for my fellow child welfare professionals and foster families

I watched out the window as one foster family loaded three little ones into their car, spent time talking to the other foster family, and eventually drove off.  I thought to myself, “I bet those children have no idea that the family who has tucked them in bed the last few months of their lives will no longer be tucking them in.”

I do not blame the foster family – life happens, situations lean themselves to not being a good match, often trauma is so intense that it does not create a safe situation, and after all, we are all just human.  Sometimes, foster families have to let go of children they are attached to.

I watched the foster-mother wipe away tears from behind her sunglasses, and made a mental note to check on her after the weekend.  I listened to the case worker cry in the lonely confines of the bathroom, and then checked on her after she planted herself at her desk.

During all of this, my mind escaped back to when I was a new soldier in the awfully disgusting, seemingly inhumane, and never-ending war of child abuse.

My first “case” was a six-year-old girl with brown eyes, blonde hair, tomboyish temperament, and an infinity to act older than her age.

I received her file, which happened to be a very thick binder, on my desk the very first week I started my job.  “Here’s your first case.  She’s disrupting from her adoptive home”, my supervisor said.  “You need to find her another foster home that might be interested in adopting.”

In situations like this, case workers are left to scramble and search for a new family to be found.  I remember calling county offices asking…essentially pleading for a new foster family for the little girl to whom I had not even met.

Shortly after my frantic calls, I drove to her foster home..the one that promised forever…introduced myself to her…stacked her belongings in my truck…buckled her in…and drove her to the next foster family.

I literally remember every moment of this experience.  I can see the pictures on the walls of the family who gave her up, and I remember the awkwardly silent ride to her next home.

I also remember reading her file, and the many others that crossed my desk through the years.

I recall the initial trauma I felt when learning about the extent of abuse that had occurred in the lives of the children who had just started their own walk in the world.

I got angry.  I cried.  I wondered where the heck God was while all of this was going on.  I became motivated.  I worked a little harder than I thought I would.  I became passionate about the field that chose me.  I prayed.

The little girl whom I bared the responsibility of finding a new family did get adopted by her new family. Even after she became comfortable with her new family, she would run and hide when she saw my white truck pull in the driveway.

I’ve been reading about the impact of child welfare work on social worker’s lives. Poor sleep, stressed relationships, depression, nutritional issues, weight gain, nightmares, and secondary trauma all seem to creep up in the lives of workers in the front lines of child welfare.  And, let’s be honest…social workers do not make a lot of money…at all.

Having been in child welfare as a professional for thirteen years, and a former foster-mother (now mother through adoption), I find myself with the ability to tuck away the painful reality of it all into a corner that I very rarely enter anymore.

I do not know if it is possible to process all of the information of tragic life stories that I have read through the years.  Sure, there are the moments of grief and anger that are witnessed as they unfold in the lobby of the office before my very eyes.  I still cry from time to time about the very nature of what is truly going on in the underbelly of our seemingly idealistic and happy communities.

Although I am weathered by the years, it really does not get easier.  It just becomes less traumatic, more expected, and a seemingly natural part of life.

That seems awful, doesn’t it?  Why in the world would child abuse and neglect become a part of life?

To be honest, if I dwell too much on it all – the sounds of children asking why they can’t go home with mommy, babies crying from feeling stressed during visits, and mixed up, lonely children being bounced from home to home – I end up getting angry.

I get angry that God would allow any of this.  I am reminded and aware of freewill, but it does not make me less outraged, less saddened, and less frustrated.

There are many opinions about children’s protective social service workers.  If there is media attention, it is usually centered around the one case of hundreds where something went wrong.  Attention is very rarely spotlighted on the day-to-day choices that case workers, juvenile court officials, child welfare attorneys, and foster parents have it make.

It does not capture the tender moments of social workers picking out gifts (often from their own money) for “their kids”.  It does not show the hours of work spent by workers in the field.  

Attention does not get up in the middle of the night to answer the “on-call” phone, travel to a meth lab in the middle of the night to pick up children who are confused and weary from the unknowns, or visit with adults trying their best to turn their lives around.  

