Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone. I hope that you have had a wonderful day celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection. 

I woke up early this morning so I could lay out our traditional Easter Breakfast before the kids came downstairs. We don’t do Easter baskets, but I usually buy a little treat and some Easter candy and put it by everyone’s plates to find when they come down for breakfast. 

We had the normal whirlwind of making sure each child was dressed, had their shoes on, had brushed their hair. And then serving a special breakfast and getting everyone to the table at the same time. Finally everyone was sitting and I handed my husband the Bible so he could read the accounting of Jesus rising up from the dead. I make him read because I get all choked up every time and can’t finish. 

He is Risen. Just like he said. Death is conquered. We have been rescued. 

I looked around the table at my children while my husband read. Some of them were listening. The youngest were barely listening. If they were listening at all. Some were focused on what was being said and others looked like they were tuned out a bit. I wasn’t too worried about that. They are young. I am discovering that each year Easter means more to me than the year before. You stack that up over a lifetime and of course my kids aren’t going to react to this story the same way their 40s mom is going to react. But I find that encouraging. It makes me wonder how Easter will affect me even farther down the road. It is a wonderful thing to be in a relationship with Jesus that simply grows deeper and deeper every year. 

This past week was really rough. Children’s Services showed up on my doorstep because someone had called in a complaint about me. The social worker was apologetic. The claim was frivolous and did not merit any attention, but they had to do their job and investigate. They spoke to the child in question and found a happy child who had no complaints. They said I had done nothing wrong, apologized for having to bother me. This was all tied up with our foster child and was over and done with very quickly. Small hiccup. Except that the whole encounter left me shaking for several hours and emotionally numb for several days. Some emails and texts were exchanged with the person who initiated all this and we ended the week on peaceful terms once again. Though I’m still feeling bruised and battered by the whole thing. 

Life is hard. This feels like a cliche and I tell it to my kids all the time. And they shrug and ignore it. But it really is hard. Really Really Hard. And I don’t want to convey to them just how true that saying is because I don’t want to scare them or overwhelm them. I want them to feel hopeful and excited about the future. But it’s hard. 

And what I really need them to know is this life is downright impossible or maybe just pointless without Jesus. I cannot fathom trying to handle everything that has come my way without Jesus by my side giving me strength, peace, wisdom, safety, hope, joy. Without a future with him to look forward to, I would be bogged down with despair. He is a daily, constant presence in my life. My confidante. My best friend who understands everything I go through and knows how to correct and encourage as needed. 

Easter is the best day of the year. The day we celebrate not only Jesus coming back to life, but opening the door to bring us back to life as well. 

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved! Ephesians 2:4-5

Jesus took the punishment for all our sins and made a way for us to be with him forever. And today we celebrate that. 

My prayer is that each year this day will mean a little bit more to my children as they go farther and farther on this journey called life with Jesus by their side. And they learn for themselves about his faithfulness and great love for them. 

Happy Easter everybody! 

No Victory

I feel like I have just come out on the other side of a large battle. And I’m exhausted and frazzled, relieved. But not quite rejoicing. 

We went to court today concerning our foster daughter. After three and a half hours of waiting, the actual court appearance was short and to the point. As guardians do you support this petition or will you contest? We contest. Ok. We will set a date for a trial. Here’s the information you need to know to move forward. 

The only words I spoke were, We contest. But, man, the inner battles I had to have in order to say that. 

I had to willingly cause someone else pain by saying those words. I had to say, no, I’m not going to go along in the name of peace, I’m going to fight this. I had to go against someone else’s wishes and opinions and say, No, even though you are telling me I am wrong, I still believe my perspective is right and I will fight for that perspective. I had to willingly take an action that guarantees that I am now hated by a group of people whom I’ve always gotten along with. I had to step out in faith and say, I am not crazy, the reasons I disagree are valid and are worth fighting for. 

About six weeks of mental agony all wrapped up into a little phrase. We contest. 

