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Two years ago (before my blog existed) I wrote a piece on Facebook called When I Became a Foster Parent. It was some thoughts and feelings I was dealing with at the time. We have been blessed to adopt two children since then (and have another scheduled for the end of September!!!), but I’ll never forget those feelings. And I just might feel them again when (if God wills) we enter the merry-go-round of another foster case sometime. So here is a re-run of that, adapted and added to, continuing a “Confessions” theme…

When I became a foster parent, I didn’t know…

…that it would be one of the biggest time commitments I’ve ever made in my life,

…that falling in love with a child would not happen at first glance,

…that after years of wanting to be a mom, there would be moments when I’d wish for “everything like it used to be”,

…that losing the child you love would be a cloud hanging over you at all times,

…that I would look at bio moms around me and be so jealous because no one has “presented as a resource” for their baby,

…that others would look at me and say, “You’re so amazing! I just couldn’t do it because I could never give a child back after I’ve bonded.” And on the outside I smile and say, “Thanks,” while inside I scream, “I’m not amazing! I can’t give back a child either! But we need more people committed to loving hurting children regardless of the hurt it might cause us because that’s what Jesus has asked us to do!” But I hold it in because they wouldn’t understand,

…that I can’t think “I’m finally through THAT stage” because I might have to start all over again with a different baby and hand all the progress over to someone else,

…that it would be so hard and awkward to relate to birth parents,

…that I would secretly be so overjoyed when “my” child wants me and not their birth mom,

…that I would feel guilty because of the above statement,

…that I would also feel guilty because I have their precious baby and they don’t (although it’s not my fault at all),

…that waiting for months (sometimes years) would be SO.HARD,

…that court days would always loom large on the horizon of your mind.

So, why am I still a foster mom?

Because when I became a foster parent, I also didn’t know…

…that coaxing a smile from a baby to whom I am a stranger would be so rewarding,

…that the moment I realize I have finally fallen in love would bring tears to my eyes,

…that it would make me so happy to know that there is a definite bond growing,

…that it would feel so good to hear my little girl say, “Mom”,

…that it would melt my heart to see their little faces light up when I walk in after one of their visits with bio parents,

…that even partial trust and friendship from a bio mom would be such a blessing,

…that we would feel so blessed to be just where God wants us touching the children’s lives He wants us to be touching,

…that every moment, smile, touch, giggle, hug, kiss, and milestone would feel so fragile and precious,

…that we would suddenly realize we’re not the ones changing lives as much as we are being changed by these special little people,

…that making the most of every teachable moment about God, their value and worth, and how much Jesus loves them would feel so urgent,

…that I would learn to pray so desperately for God’s best for a child because that’s the only prayer that makes sense,

…that it would be so good for me to have my eyes vividly opened to the needs of hurting, lonely, empty lives so close to where I live my sheltered life,

…that little brown arms around my neck and sparkling black eyes or big blue ones would make me feel so blessed to be their mom at least for now.

And a few additional thoughts we foster parents would like you to know…

“The idea of sainthood [of us foster parents] makes it impossible for ordinary people to do this – and the truth is the world needs more ordinary, human foster parents. This also stinks because if we’re saints and angels, we can’t ever be jerks or human or need help, and that’s bad, because sometimes this is hard.” Sharon Astyk

Don’t ask questions and make comments (especially in front of the children) that you wouldn’t ask about biological children! From “I don’t understand why something can’t be done to stop these women from having children!” to “Are they your real children?” Not only does this hurt a child to hear these things, but I’ve come to really care about these children’s bio families. These women birthed the babies I love and care for. They are people just like you, without the training and tools and Jesus to make responsible choices! The answers I bite back nearly choke me sometimes! 🙂 And my responses to the comment and question above are (at least in my head)…”Are you implying that this child I love shouldn’t have been born?” and “Do they look fake to you?” (And yes, I’ve heard both of these more than once!)

While these children are with us, we love them entirely. They are our real children and my children’s real siblings. Blood doesn’t make a family! The same eye color, hair color, skin color doesn’t make us bond better. I see Jesus in my children’s eyes…that’s why I love them! Some of them may stay forever. Some of them may go and come back. Some of them may leave and we’ll never see them again. At Penn Valley we were challenged to remember that when a child leaves, they take a piece of us with them. And it hurts and we grieve. But with all the missing pieces in their lives, they need that piece far more than we do knowing the Healer of hurting hearts!

