When you’re drowning.

“We are drowning.”

I said those words to one of my most trusted friends today. Words that I’ve been avoiding. Words that I haven’t let my heart feel. But the most accurate words to describe how I truly feel under the “I’m fine!” attitude.

Today I also realized there are 32 unread text messages on my phone. Mostly from people I love. Some checking in, some waiting for a question answered, some funny gifs that I’ve yet to open. My life also has 32 things on hold. Heavy things. Things I’m trying to hold up from the water so even as I’m drowning, I won’t let anyone or anything down.

It’s not that I have problem saying no, it’s one of my favorite words (I’ve obviously been hanging out with my two year old). We have almost zero extracurricular activities this summer. We’ve rarely seen friends. We haven’t made it to our long weekend in St.Louis. The things I’m holding up have almost nothing to do with me. But the people I hold dearest. The people who live in my home. They are carrying heavy, tired, broken hearts…and I am holding them.

Do you know this feeling? The tightness of your chest that you don’t notice until you sit down at the end of the day. The tears that are always close to the surface but rarely fall. The constant strain to grab a breath just in case your lungs have to hold air for a while before you can resurface.

Maybe you’re holding foster care and financial stress and aging parents. Or maybe it’s homeschooling and foster care and mental health. Maybe your combo is infertility and self-employment and moving. It’s possible your situation is a mix of all of those scenarios.

Whatever it is that has you drowning, I see you, I feel it, I know it’s hard. I know your arms are tired and your lungs are burning. I know your prayers are more angry than loving. I know you’ve have to apologize to the Creator for being bitter and ungrateful.

Guess what? He sees you too.

“For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King. It is He who will save us.” Isaiah 33:22

Whatever the injustice. Whatever the pain. Whatever it is that is starting to cover your head. Our Lord, our King, He will save us.

Today, by verbalizing my complete feeling of drowning, I turned it over to the King letting Him know I was ready for saving. I still don’t know what that looks like for me. But I do know that I was not created to live in a state of drowning…and neither were you.

Advertisements

Toddler Travel Tips

Vacation! So fun! So relaxing!

Just kidding. We are going on vacation with three kids four and under. Traveling with kids. Oh so fun. Not kidding. I love showing them new adventures!

To be perfectly honest, we have never driven more than four hours with our children. From where we live, driving to Florida would be two full days each way, and we don’t have that kind of time (or patience). I have several sweet friends who do the driving through the night so kids sleep trick. But if you follow me on Instagram you know that I turn into a pumpkin at 9pm so that option isn’t available to us. Therefore, every tip or story you see here is from our flying adventures.

The first time we flew with children they were 2.5 years, 18 months, and 5 months. On top of their young ages, we had only known each other for three months. We were straight in the middle of figuring everyone out and learning how to trust. Before we flew I did a ton of research, some helpful and some not so much.

Here is my complied list of helpful tips if you’re flying with littles (especially if you’re also traveling with special needs and trauma):

1. Know your airline!

Researching your airlines policy on traveling with children is extremely helpful. We’ve only flown Allegiant with our crew. Allegiant only allows one lap child per row because of oxygen masks. But they do let each child have a free diaper bag. Knowing these kind of policies before arriving will put you at ease. Or, when someone tries to tell you that you’re not allowed to do something, you’ll be armed with policy language.

2. Don’t arrive too early.

Has anyone ever told you that littles are squirmy? Having time to kill at the airport is the worst. Airports are not sensory friendly and cause a ton of anxiety for a couple of my small humans. If you can, leave just enough time to get through security and let everyone pee.

3. There can never be too many snacks on travel day.

A couple of days of snack overload will not kill your routine. And trust me, we are the house where snacks are on a timer, and I still believe this tip. Snacks distract, but they also help clear airplane ears, and keep blood sugar high. Many a travel meltdown has been cured with a box of raisins. I put a gallon zip lock of snacks in each child’s backpack for easy access.

4. Pack brand new never seen before toys and activities.

This might be the most circulated tip but I believe it with all my might. I grab activity books, tiny stuffed animals, and trinket toys after major holidays when they are on super clearance and save it for travel days. Small children don’t care if they are coloring Jack-o-lanterns in June…for them it’s a brand new experience and keeps them engaged longer.

5. Stickers.

Same concept. Melissa and Dog have some awesome reusable sticker books. The reusable stickers can stick to almost any airplane surface and can easily be removed and restuck for at least 12 minutes.

6. Must have Accessories.

Blow up footstool, everyone’s favorite blankey, water cups with straws (again, help those babies clear their ears!), earplugs/headphones (my oldest has a hard time with noises, headphones make all the difference), socks.

7. Breathe.

Hey moms and dads! Take a breath, give grace, breathe. People are going to be grouchy and rude. But guess what, even if they never had annoying loud kids, at one point they were an annoying loud kid. Although we try our hardest to make sure our children are respectful and quietish…is that really legitimately possible at all times? No. So go ahead and plaster a smile on your face and enjoy the fact that your children get to experience the wonder of travel at a young age!

In travel, and in life, your mood and attitude will be reflected in your children. If you feel stressed and overwhelmed, your children will pick up on that energy and everyone will start to spiral. You can real and absorb all the travel knowledge. However, if you haven’t figured out what keeps you cool and calm, do that first. Find an essential oil to wear around your neck, do a breathing exercise, eat a snack. You can do this! You can make adventure fun for your family!

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.

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

IMG_0618

“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.

 

Change the Conversation.

Untitled Design

 

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/