have to, get to, desperately want to.

These past few weeks have been good but different, and while at the moment I want to say I’m in a little bit of a spiritual funk, thinking back.. I’ve spent more time with Jesus lately than I have in a long time. I’ve been fired up, passionate, and intentional about my conversations and my time. Overall I’ve felt good, but right now I feel -for lack of a better word- blah. All day long I’ve been trying to put my finger on it. Why do I feel this way? What is going on? And two words kept coming up over and over again: have to.

Moving here, Mike and I had (have) high expectations for ourselves. Moving away is a fresh start, something brand new. We can be whoever we want to be and we don’t have to worry about everyone knowing everything about our pasts. We loved our lives in Maryland, don’t get me wrong, but we wanted (want) to be better versions of ourselves here. We want to get into healthier routines and habits and be more intentional with our relationships and growth in God. There were so many conversations about that – who we were going to be down here, what was going to look the same, what was going to be different. It didn’t take long for my constant need for control to take over, which leads me to the two words: have to. 

I have to be a better wife to my husband: I have to trust him more, I have to let him lead, I have to stop trying to control him and his relationship with the Lord.
I have to be a better Christian: I have to find a church home and get involved immediately, I have to make friends there, I have to never miss a Sunday. I have to volunteer, I have to listen to old sermons. I have to have at least thirty minutes of quiet time each day. I have to pray without ceasing, I have to worship more.
I have to be a better friend: I have to have intentional conversations daily. I have to challenge and encourage them. I have to be available. I have to be on – positive – happy. I have to make friends from all different areas of my life.
I have to be a better human: I have to work out daily to be healthy. I have to start losing more weight so that I can have a baby one day. I have to stop eating dessert, I have to start eating all my fruits and vegetables. I have to set huge goals for myself and make sure I meet them.

I have to keep up with a cleaning schedule for my home. I have to help out around the house. I have to work work work and get out of my student loan debt. I have to stop spending too much. I have to find a place for us to live.

Have to. Have to. Have to. The list could go on and on.

Seriously. In my mind, I have to do these things. This is my chance to be better. What I realized is that setting these things up as “have to’s” in my life was setting myself up for failure. Of course I haven’t done all of those things consistently. The plan totally backfired and has since turned me into a controlling, bitter human being that feels like a total failure. Constantly disappointing yourself over and over again is not good for your heart and soul.

So yesterday I was thinking to a sermon by Francis Chan and I was a little distracted by my thoughts and I suddenly heard him say something along the lines of, “And we get to do that. We get to change for Jesus.” GET TO? I literally don’t know if I’ve ever had that mindset. What a shift in perspective. We do have to do these things for Jesus, we GET to do these things – and what they lead to is pretty amazing.

I have get to be a better wife to my husband: I’ll trust him more, I’ll get to experience and learn about the way he leads, I have to stop trying to control him and his relationship with the Lord, He will grow in his faith the way God want him to, not me.
I have get to be a better Christian: I get to find a church home and get involved immediately, I get to make friends there, I get to have a place I want to be every Sunday. I get to volunteer, I get to listen to old sermons to learn something new. I get to have at least thirty minutes of quiet time each day, I get to pray without ceasing, I get to worship – how incredible is it that we GET to do these things? That we can be this close to a God that loves and created us. That we can feel His presence. That we can learn from Him. This is BEAUTIFUL, not a burden. What was I thinking?
I have to be a better friend: I have to have intentional conversations daily. I have to challenge and encourage them. I have to be available. I have to be on – positive – happy. I have to make friends from all different areas of my life.
I have get to be a better human: I get to work out daily to be healthy because my body allows me to do so. I get to start losing more weight so that I can be in the best shape for my children and my pregnancies (maybe).  I get to set huge goals for myself and I get to experience a sense of accomplishment when I meet them.

I get to keep up with a cleaning schedule for my home, that some people may not have. I get to help out around the house as a way to show my gratitude for such great friends that took us in. I get to work work work BECAUSE of my student loan debt that led to my college degree. I get to stop spending too much and learn to save and budget for my family. I get to find a place for us to live, a place for us to call home.

