our journey in foster care is hard. But God did not make a mistake in calling us here. Because without this journey…we would have lost out on knowing some pretty amazing children.

Jesus Loves You.

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I will often sing this popular children’s Sunday school song over my children as they sleep in my arms or in their beds. As their eyelids get heavy, and I stroke their little hairs, I speak the most simple and powerful of truths over them.

 

Jesus. Loves. You.

 

If my children were to no longer live in my home tomorrow I want this to be so ingrained in their little souls.

 

Jesus. Loves. You.

 

When we have hard days and mommy doesn’t show grace and love, may they know that Jesus loves them. And when adults make choices about their lives that do not look like love, may they know Jesus loves them. When others are rude or ignorant or hurtful, may they know that Jesus loves them. Without question. The truth is so real and so evident that even in the simplest of children’s songs the scripture truth is so loud. When I sing, and sometimes absentmindedly mouth these words, may the scripture truth burrow down into their hearts. These are the not-so-simple scriptures that come to mind when I think of these simple lyrics:

 

Jesus Loves You this I know,

“…You are precious and honored in my sight, and because I LOVE YOU.” Isaiah 43:4a

 

For the Bible tells me so,

“…for they received the message with great eagerness and EXAMINED THE SCRIPTURES every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11b

 

Little Ones to Him belong,

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

 

They are weak but HE is strong,

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower.” Proverbs 18:10

 

Yes Jesus Loves you,

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

 

Yes Jesus Loves you,

“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever.” Psalm 100:5

 

Yes Jesus Loves you,

“…so great is His unfailing love.” Lamentations 3:32b

 

The Bible tells me so!

“All scripture is God-breathed…” 2 Timothy 3:16

 

Dear little ones,

Jesus, Loves. You.

Amen.

You’ll always be my baby.

“I may not always be your mama…but you’ll always be my baby.”

I said those words without thinking to our baby as I fed him tonight…and wept.

He has never in his life known another mama. I’m it. When the toddlers yell for mama, a part of me wonders if they have memories of their first mom. But not the baby. When he is looking for mama he’s looking for me.

But that probably won’t always be the case. Someday, our babies will go home to biological family, and quite possibly call some one else mama. It’s likely this baby will never have a memory of me.

But this mama. She will never forget.

I will never forget his chubby fingers or the way he sings loudly every time music plays. I’ll never forget that it took for-stinkin-ever to get him to sleep in anything but the rock n play. I’ll never forget how he snuggles his face into my chest when he’s ready for bed or how his face lights up when he hears my voice.

I’ll never forget how brother has to drum on everything or how sister needs to be carried around. I’ll will always smile when I think of our silly meal times or watch a video of their sweet toddler prayers.

These babies will always be mine, even when I am no longer theirs.

I promise to…

If your words won’t work

And your body hurts

I will carry you.

 

When you get confused

When everything is new

I will remind you.

 

When visits are bad

Or you miss your dad

I will hold you.

 

When your brain is scared

And you’re heart is sad

I will sit with you.

 

Because it’s all too much

And you’re much too young

I will protect you.

 

I promise to carry and hold, remind and protect, and sit and be with you. Because, my babies, that is what Jesus does for me.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2