So have I convinced anyone to join me on the journey? It’s an incredible one! There could be children waiting for you! 🙂

Some of my thoughts here at the end were culled from a blog post I read a few months back. She came across a little stronger than I thought necessary with some of the things and I didn’t feel the need to use it in its entirety. She did have some good stuff if you wish to check it out…http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2013/03/12/what-foster-parents-wish-other-people-knew/.

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Confessions of Infertility

This post has been sitting on a shelf in my mind for a long time. Most of the time, I’m OK with our infertility journey. We knew when we got married that we’d probably never have bio children. And we would be missing out on the joy we receive from our three beautiful children God has given us through the foster care system. Still there are moments when it hurts not to be pregnant, when it seems every last woman I know is, when I’m so tired of fearing “announcements,” when conversations get stuck on pregnancy and birth-related things, when I mourn that I’ll never hold in my arms the result of our love, when I know I’ll not get to see what a little “Sheldon” or “Twylene” looks like. And the reason I’ve not written this before is because it’s painful. Unless you’ve walked this journey, you cannot understand (but thanks for trying.) (And if you start reading this, please read to the disclaimers at the bottom so you know I’m not whining or asking for pity or complaining!) 🙂

I spend a refreshing morning about every 6 weeks with a group of ladies who are infertile, but are also moms (or hoping to be) through adoption/foster care. Much of our conversation centers on things like, “What does his case look like?” or “Have you heard anything from your agency yet?” or “It really looks like they’re moving her to an aunt’s care,” or “My patience is wearing out!” or “We got an adoption date!” Sometimes we still discuss the pain of a barren womb and the latest thing someone has said to us that left us speechless at some people’s insensitivity. Sometimes we ask advice about a non-supportive family member, and sometimes we rejoice at the miracle of a changed attitude. We discuss racial issues and our fear of attachment disorders. Sometimes we laugh, but sometimes there are tears. It’s a safe place to vent and it’s just such a blessing!

Some of the following content comes from our talks with these or other women, some comes from my own experience. Some of these things I feel less now that I am an adoptive mom, some of them still rear their heads at times, some of them are feelings others have shared…

  1. Please don’t tell me that you understand just how I feel because you “tried for six (or nine or even twelve) months” before you got pregnant. Most of us would be delighted to only have that many disappointing months instead of six or nine or even twelve years!
  2. Sometimes it doesn’t make me feel better when you tell me about so-and-so who is pregnant after waiting eight years. It’s one more person that no longer understands and it sometimes makes me question why God blessed them and not me.
  3. I try very hard to rejoice with every woman who announces a pregnancy, but sometimes I go home and cry in my husband’s arms wondering why God asked us to walk this hard road. If I leave the room quickly while everyone else is rejoicing, it might be because I need to get rid of a few tears, have a mini pity-party, get my emotions in line, and wait for the hubbub to die down so I can act normal. I will be happy for you eventually, sometimes it just takes a little time.
  4. Please don’t expect me to do extra things because “I have no children so what on earth do I have to do?”. We have a joke in our ladies’ group that all childless women must do is sit around eating bon-bons and reading novels. 🙂 We do have a life even though we don’t have children! And sometimes we’re just as busy as you with your house-full (although it’s a very different kind of busy.)
  5. Sometimes I question whether I wasn’t given bio children because God knew I’d be a horrible mom. Then my husband gently reminds me that there would be way fewer children in this world if that was God’s way of deciding who had babies.
  6. Very few times am I included in lists, prayers, etc…families, older people, children, youth. Where am I? Are we a family – just the two of us? (Single people get missed here too, by the way.)
  7. Sometimes things that people say or do hurt us, then we feel guilty for feeling hurt since we know they didn’t mean it. Most of us don’t mean to be over-sensitive, but we might have just had two friends and a family member tell us their “exciting news” and we’re having a hard time.
  8. It is VERY kind of you to tell me privately that you are pregnant. I have time to process everything instead of being in a crowd of people to watch me run crying from the room (or try to think of happy things to say when I’d rather run crying from the room.)
  9. Sometimes you can remind me how blessed I am to have extra time with my husband, time to pursue my hobbies, time to sleep in or go to bed late. It reminds me that there are blessings in this stage of my life. But…
  10. Please don’t complain or whine about how loud your children are, how naughty they are, how you never have time for yourself. We’d give a lot to have one or more “naughty ones” of our own. It’s like complaining to a starving person how much you need to lose weight.
  11. Mother’s Day is one of the hardest days of the year for many of us! Some of my friends don’t even go to church because it’s just too painful. If you see a childless woman on this day, you can gently remind her that a mother by definition is someone who gives and/or nurtures life. She can do this every day, whether or not her body’s ever gone through the actual baby process.
  12. If I seem to be obsessed with a pet, it’s because that pet fills the mothering need in a very small way. Hey, at least the house isn’t completely empty when I walk in the door, and someone(thing) loves me just because I’m me!
  13. Some people say things that are insensitive (Whether they mean it that way or not, doesn’t really change the way it makes us feel. And I’ve had little experience with this because our families and friends are very supportive. Most of these come from the experiences of ladies I know.) Here are some examples:
  • “If you just wouldn’t stress out so much about getting pregnant maybe it would just happen!” or another classic, “You need to just relax.” One lady in my infertility group said that the next time one of her friends moans about getting pregnant too easily she’s going to say, “You just need more stress in your life, or maybe you need to be a bit more tense!” 🙂
  • “Oh, you should start the adoption process and then you’d get pregnant. It happens all the time.” Well actually it doesn’t…statistics aren’t very high in favor of that statement.
  • “Maybe you just don’t know how to ‘do it.'” Excuse me?? This one doesn’t even deserve any comeback!
  • “Maybe when you reach ‘change of life’ you will suddenly have a few children.” You may have little or no idea why this couple has infertility issues (and they might not even know!) so this is really a pointless thing to say.