It’s a game changer. Even typing it all out was therapeutic for me. I am not naive enough to think I’ll never have a “have to” thought again. I probably will again later today. But this is a start. A shift in my thinking and every time I say “have to” I will be reminded of this lesson that I need to learn over and over again.

So here’s what I desperately want: I desperately want to know what it feels like to completely surrender to Jesus and give up my control. I desperately want GRACE to be my gut reaction – to others and to myself. I desperately want to live a life that glorifies God, that points others to Him – and not just in my blog posts. I desperately want to be closer to Jesus – and I want to WANT to do the hard things in my life, knowing that they will lead me somewhere great. Most of all, I desperately want to accept that the struggle is part of it. That these are the moments that shape us.

So Jesus, change my heart. Hear my prayer: change. my. heart. I desperately want to be more like You.

spiritual warfare or life in a broken world?

I’m writing this from a hospital room. It’s 11:19 PM and my husband is trying to get some sleep in the hospital bed while I sit on a recliner next to him. We’ve never been in this place before – neither of us have had overnight hospital stays since we were children. Let me start by saying that everything is okay. I’m going to have to get Mikes approval before posting this because he doesn’t share a lot on social media and would hate to have everyone fawning all over him telling him to get better. Clearly he’s the opposite of me – a classic overshare-er(?) and someone who loves the encouragement and support of everyone around her (aka, attention. I’ll call it like it is). Anyway, Mike was admitted to the hospital earlier tonight. We were actually on our way to the beach and decided to stop at an urgent care because we thought Mike might have an infection from a cut on his foot, but it had only just gotten red today and we didn’t think much of it. They drew his blood and then told us to go to the emergency room immediately. I never want to hear those words again. Here we learned that it is an infection but it had spread so quickly and he had so many other symptoms (fever, body aches, loss of appetite) that they wanted to monitor him overnight to make sure it gets better. They are not worried, but taking precautions and wanting to make sure he’s headed in the right direction as these antibiotics kick in. So here we are.

I’ve gone through a range of emotions through all of it, naturally. Fear, panic, anger, and doubt among them. My sister was the first one to say, “It sounds like cellulitis” so I googled it and of course the first thing I see is “could be life threatening.” And we all know from my last post that I am NOT good in a crisis. Although I have to say I handled this much better than the car issue.. #progress. Once everything settled and we knew he was going to be okay, it almost felt comical. We talked about how North Carolina hates us and how much has gone wrong in the last month. The house falling through, losing out on job opportunities, Mikes car breaking down, now this. Not to mention the financial strain of it all. It hasn’t been an easy transition by any means. Don’t get me wrong, SO many blessings and so many answered prayers amidst all these trials. But the trials keep coming.

I don’t talk about satan and spiritual warfare often. Not many people do. But earlier in the week I had just talked about it with a friend of ours. Of how real spiritual warfare is, and how satan does attack. Side note: I’m taking the extra time to backspace and retype satan every time because it keeps wanting to give satan a capital S. I read a blog once (I think from Jon Acuff, but I could be wrong) where he said that every time he was talking about the devil he would type satan instead of Satan because a lowercase letter is like the middle finger of grammar. I loved it. And that’s where I’m at right now. Anyway, no one wants to talk about satan or spiritual warfare. And I don’t blame us. It’s confusing and misunderstood and quite frankly almost impossible to wrap your head around.

But it’s real. Ephesians 6:11-12 says “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” These forces are literally waging a war against God and His people. Against me. Against Mike. And it might be uncomfortable or feel weird to address it, but it needs to be addressed.

I listened to a sermon by Francis Chan earlier tonight and he talked about how some people call spiritual warfare on anything that goes wrong. His exact example was, “Ugh, my shoelace came untied. It’s gotta be the devil.” I loved what he said about it because there IS spiritual warfare but there is also just life. Life in a broken, sinful world. It’s so hard to tell the difference, but quite frankly, I don’t think it matters. If what is going wrong is a product of sin or brokenness, it’s still a foothold for satan to grab onto in your life. Obviously, little things happen and I don’t think a constant “we’re under attack” is necessary for everything that doesn’t go our way. What I do think is necessary is an awareness of this war against us and what we can do to fight back.