And while saying those words was an inner victory for me, there is also grief. In juvenile court there are no winners. My victory means someone else’s pain. And I am helpless to alleviate that pain in any way. Families torn apart by their own dysfunction, passed on to them by the previous generation’s dysfunction…there are no victors. Just a lot of hurt people trying to figure out the best way to move forward. 

I hate it. 

And so I am in that weird place where I feel certain I did the right thing. But the right thing hurt someone else and so there is no victory. Just peace, mixed with sadness. 

Walking a Hard Road

We’ve got a meeting at the end of this week to discuss the reunification of our foster daughter with her birth family. 

There are a lot of emotions going on right now. On the one hand, this morning as we drove to school, I prayed for each of our family members and for our foster daughter’s family as well. Which we have been doing for two years. And I had the thought, Why are you surprised that prayers are being answered? Except, if I’m being honest, those prayers were more for the benefit of my foster daughter than because I had any faith. Anger and unforgiveness has kind of made me only able to make a blanket prayer, God be with them. But at the same time, I’m proud of her birth family. It’s been a long hard road and they’ve worked hard to overcome some really big obstacles. 

When I’m dealing with some big tantrums and crazy behavior, I find myself thinking, Well, at least this will no longer be my responsibility. But then sweet moments happen and I think, what is our family going to look like without this child smack in the middle always stirring things up? And I worry about my other kids’ grief that they will have to process. 

And I wonder, how on earth are we going to come up with a smooth transition that will produce the least amount of trauma? How much assistance do I offer to make this easier for my daughter? How much assistance will hinder her bonding back with her family? How do I make sure she knows, beyond all doubt, that I will always love her and I am always going to be her mom, and I’ll always be here for her if she needs me? How do I step back from primary caregiver to friend of the family? 

I don’t know. 

I have no regrets. But I hate this. 

I’m sitting here in my living room while I write this and I looked out the window and saw a bunch of birds swooping through the early morning gray sky. This verse came to mind. 

Matthew 10:29-31  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

This is what I have to cling to in faith. That Jesus loves my foster daughter even more than I do and he has his hand on her life. My job is to say yes to whatever love and care God needs me to offer this child, but I also have to let go when he says it’s time to let go. Though maybe not a complete release, just a loosening of my hold. 

I try to look forward into the future, and fear shows me all the things that could go wrong. But faith requires me to stay in the moment. Right now what am I required to do? I’m required to give her birth family another chance. And I’m required to walk with them through this process. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but I know what I have to do today. 

All prayers are appreciated as we walk this road. 

Fat Fridays: Big Changes, New Goals

It’s Friday. Thank God. This has been a very long week. Very long. Today is going to be one of my busiest days. I think I will be able to start relaxing somewhere around 5:30 tonight. I’m counting down the hours. 

I received news this week about our foster daughter who has been with us for two years,  possibly starting the reunification process with her family in the very near future. It was unexpected news. I’ve been a bit out of it the last several days as I try to process how I feel about this. 

Last weekend I decided to sign up for a 5k race on December 18th. I’ve never done a 5k before or any kind of race since I was in elementary school. I felt like I was needing some motivation to keep on exercising. A goal to work towards. I’m pretty excited about it. At least, I’m excited about it until I’m actually out running. And then I find myself wondering why on earth am I choosing to do this? This is hard. I’m not feeling great joy. And then I finish running and all the good feelings come back. Yay! I’m going to do this! 

I talked to my trainer and asked her to give me workouts that will help me get ready. I think she’s planning on having me run four days a week. I have very modest goals. 

Goal #1 Run the whole race without having to stop and walk.

Goal #2 Try to finish in 36 minutes. 

And that’s it. And even if it takes a couple minutes longer, I don’t really care. Just running the whole thing without stopping will be a big accomplishment for me. 

I am glad that I set this goal. It’s been helpful this week as I’ve been dealing with crazy emotions. Here, I’m going to take all this nervous anxiety and go run it off. I’ll let you all know how the training goes. 

See you next week.