It does not celebrate when permanency is achieved through adoption, or when children who desperately love their parents are able to return to them. 

Media attention definitely does not highlight the words of encouragement case workers, juvenile court officials, child welfare attorneys, and foster parents speak to the families and children who find themselves caught up in the system.

I have listened as people (whom did not know that I work in child welfare) slam foster families, children service workers, and the system as a whole.  I have been shocked by their opinions of how easily this war could be fixed.  I have also found myself wondering, “What are you, opinionated one, doing about it?   When have you called a child welfare agency to offer your time and talent?  Have you taken the time to care enough to bring a child into your home, support a family who is struggling, or advocate for change?”

For my fellow child welfare professionals and foster families in this unending plague of child abuse, remember this, everything you do matters…a lot.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” -Robert F. Kennedy

 

Equipped to Finish

It was a hot day in the saddle of my bike…strong headwind, Ozarkian hills, and the heat of summer.  I rode in a training ride for the upcoming MS 150.  The MS 150 is an annual charity ride to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society.  This is my fifth year riding in the event, and at age forty-two, three kids, a full-time job, a husband, and a household to maintain, I do my best to squeeze in training time when I can.

Today, as riders passed me by, I thought, “Why can’t I keep up with them?  I’m trying just has hard.  My legs are burning.  My heart rate is up, and I’m eager, just like them, to finish this ride with a personal best time.”  

photo (73)I get “lost” in my head sometimes when out riding my bike on long distance rides.  If you ever need time to clear your head a bit, get a bike, pick a route, and take off. On my bike, I am able to work through so many challenges; physical, emotional, and spiritual.

As other riders passed me by, I started to think about life outside of my journeys on two wheels in the country.  I thought about the times when I have wondered, “I work just as hard as this person does.  I have more experience, and more time spent in the field.  I have just as much passion about the work at hand. Why do I seem to be passed by?”

As the miles clicked on, I found myself alone on the road with the sweltering heat and the odometer on my bike declaring how many miles I had yet to finish.  And then, I recalled Scripture:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” -2 Timothy 4:7

Now, I am not at all comparing the trials and imprisonment of Paul to my own traveling down the hilly roads on my bike.  Of course, not.

However, when out there today, on the road with the blazing hot sun glaring at me, and riders passing me by, I started to meditate and speak to God about life, and challenges both off and on the bike.  While doing this, I felt the Lord speaking back to me,

“I equipped you to finish the race…not best, not first, not fastest, and not necessarily with top honors.  I equipped you to finish it with faith, endurance, and courage.”

As the fifty mile training ride drew to a close, and I rode my weary body to my car, I continued to think on these things.  To finish the race; this race of life, with faith, endurance, and courage is by far, the most sacred of all finales as we make our way to our Home.

Whatever road you are traversing, hill you are climbing, or number of miles ahead of you, remember this,

God loves you.  Jesus died for you.  You have been equipped to finish the race; not first, not best, and possibly not with top honors.  Instead, you have been dressed in the fullness of faith, endurance, and courage.

…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31

Adoption is Beautiful

I tortured myself recently.  I read a blog about a birthing story, and found myself crying with joy for the couple.  My tears also held within them a sadness for myself, husband, and parents. You can read the story by clicking on this link, Our Birth Story.  While reading the story, I found myself gasping for air, covering my mouth, and wiping away tears that were flowing down my cheeks.

The mother’s words seemed to punch me in the gut.  On the one hand I felt guilty for reading them, as if I had no business exploring her experience.  On the other, I knew that I needed to visit that part of life that has passed me by.

This is at least the second time I’ve done this.  I recently read a blog post, I want to be a doula, that also brought me to tears.  The words of these new mothers are poignant, and reminded me of what I have missed out on.  I do not know why this is…perhaps it is the knowledge that I was not the first person to hold my children.

Proverbs 30: 15-16

15 … There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough:

16 The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.

Sitting here on the second birthday of my youngest son, I find myself thinking about his entry into the world.  Honestly, I think about all of my children’s journey from the womb to the Earth, and then I get pissed.  Yep.  I said it.  I get angry that I was not the one to bring them into the world.