I’m passionate about this right now because if I didn’t have these conversations with friends lately, or if I didn’t read a post shared with me on Facebook about the devil, or if I didn’t receive a text from my aunt tonight saying that the enemy is working against us.. then I don’t know if I would have been aware of what might be going on here. Of what the enemy is trying to do – or what he will try to do using these circumstances.

Immediately tonight, I started to doubt Gods goodness. Seriously.. it was IMMEDIATE. And I LOVE God and feel like I know Him well. That didn’t matter. We were on our way to the beach, to see friends that we’ve cancelled on multiple times before. We just took care of the last crisis. We just figured out my job situation. We JUST got back up after being knocked down. Why would God do this to us? Why is the happening? Why us, why us, why us? Again, I have no shame in admitting my flaws.. if God is so good, then why are all these things happening to us? You guys, isn’t this exactly what satan does? I mean, it’s biblical! This is exactly what satan did to Eve. He made her doubt Gods goodness. “Would God really tell you to not eat from the tree?” When we doubt God, satan grabs on to that. He uses it against us. But because I’m aware of this tonight, I won’t be doubting Gods goodness in this hospital anymore.

Another aspect of it all is the worry. If I’m worrying, then I’m not worshipping. If all I’m worried about money – then I’m going to start to look for opportunities with a mentality that’s all about finances and not necessarily about what’s right for our relationship with Jesus. And it’s not just about money – if I’m constantly worried about Mikes health, then I’m not focused on God and His promises. Even if I’m worried about things that are totally normal like careers and our home and our future, it becomes a distraction from God. And satan can grab hold of that. Now that I type it all out – isn’t worrying the same as doubting Gods goodness? Maybe not completely, but they are definitely up the same alley. If I have a constant worry about our future, there has to be some seed of doubt in there about Gods goodness and His promises to me. And satan wants to water that seed.

This might seem like a drag of a blog post, but I’m fired up about it. In a good way. I feel empowered in this awareness and this epiphany that, hello, I’ve always known the enemy is against us but this is the first time in my life that I am really feeling it. I feel empowered because there are so many things we can do to fight it. We can pray. We can talk about God and cling to His truth. We can read the Bible. We can comfort and encourage one another. We can help each other back up. We can give satan a grammatical middle finger. We can stay up until 2:00 AM writing a blog post from a hospital room as our own way of publically saying, “Get behind me, satan.”

It feels good. Because God wins.

My last thought, and I just might lose you here (if you’ve stuck with me this long) is that there has to be a reason that we are being attacked. And that excites me. What are we going to be a part of down here that satan wants to stop? How is God going to use us that seems so threatening to the enemy? Does that sound conceited? Maybe it does, but it’s my thought. And again, it excites me. Clearly, something big is happening down here and I’m eager to be a part of it. I’ll even go as far to say that I think it’s more about Mike than it is about me (it was his car, his health.. but then, we ARE one, so who knows) and I can’t wait to see how God uses my sweet husband. We did move here with the promise to be more intentional for Jesus. In our careers, our marriage, our friendships. We are committed to finding a church and getting involved. We are committed to foster care and loving the least of these. We are living with our mentors – the very people that taught us who Jesus was and showed us what it looked like to follow Him. We are talking about God more here than ever before. It makes sense that satan would want to shut that down.

Too bad he won’t. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

So we missed out on the beach and we are stuck in a hospital room. God loves us and sent His Son to die for us. We are here with a purpose and will be used to bring people closer to Him. Tonight doesn’t change that.

life in NC.

