Another Rainy Day

It was raining yesterday when the white DCFS van pulled into the driveway. It all felt so strangely familiar as I took hold of two toddlers … only this time, instead of being met with scared, blank eyes, that sweet toddler boy saw me and a big smile lit up his face.

“GiGi!” He stretched out his arms to me, and as I pulled him close, he melted into my arms.

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It was also raining on September 12th. I remember because that was the day I first met the tiny duo that rocked my world.

I will never forget how the rain fell as if it would never stop as the white DCFS van pulled up in our my driveway. My sister-in-law held an umbrella over my head, as I reached in and pulled out a plump baby girl with big blue eyes. A social worker followed behind us, clutching her older brother tight to protect him against the rain.

For five months, those two kiddos were a part of our family. And then just as quickly as they arrived, our precious babies left.

That was three months ago.

All spring my phone has remained strangely quiet. I had only two calls from the DCFS, and neither placement worked out in our favor. Honestly, I was glad for the reprieve. My attention was needed elsewhere …  A rental property that I own (located several hours from my actual home) needed some extensive work, my grandfather passed away, and my son had major surgery.

Yet, it was also a season in which Jon and I often discussed our decision to be foster parents. Is this still what we felt called to do? Was it worth the cost to our family? We agreed that we felt called by God to do this work and that we should keep our home open to children who needed a loving home. And so we waited …

Yesterday about lunchtime the call came through. Two children in need of a home … two year old boy and his one year old sister. The same sibling set we took in last fall and loved on for five months.

Would we take them back?

Of course. How could we possibly say no?

Only this time Jon and I said yes to the call knowing the cost involved. We know the commitment will require more of us than we thing we possibly have to give, and yet somehow we always find we have enough.

We already know the bittersweetness of being foster parents. The is an immense blessing that comes from loving these tiny sweethearts, and yet the fact remains that these are someone else’s babies. The only reason we get to love them is because something horrid happened in their lives in the first place. It’s a reality we can’t escape.

Jon and I know that chances are great these babies won’t be with us forever.  It could be weeks or months, but probably we will have to give them back. And yet, until we do, we love them just as if they are our own children. To do anything less would be wrong, even though in our humanness we have a desire to cushion our own hearts from the possibility of pain associated with losing someone we love.

This time it would be different. This time we aren’t naive. This time we know exactly what saying yes means … and still it is the only answer we have.

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Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.      ~James 1:27

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Return: An Unexpected Weekend Guest

Last Thursday I got a surprise phone call from our former foster care worker. “Would you please consider taking in K. for a few days?” she asked. “There’s situation where his mother needs some help in caring for him and we thought about asking your family first.”

Would I? You bet! I didn’t even have to stop and think twice.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one elated about K’s return. My entire family was excited about the opportunity to spend a few days loving on our favorite two year old once again. It has been a little over two months since Mr. K and his baby sister left our care, and while we weren’t expecting to see him again, we quickly began to prepared for his sudden return into our home.

Nathan and Megan eagerly pulled out some of the old toys he loved most, while Julia went on a search until she found his favorite Barney DVD. Maddie pulled out the board books and put them into a box on the lowest shelf in the room. Joel got the booster seat set up at the dining table. Meanwhile, I made a quick trip to the story to buy goldfish crackers and popsicles and o-way-hoes (bananas) because I knew exactly what this little guy likes to eat. It didn’t take us long to get everything prepared and ready for K’s return to our home.

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K. opening the big dump truck on his birthday. It quickly became his favorite toy. Our entire family was sad that he wasn’t allowed to take it with him when he left us.

 

Friday morning, the social worker showed up with K. in tow. Initially, he was a little confused, but it didn’t take long before he warmed right back up. Soon he was happily playing with the big dump truck and the train tracks. Later in the afternoon, the bigger kids eagerly took turns watching him play outside. K had everyone’s complete attention and delighted in lots of walks around the block and pushes in the swing.

K. had been at our home less than two hours when he grabbed my hand and walked me over to where I used to keep a hidden stash of lollipops and other tiny treasures. He pointed up to the box high up on the shelf, flashed me his biggest smile, and said, “pwease?”  Immediately I felt myself grinning back at him, amazed at his fantastic memory. But as soon as I remembered that the box was totally empty, I felt awful. How could I have forgotten to replenished my box of surprises?

