Intentional Legacy Building

I want my children to look back someday and remember that my lap was always big enough. That the countless hours I sit on the floor made them feel known. That even when there is chaos (and chaotic siblings) swarming around us, that this was a safe space to enter into. For the feeling of snuggling in close while squirming about to come quick to the surface of their memories. Mostly I want for my legacy in their lives to be of safety and healing.

Do you think about the legacy you will leave your children? It’s hard in the daily trenches of time outs and nose wiping and diaper changing. My daily, stay-at-home-mom life, with a 3, 2, and 1 year old is a blur. With days and weeks and activists running together.

But as we come close to three years without my dad, I’m remembering the memories I have of him from when I was young.

I’m remembering the legacy he left.

Remembering my dad also gives me such grace to myself as a parent. Because he got a lot of things wrong. I’m sure there were countless feelings of inadequacy. I’m sure of that, because I feel it too. I feel it when I let the kids watch more than one movie. Or when I yell for no reason. And when I put them to bed early so I can think in my own head. But when I think of my dads legacy, I don’t remember the inadequacies. I think of his loud encouraging voice in the gym, of his great servants heart for his family, and how provided for I felt. His legacy lives on though his children. The things he chose to engage in (coaching, cooking meals, being present) left us with feelings that continue to be remembered. He intentionally made choices that eventually became his legacy.

I’m choosing to sit on the floor in the middle of my circus, so that I may have eye level conversations with non-sensical toddlers. I’m choosing to let my coffee get cold in the microwave because my baby needs to just touch my face for a few more minutes. I’m choosing to explain the routine of the day for the nineteenth time because it makes my children feel comfortable. In the midst of our failures as parents, let’s go into this weekend spending time on the legacy in which we want to be remembered.

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Little people : big scary feelings.

45688909_258174541536093_8721691741826056192_nThere’s a saying here in the Midwest: “if you don’t like the weather…wait a few minutes, it will change.”

It’s also possible this saying was meant for foster care: “if you are unsure about the system…wait a few days…everything will change.”

That is where we find ourselves. For reasons unknown to us, our transition timeline has stopped moving forward. In fact, we are now back to the very beginning. To uncertainty, inconsistency, awkward supervised visits. Reunification that was to happen in the next month has been put on hold for “the foreseeable future”. Our children are hurt and confused and acting out in ways we’ve never seen before.

Do not tell me my one year old is lucky he’s so young so he doesn’t understand what’s going on. I’m writing this on my phone while he’s tired himself out after screaming for the better part of four hours. Trauma is trauma is trauma is trauma. His little brain and heart knows what is happening is not right. Last week they were spending 60+ hours of unsupervised time with their biological family, and this week its 6 hours of playtime with a supervisor constantly taking notes.

This is real life. This is foster care.

Its messy. Its hard. Guys, its so hard. I don’t even have a silver lining to insert here. Because today I got cussed at and scratched up and lost my hearing. Its hard. Little people with big and scary feelings. Loving these little people with every fiber of my being.

Yet, in the midst of the hurt, I hear the little whispers. Nothing big or fancy. No billboard sized God signs. But the stillness of my heart in the middle of quite literal chaos.

It whispered “Trust me AND Trust IN me”.

Do I trust that God the Father cares about and understands this part of our story?Absolutely. Do I trust in the fact that He is still good, even in the middle of the extreme gross? Less absolutely. But I want to. I yearn to. I pour over scripture reminding me that God’s goodness isn’t defined by the sin in this world. These whispers hit my heart several times a day as He reminds me that trust in Him is completely surrendering the end of this chapter, however it ends, if it will ever end.

So we will continue caring for, keeping safe, and loving with absolute abandon. And I will trust and trust in God the Father. That not only is He good, but he cloaks my life with His goodness daily. Our story with our three babies isn’t over yet, believing this is exactly where they need to be for this (longer than imagined) season of life.

And I will continue to share my words with this amazing community. Because you hold us up. Last week, I am sure, we were quite literally sustained by the prayers of our village. Keep up the prayers and pleading on our behalf. The five of us feel it.

Transition to Goodbye.

This week we got the news we have been dreading and heading towards and praying for for over a year.

The transition. The real transition. The one with a timeline and ticking clock and endless to-do lists. The transition to goodbye.

By the end of the year we will no longer be mommy and daddy to three little ones. Even writing that makes my stomach turn. Not because I think this is a bad move, but because for over a year this is where my identity has been. For over a year we have rocked and shushed and kissed boo-boos and loved with our whole hearts.

And I would do it all over again.

Our whole hearts have been wrapped up in caring and advocating and protecting and teaching. We have seen a terrified little girl find safety. Little boys learn to cry out to Jesus. We’ve been a part of healing and transformation. And been first hand witnesses to the faithfulness of The Good Good Father…and man, is He good.

I love to look at photographs of where we started to be reminded of the faithfulness. I see the fresh faces of parents ready to take on the world through three little babies. Of instagram posts begging for others to lay our requests for rest before the throne of God. Of text messages sent to sisters with tears streaming down my face because I didn’t think I would make it. It’s intense and it’s redeeming. Humbling and hard.