It’s been one week. One week in North Carolina and it’s been extremely exciting and extremely hard all at the same time. Everyone keeps asking, “Is it all that you expected it to be?” And the answer is YES! And no. I have struggled this week. There have been tears and doubts and arguments and moments of loneliness (even when surrounded by people I love), but that was to be expected. I have great expectations for what North Carolina will become, but I knew that it would be hard at first. It is very different actually being in it rather than just thinking about it and mentally preparing for it, but I’ll explain more later.

We officially moved last Sunday. It was sometime earlier that week that we found out the sale of our house didn’t go through, after over 45 days of being under contract. It was a huge disappointment and a cause of some stress because I did not have a job set up down here thinking we wouldn’t have a mortgage to pay over the summer thanks to our very generous and amazing friends that are letting us crash with them until we figure out where we want to settle. We also had to figure out taking care of the house while we weren’t living here..keeping up with the lawn for showings, etc. But again, we have incredible friends and family that are stepping up for us in a big way and we couldn’t be more grateful. Anyway, we got over the disappointment (sort of) and just knew that I would need to find a random summer job when we got down here. On the way down, about two hours into our trip, Mike’s car broke down! It was quite the shock and in the moment I definitely did not handle it well. You don’t want to be with me in a crisis. We ended up getting his car towed to a repair shop, shoved as much as we could from his car into my car, and kept trucking on toward NC. We refused to go back to MD even though it was closer. It was MOVING day, and dang it, we were going to MOVE. Even if it meant having 40 pound Daisy on my lap for four hours.

We finally made it and were thrilled to be here. Wake County is beautiful! There is so much to see and do and we are super pumped about getting to know and exploring the area. Mike started working Tuesday and LOVES his job. He has great hours..we get to see each other in the evenings AND he has off on Sundays. It’s perfect. I spent the week applying to well over 100 jobs (nannying, chic-fil-a, catering, working at a kennel, EVERYTHING) and starting on some of my summer homework I was given for my teaching job in the fall. We saw some old friends, helped out in a brewery that’s opening soon, and I joined the Y. Those are the highlights. OH and I went to a staff event at a brewery and got to meet a bunch of the teachers I will be working with. Don’t worry,  my blog is NOT becoming a place where I just tell you what I do all week. I have a point (kind of).. and the point is, it sounds like a normal week in the summer. Regardless of being in NC or being in MD. It was good and it was fun and I was pretty productive. But it was also challenging and a little disappointing. My anxiety came back in a big way. Just like we knew it would. Just like I talked about it my last post.. I am putting myself into a situation where it is natural to feel anxiety. So I’ve been feeling it. Every thing I did here this week brought out insecurities: meeting people at the gym, going to classes alone, meeting my coworkers for the first time, etc. The nights of little sleep have been full of thoughts like this:

What are we going to do about Mikes car? When are we going to go get it?
What if I don’t hear back from any of those jobs?
Why aren’t my coworkers asking to get coffee, what if I don’t form great friendships with them?
What if Daisy starts acting up again? What’s going to happen when we have to start leaving her alone?
What if our house doesn’t sell?
Do my friends at home miss me? Will our friendships be strained with distance?
How long until we need to find our own place?
What if I need my mom?
And yes.. I’ll admit it.. what if we weren’t supposed to move?

With the house, the car, the substituting job (I didn’t even mention) falling through.. I definitely had moments of doubt. We had been looking forward to Sunday all week. Sunday.. church, relaxing, a day off work for Mike. Finding our church home is a priority for us, as I know it’ll lead to our community and our ministry and the feeling that we actually have a place and a purpose here. I’ll spare you the long (and pretty dumb) story – but basically, we weren’t able to go to church this morning. And I finally had my breakdown that was coming all week. I cried because I missed my friends. I missed my family. I missed the familiarity of home. I missed feeling like I had a purpose and a schedule. And I missed going to church knowing that I would see people I loved. I was comparing a life I JUST started in North Carolina to a life I had taken YEARS to establish in Maryland.

