I’m back

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Time is not always on my side. It evades me like the receding waves of the great blue. That is about the most poetic sentence you will ever read from me.

I have not written in quite some time. Much has occurred in my reprieve. Four have been sent to their forever home with joyful sorrow. We always knew they were never ours to keep forever, but that simply does not make goodbye any less painful. We were confident we were not their landing place, but simply a safe place to rest and refuel. They are with dear friends of ours and we get to see them at least weekly at church. Sweet joyful sorrow. We took a short 3 week break and have moved back into our comfort zone (also known to many as the place where we will not wander!): TEENAGERS!

I love teens. They are so beautifully messy and complicated but they have already arrived at who they will essentially be for the remainder of their lives. We are not molding very young minds, but rather challenging older minds to tweak their thinking on life. We know that at this point in the game the only major behavior changes will depend largely on their willingness to accept Christ, who is the only one who can redeem them and heal their deepest scars. We cannot heal them. We cannot fix them. We CAN be a constant, secure, safe, place where they learn life skills, consistency, steadfast love, and boundaries. We hope and pray that we can leave a lasting impact on their hearts, but we know all too well, that job ultimately belongs to the Spirit. We might be blessed enough to play a role in our obedience, but even that is a long shot. Pray for our effectiveness and the willingness of the Spirit to use us up! More to come, soon (at least I hope)!

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Game On!

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So, my sexy husband and I had a date night this past weekend. Whenever we get a date night, it begins the same way. Rush around to get all of our kids delivered. Get in the car. Finish my make-up. Put on any shoes and jewelry I grabbed on the way out. Make sure no child’s bodily fluid made it onto my signature black sweater, blouse, top, dress, whatever black I happen to have clean in the closet. Turn off the cartoons that are blaring in the back and put on some music that we used to get to enjoy so often. Look at each other as though we aren’t quite sure what to do next. Then, we both take in a deep breath and try to slow down. But after all of that happened on this particular date, the strangest thing was said. “Hey, babe! I miss you.” And I acknowledged that, as a matter of fact, I missed him too. Neither of us had been anywhere. In fact, we are home together just about 7 nights a week. We are just so busy with everyday stuff that we miss each other, often literally.

The interactions between my spouse and me quite resemble those of individuals participating in a team sport. Very often I feel as though we are a team of two defending ourselves, and our home, from a team of 6 little children. Not a very fair division of teams, if you ask me. We run around putting out fires here, keeping food off the floor there, pacifying a baby here, and wiping poop over there… WAY over there. We work very hard to not let the children score on us, but very frequently they get one in; we have 2, that’s right TWO, broken toilets in our house along with a ceiling fan with broken blades, one masterpiece of crayon on our linoleum floor accompanied by two more on our walls, and these are just the visible war wounds.  Every once in awhile in this game we play, particularly on bath night (yes, my friend, we are the bad parents who don’t bathe their children every day, but that is another topic for another post some other time when I have energy to defend our team against the overwhelming population of parents who bathe children nightly… overachievers!) if you were to watch us in action you would swear that we are not only participating in a sporting event against 6 children, but the children become the balls that we toss around trying to keep time with each other. Toss a child here to bathe, there to dry, over here to dress, over there to brush teeth and hair, and finally score by tossing them in a bed, any bed will do.

There are parts of this game that we have perfected quickly. For instance, the morning routine: we are able to get everyone dressed, including ourselves, find socks and shoes for all (a small miracle, really, just ask any parent of 4 or more children), brush teeth, feed the ones who don’t eat at school, make sure backpacks are on, and children are strapped in a car seat, GO. And, to top it all off we do it without discussing who has to dress which child and what needs to be done next. We just do it. And it does not look the same every day; I mean we do not have ‘assigned’ tasks. It is moments such as these I am amazed at our ability to function as a unit without even realizing what it would look like if we were not that in sync. It could be compared to watching the top 4 teams of March Madness. They move around the court in a rhythm that makes little sense to those on the outside; they look like a well oiled machine. On the other hand, there are moments we are severely lacking in our ability to conquer the children. In other words, we look like the first 4 teams to be eliminated in March Madness. Those teams look clumsy and as though they have not been playing as a team for years. Prime example: dinner time is utter chaos, still, 7 months in. There seems to be no rhyme or reason or rhythm to the dinner routine. There are times we are getting better at managing it, but we have not figured out the best way to make dinner time work in our home. Food ends up on walls, children end up on floors, the trash can overflows, we never get to sit because we are running behind chasing children or seconds, sort of like the way a less prepared team plays defense running after the other team. After dinner, baths (yes, only on certain nights), clean the kitchen, and brush our own teeth (we do brush teeth every day), our heads hit the pillow and all we really want to do is shut down. We are asleep earlier and earlier, which has nothing to do with daylight savings time but everything to do with our life-season. We spend less time in pillow talk. We spend more time losing ourselves in slightly-inappropriate, but completely hysterical comedy because it makes us laugh, and I mean laugh hard enough I pee a little (it’s a mom thing). And really, that may be a highlight to our days. We get to laugh together and we enjoy it.