I did not labor in pain to birth the very beings who have captured my heart.  In the agony of pain, there are life-declaring moments when the hope of the future and a piece of oneself is born.  In the posts I’ve read, I have recognized the beauty I have missed out on…the moments between husband and wife holding their child…the minute grandparents first laid eyes on their grand-babies…and, the gasp of their breaths when realizing the glory of the child they created.

I did not see any of my babies in their first hour of life after-birth.  I did not hear their first audible exclamation to the world that they have arrived.  I did not hold them, feel their tiny bodies against mine, and gaze at the wonder before me.  So, yes.  I get angry about this.

I could never imagine having any different children than my children.  They are Majestically matched to fit our family.  I would not have it any other way…but…I sure wish that I would have been the one to carry them as they developed, pushed with the incredible God-given strength of a woman, and then rested with babe in arms.

Yes, I think about missing out on the beauty of it all.  I think about the laborious, yet incomparable moments of childbirth…the genesis of new life.

Although blessed to be a mother, I still get caught off guard by the pain of barrenness.

I also wonder if I’m a completely selfish person.  Is it not enough that I am experiencing, raising, and growing my children as they meander their way to the Lord’s purpose in their lives?  I mean…am I being completely self-centered to wish that I would have been the one to bring them into the world?

In barrenness, there is courage and resilience.  It may sound odd to say, but in the rawness of barrenness, there is beauty.  It seems to be carved out of the clinging onto prayers in the lost hours of the night.  Choosing to look into the future without infertility and barrenness requires strength beyond measure.  This is the very depiction of beauty.

But just when I start to become consumed by the loss of the human experience I will never have, I begin to think about my own (and many other’s) beauty after becoming a mom for the first time.  In barrenness and adoption, there is an incredible radiance that is found.  There is a courage like no other….courage to venture into waters where land is not seen.  Determination to seek out options that other’s may never have to consider.

There are also moments of grief…extraordinary grief that seems almost too big for any human to consume.  Gut wrenching.  Soul-darkening.  Pain that is impossible to put into words.  Stillness that seems to go against nature.

Then, there are moments of hope spliced into the loss, faith, and the reality of it all.

There are the times when you look upon your child and see that a piece of yourself has been born….perhaps, you will carry on through your children.  In these moments, you feel hope and peace about the future.

In adoption, there are immeasurable moments between husband and wife holding their child for the first time.  There are memory-searing images of grandparents first laying their eyes on their grand-babies…and, there is that gasp of breaths when the gavel falls and the glorious little one is declared forever a part of the family.

And let’s not forget about the birth mothers to whom our children come from.  Their courage to choose life despite hardship, plan adoption with a level of hope and selflessness that is rarely seen in this world, and carry within them the ability to let go when needed, is perhaps one of the most powerful declarations that life is worth it, hopeful, and beautiful.

The mighty truth is that I won’t miss my children’s birthdays, new friendships, discovery of talents, heartache, heartbreak, frustrations, accomplishments, and growth as children of a loving Father.

Although saddened and brought to a place of envy and anger, I’m thankful to have read the blog posts.  I appreciate glimpsing into the rawness of childbirth, the nude emotions of it, and the humanizing words of the mother’s whose agony of childbirth became stories of beauty.

For all of my sisters of the barren womb, and Mamma’s through adoption, your own birth stories are equally beautiful.

The birthing of your fortitude to seek motherhood, the labor of your endurance that clings to hope, characters of your unfolding life-script, humility to answer far too many questions, and the moment your breath is taken away by the gaze of the child to which your soul is settled by, are powerfully, and beautifully sculpted human experiences.

I will probably read more posts about childbirth, and I may cry at each one.  My tears will surely hold the loss that visits me from time to time, but will also carry the joy of my own birthing experience…one filled with courage, resilience, humility, endurance, and remembrance of the first time I looked upon my children.

Yes, in adoption, there is radiance, and many life-declaring moments.