It would be the biggest lie to tell you it’s all beautiful and thankfulness floods out of my heart all the time. Because this year (and this week) has also reminded me that statistically we’ve already lasted in the foster care system than most and it’s a miracle. The system is impossible. The invasion of privacy. The endless advocating. The well-meaning (or not) comments.

Foster care has shattered my heart in all the worst and best ways. And it isn’t over. The next eight weeks might break me. Having to say goodbye will break me. But how amazing that I have a Good Good Father that is holding all of the pieces. I’m trusting in His goodness and resting in his promise.

One year older and wiser.

A year ago I was meeting my children for the first time. “We have three siblings two toddlers and a baby. I think they are 3, 2, and a baby. We need to place them together”, the stranger of the other end of the phone told me. After limited (incomplete and incorrect) information, she needed an answer, yes or no.

If you’ve gotten a similar phone call, you know the emotions. The knowledge that there are three babies hurt and sitting in a strangers office was enough to make my stomach turn in knots. The idea of going from 0 to 3 children gave me a migraine. Knowing there was still a shelter care hearing to come and they could only be with us for 48 hours hurt my heart. After several hours of confusion over placement we were once again given the opportunity to say no. There was no way to know at that time how my life could’ve forever been changed over a yes or no question.

One year ago, we met our children, and very soon, we will say goodbye. It will not kill me. I will not drown. Because as hard as the goodbye will be, the hello, and the middle, has been the most beautiful adventure. I am one year wiser, not by my own doing, but because I serve a gracious God. A year ago, He nudged me to say yes when given the opportunity to say no. I have seen The Church in its fullest capacity, been in the front row as chains are broken, built relationships with those I may never have known, and had gospel filled conversations in the midst of the darkest dark.

We have caught a million tears and cried a million more. We have been investigated by dcfs, sat through heated court dates, and fought for information. Brother has learned thousands of words, sister has started to trust adults, baby has grown into a toddler. We are one year older and wiser. One year filled with love. One year left breathless from hurt. One year clinging to my sweet husband for dear life. One year learning to pray and draw close to our Heavenly Father. Thankful for this year and for all of the opportunities to say “YES!” along the way.

The sweetest reward.

We play this game several times a day where we giggle and point at each other aggressively and shout “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!”

I don’t know how it got started but I do know that I will never let it die off. Because on days like today, when they’re gone all day at a visit, I count the minutes until I can shout my love at them. It’s the last thing they hear from me as their transport drives off, and when they come home asleep I whisper shout my love at them as I lay them down to bed.

Friends. I know stepping out in faith is hard. I know it’s scary and you might fail. I know you’re worried about not having the right answers and if you’re really hearing Gods voice. Do it anyway. My heart is so often crushed when brothers and sisters in Christ hear my story and make a comment about wishing they were brave enough to follow their calling like me.

Please hear me. You do not have to be brave. You just have to take a step in the direction of your calling.

Has God whispered to you to adopt? Call an agency. Do you feel a push toward seminary? Google them. Does the spirit keep leading your prayer time toward mentoring teens? Tell your pastor. The first step is the biggest step, so do it in a small way. Step out in faith and make a choice to say yes to your calling.

Your calling may be different than mine. But by saying yes to my calling, I get to have three screaming faces point at me and tell me that they love me so much. My reward could not be sweeter.

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH

No one prepares you for the transition…

Reunification transition. This is the part no one can prepare you for. We think a lot about what it will be like once they are reunified, talk a lot about the goal of reunification, but there’s not a lot of preparation for the reunification transition. The period of weeks and months where transition is happening at the speed of smell. There is a sense of urgency but you’re not sure why, because barely anything is happening. But we can feel it. The tiny changes that make our home feel a bit out of balance. The blankies that get sent to overnights and don’t come back, causing extreme bedtime behaviors. The every other day visits that make the other days harder and full to the brim with emotions. The mornings they are not in their beds and our home is so quiet.

Overnight visits have restarted as we press on to a goal of reunification by the end of the year. Spending the night here and there brings on a whole set of its own challenges. Making sure our bedtime routines are fluid enough that it won’t throw them if it’s different. But making sure there is enough routine that their little trauma brains can handle sleeping.

This season reminds me of the first month when we had no idea how the early parts of the case would shake out. If they would be with us for 48 hours or forever. The uncertainty is painful.

When big brother had big oversized emotions upon coming back. His sweet little mind confused and wanting to be with biological family he loves dear while also loving his home and family here. I held and rocked him, like an infant, making eye contact and reminding him that I’m here. I kept repeating this to him…

“Sweet love. I am so sorry that nothing makes sense and your emotions are big. I am sorry that it hurts to be with them and it hurts to be with us. This isn’t how it should be. But mommy loves you. Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you.”

Love on a foster family. There are so many behind the scenes emotions and thoughts. In public we give smiles and brave answers because sometimes we aren’t ready for the big deep hard conversations. So love on us. Love on our children. Pray for our families.

“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.