Nonetheless, we perform this crazy, wild, exotic dance around the house dribbling children and cleaning floors. We high five one another in the hallway and even work in an ‘at-a-boy’ from time to time, you know, to keep the romance alive. Our conversations and points of contact all revolve around this game we are playing right now. And we know this game is only temporary but the weight of this game is heavy. We know the goal is not for us to win, but to prepare children to enter a world where they are able to rely on the only true Sustainer of Life. On the way home from our rather somber, but still enjoyable, date I turned to my husband and asked “Are you not so ready to get our lives back?” He looked at me and said “I don’t even know what that would look like.” I had to agree. We are so lost in this new life we don’t know what life on the other side will look like. I was instantly reminded of scripture and reminded him “Are we sure we even want our lives back. For Jesus said, ‘Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.’” He said I was right about that and we were content with one another and our crazy life together. Further, once we get on the other side of this current season, I can assure you that life will not be the same as it once was. Our eyes have been opened to a new world, a world we will never be able to ignore again.

You see, on our date we recognized a deep understanding that things have changed. Our relationship has changed. Who we are has changed. Our values and priorities have changed. Reality has shifted. Change is the natural reflection that we are allowing Christ to live in us, and it is not easy.  We still grieve the loss of our previous life. I sinfully covet the days of absolute freedom when I only had to think of myself and my husband. But even in those days I longed for what I have now. Am I never content?? I always am in need of reminding that our life on this earth is but a vapor. With all that Christ sacrificed for me, am I not willing to joyfully lay down this vapor of a life for Him to use as he sees fit? Sometimes it feels as though we are only bearing up under the weight of this season, but in our bearing, my prayer is that we would not drift or move backwards. We may not be moving forward, but neither will we slip. Growth is almost always painful, but the reward is of eternal matter. Our team of two is definitely the underdog in this game, but there is always room for a Cinderella story.

Be a Hero! Be a Foster Parent!

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“Be a Hero! Be a Foster Parent!”

What a lovely slogan? Right? I love looking at that sign on billboards and watching it scroll across the screen of the commercial that plays on our local stations. And it is so sweet to watch the little girl dressed by her foster mom in her cute little costume and in walks sweet Foster Dad and goofs up by calling her a horse when she is really a lion and they all laugh and all is well. I am always amazed at how nicely and neatly the mama has sewn (who has time for that??) the costume together and how everyone in the commercial is all smiles and nice and friendly. They laugh together and it touches our hearts. Right? At least that is what the producers are hoping for.

If I were speaking to a room full of people who are foster parents and those who were considering becoming foster parents, I might show that commercial followed by these commands: “Now raise your hand if you are a foster parent. Look around folks. Now, keep your hand raised if this even remotely gives a true glimpse into your home as a foster family.” I don’t think anyone who fosters would be shocked to see the majority of the hands go down. There are so many reasons this is not REAL foster care. I believe one problem the agencies have a hard time retaining foster families is because unrealistic glimpses, such as this commercial, send the message that this business is not messy. And it is OH so messy! Further, you may go into foster care to be a HERO but you will find that fostering quickly and harshly points out all of the ways you fall short, daily. You will be a hero, don’t get me wrong. But it will not come in a nice, tidy package that is labeled “hero.” In all of the mess you will lose yourself and find more of Jesus to replace you, but the kids you touch will eventually know they have been loved and will have seen Jesus in you. And that makes you a hero.