Adoption is beautiful.

what are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for, my friend? Is it a love that has turned away from you, or a friendship that has become tarnished through the years?  Perhaps, it is a reconciliation long overdue, a wayward son, or a door that never seems to open.

My friend, are you waiting for a child to call your own? Are you dwelling in a place of despair? You know this place well, but others do not understand it at all. I suspect this might just be one of the most painful waits of your life.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. Psalm 62:5

Do you read that? Our hope is in Him. Our yearnings, grief, desires, and worries may be carried in silence, but in the silence we are met with the hope of the Lord.

Do you know that, my friend? I know the wait (whatever that looks like for you) can be exhausting, defeating, painful, and lonely. I know there are moments when you feel as though you are adrift in an ocean of despair, or wandering through the wasteland. I know this all too well.

What are you waiting for, my friend? May your wait be met with both a stillness found within His grace, and a steadfastness carried by His hope.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. Psalm 62:5

Everyone has a Story

“What’s a testimony without a test?”

This question is one that tends to be a mantra of sorts among the Christian community.  While I understand the meaning behind it, instead, I find myself asking,

“What’s a test without a testimony?”

Imagine for a moment, living in a world where we do not share our pain, disappointment, despair, and gut-wrenching experiences in life.

What if we just walked around holding it all in, always saying that we are fine, and never, for one moment, declaring out loud the things that twist our souls to the bottomless pit of pain?  Like emotionless robots, we encase our feelings in a tomb to which we never open.  What would it be like if we kept our stories imprisoned within our own mortal coils?

I am not even sure what kind of world it would be if we never shed our tears with or for others, or if the stark reality of the collapsing of others’ dreams, the dashing of their hopes, and the witness of their afflicted footsteps, did not affect us.

I have had people say to me,

“I had no idea you have gone through so much.”

What this tells me is that I have done an excellent job at tucking away the daggers of devastation and arrows of apathy that have, at times, pierced my walk in this life with doubt, sorrow, and anger.

Even during the time that I was reluctant to tell my story, I knew that it was meant to be told, and that behind the heartbreak of it all, lay hope in waiting, purpose with a passion, and ultimately, the glimpse of redemption through the mercy of our God.

So, what’s a test without a testimony?  What’s hardship without the harrowing details of survival?

What is more important…that we exclaim our victory?  Or, that we seek to tell the stories that encompass those moments in life where the only lifting of our heads is caused by the hint of something better?

I believe the latter is more important.  While I shout for joy at the victories of others, I celebrate with even more enthusiasm at the telling of overcoming mountains, the witness of evading addictions, and the declaration of holding tight to the life-thread of courage.

I believe that everyone has a story.  

I believe that all of our stories are important, and worthy of being told.  I believe that there is not one moment in a single life lived on Earth that does not matter, and that the Creator of the landscape to which we dwell is the same Creator that fills the spaces in-between our devastation, our tragedies, our heart-breaks, our disappointments, and our yearning for something better in life.

Yes, everyone has a story to be told.

 Share your story.

 Embrace your experience.

Wear it as a badge of endurance.  

You never know how your story can affect someone else going through what you have been through, or how the steps you have painstakingly taken can soften the path to which others are walking on.

Your life’s journey might just lead another soul right to the heart of God.

Your story matters.

Your story is unique.

The story of your life is the cadence to which you heart’s song is being composed.  

What a wonderful world it would be if we shared the stories of our lives, the tests that determined our testimonies, and the painful moments that launched our ministries.

Everyone has a story.  What’s yours?