It wasn’t until I let myself break down that I was really able to get some clarity. To stop thinking about everything that could go wrong or things that had already gone wrong, and just focus on Jesus and pray. It was like I was bottling up my feelings this week, afraid to say I was struggling, and once I let it out I gained some perspective. All week long my prayers had been selfish – about jobs, money, friendships. Basically my comfort. I was praying for all the things that would make me feel comfortable here. I finally was able to shift my prayer today to a simple: Lord, bring me closer to you. Whatever it takes, I want to be closer to you. 

I’m still going to struggle. We are transitioning, and it is natural to struggle. But I was able to take on the rest of the day with an overwhelming sense of peace about being here. I went on an interview and got a summer job – one that starts now and ends August 1st and gives me some time to prepare for school before I go back on the 16th. Exactly what I was looking for. I was able to go by and see my school and pray over where I’ll be teaching.  Mike and I went to a 5:00 church service where the worship was real and beautiful and brought me closer to God. The car situation is figured out and we are going to pick it up tomorrow. Gods goodness is overwhelming.

My point is not that you can have a breakdown and refocus and God will answer all of your prayers. Our story today sounds that way, but it’s not always that way. It’s just ANOTHER story of God’s faithfulness. We can struggle and we can doubt.. but God is faithful. I tried to maintain control all week and figure everything out on my own. I had no interest in losing that control. It took completely letting go for me to start to feel any peace and for me to realize that God IS there and He IS good. It always brings me back to this..

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

I am thankful for my challenging week that brought me closer to God. I am thankful that things aren’t always easy. I am thankful for the constant reminder that I cannot do this on my own – and I’m not meant to. God is good, you guys. And North Carolina WILL start to feel like home.

 

 

 

courage over comfort.

I haven’t been sleeping well lately. In fact, I haven’t slept through the night in a few weeks. And I wasn’t thinking much of it, because we have a lot going on…

We’re moving out of state. Both of us are starting new jobs. We have to make new friends. We have to transition. We’ve moved in with my in-laws while our house is under a very stressful contact that I swear is about to fall through every day. Our dog has decided to be a puppy again, but not in the cute way. We’re trying to spend time with the people that we will no longer see every day. We’re trying to pack. We’re virtually searching for an apartment.. something we’ve never had to do before. Needless to say, its a lot. 

According to google, anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” I think lots of people feel anxiety at some point in their lives. I think anyone preparing for what Mike and I are preparing for would be anxious.

Webmd tells me that “Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life events with no obvious reasons for worry. People with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder tend to always expect disaster and can’t stop worrying about health, money, family, work, or school.” Ouch. Excessive, exaggerated worry? Check. 

I realize it says “about everyday life events,” and some of the things we have going on are not considered everyday life events. But without going into excruciating detail of my thoughts and emotions, you can take my word that a lot of what’s keeping me up at night are small things. Small things stemmed by huge things that are happening, yes. But not the things I need to be losing sleep over.

I was getting discouraged because my anxiety has been so much better lately. I feel like I’ve shouted how far I’ve come off of rooftops. My prayer life, my exercise, and my new love for yoga (another story for another day) have helped give me perspective and taught me ways to rid myself of the constant anxious state I had become accustomed to. 

Over the past few weeks I’ve been questioning why I’m suddenly that girl again. That girl that loses sleep over little things, that feels physically ill with worry.. the one who snaps at the ones I love and puts strain on relationships that she needs the most. What I realized is that I will always be that girl. GAD is a part of who I am and that may look different in different seasons but these low points will keep happening because I am living my life for a God that continually pushes me outside of my comfort zone. 

A lot of my anxiety gets put to rest when I’m comfortable. When I’m doing the same things over and over again each and every day. When I’m not taking risks. When I’m not following through with things I want to do. When I let fear take the wheel and my heart take the back seat.  

I’ve said no to a lot of things because of fear and anxiety. Because too many risks were involved. When I was in NC for my interview, one of my friends made a joke about how he doesn’t believe we are moving yet. I said “I took off two days of work and drove six hours for one interview! We’re moving.” And he said something along the lines of it being an elaborate prank. He was just messing with me.. but it’s because I had talked about moving at so many different points in my life. I had talked about doing SO many different things, some of which I still haven’t. Fear still drives certain aspects of my life. 

