Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Broken

We have been told by so many social workers, case aids, and lawyers, that we are amazing foster parents. That we have positively impacted the lives of the difficult teens and kids placed in our home. They’ve seen major behavioral improvements as well as physical health improvements in the kids in the short time they have spent with us. I can with confidence say, “We are good at this!”

This past weekend we had to request that the two youths in our home be removed. I alluded in my last post that some crazy events had happened, it seemed in direct opposition to our standing firm in our decision to keep fostering. Unfortunately those events spiraled over the week into both kids subsequently declaring that I had no authority over them and they could do whatever they wanted. And so a higher authority, that did have powers to stop them, was called and they were moved to another home.

Sam wants to take a two month hiatus, but I am convinced that we won’t be taking in any more children. In two months we will re-evaluate where we stand. It is a heartbreaking situation as one of the children was doing so well, and his poor choice to follow the older youth in mutiny, is going to change the trajectory of his life significantly.

For those wishing to do foster care, our tale is not the common one. Once we had demonstrated that we could handle and improve DCF’s “toughest kids”, we became the go-to resource. The majority of children in care are not this difficult or troubled. We just were not offered many of the easy ones.

The experience has not been a waste. Ultimately, I believe that God has walked us through an exercise in obedience. We found resources outside of ourselves and learned to ask for help. We experienced leaning into our faith for strength and on each other. We remained committed and wholly invested until the very last minute.

The nine kids that came through our home in the last seven months all left better than they arrived. The older kids know that there is a better way, they just need to choose it. The younger ones won’t even remember that they were here, but I know they were loved. I take comfort in my broken heart, because it means that I still have one.




Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Only One Way

Last weekend I attended a Ladies conference with Nathalie and Abby. We had a great time together, eating, laughing, and worshipping. Nathalie may never live down the “there’s only one way” moment, as we were staring down not one, but THREE options! 🤣

I was attending the conference with the prayer in my heart that while we had decided to keep going with fostering for another six months, I still was feeling unsettled. Divided. I still had moments, hours, and sometimes days, where I questioned our decision and wondered what if we just stopped and embraced an empty nest? I was praying that God, through the speakers and the times in prayer, would show me so clearly which way to go.

The first day was wonderful. Fantastic speakers who spoke about God’s sovereignty. His care and patience through our struggles and trials. How He has a plan and even in, especially in, adversity He is teaching us. In a conversation with one of the speakers during some downtime, I shared how Sam and I were going back and forth about our future plans. Each of the two paths had pros and cons, both would bring regrets and rewards, and were going to each have their own trials. She commented that because we were so committed to hearing from God, we couldn’t choose wrongly. No matter which path we picked, God is in control and we are in His will. I chewed on that thought for a long while.

So the next day was more sessions, worship, prayer, and fun with my girls. There were several vendors at the conference and I was drawn to two signs:


One seemed to represent our “empty nest” choice while the other was embracing our fostering choice. The next person who presented spoke on “Identity” and since it was a Christian conference, it was about our identity in Christ. I swear the voice in my head nearly shouted, “WAIT! Hold up a minute! The choice isn’t the point. Who I am is the point!”

Then The next person spoke on “Soaring”. She spoke about Eagles versus Seagulls. The analogies were spot on and, oh how I love a good analogy!😁 And then I heard the word that changed everything:
                          B A L A N C E
Sam and I CAN do both. It’s not a decision between two choices. It’s finding balance in each of them.  So I bought both signs. One hangs over the big map in my living room, and the other will be on the front door as soon as we get the right hanger.

I shared with Sam that night the notes I had written during the conference and WOW! It was really cool to see how God had been working through each of the speakers and presenters. Sam agreed that we had been out of balance. Going gung ho, whole hog, into foster care had left us longing for significant alone time with each other. Which, in turn, had caused us to feel pinched by the amount of time raising hurting kids took away.

So we’ve taken steps to find our balance. We have requested “respite care” services for the kids which will allow us to go away for more than 24 hours. We are putting more of the transportation and appointment requirements back on DCF so that we are doing less running around. We are now asking each other, when faced with a decision, “Does this keep balance or throw us off kilter? Are we soaring or flapping madly?” (Eagles? or Seagulls?)

Of course, not three hours from making those decisions, we had some crazy events that I can’t publicly share. But suffice it to say, I think the devil took our decisions as a personal challenge. 🤦‍♀️ But that’s a story for another day...

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Shot in the Arm

Sam and I have been considering whether or not we continue to be foster parents.

Let that sink in.
Something I have been passionate about. Something that I have worked for weeks, months, even years for, and I am thinking that perhaps I should walk away from it.

That is the magnitude with which this "job" takes it out of you.

And so Sam and I did what we do when we are weighing a heavy decision: we prayed about it. A lot.
We also have talked about it. A lot.
There is some really cool stuff that happened with all that praying and talking:

1) I discovered that Sam really LOVES being a foster parent! The guy who was resistant. Whose deal was we would take the classes and "see how that goes" before moving forward with our license. He enjoys being on the other side of the issue (as a firefighter/EMT he has seen the side when the kids are being removed because of the bad stuff that has happened). He feels like by being a foster dad, he is doing something more than putting a band-aid on the problem. It has given him a compassion and perspective for the kids when he is in those situations with his job. He feels a renewed sense of purpose for his life as he stares down retirement.

