We press in.

We press in. When we have hard days, weeks, months, yeaaarrrsss. We press in. Which is not our natural response. His natural response is to find solitude and quiet. To withdraw by himself until the hardship blows over. My natural response is to avoid even acknowledging that there is a hardship and instead pour myself into the next project.

But we’ve learned that our natural responses are not what is healthy for our marriage. It’s not healthy to withdraw and avoid. We must press in. To each other. To the hard. To Jesus. And through the trials we’ve learned what works for us (not as individuals) and our marriage.

We stack date nights. Last month we had a little more free time (what even is that) and we went on several dates. An overnight date, a couple dinner dates, a coffee date. We knew looking ahead that this month was going to be crazy busy and stressful and hectic. In order to get through these season we needed to be strong. Like an athlete who trains in the offseason to prepare for the long grueling days when the season approaches. Dating (any time without children asking a million questions is considered a date in my book!) is our training.

We have individual quiet times. Which looks differently for each of us, but it is there that Jesus speaks to us as people and that wisdom pours over to our marriage.

We communicate often. Every other Wednesday after the kids go to bed we have a business meeting. We can talk about budget and meal planning and schedules and new ideas. No one really has control over their lives, but we make sure there are as few surprises as possible. Last year I bought a 3 year journal that has daily prompts. And we both answer the prompt. Some of them are entirely ridiculous. But some prompts bring up bigger, necessary, or funny conversations. We check in throughout the day. Sometimes that just means a note in his lunch box or a quick text. Sometimes that means meeting for a quick coffee or a phone call driving between appointments. The communication is key for pressing in.

This particular week started with a day full of funeral services for our beloved Grandpa and is rolling into several 12-hour work shifts in a row plus some therapy and a bio family visit. Dating is impossible, communication will be minimal, and general lack of sleep makes our irritability higher. But as we work to build a strong foundation, these weeks become bearable. Not easy, by any stretch of the imagination, but doable. We are pressing in. We made the choice to press in. To each other. To the hard. To Jesus.

Standing on the Sidelines

This is a story of amazing grace.

In this story I am standing on the sidelines, like a background mom or a funny best friend, and taking in the scenes between the hero and main characters. Although I’m right in the middle of all the action, and feel the effects of the storyline progressing, it isn’t my story being told.

It’s a story of a hero pursuing a princess. A beautiful, perfect, spunky princess with hurt and emotions far beyond her age. The hero reminds her she’s beautiful and shows her safety. The hero listens as she wines and even lets her stomp a bit. He wipes her tears while weeping alongside her.

The princess loves the hero but can’t know for sure if he’s safe.

Here come the supporting characters. Surrounding her and speaking with love of the hero. She hears of how he keeps showing up to save them. They sing his praises.

Her head and her heart meet up and decide he truly must be good and safe.

The hero shows up over and over and over for this princess. Gently pushing her to be brave and wrapping her in his arms when she isn’t. He catches her when she falls. He laughs when she’s silly and cries when she hurts his heart.

Jesus loves her. He pursues her. He rejoices when she jumps in the pool. He weeps when night terrors rage through her body. He is angered by the injustice in her story. He is her perfect Hero and she is his beautiful princess.

This story is far from over. But as each chapter is written there are endless signs of truth and love. How amazing is the grace that Jesus has given me that I am able to be here, in the middle of her story, standing on the sidelines.

Perfect power.

Quite often in foster care I get bogged down with the paperwork, constant unexpected interruptions, and so many appointments. I certainly could go my whole life without hearing the words “status hearing” again. The hurry up and wait is never ending. The rules and regulations and standards we are held to can be exhausting.

But even as all the stuff swishes around us, their eyes are filled with wonder. Their voices are filled with questions. And their laughter is free and bubbling. The wonder of everything. Every snowflake, every time we drive by a cow, every time we sing Jesus Loves Me. There is excitement and expectation. Their sweet little faces light up. It keeps me smiling. It keeps me breathing.

Simply stating that it’s “worth it” seems so thin. But it’s true. I would fill out a thousand pages of paper a day if it meant being able to hear his giggle. I would drive across the country for her appointments if it meant hearing her sing bedtime songs with me. And I would invite daily I interruptions if it meant snuggling brother with a football game at the end of the day. It is worth it. It is worth it. It is worth it.

But foster mama, it’s also exhausting. And that’s ok. It’s ok to get tired. It’s ok to admit you’re angry at the system. It’s ok to beg for permanency. It’s ok to advocate loudly. It’s ok to serve frozen pizza for the third time this week. It’s ok to take respite. It’s ok to ask for your village to step in. It’s ok to take a nap. It’s ok to take a break.

They are worth it. And we will never be able to unsee the children, unknow the statistics, and unfeel the call. But maybe tonight you need to remember how full your cup was before you starting the process of emptying all you have. Give yourself permission to leave the dishes in the sink and go to bed early. Allow your phone to sit in the other room while you soak up scripture. Take a bath and listen to worship music. Read the twilight saga (again).

Because Christ is glorified and honored even when (especially when) I am at my weakest. So tonight I am going to rest in the power of his grace. Because, dear foster mama, today my weaknesses did shine through. And tomorrow isn’t looking any easier.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

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.

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.

For every today.

Tomorrow isn’t promised.

This short quote is true for every living being. But it is so much more prevalent in the foster care world. Everything we do with our children could be our last. Our last vacation, our last holiday, our last bedtime routine.

For us, we head into the Christmas week knowing it is possible we may be childless for Christmas. The reality is that we have a court date a few days before, and court could go many different ways. Which makes this Christmas unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. It makes me want to make every activity we do “extra” magical, because we may not actually get Christmas, or I may never know how another Christmas is for them for the rest of their lives. But it also makes it harder to get fully in the spirit because heartache may be right around the corner.

Most days, our lives look exactly like any family with multiple small children. We change approximately 25 diapers, fill 492693 milk cups, and snuggle bad dreams away. But some days we are reminded of why we are here, why our children are here, and how broken our world can be. These days I take a hot baths and remind myself that Jesus is bigger than our broken system and hurting world. I cling to the truth of scripture and ask for more grace to get through the next day.

If you’ve encountered me in person, and asked about our case, you probably heard me respond with “We will love them hard for as long they are ours”…or something along those lines. While I’m saying it to you, I’m also saying it to me. Because we don’t know if we will have tomorrow…but we will love them as hard as we can for as many today’s as we have.