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.

I’m going to love you…even when I’m tired.

The older the children get, the longer stretches of nice, relatively quiet play we get. It’s glorious. I don’t panic every time they are playing quietly together in the other room. Most of the time they are sucked into their pretend world. Cooking and fighting dinosaurs and playing therapy and doing gymnastics.

Just a few days ago the younger two were playing so nicely in the sensory room together while I made lunch. When, for seemingly no reason, I heard her tell her brother, “I don’t love you anymore”.

My ears perked up and I quietly eased dropped on their conversation. There was not any anger behind the words, and there was not any fight or disappointment from her brother. When they had moved on I sat next to her and asked her what caused her to not love her brother anymore. She said “because I’m just tired” and I said “even when we are tired we still have to love our people”.

As the words came out of my mouth I could feel the wind leave my lungs. The Lord had just spoken through me, to me.

I honestly could not breathe. The weariness of this season has made me so intensely tired. The last two months have been overwhelming and hard for me to love even those closest to me. As we sat side by side on her balance beam, she looked at me expectantly and I looked back at her with a new and deep compassion.

“Sometimes mommy gets tired too, and it’s hard to love. You know, how sometimes, when mommy is cooking dinner and she just wants everyone to be a little bit more quiet? That makes me tired and makes it hard to love. Sometimes, when you have scary dreams and need mommy to rock you in the nighttime. That makes me tired and makes it hard to love, sometimes. So I get it. But, Jesus wants us to love even when we are tired. Because Jesus loves us, even when we are tired, and cranky, and rude, and need a break.”

She looked at me with real tears flowing down her cheeks (because, hello, this girl is a precious and sensitive angel) and told me that she was going to love me even when she was tired and even when I was tired. She went to her brother and told him she was going to love him even when he was a booger to her and hides her Elsa shoes.

Now it’s my turn to cry. Because I so deeply love my people. But I am tired. And I don’t always get it perfect. So on this particular day, Jesus showed me grace through my angel girl. Reminding me that we all get tired. Goodness gracious, Jesus himself went into gardens or to the other side of seas all the time to rest. It’s okay to feel tired. When we are tired, is when He shows up to give us every ounce of energy and love we need to love our people well.

This year is the anti-self-love year for me. Because it is so insanely easy for me to make it about…me. So I’m switching gears. This is the year where I learn how to be patient and kind, how to not boast and not be rude, how to be selfless, how to rejoice with others, how to always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere. I’m going to love the snot out of my people. Because it is not about me. Or how tired I am. Or how overwhelmed/empty/burnt out I become. It’s about this magnificent calling to love others, always.

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.

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.

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.