Plug for Foster Care

Foster Care is kind of in a crisis right now. They need families to sign up to be foster parents. It’s a constant need. I see ads and articles talking about this pressing need all the time, but I have been hesitant to take up the call and start advocating and pressing other people to consider being a foster family. Mostly because we have been on this journey since December 2019, and it’s been hard. And I’m in a place where I can very clearly tell you how hard this is on a day-to-day basis, and do I really want to be responsible for someone else signing up for foster care and then watching them be weighed down by this same burden? 

I kind of feel the same way about having large families. I love our large family. I would not go back in time and do anything differently. But, it’s been hard. It’s not an easy path. So, I don’t go around telling everyone else that they should also have a large family. 

But having a large family is what has made me who I am. Refining by fire. And being a foster mom has been a whole other level of refinement. 

I didn’t pursue fostering. I had a desire to be a foster parent, but the size of our family disqualified us to be official state foster parents. The prayer in my heart was kind of, Ok God, I have a heart for these kids, but there is nothing I can do. If you want me to foster, you will have to fling open the doors. So he did. We ended up with what is technically termed as a kinship foster placement, even though we were just good friends of the kids, not formally related. 

I think about concerns I’ve had about fostering. The main one is, what about my own children? I don’t want to harm them in any way! After all, kids who enter the foster care system are usually coming with some sizable baggage that affects their behavior and their ability to get along with others. 

In the first months that we welcomed a sibling group into our home, we had a lot of rough spots. Very rough spots. During that time many of my children came to me in private to complain and ask why on earth these kids were in our home. I was very straight forward with my answer. James 1:27 (NIV) says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I am a Christian. God wants me to take care of the orphans, and these kids might as well be orphans since the State will not allow them to live with their parents. 

They need help. 

We are able to give help. 

We help. 

This is not to say that I purposefully put my children in danger just because I felt like I should help foster kids. In the end, two of the kids had to be moved to a higher level of care than I was able to give. But we were able to eventually have the youngest sibling on a more permanent basis and she is still with us. And while those two kids didn’t stay with us, I do know that I offered them love and safety during the time they were with us and helped them on their journey. 

I think in the end, it’s always a heart issue. What is your heart towards the orphans and widows of this world? What is your posture when it comes to obeying James 1:27? It’s been my experience that if you are willing to obey, and ask God to give you HIS heart for the needy, God will fling open doors so you can help. Whether it be to actually have children in your home, to help other families who are fostering (they need all the support they can get!) or to find some other way to help, if you are willing, there is always something you can do. 

This is my plug for foster care. These kids are God’s creation. They are beautiful children with a lifetime of possibilities ahead of them. 

They need help. 

We can help. 

Let’s help. 

I’m Available

Yesterday someone asked me if I planned on continuing to foster children in the future. I said an outright NO! And then, after a pause. Well, ok. In the end, God gets the final say. I just hope it’s no. 

I thought about it some more and wanted to add to the conversation, You see, the problem is, I don’t feel like I have very much Margin in my life. Margin, according to nourishedplanner.com is “the boundaries, the rest that is built into your every day life. It is the space between our load and our limits. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating…” 

I was thinking about margin and thinking that it feels like I have been going full-throttle for twenty years now and my margin has been very small. `I would like to have more margin. Having more foster kids would definitely not fit into that plan. At least, not in this stage of my life. 

While I was thinking all this, I put out a little prayer, Lord, I need more margin! 

Then last night I had a crazy dream. The simplified version is I realized someone had a baby hidden away in my house, and it had been there for months, and no one had been taking care of it, and it was severely neglected and needed care Immediately. I was rushing the baby to the doctor, making plans in my head of how I could wear the baby in a carrier to try and establish a good bonding between us. Maybe I could nurse it? I was in full-blown FIX IT NOW mode, and at the same time feeling overwhelming guilt that I had somehow let this happen right under my own nose. I woke up and there was a complete thought planted in my head. 

“There are so many babies that need someone to take care of them. Aren’t you going to do it?” 

And all my thoughts about wanting margin in my life came flooding back and I cried out to God, “What do you want from me??” 

And this verse came into my head. 

Philippians 2:17, NLT: “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.”

And then I just lay there in bed. And now today, as the whole thing lingers in my mind, I think more about margin. I remember all the times when I felt like I was on the edge, I could do no more, I was, in fact, Done, and God provided Rest. Restoration. Reset. 