A few messy truths about foster care:

For beginners, when you are licensed with the state to become a foster parent, you tell the agency how many children you are willing to take, what ages you would like, you can request specific genders and races, and give a list of special circumstances you are not willing to take. They listen to you, write that down, put it in your file, they know when they call what your “limits” are. RARELY do they call you with only one child. Children in the foster care system usually come in groups and the agencies (rightfully so) fight to keep those groups together. These children have just been ripped from their parents and to be ripped from their siblings should be avoided if that is at all possible. I do not blame the agency for overcapping (overcap means to give me more kids than I am licensed for) me. In a year and a half our home has been overcapped 4 times and one of those times we were double overcapped, which means they gave me more kids than I said I would take AND they gave me more kids than the state allows in my house. It is not their fault. Nor is it mine or the children’s. These guys came as a group and a group they shall stay. The commercial tells future foster parents that you can have one little child and the phone won’t ring again. But to think that you will actually become a foster parent and only foster one child at a time for the duration of your calling would be to err in thought. There is a chance you could fall into the scandalously low percentage of foster homes who are never overcapped and only ever take one, but the chances of that happening are very slim, my friend. When you sign up for this game, you need to know the rules don’t always apply. Also, you should be willing to at least consider taking more than one because the need is great and siblings should be kept together.

Next, the commercial does not give you any kind of glimpse into the world of co-parenting. Hopefully when you become a foster parent you will understand that this is not a clean path to adoption. If adoption is your only goal, and you want to adopt without getting any scars along the way, you should choose a different route. Kids who come into foster care have not been given up for adoption. They have been severed from their lifeline- their bio parents. Their parents likely did not want to have their children snatched from them. Most parents are going to work to get their children back, even if they only work at it half-heartedly. And on top of this, many of the kids in foster care DO NOT want to be adopted. They want their “real family” back. What this means for you is that you are going to be expected to co-parent. And you will probably resist and not like it. But I can tell you it is worth it, truly. What you will find in this system are parents who have not been taught how to parent. You probably will not have to look far up the family tree to figure out why mom or dad is the way she/he is, and why these sweet bundles are in your care. You will need to have grace, compassion, and mercy. In our house it looks like this: invite moms into our home for visits and dinners and laundry and fellowship, transport children to and from visits that we supervise, invite members of their family to church with ours and even drive them if they need it, send them letters, pictures, report cards, phone calls, allow parents to come and help their children get ready for school in the early morning, pray for them, encourage them, and forgive them. They have a hard enough time forgiving themselves; they don’t need your judgment. Sure there have been times where we weren’t able or willing to do all of this given certain circumstances. But when we have been able to, it has made all the difference. When children and parents don’t feel like we are fighting against them everyone can relax. What a mama who has lost her children really wants to know is that her babies are safe in your home. You can provide that mama with a piece of mind that nobody else can. It will be messy, but it is worth it. And there may be times it gets too messy to continue, and that is ok too. Your willingness to co-parent will speak volumes. God will bless your efforts and knows your heart.

The commercial and billboards fall very short in showing you all of the people, appointments, phone calls, and court dates/meetings that are involved in foster care. The kids that come to you in foster care will have appointments, and then some. If the kids are relatively healthy you can at least count on having counseling appointments weekly. If they are not so healthy, or have developmental delays, you can expect many doctor appointments, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, mental health therapy, specialty appointments, and conferences with case managers on the phone. You may feel as though you cannot even see through the week because of all of the appointments. And just when you think your calendar is full you will get notice of a court date, or staffing meeting, or visit from the Guardian Ad Litem, or visit from the case worker. You will feel like you should swap your front door for a revolving one, as people come in and out to see you, your home, and your kids. It can get overwhelming. But all of this is just mess the enemy uses to get our eyes off of the focus: love these kids as Christ does. These calendar items often wear me out faster than anything else. When we first took in 4 kids (we have 2 already), I got my first taste of the overwhelming calendar. I remember crying to one of the therapists who was criticizing my parenting because I was not getting 2 of the kids to speech each week on top of the 6 other appointments, 4 visits, etc, that we were already maintaining. I did not know how I was going to do it. I couldn’t. I have since found a solution to getting these kids the services they need, but the real, immediate, solution came from our pastor via my husband. “Relax. You are giving them exactly what they need, you are giving them Jesus. The other things are good, but they don’t need speech as much as they need Jesus.” And it hit me. Jesus is the whole reason we are subjecting ourselves to this. Why was I letting all of the other stuff affect me so deeply? When you foster, just know it is going to be a new kind of busy and exhausting. You are inviting Satan into your home to sift you as wheat. But it is holy work. You can give these kids more than any doctor, therapist, or case worker. You can show these kids what it looks like to live out Jesus on a daily basis. Spiritual warfare is dealing with eternity… speech won’t matter in Heaven.

