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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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.

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