We had such a fun few days, going to the park to play and taking K. to church with our family.  But now all the excitement has come to an end. This morning, little K. returns back to his mother. Our five-day visit is over and I’m sad to see him go once again. Chances are he won’t be returning to our home …

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But I can hope that perhaps one day he will return to visit again.

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Behold, I am coming soon. ~Revelation 22:12

I am anticipating another return … the return of Jesus Christ to collect His bride. The Bible teaches that no one knows the day or hour of his coming. But just because we aren’t expecting it, doesn’t make the chances any less likely.

You see, I may not be able to count on K. returning back to my home. I love the little guy, but I have to accept the fact that when he walks out of my door today he might not ever return to me.

But it’s not that way with the return of Christ. His return is 100% guaranteed.

Though I may not know the day or the hour, I can be prepared … by choosing to grow in my personal relationship with Jesus through daily prayer and studying His word, by forming encouraging relationships with other Christ-followers, by choosing to live my life in a way that honors Christ.

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. ~Matthew 24:44

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This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

Restoration

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I had never really seen the likes of it … dog feces smeared over the wood floors, evidence of roaches littering the bottoms of every kitchen cabinet and drawer, holes in the walls, mold in the bathroom, thick layers of dirt and grime and dust coated everything with a surface.

My husband and children had just spent the weekend helping me clean up my North Louisiana rent home. We carted out piles upon piles of trash, raked up two years worth of leaves, swept and mopped and scoured every surface we could easily reach. And still at the end of those two days of hard work, there was still so very much more to do.

The bathroom leak had been fixed, but now came the work of ripping out all of the molded sheetrock and putting up new. There were several broken ceiling fans and light fixtures which needed to be replaced. One room had several large holes in the walls, which meant I needed to get new paneling. Throughout the remainder of the house, the walls and trim desperately need new paint. And then there was the question of the roof.  Did it leak as my former tenant indicated, even though I couldn’t see physical evidence of the leaks? If so, could it be patched, or was I looking at the expense of a brand-new roof?

As I stood and looked around my, I saw the fragmented beauty of what once was. But the charming old home that I had bought for myself just five years earlier was no long charming or beautiful.  My brother, who had come by to help for a couple of hours, shook his head in disbelief and said, “Well, Paige … this definitely isn’t the home you left 4 years ago, is it?”  Sadly, all I could do was nod my head in agreement.

Hours later, I stood on the front lawn with Jon next to me, holding my hand. I sighed, but he leaned in and said,  “Maybe, with a little hard work, together we can get this old home back to its former glory. I know it will be time and money … but I think if we just take it one step at a time, we will be able to take care of each thing that needs to be done.”

I smiled at him, for the first time feeling that all wasn’t lost. Even through the discouragement, I knew deep down that the old home could become like new again.

This house could be restored.

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It’s been almost a month since they left us. I still miss their sweet little smiles, their precious hugs and kisses, the way their chubby hands felt in mine. I miss rocking and singing and reading books.

I knew from the beginning that being a foster parent would require me to love children as my own and then be willing to give them back to their parents. After all, that is (at least initially)  the ultimate goal for every foster child.

But knowing isn’t quite the same thing as experiencing.

I didn’t know how it would feel to buckle their car seats for the last time knowing this was our goodbye. How could I have prepared myself for the tears  that streamed down my cheeks as I washed the last of the baby bottles, sobbing because that sweet little girl who wouldn’t be snuggling with me at night any more? For two weeks after they left, I kept coming across stray baby socks, chunky legos and matchbox cars, evidence that two small people who used to live with us don’t live here anymore. Every time it made me cry.

It’s been hard on my heart, and yet if I am fully truthful then I must also say that there is lots of  joy and hope in my heart for those two precious children. They are back with their mama. Isn’t that where every child wants to be? Held in their mother’s arms? Loved by the parent who brought them into this world?

God called me and my family out, asked us to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We learned to love children who weren’t ours as if they were our very own, and then in the end we had to give them back with nothing left but the memories. But oh, what a privilege to be witness what came as a result!

A family has been restored.

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Me and my dad, Easter 1973

Not quite six months ago, my father died. Unexpectedly. On my birthday. I’ve not nearly gotten over it yet. Most days, I wonder if I ever will.