One more important item the commercial does not rightly portray: the kid seems happy, maybe even grateful to be in their home. And there may be kids out there who are happy and grateful to be in your foster home. We had one like this. But most of these kids who come into your care are going to be dealing with all kinds of emotions: fear, sadness, anger, rejection, abandonment, confusion, bitterness. They will have the capacity for happiness, and gratefulness, and will come to be happy with you, but it will take time and work. And they may weave in and out of highs and lows for a long, long time. As I already stated, these kids have essentially been torn apart from the only lifeline they know, their mom or dad. In most cases, these children are separated from their parents because of abuse or neglect or substance abuse. They have experienced trauma and usually on a level that we foster parents cannot even comprehend or empathize with. It will take lots of patience and perseverance to wait out the storms that may erupt from seemingly nowhere. These kids may have written off adults altogether. Or they may be so angry with mom that they take it out on you. Or they may be so withdrawn that you cannot see a glimmer of hope for connecting with this beloved child. You may even face persecution from within your own home. All I can say is this is holy work. It may take the better part of their adult life, but you will have planted a seed that will stick in their memories. You will have given them a glimpse of what a life of love with Christ looks like and an idea of why it is better than the alternatives. And if you are lucky, they will remain in contact with you, even once they have been reunified, and you will be able to continue speaking truth into their lives. We remain in contact with one of our teens who aged out. She may not always make the best decisions, but the connection remains. My hope is that we planted a seed she won’t be able to ignore when she outgrows the days of her youth.

Please know that I am not trying to dissuade you from becoming a foster parent. Nor am I trying to scare you off. Fostering is one of the most worthy callings. And LORD knows the need is immense. These children are the least of these that Jesus talks about in the New Testament. And what you will find is these children bless more than you could ever bless them because they make you rely on Christ more and more to survive. They will cause you to flesh out all of your doubts, judgments, hate, unbelief, and sin. When we look at the system of foster care, it is obviously broken, in desperate need of repair. But as one of our pastors just pointed out, nowhere in the Bible will you find God instructing a government agency to care for orphans. God instructs the church to care for the orphans. Bearing through the red tape is one of the hardest parts of foster care, but the reward is greater than you can imagine. The only thing you need to be successful is to hold fast to the anchor which is Christ.

Hebrews 6:19-20

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Oh No He Didn’t!

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We went out for a fun Saturday (see my Fun Mama post for some background). And we had tons of fun! We started at a fabulous local farm with tons of fun for kids. They had the most fantastic tree house complete with windows, slides, swings, and a zip line. The boys played war with 20 or so other boys on acres of property. We pet rabbits. We observed pigs smelling our hands. The big kids got to shoot farm cannons and paint pumpkins. The plus side to all the fun is that we got a large box full of fresh, organic fruits and veggies. We went home and the kids crashed. Nap time lasted long enough for me to get all the produce washed, chopped, and put away.

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As kids started stirring, my dear sister came over to help get kids in clown costumes. (My husband had taken our 7 year old to look at a 12 passenger van, but came back empty handed.) So we started getting 5 children 4 and under in full clown getup. (Note to self, never do clown makeup on kids under 3.5 again. Tears and yelling do not a clown make.) By the time we finished, I was flustered and the house looked as though 5 mini-tornadoes had come through and stayed for awhile. BUT, I was bound and determined to have fun today! So, once Brian made it back home he loaded the 5 kids while I got the last one clown ready. We set off to trick-or-treat down our small town Main Street. We had a really nice time. Nobody was lost. Everyone got some candy. No diaper catastrophes. No meltdowns. A nice evening.

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However, as we were leaving, the oldest child says “I didn’t even get a lot of candy. This is not enough.” In my mind “Wait a minute, WHAT!?? OH, NO HE DIDN’T!!” and before I could stop myself I reminded him “I did not want to do Halloween to begin with. You should be thankful for the candy you got!” Uh-oh… overreaction. The conversation was over and the teachable moment lost to my lack of thought before speech. Insert apology.

Later that night, in the shower (where my best thinking occurs), I was remembering the conversation and still quite steamy over the fact that he was so ungrateful for what he had been given. I was so annoyed that he is just never satisfied. And that led me to the fact that this seems to be a constant issue in our home. As I was remembering this 7 year old’s complaint, I felt the Spirit tugging on my heart. Guess what, fellow mama; our dear children get their cues from us. And right there in the shower I came face to face with my covetous sin. Am I ever satisfied? How often do I long for a bigger house, a better yard, a better vehicle, a thinner waist, newer clothes, a better kitchen, a fill-in-the-blank? If I only had these things, then I could be happy and do so much better, right? But we all know that is a trap of the enemy, discontentment and greed breed more discontentment and greed. Are we ever satisfied? As I look at all that has been given to me, my response should be face-down praising God for His kindness. Instead, like the Israelites, my complaining keeps me from entering God’s promised land of rest. I pray that I don’t have to wander in the wilderness for 40 years before I get it!