We walk a difficult path, we childless women. We are told as little girls and older how great a mommy we’d be, the Bible has few examples of infertility and all those (except David’s wife Michal) received a biological child at some point, we are wired to mother, it’s something that can define us if we allow it to. But it doesn’t have to! God has given grace to be content here, now, where we’re planted!

Disclaimer #1 This post isn’t to make you feel like you must walk on eggshells around us or never talk about pregnancy and childbirth or like we are waiting to weep at any slip of your tongue! It’s just a glimpse into one of the difficult paths God calls some of His daughters to walk.

Disclaimer #2 I recognize that there are other difficult things people face…an unfaithful husband, abuse, wayward children, miscarriage, death, chronic illness…this is written from a place I’ve been, not from any of these scenarios.

Disclaimer #3 I know that I can be just as insensitive to your issues as you are to mine, simply because I’ve never walked your path. Please tell me how I can be more sensitive…I want to learn too!

What My Sisters Have Taught Me

As I thought about yesterday’s “gifts in someone older than you,” I thought of my three older sisters. I am blessed to have three who are/were Godly examples. Here is something I’ve learned from each of them…

Suzette – I remember her saying, “If you only do in life what you feel like doing, nothing would ever get done.” I have always admired her dedication to her family, her motivation and her ambition. She gets so much done in a day, but also finds time to invest in the lives of her family. I am also challenged by the way she invests time in missionary ladies’ lives…keeping in touch, praying, just letting them know they’re not forgotten.

Lynnae – When I was fresh out of high school, 18 years old, I lived with her family for three months as a “maid.” We laughed, cried, made so many good memories and I treasure them! One thing I’ll never forget is the time she took with her children. They were more important than anything else in her day. I want to be that kind of mother. She lived well, fully…then she died well too, faith-filled to the very end. Can’t wait for Heaven!

Gerrene – There are eight years between us and we fought, oh, how. we. fought! Then magically one day (maybe when I finally grew up :)) we clicked. One of the things I admire about her is the patience and understanding she gives their special-needs daughter. I think she carries a burden heavier than any of us really understand, and God trusted her to take care of an extra-special child. It’s a gift given to the few who are worthy. She does it cheerfully and we rarely hear her vent (although if she needs that we’d listen! :)) Her reward in Heaven will be great!

There’s nothing quite like a sister and I was blessed with three!

And today’s Gifts in Fabric…

  • my cheery new Ikea apron (how I love that store!)
  • the ribbons and fibers I use as I catch up my children’s life books (that we’re supposed to do when they’re foster children. Ahem. Two are adopted and one almost…yes, I’m a little delayed.) I love to scrapbook!
  • the overflowing closets, drawers, and totes full of clothing. We are blessed!