2) God heard my prayers. I prayed that God would show me, in a very real and personal way, what we should do. Specifically, to show me that we were having an impact. I voiced to Him that we hadn't had a new-kid phone call since Thanksgiving, and I thought our ministry calling was to teens but every kid we've had was not a teen. This was an on-my-knees-tears-streaming prayer. I desperately  want to be doing, and be living, totally in sync with God's will, and if I needed to keep on keeping on, then I was going to need Him to help me do it. I can count on one hand the number of times I have prayed like that and honestly, nearly all have been within the last year.
     Within five hours of that 4am prayer. I received a picture and update about a baby we had cared for for two months. She's going to be adopted this year and her new mom wants us to be there when it happens. She thanked us for being willing to suffer the heartbreak of caring for and loving a baby and then giving her away.
      The next night we got a call for a 14, almost 15 year old boy that needed a home right away. A teen! Like a real teenager, with all of his teenager-ness, attitude and trauma behaviors.
      Your probably thinking, "Wow! That's pretty cool how God answered both prayers."
       I know that's what I  was thinking:
               Positive impact: check.
               Teenager moved in: check.
      But God wasn't done. He was going to drive home the point in an amazing way that would bring me to my knees (quite literally), praising Him for His incredible care for me and all His children:
 The social worker that brought our new teenager's things to the house, was the worker of a kid that we'd had for a couple of weeks at the beginning. It was the hardest decision we have ever had to make to have this boy removed from our home. I have prayed for this child so very much since and have often wondered how he was doing. His worker was able to share with us that he is doing very well in his new home. Telling us that the way we handled him had an impact. The worker had told the new foster mom some of the strategies that we had used and she was thankful to get a "jump start" advantage in dealing with his behaviors. This child still talks about when he lived with us. He has even kept the letters we wrote him when he left. The worker said he is a different kid now and almost unrecognizable. The social worker thanked us with tears in his eyes for hanging on as long as we did; for wanting what was best for this child and recognizing that as much as we were doing, he needed more. He encouraged us to keep fostering.
    My God is an Awesome God!
    My God!
    Is an AWESOME God!

After more talking, Sam and I have decided to go another six months. In July we will evaluate how we are doing and make a decision again. We have a new confidence that God is with us in this and that He will sustain us in it. I wish the words on this page could even begin to express the gratitude and praise I have for Him. He has shown me that His care for us exceeds expectations. I need to trust Him. He delights, DELIGHTS, in showing me His awesomeness, I only need to ask.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Standing Up

I am seeing someone.

A therapist.

🤣LoL!
 Sorry. I couldn’t resist. 😁

Seriously though. This foster care parenting thing is tough! Six months in now and we have had eight kids through our doors. A couple were just respite (very short term care to give their foster parents a quick break or time off), a few were short term (weeks to a couple months), and one is currently very long term, like years.

These kids are upset, angry, confused, hurt, sad, and every other emotion you can imagine. And since they are kids, they do and say things because of how they are feeling. Opening our home to foster children has opened our home to trauma and trauma behaviors. This roller coaster of emotions and behaviors can be exhausting. Throw in caseworkers, bio-families, doctor appointments, DCF meetings, and rules and regulations. Top it off with all the normal issues with biological children, adult children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, friends, etc. etc. etc.

You get the idea. Overwhelmed just brushes against the tip of the emotions iceberg!

Sam noticed I was struggling: emotional, irritable, and sensitive to everything that was said or done. He gently, from a distance, suggested I see someone. Good call on his part. And not just the “from a distance” part! 😂

So I did. And I feel better. I am learning some new strategies for handling our long term foster kid and for dealing with myself. Being aware, that I have needs and if they don’t get met I can’t be the best me there is for anyone, is a good thing. Having a husband who is aware of all that and is quick to suggest, support, and encourage healthy coping strategies, is an amazing thing!

One of my new year’s resolutions is to stand up for myself, because if I don’t, there are very few people who will and a whole bunch of little people need me to stay sane. Part of standing up is becoming self-aware. Standing up is also being humble enough to say, “I can’t do this without help. Please help me”.

This is me in 2020.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

New Year 2020

Last year at this time I wrote:

“For 2019 I am choosing the word ADVENTURE. By definition adventure is "an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks." It also means "to proceed despite risk." I want 2019 to be the year that we keep going despite the risks that we can see, and the ones that will surprise us. We want to keep building on who we are, growing better, finding our new purpose, developing new skills and talents, and always seeking God's plan.”

2019 was a year of work. Working to become foster parents. Growing our marriage. Building our new house into our home. Striving to heal from past hurts. Crossing items off our bucket list. Taking chances with ourselves and with others. Clearly, we were busy.