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.–Psalm 66:16

 

 

 

mercy has your name written on it

You sit there staring at the image reflected back at you in the mirror.  The mirror lies to you, and yet, you see that reflection as truth.  It exposes your blemishes, and your scars.  The image of your body is one that you would rather never reveal to anyone, except maybe…this vile mirror that has become the reflection of who you think you are.  The bruises, the fat, the lines…whatever errors that have affixed on your skin…shows up greater than anything else.  You wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  How could anyone love me?  I deserve to be lonely, and to be treated like this.  I am worthless…deserve even worse.  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You lay there staring at the bottom of an empty bottle, and your anger is being stirred with a mixture of dependency and despair.  The bottle…the friend you have come to rely on…is empty, and you are left alone.   Alone.  Isolated with your regrets that seem to have burrowed themselves in your soul.  Deep down, you know that the empty bottle symbolizes how you feel about yourself.  Empty.  Broken.  Dry.  You tell yourself, “There is no way God will ever love me.  No one will.  The only friend I have is a bottle.”  You wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  Is there a way out of this vicious cycle that has taken over?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You stand there, sign in hand, while looking around at the concrete bed that you will be sleeping on tonight, and you think, “When will this ever change?  When will I feel human again?”  You are cold.  You are hungry.  You are confused.  Perhaps, just maybe, if your story of how you became like this was actually scripted onto those cardboard pleads of help, then maybe…just maybe, others might see you as a human being.  You might be valued.  As family filled cars pass you by, you wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  When will my circumstances change?  I hope for something new each day, but the days seem to turn into months, which seem to turn into years.  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You sit there looking around at the empty house that was once filled with the sounds of the life of a family.  You stare at the living room, you glance at the spot where your wife once slept, and you dwell on the empty chairs at the dinner table.  You think about the life you once all danced to.  You remember the Christmas mornings, birthdays, nights spent around a ball game, or playing outdoors. You think, “I deserve this.  I deserted them.  I was selfish.  God, how can You forgive me?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You are staring at the negative sign on the pregnancy test you just took.  As the sadness starts to fill up your heart, you begin to say the same mantra that you have said for years….“I deserve this.  God must think I would make a horrible mother.  This will never happen.  I will never be a mother.  I am worthless.”  As time goes on, you wait…wait…for your moment.  You endure the showers of others who are expecting the very thing you have desired for years now.   You wonder, “God, why would You spare me?  If it is Your will, then why won’t You give me a child?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

Well, dear friend, precious soul, battered one, addicted being, homeless shell, wayward son, and one filled with despair, there is no need to wonder.  When Jesus carried His weary body so that His feet could be nailed to the Cross, it was for you.  When He breathed His last breath, it was for you.  It was for all of us.

When He exclaimed, “It is finished”we were on His mind.  His salvation lasts forever.  It lasts through the hardship of life.  It conquers the poor choices, imperfections, addictions, broken relationships, concrete jungles, and empty nests.

His mercy is fluid.  It moves with you.  It wraps around you, and migrates with each step you take.  You wonder, “Am I worth it?  Why would He spare me?  Am I worthy of forgiveness?  Is there enough mercy left over for someone like me?” 

Yes, dear friend, precious soul, battered one, addicted being, homeless shell, wayward son, and one filled with despair, you are worth it.  You are a child of God.  Do you know that?  Your worth is so much more than you can ever fathom.  Mercy….

Mercy has your name written on it…

….and, praise Christ for that!

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. – Hebrews 4:16

I see the Lord’s redemption

This is a picture of my dad with the kiddos on Father’s Day. To you, it might just seem like a happy pic of a Grandfather with some of his Grandchildren; however, I sense an incredible ending to a story started so many years ago.Family

In 1983, when the sadness entered our lives during my illness, my dad held my hand almost day and night while in the hospital. He sat by my bed, gently rubbed my hand, and said over and over again, “If I could trade places with you, I would.” We had all just plunged into the torrential world of barrenness.

When I look at this picture, this is what I see: an incredible sense of HOPE for the future, an opportunity to pass along life-lessons learned through the years, and in so many ways, I see closure.

I see the Lord’s redemption. I see His promises of love, hope, and a future. I see bloodline disappear, and love take over.

I see a Grandpa who is completely enamored by his Grandchildren.

I know that while the Lord planned my life to include my children, He wrote the script of my parents’ lives to include them as well.