It’s been a surreal sort of experience, learning to go throughout my days without talking to my dad. I used to pick up the phone without thinking. I wanted to talk to him, tell him something funny one of the kids said or ask for some advice. I would be halfway through dialing before I would remember that he no longer was around to answer phone calls.

Other times the phone would ring, and I would answer expecting to hear his voice on the other end of the line. Of course, it always turned out to be someone else and I would spend about half of that conversation trying not to cry because I wasn’t talking with my father.

Once I was at my home church and thought I saw my father walking at the other end of the hallway, his back to me. I raced ahead without thinking, only to feel surprised when it turned out to be my uncle. While I was glad to give him a hug, I wished it had been my dad instead.

I celebrate my first birthday while Papaw celebrates his 50th ... the first of many birthdays we have celebrated together.
I celebrate my first birthday while Papaw celebrates his 50th … the first of many birthdays we  celebrated together.

Just last week, my grandfather passed away. Now not only is my father gone, but my father’s father as well. Though it wasn’t nearly the shock of my father’s passing as my grandfather was ninety-one and had been ill for most of the last six weeks of his life, his death has left a what feels like a large raw, ragged hole in my heart.

Two patriarchs gone in less than six months. The two deaths feel so entangled, I am not sure I even know how to process through the grief.

At my grandfather’s funeral, it felt all too familiar. Weren’t we just here, reading the cards attached to the flower arrangements, accepting casseroles and cakes from well-meaning church members, and receiving condolences from a long line of friends at the church?  Now we must do this again?

Tears ran down my cheeks as I watched the photo slide show during the visitation for my grandfather, yet I wasn’t sure who the tears were for … Daddy or Papaw.

Maybe the tears were mostly for me.

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And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. ~1 Peter 5:10

Until the last six months, I never thought about Heaven much at all.

If I am truthful, I must admit that actually going to Heaven is something I have never really anticipated.  I’ve always expected that some day in the future I will go there and see it for myself, mainly because it is what God promises will happen when I die as a result of putting my faith in Him. But I haven’t really ever spent time looking forward to that day.

Furthermore, lately I’ve realized that for most of my life my thoughts about Heaven have frequently conflicted with Biblical teachings.

I’ve always imagined Heaven as this great white expanse, trimmed in a rich gold. Pristine, quiet, and ethereal. Everyone there wears a white robe and a completely serene expression upon their face. As Heaven knows no anger, no tears, no worry, no sickness, it is a place of complete peace. But I also came to realize that I also never imagined heaven being a place of joy or laughter or even of love. Just eternal rest from this current earthly life.

No wonder I wasn’t eager to think about it or to anticipate going there myself! If dying means never laughing or feeling excitement again, then why would I care about Heaven?

Of course, since Dad’s death, I’ve thought quite a bit more about Heaven. I’ve never doubted that my father (and now grandfather) is now experiencing Heaven, but I have wondered if the things I miss most about them are still a part of them. Oh, I hope so! I miss their laughter, story-telling, and curious minds. How I would love, just one more time, to hear my father and grandfather engaged in one of their friendly Biblical debates, as they happily studied their Sunday school lesson together. I can’t tell you how many Sunday lunches I spent listening to them discuss exactly who Melchizedek was and the mysteries surrounding his priesthood. Are these parts of them buried in the grave?

And what of other things about this earthly life that I enjoy now. I know this planet is a flawed place to live, so far from perfection, but there is still so much to love about the world God created. Beautiful sunsets. Stars against a dark night sky.  Cool breezes. The kiss of warm sunshine against my skin on a spring day. Brilliant fall leaves. Laughing with a friend. Hugs from my family. Chocolate. So many things I cherish about life … When this life is over, must these end as well?

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But, as it is written,“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”  ~1 Corinthians 2:9

Not long ago, Jon had a dream about the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. In his dream, he was this large banquet hall where huge tables, covered in white clothes, were filled with large platters of delicious food. The smell was intoxicating. As Jon sat down to eat, he noticed a group of dancers enter the hall, performing an intricate dance to this amazing music. Jon said he started to dance along.  Next there were singers. Again, Jon knew the words to all the songs and enjoyed clapping and dancing and singing.  Then later on, he noticed several groups of people, each one seemed to be captivated by an engaging story-teller. Jon said it was the most wonderful party he had ever attended, and that when he woke up he was actually sad that it had to end.