My grown up life has seemed to be a series of long hard gallops, followed by some really slow, meandering walks. And sometimes, just periods of time when I am completely still. And when I’m restored again, the pace starts picking up and the gallop starts again. 

And it doesn’t seem correct to me. I mean, slow and steady wins the race, right? Pace yourself. Take care of yourself first, and then you will have something to offer others… All of these statements have been my go-to for the last couple years. 

Not taking on more than you can handle sounds like wisdom to me. Of course, when you do that, you kind of negate the Divine. God never said that we could handle everything. He said that if we are relying on him, and walking in His Spirit, His Power, working through us, can accomplish anything. And when that happens, it’s so obviously God, and not us, that God gets all the glory. 

I have no idea what the future holds. Our current foster arrangement was miraculous in itself. We did not fit any of the parameters for fostering, but when the need arose, the court was willing to jump through a bunch of legal loopholes so we could foster. I don’t know what will come next.  But, I am feeling led to just say, Lord, I’m available. Whatever you want. I’m here. 

“I Need You to Survive”

This past week I was having a bit of a rough time with my foster child. I reached out to her therapist to get some advice/strategies. She said, “If I could recommend anything, try to create opportunities for connection with her.” 

Hmmm. Ok. 

I tried it. More hugs. More positive encouragement. More time talking about her day. 

It really helped. 

No, she didn’t become a perfect angel, but some of the extreme behavior went away. 

I was talking to someone who was going through some bumps in their relationship. Have you tried just talking together about what you’re thinking and feeling? 

The person tried it. Things have improved a lot. 

Connections. We all need them. We forget just how crucial they are to our existence. I can tell you from experience that my mental health crises have been significantly improved by making emotional connections with other people. My marriage always gets a big boost when we take time to be vulnerable with each other and just share our thoughts and fears. My friendships are greatly improved by a night of chatting and catching up. 

In fact, I would say that the polarization in our country could probably be greatly healed if we spent more time focusing on things we have in common instead of our differences, searching for ways to connect, instead of loudly trumpeting our disdain for the other side.

It’s also the same with our walk with God. I start acting out. Feeling fearful. Anxious. Which makes me then act Annoyed. Irritated. Unable to Cope. 

The cure? 

Get re-connected to God. 

Open up my Bible. Turn on the praise music. Spend time in prayer. 

It renews my faith, my hope, my joy. I stop acting out. 

The New Testament has a theme that runs throughout. God has created us to be a part of a family. The Body of Christ. The Church. We all play our part. No lone rangers. Community. 

During this time of unprecedented stress and turmoil in our world, I would say that Establishing Connections, Re-connecting, is really important right now. We need each other. 

This Hezekiah Walker song is running through my head right now.

I NEED YOU TO SURVIVE

I need you

You need me

We’re all a part of God’s body

Stand with me agree with me

We’re all apart of God’s body

It is his will that every need be supplied

You are important to me I need you to survive

You are important to me I need you to survive

I need you

You need me

We’re all a part of God’s body

Stand with me agree with me we’re all apart of God’s body

It is his will that every need be supplied you are important to me I need you to survive

You are important to me I need you to survive

I pray for you

You pray for me

I love you I need you to survive

I won’t harm you with words from my mouth I love you i need you to survive

I pray for you

You pray for me I love you I need you to survive

I won’t harm you with words from my mouth I love you I need you to survive

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: David Frazier / I Need You To Survive Holding

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done

It’s been a little bit since I last wrote. It’s been a busy week. I’ve had a lot on my mind, thinking about different subjects. I read a really good book called “Nomad” by Aayan Hirsi Ali, and I went and listened to several of her talks on YouTube. She is an inspiration. An amazing woman. I highly recommend reading her books and listening to her talks. I pondered whether I should devote a blog to her, but I didn’t. I’ve been reading all kinds of news articles and been thinking a lot about our country. I I pondered whether I should write about that, but I didn’t. I got to take a moonlit drive through the countryside and was awestruck by the beauty of nature. I pondered whether I should write about that, but I didn’t. And last night, as I was going to bed, I started to worry a bit. I really need to write something. But what? 