I have learned this lesson so many times already; Our kids have a way of revealing our hearts in relation to our Loving Father in Heaven. Where we find frustration with our children, we might start examining our hearts for the same attitudes toward our God. If we stop growing and responding to the Spirit   , we risk denying the same growth to the ones who are watching us, our children. If I want to teach my children to acknowledge that all things are God’s and should be counted as blessings from Him, then I better start living like I believe it. After all, actions speak louder than words. Thankfully, He is never finished renovating me! Amen?

Ecclesiastes 5:10 “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.”

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Fun Mamas

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I do not consider myself a fun mama, at least not lately. I am great at many aspects of being a mom, but fun is not one of them this season. I desperately want to be fun, but usually the work of fun supersedes the conscious decisions to make fun happen. To be fun you have to be intentional. Creating intentional fun for a large family of little children is a chore, for sure. For instance, loading up two children to go bowling is no big deal. Throw them in the car, grab a diaper or two, and go. Enjoy! Now, imagine the scenario with 6 children 7 years and under. Only three of those are potty trained. Now we are grabbing more diapers, lots of wipes, sippy cups, change of clothes for at least 3 (there is bound to be a blowout diaper in public), wait patiently in line as the clerk gets 8 pairs of shoes, keep kids calm as we put every name into the computer, and finally try to keep them all herded at the same bowling lane while we rotate through every individual bowler. Takes on a whole new dimension of exhausting. Same theory applies to the zoo, the beach (only now there is water involved so don’t let anyone drown, oh and swimsuits and swim diapers), the park, etc. So as Halloween is approaching I am hiding from my children who want to know how many more days until Halloween.

I hate Halloween. And not because I am a Christian with strong beliefs that we will not celebrate the Devil’s day (although I sometimes like to cling to that as an excuse even), because I am not one of those (no offense if this is your stance, I respect it). I hate it because I hate the hassle of costumes. I hate the candy brought home by the pounds that I will have to hide from the children and tell them no repeatedly because two of our kiddos have rotting teeth already. I hate the thought of trying to keep 6 kids close enough to keep safe without the use of ropes or leashes or magic. With Halloween looming, I have been ducking out or casually giving a nod here and there when the topic arises. I hide behind my locked door waiting for the hype to die down. I act as though I do not hear their pleas. I bury myself in housework ignoring the longing to go haunt the night. I might have even dropped a few “Well, we will see about Halloween.” After two months of relentless questioning I realized, my kids were not going to let this one go. So, as the procrastinator I am, I set out to wait until the last minute hoping against all hope that Halloween would skip us. Why couldn’t Halloween come on Leap Day?

Just when they were facing certain disappointment, my dear sister (a.k.a. the fun mom), jumps in and creates 6 clown costumes that have not required a single dime from either of us. All of the material was on hand already. Although before it is said and done I will have bought a face painting kit. She is the crafty type that can create all kinds of amazing things all while raising three boys that are 4 and under. She lets her kids create with her no matter the mess it makes. She is the one who allowed 6 toddlers to ice skate on shaving cream on her kitchen floor and called it mopping. I sometimes envy her motivation to stay busy and get things accomplished while including the children. Thanks to her, my kids will not miss Halloween this year! AND, as if it isn’t enough that she has created their costumes from scratch, she is coming over to help me get all 6 dressed, painted, and wigged. They will surely have a reason to celebrate. Auntie has saved them again! Thank you for coming to the rescue of my poor children who do not have a fun mama. They will be forever grateful for the memories you have helped us create.

To all of you fun mamas out there, take notice of other mamas who appear too overwhelmed to have fun and give a sister a hand. They will be eternally thankful! And mamas who don’t think you are much fun, try to laugh with each of your kids at least once every day. It will carry your relationship far.

Pictures of our clowns to come!

Paradigm Shifts: Moving into Large Family Mode

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It occurred to me today our family has undergone some serious paradigm shifts in the last 6 months. For a year and half we have fostered. We have seen 17 children in and out of our home in that time. We have had great experiences. Most of the children left us quickly to go to family or were united with parents. And most of our placements were one maybe two children. But 6 months ago our world was rocked and out of necessity our habits evolved quickly.