Heaven? A party that never ends? 

Now that sounds like something to get excited about!

I’ve been reading Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven, which is perhaps the most definitive book about the subject (after the Bible, of course). In his book, Alcorn writes,

“Satan need not convince us that Heaven doesn’t exist. He need only convince us that Heaven is a boring, unearthly existence.”

This particular quote resonated deeply with me, obviously because it was so true of my own beliefs regarding Heaven. My imaginings of Heaven aren’t accurate at all, for it is far from being a place of mundane existence.

Earth is just a prelude to heaven. So magnificent sunsets, majestic mountains, delicious meals in the company of friends, the joy of laughter … all of these things are just a delightful preview of what is to come.

God declared His original creation as “good.” His plan all along has been to redeem and restore it.

Religion professor Albert Wolters writes, “God hangs on to his fallen original creation and salvages it. He refuses to abandon the work of His hands—in fact, He sacrifices His own Son to save His original project. Humankind, which has botched its original mandate and the whole creation along with it, is given another chance in Christ; we are reinstated as God’s managers on earth. The original good creation is to be restored.”

Restoration.

It’s not just for old houses or dysfunctional families or broken relationships.

It’s for all of Creation. For me. For you.

All it takes is trusting Jesus Christ to redeem us from our sinful selves. And when we do, we can anticipate the day we die, knowing we will be restored to all we were originally created to be, perfect in every way. We will not be sent to some place of eternal rest, but rather will be reinstated on a new earth, as real and as physical as the first, but without all the sin and shame and sorrow and sickness.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away …  And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”   ~from Revelation 21

The Greatest Gift

It was raining the day they came to live with us.  

 I hadn’t been given much time to prepare for their arrival, perhaps an hour’s notice at most. I suppose that in the end it didn’t matter all that much, as I didn’t have a clue how to prepare to welcome them to my home in the first place.

When the white government mini-van pulled up in our driveway, my sister-in-law, who had unexpectedly dropped by and gotten caught up in the afternoon’s drama, held an umbrella over my head as I reached into the vehicle to pull out a chubby nine-month old baby girl. As I carried that sweet little one into my home, her big blue eyes gazed up at me with what I can only describe as a rather dull expression. No fear. No curiosity. No spark. Only a blank stare.

Days, maybe weeks, later, I noticed she had a dimple, so tiny and sweet, that flashed across her left cheek with every baby giggle.

But that day, there wasn’t any laughter.

Her big brother, if you could call him that for he was as tiny as she was chubby, walked into our home and immediately found the small collection of toys arranged on the living room rug. He busied himself with the cars, not seeming to notice there was anyone else in the house.

As I signed the stack of paperwork, accepting the responsibility of caring for these two children, I wondered what would happen when the social workers left our home.  Soon enough, I discovered the answer to that question. Nothing. No crying. No fretting. No indications of concern.  In fact, these little ones didn’t seem to realize they had been left alone with strangers.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting to happen in those first hours. Certainly not smiles or laughter, but definitely not this uneasy calm either. But then I had never been around neglected children, which explains why …

This was also a day without tears.

The days turned into weeks, and slowly our two foster babies began to meld into our family. We read for hours on end, The Little Engine that CouldChicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom, and Goodnight Moon. We sang all the songs toddlers love: If You’re Happy and You Know ItThe Itsty-Bitsy Spider, and Jesus Loves Me. We even taught them which little piggy says, “wee, wee, wee” all the way home.

As the weeks turned into months, we celebrated their birthdays, applauded first steps, and marveled over first words. When the oldest began to recognize colors, we proudly bragged to our friends about how smart and intelligent our foster son was. There were harder lessons to be learned, such as the importance of using a spoon, how to pet a dog without pulling on its ears, and that during the clean-up song everyone must pick up the toys. At mealtime, we taught them how to fold their small hands and say grace over their food; at bedtime, we tucked them into their cribs with kisses and prayers.

As the months went by, the two babies began to change.  A sparkle came to their eyes. Curiosity returned. They began to act like children who mattered, because they did.

No longer neglected, now they were loved.

