Friday, February 27, 2015

Three Years of Fostering

Today marks three years of being licensed foster parents. We could not have known on February 27, 2012 where this road would take us. Its been filled with challenges and blessings, tears and smiles, sins and forgiveness, selfishness and selflessness, questions and answers, compassion and judgments. We've made plenty of mistakes along the way, most of them of the "rookie" variety, but God has always been faithful.

In honor of this day, I'm reposting a piece I wrote on the one-year anniversary of bringing our first foster child, "Z" to live with us. We've had two long-term placements and 11 respite kids, staying for various lengths of time.

April 10th.  I wonder if this day will always be meaningful, or if the significance of it will fade over time.

It marks the day Z, our very first foster child, moved into our house.  It was a day that caught us by surprise in some regards, which we would later learn is par for the course in these dealings.

We officially were licensed on February 27.  On February 28 we got a call that there was a 9-year old boy in need of a place.  Oh, and he also had 1 and 4-year old siblings who would be coming once Z got settled and adjusted.

I sat down and took some deep breaths of prayer, then called Shaun at work.  Shaun didn't really hesitate...there was a need, we were able to fill it, what's the discussion?  One of the million reasons I love him.  We did, of course, discuss it, as it was bound to have a major impact on our family and was certainly more than we'd signed up for, but his heart has always been "to whom much is given much is required" and "freely you have received, freely give".

We first went to the safe home on March 20 where Z'd been staying since January.  We met him, talked with the various professionals involved in his case and made the decision that he would be a good fit for us.

The agency we are with is very big on making a placement stick, so there is a due process involved before a child comes to live in the home.  First is the initial meeting, then several "out in the community" outings, then a visit to our home, then an overnight, then a weekend, then the transition happens.

All this happened in the middle of tax season AND the safe home was a 45-minute drive from our home.  It was also around Easter, so we were neck deep in Passion rehearsals and performances.  It was, um....intense.

We'd been pressing the powers that be to move along this transition process, get him out of the safe home and into ours.  We really didn't want him to be there longer than he already had been.  It looked like they would be stretching it out longer, but out of nowhere, on the morning of the 10th, we got the email that it was ok to bring him home.  I remember that (crazy!!) day well, mostly because it happened to be a 10 on 10 day and I have it all recorded.

Remarkably, a year has passed!  It was busier and more full than I had ever previously thought life could be.

We went through (are going through) a learning curve with all things Department of Children & Families and our agency.  Unexpectedly, the administration part of having Z is a part-time job...meetings, emails, phone calls, paperwork, meetings, transportation, supervised visits.

Its been a year of learning and growing for all of us.  Some days are really hard, especially the ones when I turn the focus on ME and my selfishness.  Dozens, maybe hundreds of times, I've had to remind myself, this is NOT about me.  Nearly all of my hurt, frustration and anger can be snuffed out with that fresh knowledge.

It is a painful process to die to yourself.  Painful, and seemingly continual (at least for me), but it is what  Jesus has asked of us and I'm convinced its the only way to truly be happy and fulfilled.

Then Jesus said to all of them, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me."  Luke 9:23

The kids accepted their brother and this unorthodox lifestyle almost immediately and after some innocent, legitimate and awkward questions (Z, why are you wearing those clothes again?) they settled into their new life.

A roller coaster is the best way to describe the journey.  There are some high times, some low times and many jerks around a corner we didn't see (I speak as if I ride real life roller coasters...I don't...just metaphorical ones :).

So much, we've discovered is completely out of our control, which is challenging when you fight it, not so much when you recognize the bureaucracy that is the state and that its not going away anytime soon and you just make up your mind to go with it.

The deal with his siblings is so sad...there are so many things we shake our heads at and wonder why, the fact that they are not all together is among the top.  We've relied on the knowledge that God is ALWAYS good, ALWAYS faithful and we can trust Him.

When I'm crying out to God and asking for forgiveness for the sins in my heart I also sometimes say I told you so.  I told you I'm not a kid person.  I told you I'm selfish and judgmental.  I told you I would get too frustrated with the system.  I told you I'm not an overly loving or compassionate person.  I gave you the list of reasons why I should be disqualified for the the job of foster mom and you ignored it.

But then He gently reminds me that He didn't choose me because I came with a glowing resume or because of my credentials.  He simply chose me because I dared to trust Him.  In that way, He gets the glory, and I love that.

We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw hecouldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”  Romans 4:17-18

And so, today is certainly with mixed emotions as our family recognizes this mark in time.  But for sure, my overriding feeling is one of thankfulness.  Thankful to have followed that initial tug God placed in our hearts, thankful for the work He continues to do in our hearts and especially for the undeserved love and grace He pours out to us daily, even sometimes moment by moment.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Spring, Please

This morning it was 10 degrees. That's 22 degrees warmer than it was yesterday morning. Its nearly March. I don't think there is a way to will spring to arrive, but just in case....

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
    and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
    with roots that reach deep into the water.

Such trees are not bothered by the heat
    or worried by long months of drought.

Their leaves stay green,
    and they never stop producing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Monday, February 23, 2015

Doing Battle, Week 22

I tend to be a straightforward person and am not really good at being vague or mysterious. If I was an ambiguous person, I would tell you that I had "a procedure" this week but since I'm a tell-it-like-it-is kind of person, I will risk over-sharing.