6 months ago we said yes to a sibling group of four who did not have a plan of reunification.

We are licensed to take two children of the same sex.

We have requested to work with teens.

We are very comfortable with children who will be with us for a predetermined time frame, which is usually revolving around the details of getting these children placed with family members. So, when they called us to take two or three from this sibling group of FOUR children, 3 boys, 1 girl, ages 7,4,2,1, although we did not surprise God, we surprised ourselves when we said we would try to take them all.

Our family doubled in size over night. We now basically had two sets of twins (our bio children are 3 and 2), and our birth order was displaced. All that in perspective, these are the shifts that have happened so far:

We have moved to paper plates. I never thought I would be the mom who served her children food exclusively on paper plates, but out of necessity we started. In fact, when Brian and I first married, we refused to even buy paper napkins or paper towels. We recycled EVERYTHING! We are the type of people who care about our Earth and we try not to spend money on things that will end up in the trash can. But… then there were 8.

Laundry sits in baskets for days at a time. I am washing, and drying, 1-2 loads of laundry EVERY SINGLE DAY. It does not always get put directly away. In our house the term laundry has become synonymous with Satan. On several occasions I have threatened to take away all articles of clothing leaving only 7 of everything. My husband is still bucking this, but I am strategically breaking him down.

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Bath time is no longer a leisurely activity for children to play and discover how water flies and what happens when you get bubbles in your nose. It more closely resembles a hosing down with some suds involved before I toss you out of the tub and over to dad as he hands me the next one to hose off while he dresses the previously bathed child.

Dinner time is a no sit assembly line. 8 plates out, check! 3 sippy cups with working lids, check! 3 small cups for children, check! 2 adult glasses, ummmm… honey? A spoon of each dish on each plate. Pray, because once the plates hit the table there is no going back to pray. Throw plates on the table and run to my plate. Quickly eat a few bites while standing because someone is going to want seconds in 3, 2, 1! Throw plates in trash. Done… whew!

I allow 3 and 4 year old children to clean the bathrooms. Why do for kids what they can do for themselves? Makes perfect sense, right? It may not be perfect, but it is done.

We have used respite care 4 times since May. In our first year, we did not use respite at all. We had it covered. Now with 6 kids to find a place to go, I have run out of options. Not to mention, I feel like I am constantly in need of revitalization.

I find that I am in contact with other foster parents almost every day. In fact, foster parents have quickly become our closest friends. I believe this is out of pure survival instinct. We survive better in herds than alone. These little children will not devour us as long as we stick together. However, I would dare to say that if it were not for our herd we would have quit, called in the troops, waved our white flag and had these kids sent elsewhere. Not because we do not love them, but because this is the hardest thing we have ever had to balance. We are daily grateful that the Lord has provided us so generously with a herd.

My house is never clean for longer than 20 minutes. And that 20 minutes only happens at the end of naptime, on the days I have spent the entire naptime cleaning house.

We have learned to die to ourselves in ways we did not know we were capable. Our hearts are being forever shaped and molded by the Spirit in us. We are no longer able to turn a blind eye to the broken world in which we live.

I assumed that the legal system would handle cases with importance. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! I am learning the court system of foster care vigorously day in and day out. I am learning that though we long for justice, it does not always come swiftly.

I projected that I would have a hard time loving parents who would let their children go. I have learned how to have compassion for a young mama that cannot overcome her addiction to care for her children. I see the love she has for her children and bear her cross with her. I see that her addiction to sin is no different from my own addiction to sin, we just choose different sins. I am faced daily with the truth that I may be the only glimpse of Jesus she gets.

As a former educator who held education with high regard , I know there are more important things than grades and the public school’s way of classifying students. If our kiddos can learn to heal and love all the while learning about our Savior, VICTORY! Who cares about their grades (I still care, but not to the extent I once did)?

I once mediated all disagreements in our home. The fire extinguisher has been retired. My husband and I cannot possibly put out all the fires that happen in a house of 6 young children. We have stopped trying. There is usually a blanket “Be nice!” or “Be kind!” that is stated 4,781 each day. With 6 kids who has time for one-on-one lecture and intensive play therapy to figure out what the problem is? Be nice and get over it!

With only two little children and teens in the house, sleep was abundant. Now, with 6 little ones, sleep, that elusive devil, has hidden from me and I cannot find him. I am tired all the time and all the time I am tired!

For those of you who have, or know of someone who has, large families you could probably add to the list. I envision our family outgrowing our house before too long. Brian has put a cap of 12 on our family, but who knows but God? We know that these kids are not with us permanently but we also know that one day we will have kids who do stay with us permanently. And when that happens, I will have even more shifts to write about.