What a happy ending to the sorrow that started so many years ago…
What a way, Lord, to show Yourself in our lives…
What an amazing vision You have given us for our future…

What an incredible sense that after my dad and my mom have gone on to You, these children…these precious souls…will carry a piece of them as they grow into their own place in this world…

If one ever doubts the majesty of a loving Heavenly Father, please take a look at this picture. A Dad who watched his daughter dance on the edge of death, steer her way into the world with barrenness on her shoulders, step into the world of foster care and adoption without knowing what the next step would look like, and approach the courts three times over to prove herself, is the same Grandfather who is enjoying three children whose own lives were majestically penned to be in his.

What a happy ending to the sorrow that started so many years ago…
What a way, Lord, to show Yourself in our lives…
What an amazing vision You have given us for our future…

What an incredible sense that after my dad and my mom have gone on to You, these children…these precious souls…will carry a piece of them as they grow into their own place in this world…

Dear Future Adoptive Parents

Dear Future Adoptive Parents,

Hello.  I’m not sure what to say except that I hope you want me as bad as I want you.  I need you to need me.  I know that sounds silly, coming from a kid and all, but if I were to be completely honest, I would tell you how desperately I long for a family, a mother, a father….anyone….anyone who will stick with me.

It’s hard, you know…growing up in foster care.  I’ve been through so many foster homes that I have lost count.  Honestly, I barely remember what my birth parents were like.  I remember their struggles, and I remember their ignorance of me, but I scour my mind over and over in an attempt to remember the parts of them that were loving, kind, and made me feel special.

Dear future Mamma, I wish that one day I will find myself twirling my fingers through your hair, laughing until our bellies hurt, shopping until we drop, and feeling the softness of your gentle hug when you tuck me into bed at night.  I need a mother who will teach me to respect my body, tell me I am beautiful, and grow me into a loving person.

Dear future Dad, I’ve never had a dad who stayed around for too long.  I hope that when you say you are going to be there for me, you really mean it.  I want, so badly, for you to protect me, stick up for me, compliment me, and show me what it means to be a father.  I need more than just someone who helps to pay the bills, and watches sports with me.  I need a father who will nurture my talents, admonish my poor choices, and make me feel like the most special person on Earth.

I desperately need to feel a love without condition.  I desperately need to know that I belong to someone…anyone…. 

Dear Future Adoptive Parents,

What is it about me that makes you want to stay?  Is it my smile, that look in my eyes, or that special talent I claim as my own?  Help me to understand it.  Help me to feel the very reason why you have chosen me.  I need to know that this is not a gimmick, a popular thing to do, and a persuasion from anything outside of your own heart.

Help me to see God through you.

The truth is, I have a list of things I want in parents.  You might be surprised to know that it is the simple things in life that I yearn for.  I need parents who do not do drugs, or put their habits ahead of me.  I want a family who can have fun, laugh…a lot…and enjoy life.

I like to watch movies, and dream of family movie nights with popcorn, late hours, and lasting memories.  I would love to travel.  I’ve never been anywhere, really, except the small towns and big cities I have been passed around in while in foster care.

I know this sounds odd coming from a young person, but I really hope for a home with food in it.  I don’t want to have to worry about when or if I’m going to eat.  I want to be able to enjoy junk food, but would love a mom or dad who can cook healthy meals, and one who truly cares about my health and nutrition.

I have been disappointed so often through the years that it is hard to believe that I still cling on to the hope of a being loved…by a family…by anyone….

I still love my birth parents.  You need to know that.  I still think about them, wonder if they are okay, hope that maybe, just maybe, they are thinking about me, and question if I will ever get to see them again.

I need for you to be okay with my thoughts about my birth family.  I want you to listen to my questions, my own often misguided answers, and my longings to understand why I am living separate from them.  You need to tell me truth in a way that nurtures my growth.

This is hard, you know.  I am just a child, and yet, I have gone through, witnessed, survived, and have been pulled from a life that you and your picture-perfect friends could not even imagine.

Dear Future Adoptive Parents,

I’m not perfect, but neither are you.  Can you hold me when I rage against all that has been?  Will you stick around when I skip school, question your authority, tell you that I want to move to another family, or completely reject you?

