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

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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.

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.

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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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.