I’m going to be okay with struggling a little more than usual if it means I’m choosing to do something outside of my comfort zone. I had the same thoughts when we started foster care. The same thoughts when I went to Africa for the first time. The same thoughts when we decided to get married when we were 21 and 22 years old. 

I am not choosing to accept my anxiety. I am choosing courage overtop of it. I am choosing to live a life of courage instead of a life of comfort, even if that brings out my insecurities and worries more often. And I’m choosing to no longer be afraid to talk about it. I used to think that talking about anxiety kind of gave it ownership over you, but the opposite is happening. It’s incredibly freeing to be honest about where you are and what you’re struggling with. 

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

the move & our grief.

The latest news with us is that we are moving. This summer, hopefully by July 1st, my husband and I will be moving to North Carolina. It is CRAZY, but it is good. We are excited and eager to get started on this latest adventure. The answers to the most asked questions summarized in a few sentences: I will still be teaching (hopefully year round), my husband will still be working in the restaurant industry, and we will start classes for foster care as soon as we find a place to live. We do not have family there, but we have friends that are like family. We plan to have our house for sale within a few months, and we are leaving it up to God to sell it in His time. We are hoping to find a place to live 30-45 minutes outside of Raleigh. There are so many why’s to this move, but the biggest one is why not? This was something we planned on doing when we got married three years ago.. so we see it as something that was a long time coming. It’s something that will be very bittersweet, as most of you know that I have a job that I really love here.

The twins were our last foster children in Maryland. That was a difficult decision, but one that makes sense because we can’t say yes to children and then kick the out when it’s time for us to move. There is no way to know for certain how long placements are, so we don’t want to say yes to children that we cannot commit to. We talked about providing respite care for other foster parents, but we are actually planning on moving out while our house is up for sale so that would not work either. This move was decided very recently, so closing the door on this chapter of our lives here in Maryland was pretty abrupt. It’s been hard/conflicting/queasy for my to wrap my head around, but I know that we will foster again. I’ve already thrown myself into research on what it looks like in North Carolina and how to get started right away.

The twins left a little under two weeks ago. If they had been committed to the agency, we would have rethought our move. When we started fostering we said we would NEVER have a child uprooted and placed into another foster home unless it was a complete last resort. I know we should really never say never, but it was not sitting well with me that we may have had to give thirty days notice to have our precious baby girls moved. With that being said, they ended up going home. I can honestly say that this reunification was one that I was MOST at peace with, and really seemed to be what was best and what was fair for this family.

That’s where grief in foster care gets weird. We are grieving while simultaneously celebrating this momma that did what was asked of her to get her children back. We are grieving that we may never be able to see those faces again, while cheering on this family that proves the system CAN work. We had those babies eight weeks. Eight weeks was over half of their little lives. When you first get a placement, loving is a choice. You choose to automatically love that child that was dropped off at your home, but you don’t immediately feel it (at least not always). You wake up each day and decide to love them, feed them,play with them, give up all that you knew to take care of them. Only you didn’t have nine months to plan for this, you had a few hours. Those first few nights can be tough, full of doubt, full of moments where you wonder if you’re even cut out for this. But eight weeks later… the love pours out naturally. Eight weeks later and you know their cries, you make them smile when you walk into a room, you think about them constantly when you’re away. Loving is no longer a choice, it’s just there. And once you love someone.. does that really every go away? I miss those babies so much. Those two months were by far the hardest months of my life (and remember how hard sweet pea was for me?).. but they were so worth it. Watching them learn to smile, start cooing, start to recognize faces.. they were great moments. My husband and I were challenged but we learned a lot and grew as spouses and parents. It was definitely a two months I would never give back.. although at times it hurt to feel like the moments we had with the girls were stolen moments that belonged to their parents. Our prayer is that one day all of us – birth parents included – will look back on those two months with an understanding of why they were necessary and how they have shaped our lives. I know I can already see some of those answers.