Then, all through the night I kept waking up, and as I lay there, my thoughts turned to prayer and I found the same refrain on my tongue, over and over again. Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done. 

This weekend I have been aware of several different callings to prayer that have happened in our country and around the world. And though I haven’t been able to physically attend a prayer meeting, or log in to a zoom meeting, I have been praying. Specifically for our country. 

And I find myself overwhelmed as I think about the myriad problems our country is facing. I feel that I lack wisdom to even know how to pray. 

And in the end, my prayer just comes down to Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done. 

Lord, this upcoming election…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

One of our Supreme Court Members just died, she’s going to have to be replaced…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

Our country doesn’t know how to handle this pandemic…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

We have so much division in our country and our media and social network platforms are just fanning the flames, seeking to divide us more and more, how do we find unity…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

We have so many injustices happening in our country, babies being killed, children being sexually trafficked, children in the foster care system who are desperate for families, how do we fix this…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

The racial division that is consuming our thoughts, is our system corrupt, what reforms are needed, how do we move forward in peace…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

We have a disaster at our southern border, immigrants, legal and illegal, and being kept in perpetual limbo, children scared and unsettled, and no matter whose fault it is that they are there, they are still there and they need help…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

People who have lost their businesses and jobs because of the quarantine, all the people who are suffering as a result of the natural disasters that have hit us, one after the other…help them Lord…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

Understand, this is not a weak prayer. This is not an absolving myself of all responsibility, putting it all on God instead. This is a prayer of desperation. Lord, I don’t have any answers. I don’t know what to do. All I know is that I want your will to reign. I want your plan to happen. I want everyone in this world to be drawn to you. I want people to be saved. I want peace. And I have no idea how to accomplish these things. But I serve a God who does know. And so I ask that he move, that he extend his hand to my country and that he bring about his Will, his Kingdom. And I am available to do whatever I need to do to help. I simply lack wisdom right now, to know what that is. And so I pray, Lord, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done. 

My Heart is Full

My heart is full right now.

Our youngest foster child has returned to our home. 

When she got here the kids had a welcome sign hanging up and there was much squealing and hugging and running around. In the midst of all the chaos, she turned to me and said, “Esther, I was waiting for you!” 

You know, I never pursued foster parenting. But it has pursued me. Over the years I have heard stories of the need and my heart would break, but I always felt helpless. What can I do? In order to be a foster parent through the state, you can only have six kids in your home. We have ten of our own. It’s going to be a long time before I can even qualify to become a foster parent. 

And then I would hear another story about the desperate need for foster homes. And my heart would break again. And finally, I told God, if you want me to be a foster parent, you’ll have to do something special to make it happen. 

And he did. 

And we walked a rocky road with these kids, full of extreme ups and downs. 

And then they left and I had no more power over the situation. And I felt bruised and battered, heartbroken. And I told God, I guess you don’t want us to do this anymore? Well, if you do, you will have to work some kind of miracle, because I can’t make it happen in my own power. 

So he did. 

Again.

And my heart is full. 

Goodbye for Now

Yesterday our time with our foster kids came to an end. And it felt like my heart walked out of my door. And I am frozen between conflicting emotions.

 

I love foster care, the chance for families to help children in need. I hate foster care, the need is too deep, too wide to ever possibly completely fill. 

 

I am heartbroken that these kids are gone, they became part of our family. I am relieved that these kids are gone, my family unit is back in place again. 

 

I am devastated that I can no longer pour into these kids. I am relieved that my daily burdens have lessened. 

 

I feel desperate panic that their departure from my home is causing them even more pain. I feel comfort that the struggles that my birth children have been facing are now being relieved. 

 

And I hate the messiness of it all. Why can’t life be a neat printed picture where we carefully color in the lines and everything is orderly and in place? 

 

Why is love so painful? And beautiful? And ugly?

 

I feel like there has been a death in my family. 

 

Goodbye my loves. I will always be here. I pray that there will be a time again when I can be in your lives and let you know just how much I love you.