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But some days, maybe most days, I didn’t feel like loving them.

These babies weren’t like other babies who had been lavished with love and attention and nurturing since birth. Instead, they came to our home, bringing with them an emotional baggage for which I was not prepared. My days consisted of dealing with their bad behaviors. Throwing food. Screaming matches. Biting. Pulling hair. Clawing skin.

Initially, I had wanted to foster needy children so that I could share the love of Jesus with children who might not ever taste of love. My fostering dreams were nothing more than a golden haze of envisioning how I would be God’s light in the darkness.

I didn’t realize the darkness could be so dark.

The bitter truth quickly became clear. I really didn’t know how to love these babies who struggled to accept and respond to my efforts. The more I struggled, the more I fell to my knees, begging God for help and mercy.

Being a foster mom was mostly a humbling lesson in learning to truly love others. I suppose I had expected I would learn a lot about love through the process of being a foster mother, but I was banking on more of the familiar warm, fuzzy, feel-good sort of love.

Instead, God showed me a love that hurts and stings. And while He taught me more about love than I ever knew before, what I learned was that true love has very little to do with how I feel and everything to do with how I treat the other person.

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Last Friday, our foster babies left us.

Once again, I didn’t have much notice. Less than 24 hours to get ready for them to leave my home.  Just like I didn’t know how to plan for their arrival, I had no idea how to prepare for their departure.

I put all of their tiny clothes into suitcases, along with the four toys they were each allotted to carry on to their next destination. I dressed them in their nicest outfits, so that they would look all clean and shiny for their momma.

While we waited for the social worker to arrive, we sat together in the big rocker, reading board books and singing songs. I wiggled their smallest piggies, and together we laughed as we chanted, “Wee, wee, wee … all the way home!”

This was a day of giggles and laughter.

As the white government van pulled into my driveway, drops of rain began to sprinkle over the lawn. The time had come, and though I thought my heart might burst apart, I gently buckled them into car seats for the last time and kissed their tiny faces. The chubby baby girl, now almost 15 months old, reached out for me and cried.

It was also a day for tears.

And though I still grieve the loss, I already know that if I am given another chance, I’ll choose to do it all again … for love, as much as it sometimes hurts, is the greatest gift we can ever choose to give.

But the greatest of these is love. ~1 Corinthians 13:13

 

 

Better than February

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I woke up this morning feeling discouraged. It all started when I happened to remember that today is January 27th.  Much to my dismay, there are still four more days to go in this month. As I shuffled to the kitchen to start my morning coffee, there was but one thought in my weary brain:

Will January ever end? 

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Honestly, I don’t know why this particular month has seemed to drag by so very slowly. But it has, with one long day following another.

The two toddlers have been snotty-nosed, cranky and into everything that’s not tied down.  And if I’m not dealing with toddler tantrums, then it’s teenager angst. I can’t tell you which one is worse. Honestly, they are both bad.

January just also happens to be the month for our recertification as foster parents. It’s only slightly less harrowing than getting certified the first go around.  Together, Jon and I had to complete 15 hours of online training. Excuse me, but I’m so busy chasing our duel tornadoes (aka the foster babies) that I hardly have time to do anything else. Finding 15 hours to complete training is like asking me to find a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, I somehow managed to find them, so that particular stressor is finally behind me.

I haven’t been to church in 3 long weeks. Sickish toddlers kept me away two Sundays. The other Sunday I was out thanks to a two year old boy’s first science experiment involving a bottle of Zantac (that he somehow managed to open in spite of the child safety cap) and some kitchen cleaner. Concerned that he may have ingested some of the concoction, I stayed home and kept in close contact with a kind lady from the Poison Control Center.  Thankfully, no symptoms other than hyperactivity were noticed and calamity was once again avoided.

Then there is my house, the one which is once again for rent or for sale.  I could probably write an entire  blog post about that, but I won’t. It’s suffice to say that my current situation is nothing short of baffling. Changing renters should be simple enough. One renter moves out. Another one moves in. And yet this time around it has been anything but simple. I have never before had anyone threaten me to never contact them again, much less a person who was living on my property. <SIGH> Well, I have now. It happened this January.  And I didn’t even realize there was a problem between me and my former renter.

All month long it has been one thing after another. To me, it seems that …

January has become my prison. 