Catching Up

The last 10 days have been busy, I’ve been recovering from a double ear infection/sinus infection, and we spent the weekend at the cabin. I’ve discovered something. The times you don’t feel like counting your blessings are the times you need to the most. When you force yourself to sit down and think about things from God’s perspective, it changes your perspective. Last night I was feeling a little blue, just tired from the demands of life. It was amazing how, twenty minutes later after catching up on my “Blessings Journal”, how much better I felt! So here it is…

June 17 – Gifts in My Dad…this was a hard one for me. I never knew my dad since he died when I was just a baby.

  • a heritage of faith and a good reputation – everyone who knew him tells me that he was a good man, someone they were privileged to know. His relationship with God was passed down to me and I’m so thankful. I don’t have to wonder where Daddy is…I know I’ll see him someday soon. And I’ll have eternity to “get to know him!”
  • my black hair and eyes 🙂
  • security – Daddy might not have been in our home, but I believe the relationship he had with my mom, the trust they had, spilled over into our lives while we grew up

June 18 – Gifts From My Heavenly Father

  • grace and the plan of salvation
  • the blessing of marriage and the gift of my husband…don’t know what I’d do without him!
  • His Word…God doesn’t throw us into a dark world with no instruction manual and I’m so thankful

June 19 – Gifts I Became in Serving…to be honest, I felt like I was anything but a gift to anyone today. I felt so sick, so exhausted, so grouchy. But I did…

  • pack Sheldon’s lunch
  • spend time with my children
  • make a hot meal…I so wanted to call Sheldon and tell him to get pizza on his way home. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) But I knew we’re trying to tighten our budget up (thinking about school tuition soon…scary thought!) and so I decided there’s no reason I can’t mix up a casserole of some kind!

June 20 – A Gift Bent, Beautiful, Loved

I looked all day for something currently in my life, but my mind kept returning to Grandma B’s hands. Oh, to hold them again…someday there will be a reunion! They were bent with age and hard work, but beautiful because they served and loved and embraced life!

June 21 – Gifts Found in Light

  • Our campfire at the cabin
  • Fireflies…summer’s not my favorite season maybe, but I do love catching fireflies!
  • Warm sunshine (not hot, just warm :).)

June 22 – Gifts That are Difficult

  • Being a mother
  • Infertility…I need to write a post about this sometime, but what we thought was second best has turned into the best blessing in the world!
  • Losing someone I love…when my sister Lynnae died, I learned to hold dearer those I love, to trust God in a new way, and to let go gracefully. Heaven became sweeter and memories turned golden. I wouldn’t choose the road of grief, but I have learned from it.

June 23 – Gifts Found Around a Table

  • We were at the cabin with my family. Although we missed those who couldn’t be there, I am thankful for new memories made and time spent together.
  • My little family…we join hands and I think, “Why does God trust us enough to send these broken little lives to us? How can we love them, and teach them, and help them heal?” And I’m thankful for these gifts, and thankful for God’s power in our lives.
  • Food…I don’t think about where our next meal will come from, but some people have to . I don’t worry about putting my children to bed with hungry little tummies because there wasn’t enough…but some mothers have to.

June 24 – A Gift in Water, Words and White

  • Water…it’s hot outside. I’m thankful for cold water. I remember every time we were somewhere with Arthur Good and he asked the blessing on the meal, he would say, “And thank you God for good water to drink.” Probably I take this gift too much for granted.
  • Words…”I need to run tonight and pick up a trailer-load of hay. I’ll take the children; you relax,” said my understanding husband. They were delighted to go away with Daddy. I was delighted to have a quiet evening to myself! 🙂
  • White…my cheerfully blooming daisies.

Today I’m hunting for gifts in someone older than me. Hmm…will have to think this one over! So even if someone is sick, or the washline crashes to the ground fully loaded (happened yesterday!), or the children have a hard time being cheerful, I’ll just be here counting my blessings! 🙂 How ’bout you?

Of fizzy water, breezes, and little boys

This was such a good, relaxing Sunday! I wasn’t feeling that great because of a nasty cold, and I’m afraid I had little energy to make this a special Father’s Day for Sheldon. 😦 I’m hoping to celebrate him later in the week because we sure to love him!