Since then, we have thrown ourselves into the move. We are starting to pack up our house, I’ve been applying for my certification for teaching in another state, we’ve been having hard conversations with the people we love. We’ve also spent a lot of time resting and enjoying the free time we have together that we didn’t really get when we had the twins. It’s be really nice to reconnect as a couple and to have a little bit more flexibility and freedom with our schedules. Although, after two weeks I’m ready to take another child in 😉 I will just have to be patient on that one.. and trust that God knows what He is doing!

 

when God steps in.

As some of you know, this week was a big week for the girls, and we found out that we will be keeping them for a while longer. I cannot go into very much detail, but here’s what I want to express: the different emotions that you go through as a foster parent can’t really be described. There are so many sides to these stories, so many moving parts, that you eventually just end up feeling crazed because of all the feelings and thoughts you’ve been having. And that’s where I was all this week.

Angry at the system. Sad to potentially say goodbye. Happy for the family if they get them back. Worried if we didn’t feel peace about it. Stressed to figure out daycare if they stay. Heartbroken for mom if she’s told she’s not ready. Guilty for experiencing so many firsts with these girls. Afraid to get more attached. Afraid to not get more attached. Thankful for the time we’ve had. Proud for what we’ve done as a couple. Grateful for how God has moved in our lives. Frustrated with the lack of details we know. Selfish because I felt I knew what was best. Loved by my friends and family. Misunderstood by my friends and family. And so many more. Hence ending up feeling like a crazy person.

The biggest feeling that is not sitting well with me is being misunderstood. Don’t get me wrong, I know how it happens.. people only see/know a glimpse of the system, a glimpse of our hearts here on this blog and social media. But I want to try to be as clear as possible: we are not rooting against the birth family. 

I posted a status about being heartbroken regardless of what happened this week. This is what I meant: I would be heartbroken to say goodbye to the girls. I would be heartbroken for mom if she did not get her girls back. Either way, it would hurt. That’s how it always is in foster care. However, this what we want: We want families to be brought back together when they are ready, and with a feeling of peace around the entire situation. 

When they are ready, and with a feeling of peace. Those are the biggest things for me. And those two things are why I was so nervous this week. I felt this horrible pit in my stomach when I realized I didn’t know what I was hoping for: did I want them to stay? Did I want them to leave? I wasn’t feeling peace about them going home quite yet and I wasn’t feeling peace about us having them long term. There was no peace for me, for lots of reasons.

However, God did step in. What ended up happening was something I was not even considering – and it left me with the peace I longed for and something even better – hope. We are rejoicing in this hope and peace, and I want people rejoice in it with us. But please realize that our rejoicing is not in that we get to keep them, because someone is probably hurting over that in this moment. Our rejoicing is in steps in the right direction, healing for families, and hope for the future. It’s hard to understand when you don’t know all the details – and I get that. But will you rejoice with us?

And here’s my foster care disclaimer: things will change. Without a doubt. Maybe what I’m hoping for won’t happen. Maybe what happens in the long run won’t bring me peace. Maybe I’ll go through this crazy week of emotions again and again. If that’s what happens, it’ll still be okay. But right now, today.. I am thankful for this feeling of peace.

*Also something I wanted to note (and will be blogging about at some point because I’ve been asked so many questions about it this past week): The goal in foster care typically starts with reunification. HOWEVER, and it’s a huge however, there are MANY times where reunification cannot happen (or -quite frankly- shouldn’t happen) and adoption IS necessary. There NEED to be foster parents willing to adopt. And it is not wrong to become foster parents because you want to adopt – in fact, it’s quite common. Just because that is not our goal right now, does not mean we are closed to the idea of it. So please, don’t say no to foster care because you’re hoping to adopt. Will it be hard? Of course. But it’s all about where your heart is. I look to my friend that’s a foster mom hoping to adopt right now in awe – shes not cheering for herself or for the family – she’s cheering for the child. Whatever is best for the child. THAT is all that matters. I’m sorry if I’ve said things to have people question this topic. My husband and I – our hearts right now are very much for reunification, so I think that’s blinded me to the other options in our future. Hope this makes sense. Thank you all for questioning and pushing me to become a better person!