What will it feel like when I make you feel the pain I’ve been feeling through the years?

The truth is while I have desired for a family to call my own, I have also felt afraid of one.  The “what-if’s” seem so overwhelming at times that I can hardly stand it.

What if I am rejected?  What if I am never chosen?  Why do I have this life?  What if this is as good as it gets?

Promise me one thing.  Promise me that when you will not promise forever.  I know that sounds odd, but the truth is, I have been promised forever so often that I don’t believe it anymore.

What does forever mean?  Two weeks, two months, or two years….

Instead, tell me that you will do your very best to meet my needs.  Help me to understand that I need to tell you how I am feeling.  I need a LOT of patience.  Do you have that in you?  Can you help me learn patience as well?  Really?  I mean it when I say it.  It is make-or-break for me, you know.

I am nearing the end of my childhood, and I have nothing to stand upon as I enter adulthood….Do you understand that?

Dear Future Adoptive Parents,

In so many ways, I am just like other kids.  I want to be fashionable, hang out at the local hang-outs for kids my age, participate in sports, listen to the music I want to listen to, and learn to drive when the time comes.

In other words, I want….better yet….I need a life minus all of this foster care stuff.  

If I could tell you one thing it would be this, I don’t care if you are tall, small, rich, or poor.  I don’t care if you have a mansion, a small home, a sports car, or a car that barely makes it down the road.

It doesn’t bother me if you have a few bad habits (so do I), or if you are the perfect depiction of health.  I don’t care if you are married, single, what race you are, or if you fill my list of what I want in a family.

I just cling on to the hope that you are out there searching for me just like I am longing for you.  I hope and pray that you will find yourself needing me, as much as I need you.

I know that sounds silly, coming from a kid and all, but if I were to be completely honest, I would tell you how desperately I long for a family, a mother, a father….anyone….anyone who would stick with me.

I need to feel hope for the future. 

I need you to need me.  

Author’s Note:  This post was inspired by the years I spent listening to children in foster care (of all ages) describe what they desire in adoptive families.  Moreover, it was especially inspired by a hand-written list of wants that a teenager in foster care handed her social worker when asked what she wants in a family.  I hope this post inspires you to truly consider the needs of orphans in our world, and especially, the incredible opportunity to lead youth in foster care to a life “minus all of the foster care stuff”.

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. -James 1:27 

You are my lighthouse

God, I am swimming in this barren sea without a lighthouse in sight. Keep my head above water. Hold me while I tread in an ocean of pain so deep that I could never touch the bottom. My eyes are searching for land in sight, for a soft place to land, and…for answers that will anchor my soul.

I am drowning in this sea of despair, still yet, I see You. I feel You moving me through the water towards someone or something of significance. You are leading me towards land. Help me, dear Father, to be patient in the journey.

God, I am swimming in this barren sea with only You in sight. Lord, You are my lighthouse, my life-preserver, my anchor, soft place, and the soil to which I will continue my journey.

Father, You keep my head above the water. You relieve the pain that I feel. You lower the tide, soften the blow, and move me in waves of clarity.

 

Image courtesy of: http://freebies.about.com/od/free-wallpaper/tp/free-ocean-wallpapers.htm

God, I am swimming in this barren sea, and You are my lighthouse.

the greatest gift my mom gave me

“What are you doing?  Why aren’t you out there?” I asked my son as he sat down next to me during gymnastics practice.  My oldest son is a competitive gymnast, and he has newly discovered an emotion in regards to the sport that he has taken up…

FEAR

“I just don’t want to do a back hand-spring.  I’m scared”  he said.  I went on to tell stories about my own fears, and how overcoming them have led to accomplishing fun things  – like the first time I tried clip-in cycling shoes and fell over and over again until I got it right.  He remembers watching me fall over and over again, and how I put my bike away for a few weeks, until I got it out, clipped in, and rode away determined to not let fear overcome me.

I also asked him, “Is this it?  Are you ready to quit?”  He shrugged his shoulders, and whispered the word “maybe”.  I said, “No.  Not like this.  Get out there, do your job.  You can do it.  Once you get it, you will love it.  There is nothing to be scared of.”