And now we are weary. Work, growth, building, healing, and adventures all take effort. So, I believe our word for 2020 is STAND. Standing can be a defensive or offensive position: stand against something (defensive) or stand up for something (offensive). Stand can also be a cessation of movement or process; neither offensive or defensive, just being still.

Even Jesus grew weary and rested: at the well (John 4:6), in a boat during a storm (Mark 4:38), and on a mountain alone (Matthew 14:23). Jesus maintained his ministry, while still taking time for himself. If the savior of the world can take a rest and stand still, then so can I. Being busy doesn’t make me more spiritual. If I am resting and taking care of my body and mind, it does not mean I am selfish. 

I will stand upon what was built in 2019 and during 2020, I will stand up for myself and stand against what others say I should be doing. I will stand still when I need time alone. 


In 2020 I want to be found standing!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Conversations:

Person 1: "If I'm being honest, I'm struggling with some stuff and feel very alone."
Person 2: "I'll pray for you."

Or:

Person 1: "I feel like there isn't anyone I can really talk to about how I'm feeling."
Person 2: "You're just in a funk. Spend more time with God in prayer and bible study."

This is how some Christians respond to what people trained in counseling or therapy would say are "red flags". Depression frightens us because we aren't sure how to handle it, or we believe some false things about it. We believe that the person can just muscle through it and force themselves to trust that good things are coming. We have been told that it's a spiritual battle so it must be fought with prayer, bible reading, and church attendance. The depressed person simply needs to believe harder.  We think that it is a passing mood, one driven by hormones or temporary circumstances. It has been preached to us that we are commanded to have joy, to be content in all things, so we assume if someone isn't joyful or content, then they are not being obedient and are sinning.

Christians who are depressed have the added burden of shame, perpetuated by the false assumptions I just laid out. Depression is a disease, NOT a failure of the will and people don't just "get over it". It is not simply a spiritual problem requiring just a spiritual solution; more faith won't solve this problem. 

Does prayer help? Absolutely. God hears and answers our prayers. But in the meantime some other things should be taking place. 
Checking in: A phone call, a text or email. Let them know they aren't alone. Remember that family members are also affected and will need support as well.
Invitation: Make an invitation to get together and don't take no for an answer. People who are depressed tend to isolate themselves, withdrawing from contact. 
Inform: let them know you are listening. Ask questions and really hear the answers. Reassure them that they are loved and wanted.
Report: If you have real concerns that someone could be considering self-harm or is having suicidal ideations, report it. Talk to a pastor, a deacon, or someone you trust who has been trained in how to deal with such things.

According to statistics, people suffering from depression are four times more likely to seek help from a pastor before going to a professionally trained counselor. Unfortunately, just 25% of all clergy are adequately trained for handling mental health issues. Adequately trained is defined as having and maintaining education in mental health counseling beyond an introductory course in post secondary degrees. 


May is Mental Health Awareness Month. According to some statistics 25% of all Americans have a mental illness. Mental illness encompasses everything from bipolar disorder to depression and PTSD.  If people suffering from cancer, can receive emotional support from their churches, then those suffering from depression should too. It is possible, if we view depression accurately though the lens of love rather than a sin or lack of faith issue. 

Signs of depression to be aware of:

They can include:
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
  • Pessimism and hopelessness
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of interest in things once pleasurable
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won't go away
  • Digestive problems that don't get better, even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Finding Joy

Waiting for the other shoe to drop. That sense of knowing something will happen and it's just a matter of time. It is a saying that comes from the late 1800s when in tenement homes those on the first floor would hear the first shoe drop of their neighbor above and they would wait, knowing the second shoe was going to follow. It brings the idea of being on edge and looking for the evidence that the event is about to come to fruition. Everything gets put on hold while we wait for that shoe to hit the floor.

But, instead of spending our time looking for it, listening and anticipating it, what if we made the best of it. What if since we know it is going to happen, what if we spent the time enjoying what we have: the silence in between the shoes. Let's find the joy in what is actually happening instead of dreading and worrying over what will happen. 

I am working hard to take this approach. The situation is not an "if" it will happen, but very clearly a "when" it happens. I could spend my days planning for all the consequences. I could monitor the signs, looking for hints that it is coming. I could raise walls and defenses, or attempt to control the outcomes. 

or 

I can find the joy in the pause. I can see, feel, and know that right now it is not happening. Right now things are peaceful and quiet. If I enjoy what is happening in this moment, then when the shoe does drop, I will know that I truly experienced the pause. My memories will not be consumed in the worry, angst, and care. Is this what James is talking about in James 1:2 "My brethren, count it all joy..." and Paul in Philippians 4:11 "... for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."?

 To fix my thoughts on what is right now, isn't always easy. Some days it is a struggle to not dwell on that impending second shoe. But when I do get lost in the joy of the pause between shoes, it encourages and spurs me on to keep doing it. I want to keep seeking out those moments. Those joys can never be taken from me, no matter when or how that shoe falls, the time in the pause is mine to hold forever.

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