When I read my joy dare for today, I had to smile. I was searching for three gifts moving…all I had to do was look from one child to the other and there they were! 🙂 But I decided to be a little more creative…

  • One of my our children is especially a “mover.” Rylan blessed our home in March of 2011. He was not a “fun baby” mostly due to a severe acid reflux issue. He was fussy, smelled bad most of the time, and not very cute. (Sorry, I’m just being honest here…big head with no hair and eyes much too large. He has since turned into a very handsome, little man! :)) Some people may fall in love with any and all babies at first sight. I do not. It took a long time (and I felt a little guilty) until he found his place in my heart. Trust me he has captured a large part since then! We suspect a small ADHD problem…he’s constantly moving and his attention span is non-existent for certain things. But I know someday, if we can only channel this energy in the right direction, he will be a mover and shaker for the kingdom of God…Rylan is #1 on my list of gifts moving!
  • The cool breeze blowing today. I love wind, I love cool weather, and I have thoroughly enjoyed most of this summer so far. Every day that’s not hot is one day closer to fall in my opinion. Before you think I’m wishing the summer away, I’m not. I’ll just be glad to see the September page of the calendar! 🙂
  • The bubbles in my glass of seltzer water. When we moved to Romania, we quickly learned that you don’t just ask for a glass of water. You need to distinguish between “still water” and “gas water.” And neither of us really liked apa minerala all that much. That changed somewhere over the time we were there…I guess it’s a taste that grows on you because we both enjoy a tall glass of fizzy water sometimes. I did just that this afternoon!

The nap was wonderful, the coffee delicious and the Taste of Home magazine enjoyed! I’m ready for a joy-filled week…how ’bout you?

After a busy week…

So after the busiest week we’ve had in awhile, I am grateful it’s Saturday night! Today’s gift search was for three gifts from God’s Word. Although these aren’t taken from where I’m reading right now in my daily devotions, they came to my mind…

I am thankful for the promise that when I come to Jesus, He will give me rest! With lots of help this week, the strawberries are finished (50 lbs of them), peas were done three times, Summer Bible School was enjoyed, two days of excursions were completed, and this mama’s tired! Rest sounds delightful!

I am glad that God established a day of rest every week. This kind of goes with the previous one, but I’m so glad that tomorrow is Sunday and I don’t have to tackle any projects!

I’m also glad that God promised wisdom to all who ask…our children all seem to be going through challenging, “need lots of wisdom” stages right now. I’m sure this will always be the case to a certain extent, but it seems to ebb and flow a bit. Right now it’s flowing! 🙂 But we don’t have to do this by ourselves…God will fill us with wisdom to get each of these little souls to the other side of childhood!

Yesterday I was to search for an unexpected, unlikely and unwanted gift. I decided that it will be F’s sudden interest in potty training. Although this is unexpected and unlikely, it is certainly NOT unwanted! 🙂

We will go on working with joy!

Two Days’ Worth

Six years ago, we started a tradition of kidnapping for 40th birthdays! My oldest sister was awoken and told to get ready for a day at the beach. It was so much fun!

We wish there would have been an occasion three years ago…because that would mean that Lynnae was still with us…but that of course was not to be.

Yesterday, we walked in on Gerrene, who was having her devotions, at 6:45AM and told her she has till 7:30 to be ready for a day of shopping in Philly. Oh, we had a fun day! Lots of laughs, the Cheesecake Factory, Ikea, fabric shopping…

My day was not conducive to blogging, but here are the past two days of gifts…

June 12 – Three Gifts Full

  • My full coffee cup…Ah, I do love me a good cup of coffee in the morning!
  • My full arms…Although our children are one of my greatest sources of stress, they’re also one of the greatest sources of blessing!
  • My full fridge…Yes, it’s dirty. Yes, some of the food is growing fuzzy stuff. But we never go hungry!

June 13 – Three Gifts Smelled

  • My favorite Bath and Body perfume…Forever Red!
  • Fresh Laundry…I had two enormous blankets that needed to be washed but don’t fit in my machine. Last night I was in a laundromat for I think the first time in my life. I love the smell of hot dryers, fabric softener, and detergent!
  • My crock-pot supper…When I walked in the door at 5:15PM, the house smelled so good from the Swiss Steak that had been cooking all day!

Today I’m looking for just one gift…unexpected, unwanted and unlikely. Today I choose joy!