What Are You So Afraid Of?

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What are you so afraid of? That is the question I want to ask so many folks. But the reality is I already know the answer. I am scared of the exact same things. And now that I am living out this current station of life, I am scared of far more than I could have imagined before we took the dive.

Fear exists. Fear can drive our actions… if we allow it! And so often I have found myself slaving to fear and the one who holds the power of fear, instead of living a life of freedom because I know that the One living in me is greater that he who is living in the world. But I will go ahead and try to work out the fears on paper. Maybe that will make them seem smaller.

Fear in fostering:

  1. This, I believe, is the most irrational fear of all. I am afraid that we are going to allow a serial killer child into our home and in the middle of the night he/she will go into our kitchen and find our sharpest knife (which is still not all that sharp) and first come kill my husband and me in our sleep, leaving our children at the mercy of this killer child who may do as he/she pleases. Completely irrational, but even still after having 17 children of all ages and races in our home, I don’t sleep well for the first month or so because I believe that the new child(ren) are just out to get us. You laugh, and I do too as I write it out, but this is real.
  2. I fear, with every new placement, that I am going to expose my biological children to evil (as if they need a stranger to do that). I guess I imagine a 4 year old thuggish ruggish bone strutting into our home and blaring his version of Tupac all the while cussing and raging at my husband and me. While this is playing out in my head, I see Brian and I, mouth gaping, paralyzed by stress, unable to process thought as we watch our children transform from the sweet, kind, loving girls we have raised into women of the night. Now this is the reality of that fear, there very well could be a child come into our care who has not been taught social norms and appropriate levels of respect and love. He or she may not know what they are not allowed to say in our home or how to treat grownups. They may be so ANGRY with life and adults that they are done trying. But to envision that Brian and I would be speechless and that our children would so easily conform to their behavior is not a fair assessment of the job we have done so far. And even though our little Freckles is only 3 (almost 4) I know her roots are planted firmly in Jesus. She talks about Jesus more than your average Christian adult. We are called to love all of these children, not just because they are from a hard place, but because the Creator loves them and He wills that they do not perish.
  3. I am afraid that they will stay. I know, I know, I know. This is reverse from what most people are afraid of. Most adults fear foster care because there is a great chance that they will get attached to the kids and then the children will be reunified with parents or other family, essentially ripping their hearts right out of their chests with nobody around to heal the hurt. And I understand why that is such a great risk for some folks. But for me, the risk is the other way. Deep down, I know we will adopt someday, but I am not ready today. So, my fear is that these kids will stay. Forever. And ever. Explanation (or excuse) to the hard to swallow truth: First, we have a two year old and three year old and a desire for more bio children. I have always intended on keeping our birth order in our home. So, that limits us on adoptable kids (note: it limits US but not our Great God). We live in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1200 (or less) square foot house, and our yard is one giant ant hill with unruly terrain. When God cursed the land in Genesis, I believe it was our specific plot. We currently have 6 children in our home. They are all littles and we are already bursting at the seams. The flip side of this fear is that it brings about fear that I will not love them the way I would love them if I knew they were here to stay. I fear that the limits I place on time in our home limits my ability to love these precious ones with complete abandon. I fear the wall never comes down. I love them at a safe distance. I love them knowing they will go.
  4. My most sensible fear is my most preeminent fear (“sensible” is obviously in the eye of the beholder). I am sincerely afraid of damaging my bio children more than they will already be damaged by the world without any help from me. I am exposing them to the kind of sin and consequences that most parents try to shelter their children from. I am exposing them to the hurting, broken world that demands our attention and action once we notice it. The kids that come into our home and family require extra. Extra everything. Extra help. Extra love. Extra time. Extra training. Extra careful handling. Extra Jesus. They require my bio children to share EVERYTHING. Share your toys. Share your clothes. Share your turn to pray. Share your room. Share your TV time. Share our chores. Share your helper status. Share your walks with daddy. Share your church class. Share your Yaya and Pa. Share your cousins and aunts and uncles. Share your mommy. Share your daddy. Share your entire world. Nothing is off limits to these kids we invite into our home. I often worry that with too many kids, our kids will feel forgotten or neglected. I fear that they will look back and resent us for not focusing solely on them. And because my kids are only 2 and 3, I have no idea the effect this will actually have. I only know that when I go before the Throne in prayer, the only response I have gotten to this obviously valid complaint (sarcasm there), is that God, who knew we would be here this very day when He laid the foundations of the Earth, has instructed me to be obedient and through our obedience, He is busy writing the story of my Freckles and Blondie. I do not know what God has for these two little ones, but I know that through a lifetime of exposure, they will know that this world and their life is not all about them. They will know what it means to walk obediently and work out their salvation and sanctification. They will have been exposed to a world they will not be able to ignore as adults, and hopefully will spend their lives being the hands and feet of Jesus.
  5. Finally, I have a fear of man. I fear what people will think of me. I have become a crazy lady with too many children. Not to be confused with the crazy cat lady with too many felines, there is no hiding all these children. I am the lady with a crooked ponytail and half-way makeup, who is holding one toddler on my hip, holding another by hand, hollering at one kid to stay close and trying to get the oldest to hold the hand of another. All of this is taking place while my 4 year old attempts cartwheels in the midst of the congregation waiting in line to check out their children from the nursery. I feel like I have little control at times. And I feel like people are watching me. I feel like people are thinking “why would she continue to have so many children when she cannot manage the ones she has?” I feel like they are probably looking at me like I should swat the behind of the 2 year old lying in the floor throwing a royal fit, they just don’t realize that I am not able to do so. I consistently feel as though I owe society and explanation, an excuse. But the reality is, the Bible teaches us that we will not fit in, we will be different, our lives will look different. And the Bible warns that if our lives look like the general population we may need to examine our beliefs in light of who Jesus is.