(Men, this is your cue to skip down a paragraph. ;) I had what's called an ovarian transposition done. With three one-inch incisions we, meaning the surgeon, moved my ovaries up and out of what will soon be the radiation field. (Apparently this is not a common surgery because the two residents seemed pretty excited to be involved). Doing this is going to prevent the ovaries from being fried, which in turn will prevent menopause from kicking in when radiation starts. When we were told there was a way around doing the menopause-thing at age 40, in addition to all other stuff we have going on, that sounded like a good idea! We are SO very grateful that we made the decision several years ago that we were done having biological children. I imagine it would be devastating to have cancer make that decision for us.

My cousin Melody and I were out of the house at 4:30 AM. We went to Amy's and she and I drove to the hospital while Melody stayed behind with Amy's kids. We went in the main entrance and the first thing I saw was this big, beautiful reminder.

It was a process to get all checked in and hooked up. I'm learning to embrace the IV...its been three times in a row now that they've gotten it on the first try and its so much less painful than the knitting needle they stick in my port and then the flushing rigmarole. I'm a reformed needle-sissy. :)

We met some super sweet, caring doctors and nurses and had some hangout time in between people in and out of my cubicle. I was pretty relaxed, my only other surgery experience (the port placement) having not been a big deal. Also, I wore my SuperGirl shirt. :)

Avery asked me to send her a picture in my hospital gown because I was telling her that as many gowns as I've had on in the last five months (two dozen plus), I don't think any two have been the same. This paper variety was new. What's that you say? My world is small? I know.

The surgery ended up lasting three hours, where we thought it would be more like an hour. My poor Amy was growing more nervous as time dragged and then was given a good freak-out moment when the doctor called her into a private tell her everything had gone fine!

After two more hours in recovery, I was admitted to a room. The first thing I noticed as they wheeled my bed in was the bright sunshine streaming through the window.

The pain was unexpectedly intense but I did everything in my power to move along the process so the nurse would agree to release me before having to spend the night. I have a new appreciation for women who have had c-sections...its no joke!!

These two ladies were superstars! Amy spent ten hours at the hospital just sitting and waiting and then watching me struggle through pain. And Melody was hiding in small spaces with Renna back at the house while they played hide-n-seek. Then they switched and Amy went home and Melody helped me get dressed and loaded up to go home, doing her best to avoid potholes along the way.

As we left the hospital, I couldn't help being so thankful that I was there for a planned, "elective" surgery. Behind those windows are so many hurting people dealing with major challenges, many of them doing it all alone, without God or community.

When we got home Shaun was waiting for us and he helped me get up two flights of stairs to my bedroom. I got into bed and that's where I stayed until Friday morning. At the hospital I tried to decline the prescriptions the doctor wanted to hand out, but Amy made me take the prescriptions and promise to take them around the clock to help the healing process. I did that until Friday when I finally got out of bed. I knew if I was going to be up and about I needed to feel the pain so I wouldn't try to do too much.

I might sound like a crazy person (and maybe I am going crazy) but I was so happy to have pain instead of the chemo mess. Pain is predictable, known, manageable, straightforward. Even still, it was a miserable couple of days, even with bright spots like a friend delivering lunch to my bedroom (a first!) and Avery bringing me coffee in bed (also a first).

On Friday I was out of bed but moving slow...and doing battle in my head....a place where a lot of this battle happens. I spent much of the day wrestling with God in prayer.

God, show me what I'm supposed to be learning in all of this?

God, do you really think its the best use of my time to be laid up all these weeks, able to do so little?

God, you've promised that you'll use everything for good. What good is coming from this?

Give me patience with the process...its wearing thin.

Give me many times can I get knocked down and get back up again?

I had no resolution that day but the next morning, first thing, I was back seeking God and was reminded of this verse from II Corinthians:

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

When my only option is to continue trusting THE God who created the universe and who formed me, then I know I'm in a pretty good place.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and for sticking by us all these months. I'm so grateful to have people who know and care and love. A shared burden is so much lighter!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Project 365, Week 8

Sunday snow seems to be a theme for this month. I cannot overstate the beauty of it coming down in large, gentle flakes and sticking to the trees but sure does cause problems and cost us a lot of money. UNCLE!

February 15
Its been so cold that even the kids are having a hard time being out in it, but that doesn't mean they don't keep trying.

Shaun and I earned a Worse Parents Ever trophy from our kids. Both girls want to have a special part in Passion of the King, but they didn't think it was worth it to overcome their fear and embarrassment and do tryouts. We are not supporters of letting fear dictate our lives, so after much time spent talking it all through, we made them go through with it. It was in a room with about a dozen friends/cousins and a handful of much loved adults...very safe.

They muscled their way through the fear and did a good job and realized it wasn't as bad as they'd imagined.

 We went out after to celebrate conquering fear.
February 16
Colombo had a hockey game in RI so we all met up at the rink and then my kids went home with Uncle Timmy- n- Crew.
 Happy, happy cousins.
February 17
6 AM and ready for surgery. Most doctors and nurses guess we are sisters before we say it. :)
February 18
I was in bed all day, so the girls brought their homework to my room.
February 19
Same thing, different day.
February 20
Amy stopped by bearing meals and good company and also did a quick sweep of my neglected downstairs. I breath easier with a clean kitchen.
February 21
It was Make Your Own Derby Car Day at Awanas. They traced, they sanded, they painted. I believe we have the winning cars...we'll know in a couple weeks! :)

Then we were off to basketball, where the girls lost by just one basket (5-7) in the playoffs...til next year!

I was toast for the day, but these silly girls went outside to romp around in the falling snow after dark.