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Last Friday, my sister had her baby. Sweet little Mallory Piper was born via C-section at about 8 am on January 23rd, weighing in at 7 lbs 15 oz.  She is perfectly healthy with the most adorable chubby cheeks.  And I can hardly wait until I get to meet her in person.

In a way, it seems unreal that Mallory is already here.

Perhaps you can remember when we were picking names and debating on genders right here on my blog late last summer? It really wasn’t all that long ago, and yet it almost feels like a lifetime has happened between then and now.

One thing about grief is you never know what will blindside you. For example, I never anticipated my niece’s birth to bring up an entire host of intense emotions. But then again, I never anticipated my father wouldn’t be around to see the birth of this granddaughter.

I remember his delight as he announced to me what my sister had already told me, that he would be getting a new grandchild. While I cannot remember if he predicted this baby would be a boy or a girl, I do know he was tickled pink when Brooke announced she was expecting another daughter. And I certainly recall how he adamantly insisted that no grandchild of his would ever be named Hazel because a long time ago he had a mean teacher name Hazel and he had never liked the name since.

Now Mallory is with us, but my dad isn’t … and that leaves me with a strange lump in my throat that mingles with the joy and excitement of being an aunt again. As much as I already adore and love that sweet baby girl, her arrival makes me miss my father’s presence a little more. I definitely wasn’t prepared to experience these feelings along with my niece’s birth.

But truthfully, I wasn’t prepared at all for January 2015.

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Ask my children and they will tell you that I am often reminding them not to wish their lives away.

Enjoy being thirteen,” I tell my middle girl. “I know there are so many things you want to do … drive a car, go on a date,  You will be Sweet Sixteen you know it. But thirteen will never come around again.”  (Of course, I don’t tell her that very few are the number of adults who would actually voluntarily live through being 13 again.  She’ll discover that soon enough on her own.)

I know Geometry is a pain in the rear, but instead of wishing you could go back to elementary school, focus on the good things about being in the 10th grade.”  (Of course, the high school sophomore doesn’t want to heed that advice. It’s much easier to moan and complain.)

But lately, I haven’t been able to take my own advice either.

I’m stuck in the middle of January, and I can’t get out.

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Paige, Lately God has put you on my heart, and I’ve been praying for you.  What I’d really like to do is something that would help and encourage you. Can I take the two little ones one day this week? My girls and I would enjoy spending time with them and giving you a bit of a break.

I thought I was surely hearing things.

It was Sunday afternoon. Just that morning, while the rest of my family worshipped at church, I sat at home with two small children and prayed, “God, I just need a break. I’m weary and worn and I can’t go on much longer.

Now my friend had called me out of the blue, with an offer so sweet it felt as welcome as drops of water on parched, dry lips.

All month long I’ve felt alone in the trenches, forgotten in the battle, desperate for some piece of encouragement. Day after day I get up, put on a brave face and continue to soldier forward into the fray that has become my daily life … aching for February, and hoping that with it will come a blessed relief to my soul.

But here was my relief.  And it came while it was still January.

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The God of the Bible has many names, and one of my favorites has always been El Roi, which is translated as “God Who Sees.”

I might have felt alone, but God always saw me. He didn’t forget about me, and my little life currently filled with so much stress.

And while I desperately desired nothing more than a new month on the calendar as a hope of getting some peace restored, God sent someone to minister to me right in the middle of the longest, driest month of my life.

When my January wouldn’t end, God gave me something better than February.

He gave me a friend.

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Yes, it’s still January and all my troubles are still here. But I have been reminded that I am not alone … and today, my friend ministered to my heart, bringing to me a taste of God’s peace and love right in the middle of winter in my soul.

I am thankful for friends who do such nice things in the middle of January. I am grateful to be loved by a God who sees me and loves me and cares about my heart.

And both of these things are better than anything February might bring.

Two are better than one … For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.  ~ Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

Thank you, Lauren … you’ll never know how very much today was needed. I’m grateful for a friend like you.

The First 24 … and then some

It’s been a little over 24 hours since two precious babies were dropped off at my home … our first placement as a foster family.