 

foster parents & family & friends.

I’m not sure if I have written about this topic before. I vaguely remember mentioning it before, but I don’t think I’ve dedicated an entire post to it before. I could be wrong though.. I can barely remember anything these days.

Either way, I need to talk about it again. I need to talk about our family. Our friends. This time last year, we were telling our family and friends over Christmas break that we were going to become foster parents. That’s how we said it: We wanted to let you all know that we are beginning the process of becoming foster parents. We didn’t ask them if it was okay with them, we didn’t ask them what their role would be. Of course, we wanted their opinions and support, but whether or not we pursued it was not up for discussion.

A year later, and we’ve already had five children come into our lives. It’s crazy to think about. And you know who has been greatly affected by it? Our families. I never thought about it, really. When we said goodbye to little love.. our parents said goodbye too. My dad still talks about how much he loved her. In fact, someone in my life seems to mention her almost every other day. My point is that our parents didn’t sign up for this. We did. We decided we would suffer through goodbyes if it meant following Gods calling for our lives. We decided we would spend lots of money on diapers and formula and babysitters. We decided that we would deal with doctors appointments, therapies, visits with parents, social workers, home visits, and about a million others things. We knew it would change OUR lives drastically. We knew we would make sacrifices when it came to time and friendships and sleep. We talked about all the “costs,” but were really quick to determine that loving these kids was worth it all.

Our families and friends didn’t get to make that decision. They didn’t get the chance to say, “Hey, I’m okay with it too.. I think I can say goodbye. I think I can get attached and heal too. I think I can make sacrifices too.” I don’t know what I would have done differently. I guess I would have made this decision more of a group one and more of a conversation, but honestly, I know the outcome would be the same. My point of it all is, even though they didn’t choose this life, they are in it with us. SO many of you are in it with us. And I couldn’t be more thankful. I am torn between feeling guilty for bringing so many along for this crazy difficult ride, and feeling thrilled to see people coming together to love and support children in need.

My husband has worked seriously like 24 of the last 36 hours. And it’s continuing today. He also was really sick right before that. You know how my family responded? Welcoming the girls with open arms. Letting me get my first full night sleep since they’ve been here. Changing dirty diapers. Changing dirty diapers 10 minute later when they pooped again. My parents.. who already raised three girls. They are way past this stage, and yet they are willing to wake up every three hours two nights in a row because they know we need a break. Oh and let’s not forget that my husbands parents have let us borrow their cars with no notice when we call them freaking out because SOMETHING else went wrong and/or broke in our lives. The struggle is real in that department. Thank goodness for rentals.

My sisters. My younger sister babysits. All. the. time. My older sister does not live in this country, but she was home when we had little love. She took her to the doctor with me, she waited hours for medicine with me, she played musical instruments with her and loved her (even if she doesn’t like most kids). Both of them have made sacrifices, both of them have had to say goodbyes, both of them have had to see the harsh reality of what foster care is and how it affects these children.

Our friends. Whether it’s play dates, emotional support, sending food, making us dinner, offering to come over and watch the babies so I can take a nap, they are there. Our friends have rallied around us in such amazing ways. My friends at work have basically provided clothing for all of the foster children we have had. They’ve donated TONS of things to the Village. They have printed sub plans, helped with my students, kept me on track when things come up and I’m having a hard time at work. They’re never mad when we bail on something, or when we have to have children tag along on our time together.

I guess what I am trying to say is this: My husband and I made this huge decision that we thought would change OUR lives dramatically. Neither one of us really thought about others in our lives. Sounds pretty selfish. I didn’t consider the tears that would come from my family when we had to say goodbye. I didn’t consider what they would have to sacrifice in order to be there for us and to support us. But here everyone is… sacrificing and supporting. I know this blog post can’t possibly explain the gratitude that I feel.. but it’s a start. Foster parenting takes more than just two people. I am so thankful for all the people in our lives that have joined us in foster parenting. It’s changed our lives in a huge way.