These do not completely capture all fears associated with foster care, but they are my top 5… at least for now. Overcoming these fears requires a daily denial of myself and a daily recognition that I live for the Most High. I have to remind myself several times throughout the day that God holds the world and all time in His majestic hand. I still have fears. My prayer is to turn these over to the Lord so they do not drive the decisions for my life. I encourage anyone who fears that our Lord and Savior has not given us a spirit of fear. “Do not fear,” or “fear not,” is found over and over again in scripture. This is obviously a struggle of man. God knew we would fear. God knew we would allow fear to seize our hearts. The challenge then is what we do with that fear: do we act on the fear? Or do we stand firm in our faith and continue to run the race with our eyes fixed on Jesus?

The Choosing

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We did not choose to foster. We chose to be obedient to the calling. It took my husband three years get on the foster train. We prayed and prayed that God would lead our family to the battleground where we belonged. I desperately hoped and imagined that our battleground would be in a foreign land, specifically one without all of our American commodities and technologies, where we would Kumbaya around a fire and love on people and tell them about our beautiful Savior (of course there would be no sort of violence or persecution). I wanted a simpler way of life even if that meant that the workload would be challenging. And here we are. Let me assure you, the work is often so burdensome I don’t know how I will sustain. But to say that fostering represents a simpler way of life is more than an error, it is a blatant lie. This is in no way a simpler way of life.

The battles we fight are for children who cannot fight for themselves. We fight for the restoration of families torn apart by addictions, abuse, or neglect. We fight the general population who think these precious ones are throwaways, and the rest of the population who simply pity them without knowing them. We fight the feeding frenzy at every meal as we sit down to the table with 6 hungry beasts ages 7, 4, 3, 2, 2, 1. We fight the bickering and hitting and kicking and spitting and tearing of flesh that commences between ALL of the children, including our 2 bios. We fight the incessant laundry that I have come to call Satan. I fight myself daily to kill my dreams and aspirations and allow Jesus to shine through (this is obviously the toughest battle). I fight the urge to sinfully covet the past when life was simpler (and I did not even realize it)! We fight to find sitters who will volunteer-that’s right, I said volunteer, who has 6 kids and enough money to pay a sitter what they are worth and then go out on a date?- their precious time so we can get relief and keep our heads on straight. We fight to make sure that as we get lost in the children we keep our marriage healthy and at the front line. Most importantly, in spite of ourselves, we fight to give these little ones the hope of Christ, that they may find peace and joy and know where that peace and joy comes from. The days are long and the nights are short. I am tired, oh so tired. But we will continue to choose to be obedient until we are released and sent to another battleground.

So, my friend, we are not all called to the foster battleground. But we are all called to fight the good fight. Find the passion in your heart and allow God to lead you into your fight. Battles won were not fought by quitters. Stick it out! Go the distance! Remember who you are fighting for! And then look to the left and the right and you will find the other members of your troop who have been called to fight the same battles. Those in the trenches with you are the ones who will serve you the best. God never sends us into battle alone. He has always been a fan of man having a helpmate!