I can’t give out names or identifying details about the children left in our charge, but I can say that we are loving on a set of siblings. A little boy with blond hair and big brown eyes who is not quite two years old and his baby sister (age nine months) with the most adorable round face, big blue eyes and a smile to melt your heart. For the purposes of my blog, I’ll refer to them as “Lil’ Man” and “Cutie-Pie.”

As cute as these two are (and they are oh-so cute), it’s been a wild, chaotic, stressful night and day around here.

I had forgotten all about babies!  I know I’ve mothered three from infancy on, but I have apparently grown rusty on all things baby.  Jon and I realized that our schedule just hasn’t been thrown a curve ball … our schedule has been thrown out the window! We are now marching to the beat of two tiny people, who eat and sleep and even take baths on a schedule.

Cutie Pie arrived with a nasty cold and cough. Is there anything worse than a baby with a rattly chest?! My momma’s heart wants to just rush her off to the doctor, but we don’t even have a pediatrician yet. And she’s since is fever-free and mostly content to play, I figure our over-the-counter medications can keep things under control until Monday morning.

Lil’ Man is busy, fascinated by everything electronic or highly breakable, and extremely LOUD. He’s definitely a normal almost two-year old. His speech is very garbled, but we can hear him mimicking us from time to time. So far the only time he is quiet is when he is sleeping or watching Barney … Good old Barney is still entertaining to toddlers  and irritating adults all these years later!

The five big kids in the house are delighted to help. Tonight there was actually a small bru-ha-ha over who would get to bath the babies. These two are not in need of loving hands to hold them, play with them, feed, them, rock them, or sing “The Itsty-Bitsy Spider” for the 50th time in a row.

So if you are wondering how we are doing … well, it’s just like any other house with two babies under two.

Thanks for the prayers and words of encouragement. We are completely dependent on prayer right now, and trusting that God will continue to help us find our footing in this exciting time.

Now, I’m off to start another load of laundry! It’s amazing how much laundry two little people can create!

Finished! (Never mind … I’ve Not Even Begun)

Yesterday afternoon about 1:30 the phone call finally came.

Our paperwork is complete. Jon and I are officially logged into the foster care system and available to take a child into our home.

Whew! For a while, I wasn’t sure it was ever going to happen.  Those first few weeks, everything flew into place. I couldn’t seem to get it to all slow down.

And then everything came to a sudden halt.

Not only did things not move forward. It even seemed we were taking steps back. I found myself questioning our motives and wondering if we were up to the challenge. A minor family crisis involving one of our five children almost made us decide to close the door on this ministry.

But we decided to wait on God and let Him either close or open the door.

We waited and watched … and very slowly the last few steps were accomplished in an orderly manner.

And with that one phone call, I sat back and breathed a big sigh, “It’s finished!”

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I only thought it was finished yesterday.  What was finished was nothing more than the beginning.

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Today the phone rang again. Almost at the same exact time.

Again, it was our foster care worker with news … two kids on their way to our home.

And suddenly, just as quickly, all the relief of yesterday vanished. My heart is turning in a million directions. I’m overwhelmed with nerves and heartache, while at the same time eager to do what God has asked me and my family to do.

Any time a child is placed into foster care, there has been a tragedy. An awful thing has happened. And yet to have the chance to love on these two precious babies is an opportunity I  want to embrace.

I’ve got just an hour to get ready. I’ve got just a few minutes to get things together. There are a million things to do, or so it seems. Put the crib together. Straighten in the nursery and make sure there is nothing a toddler shouldn’t have laid about. Baby proof the living room. Start supper because I imagine cooking once they arrive will be hard to accomplish. And yet I sit here writing …

Because my heart is breaking… Two babies ripped out of their home … so even though they are coming to me where I will keep them safe and fed and hopefully happy, these two precious ones have already been through something terrible to bring them to my door.

Because my heart is anxious… Will I have enough energy for this? Can my family take the stress and strain of caring for two small children? Are we going to regret this decision or will it be the best thing we’ve ever done?

Because my heart is filled with excitement… God has asked me and my family to dare to love and we’ve said yes. It’s always thrilling to see how God will use us and there is a part of me expecting great and wonderful things.

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Yesterday, when I thought those words, “it is finished,” I recalled how those were the final words Jesus uttered on the cross. We call that day Good Friday, not because His suffering was good but because through it all humanity gained salvation.