He finished practice and didn’t mention his fear again.  Later in the day, I told him the story of Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug who finished her last vault with a broken ankle, and in doing so, became an Olympic champion.  I talked about fear and how sometimes the hardest things we do in life are often not the easiest.

The truth is – this is NOT about gymnastics.  It is NOT about if my son will ever go on to be a champion in the sport.  No, this is not about these things at all.  Instead, it is about teaching my son that when the going gets tough, the tough keep going. In other words, it is about overcoming fears, and accepting challenges.  It’s about perseverance.

I’ve thought about this topic often, perhaps more now than I ever have before. Now that I am a mother, I admire the quality that instinctively knows how to teach children about perseverance.  It is not an easy task, and yet, it is probably one of the most important character-building values that a parent can teach a child.

This also got me to thinking about my own upbringing, and the lessons learned.  One of the greatest gifts my mother ever gave me was not a gift at all.  It was not expensive, tangible, collectible, or desired.

It was the gift of perseverance.

Some of my earliest memories of the words my mom spoke to me include the following:

“You can be whatever you want as long as you put your heart into it.”

My mom knows a lot about life not being fair.  The youngest of ten children born in the Ozarks (southern Missouri), she experienced a life without a lot of frills.  At the age of seven, her daddy suddenly died, leaving behind her mother with children still at home.

After his death, my grandma packed up the kids who were still at home, and moved to the city to find work.  Mom has told me of having one pair of shoes per year. She has shared with me about my grandma working three jobs to keep food on the table. Sometimes, mom would come home to an empty house and eat a can of green beans for dinner.  She recalls hiding “nice things” from the social worker who stopped by to make sure grandma was not taking advantage of the welfare checks.

As you might be able to imagine, my mom and her siblings did not have the best of things growing up.  However, maybe…just maybe, they learned the best characteristics of the human experience.  They learned that family is important, hard work is required, and sometimes, life is not fair, but that is not a good enough reason to stop carrying on.  They learned the value of perseverance.

After my illness and hysterectomy in 1983, as you can imagine, mom leaned a lot on perseverance.  She had to.  She had to show me that sometimes life isn’t fair, and you just have to get up and keep going.  She also had to abide by the notion that there is a reason behind everything that happens in life, and that God allows things that we do not understand at the time, but one day, these things once thought of as being a cruel twist in life, can turn out to be incredibly strengthening lessons.  These lessons, in turn, are amazing blessings.

I remember parts of my time in the hospital, and afterward.  I do not remember how it affected my mother, though.  I look back at some pictures and can tell she became awfully thin during that time, but otherwise, she was still the same mom as she was before that sadness entered her life, my dad’s, and mine.

She got right back up, day after day, and continued to raise a daughter who learned to believe in setting her heart to the things she wanted to accomplish in life. She taught strength, courage, and perseverance by simply modeling what it is to keep going on in life, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and to not allow set-backs be an excuse for giving up.

My first birthday following my hysterectomy - 1983.

My first birthday following my hysterectomy – 1983.

My mom has faced many giants in her life. The impact of my illness on her, honestly, has been lifelong. It doesn’t take much to provoke a tear out of her when talking about it. Still yet, there’s that resilience….that echo of perseverance that has resonated throughout the years.

As I reflect on my son’s own fear of accomplishing what seems to be a difficult task, I appreciate so much of the unspoken acts of intentional courage that my mother showed to me.  I appreciate more than ever the stronghold she displayed when faced with unwavering despair.

 Persevering through difficult times, hard choices, moments that take the wind out of you, seemingly simplistic fears, and times when it is hard to discern God’s reasoning, are the times when we, as parents, can make an incredible, life-altering impact on our children’s lives.

Fellow parents, and yet-to-be parents, keep on keeping on.  After all is said and done, your courage to persevere will make a lasting impression on your children, and in turn, on future generations.

Through him we have also obtained  access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that  suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character  produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been  poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to  us.  –Romans 5:2-5