Today is a good Friday in my home and in my life. Not that it begins to compare to the Good Friday of Easter, but rather because it signifies that we are following God in faith, dependent upon Him to meet our every need in this endeavor.

It’s good because God will meet us where we are and will give us all we need. This much I know to be true.

Still … if you think of the two babies heading to my home and of my family as we welcome them with love, I would love knowing you are praying with us and for us.

Because we’ve not finished anything. We’ve only just begun.

Fears

Another post combining assignments from Writing 101. This time I am completing assignment 17 (addressing one of your worst fears) along with assignment 19 (an unedited free write of at least 400 words).  

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When I was eight or nine years old, there was a scary incidence which involved me getting caught in a strong current while swimming with a friend. Actually, we were on the underside of a barge-type party boat, holding onto the metal frame and talking in the cool shade it provided. The barge was on the river, anchored but with the motor idling. No parents or other adults were with us, aware of what we were doing. In my memory, it also seems as if it might have been lightly raining as well, which was why we were perhaps underneath the barge, but of this I remain uncertain. However, one thing is always crystal clear in that memory:  I knew my parents would have disapproved of the activity in which I was participating.  Yet I was there … unable to say no to my friend, feeling guilty, but participating anyway.

At some point in the afternoon, my hands slipped off the metal frame, and I found myself trapped in a current. Although I knew how to swim relatively well in a safe pool, I wasn’t skilled at river swimming and I didn’t know how to get out of the current. Suddenly, I realized I was being pulled toward the motor of the barge. In that moment, I recall how everything moved in slow-motion. I never felt frightened, though I rightfully should have been.  Rather it was more like watching a movie of someone else instead of the feeling of impending danger being directed toward myself.

To this day, I don’t recall if anyone, including me,  shouted or screamed. I don’t remember who reached out and pulled me from the current, or whether I thanked them afterwards.  All I remember was the intense relief that washed over me.  I wasn’t going to be caught in my disobedience.

To this day, I have a fear of being caught in the act of doing something terribly wrong. I suppose as far as fears go it isn’t such a bad one to have. After all, it’s kept me from a lot of trouble and heartache over the years.

The older I get, the more I struggle with the fear of obedience rather than the fear of disobedience. Not obedience to parents or laws or even traditional morals. I’m talking about obedience to God, particularly the sort of obedience in which He asks us to do something hard and unexpected. I fear God asking me to do something I don’t want to do, something big and scary that might cause me some discomfort or a change in the lifestyle I’ve grown accustomed to living.

For years, I toyed with the idea of adoption. It was more talk than anything, a sort of respect and love for those I knew who adopted and a desire to follow in their footsteps. Even as a single mother, I expressed a desire and a longing to adopt a child, always imagining a special needs child from a foreign land. After Jon and I married, the topic came up for discussion more than once, but we were never on the same page.

A couple of months ago, Jon called me and suggested we find a way to go to a local Wait No More Conference, sponsored by Focus on the Family. All either of us knew was that it was for families interested in adoption or foster care. Obviously, I was mainly interested in adoption and Jon was still highly skeptical of both.

And yet, by the time the day was over, Jon and I were both on the same page … foster care with the option to adopt.

Let me be frank … obedience in this situation scares me to no end. The mere idea of bringing a child, one who has suffered so much, into our home. I’m sure any questions or concerns you can think of, I’ve already thought of and more. Jon and I constantly check our motives.

Up until about two months ago, I never really gave foster care much of a thought. I didn’t hear of it within my social realms or talk with others who were into fostering children. But once I began to hear God calling out to me, fostering is everywhere. I’ve met other bloggers who foster, became aware of former foster children in my own church, and even discovered a church in my community with a ministry geared toward foster families.

The most amazing part is how in a relatively short time Jon and I have gone from being divided and uncertain regarding God’s desires for our family to being united and certain of what God is showing us to do.  Our hearts and our home are opened to His plan for our family, and very likely one day soon, perhaps even by the end of the summer, there will be more than just the seven of us living here.

I’m sure there will be plenty of hard moments as a foster mother. My eyes are wide-open. And I’m a bit scared of the entire proposition, if the truth be told.

And yet, in the end, I am far more fearful of being disobedient to God than of being faithful to follow through in obedience to His calling for my life.

I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. Psalm 199:60