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.

 

I have this thing about doing things well. I’m not perfect.. in fact I’m super unorganized, forgetful, constantly flustered, and about a million other things.. but I like to be the best I can be. 

I try to be the best teacher I can be.  The best wife I can be. The best friend I can be. The best mother I can be. You get the picture. Honestly, I think we all try that. Or at least we pretend to try. But man.. After these past ten days, I am totally failing miserably. 

With twins in the picture, I’m struggling to keep up with work. I’m lashing out at my husband and my parents because I’m exhausted. I don’t see my friends as often. I am not as patient with my students. I think I wouldn’t feel as down about it all if I knew I was at least doing one thing really well. Like, if I thought I was being a really amazing parent to these two babies, it would be okay that I was struggling in other areas of my life. But unfortunately, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything with great success. Don’t get me wrong.. in general I think I’m a pretty decent teacher, a good wife, a loyal friend, etc. But today, right now, I feel like I’m just holding on. 

I wasn’t willing to admit it. For whatever reason, I have it in my head that because I chose to be a foster parent, I can’t always be honest about how it’s going. As if, because we chose to say yes to these babies, we can’t struggle. It wasn’t until my mother in law told me it’s okay to not be okay the other day. I really got to thinking about it. Yes, we chose foster care. Yes, we said yes to twin infants in the midst of our crazy lives. But people choose things every day. And they struggle! If I chose to have a child biologically, I could still be very honest about how it was going. I don’t know why I have it in my head that I have to be okay and I have to hide some of what we’re going through. 

Real talk: these have been some of the hardest days of our lives. Every single aspect of our lives changed dramatically when we said yes. And we are still adjusting. I love these babies so much.. we just found out we will have them at least a week longer than expected and I teared up with joy. We would say yes again tomorrow. But. It’s hard and we are struggling. And I had to decide that it’s okay. I am living day to day right now, maybe even moment to moment. Honestly if I think past a day it all gets a little overwhelming. 

God doesn’t always call us to things that come easy to us or things that would be convenient for our lives. Right now, He’s got me in a place where all I can do is desperately lean on Him. There is absolutely NO way we could do foster care without our faith. And if at the end of it all, if God uses these babies and sleepless nights and hundreds of loads of laundry and the constant smell of spit up to bring us closer to Him.. I’ll be thankful. And I think I’ll finally understand that Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness..

just the four of us. 

the four of us. I can’t get over it. Right now, I’m using my phone to type this. I have one baby sleeping in my arms, and another one sleeping right next to me. Our world has been flipped upside down this week.. And it is the hardest, best thing I’ve ever been a part of. In an effort to finish this post before the babies wake (and let’s face it, I have no idea how long that will be), here are the highlights: 

  • We got a call last week asking if we were willing to take in two babies. We said yes. 
  • We feel a little crazy, but we have a lot of trust in our God. 
  • I thought I knew what tired was. I spent the past two and a half months waking up at 3:30 AM to get to my trainer, work all day, and then do whatever activity I had after school. Exhaustion seemed to be a part of my life already. Man.. I was wrong. There is no tired like this tired. We are adjusting but realistically know it might get worse before it gets better, seeing as we’ve only been parents of two for less than a week. 
  • We are content being foster parents. These babies have made people curious as to when we will have biological babies. Not yet. We are happy with this complicated, heartbreaking, incredible life we are living. Of course they make me want to have a baby to snuggle 24/7, but hey, right now I have two 😉 
  • My husband rocks. I knew that, but it’s been reiterated again and again these past five days. I can’t get over how many people were shocked when I told them he was home with the girls the past two days. Everyone responded with something along the lines of, “Wow! That’s impressive!” or “My husband/boyfriend would be way too scared to do that!” So. My husband is a rockstar. And I’m thankful. 
  • Babies have a lot of stuff. My house is a disaster zone. I don’t know how to do ANYTHING at home that doesn’t involve diapers or bottles or rockers or onesies. We have apparently forgotten how to remember grown up things like taking out the trash or keeping up with the mail or grocery shopping for anything other than baby items. But despite all that, my heart is full. 
  • I took a break this week from my early morning workouts (okay all workouts.. let’s face it). But this whole “I don’t always eat because I forget and then hours pass and then I fall asleep” diet is working pretty well. 
  • My feelings change by the hour. Happy. Terrified. Encouraged. Supported. Lonely. Overwhelmed. Grateful. Honored. Thinking of saying goodbye to these babies already crushes my heart. I am so in love with them. Thinking about not saying goodbye to these babies crushes my heart even more. A momma somewhere is missing out on precious moments with her children. And I’m cheering for her – completely – to get them back. And yet I feel like I’m stealing from her. Stealing the joy of her babies, the moments that she’s missing. But I so badly wish I could tell her that we are FOR her.

Foster care has totally wrecked me. I will never be the same. 

moving forward.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated. I started posting multiple times, but I could never quite figure out what I wanted to say.

Life has been good lately. Really good. But I’ve realized these past few weeks that God has been healing me, when I didn’t even know I needed healing. That’s another subject for another time. I’m working through some things and processing and trying to figure out when/how to share it all.

Here is what’s been happening the past month or so:

  1. I posted a blog about my dream of opening a foster care closet as a way to support our community. A friend from church saw my blog post and shared it with another woman she knows that has a similar dream. Fast forward to today: we’ve met, talked, prayed, and are moving forward with this dream with a ministry we are calling the Village through a nonprofit in Baltimore City. MANY more details – and a video! – to come soon. For now, if you have any questions or you have any clothes or supplies you may want to donate, please let me know! God has been incredible with this. The timing, the connections, how fast it is happening.. it’s pretty amazing. I’m loving every second and can’t wait to see this dream come alive. This also leads me to..
  2. Starting my Stella and Dot business! The purpose of this business for now is to make some money that I can use toward the Village. I’ve had a pretty good start and people have been really supportive so far! It’s interesting selling jewelry.. not something I ever pictured, but it’s fun to do something different and to connect with women I have not talked with in a while. If you want to host an online or in person party, please contact me! The parties are laid back and fun and your friends get a chance to support something that I think is pretty great 🙂
  3. We watched my friends precious foster son for a week! It was our first taste of respite care (a great way to get involved if you do not feel you can be a foster parent at this time) and also our first time with a boy. It was a wonderful week and I fell in love with the age and the idea of being a boy mom. It made me desperately want a baby in our house as soon as he left but..
  4. My husband is starting a new job! I am not going to post specific details on here, but he will be transitioning to a new position so we were going to wait a little while before we officially went back on the call list for a new placement. However, it’s been a few weeks since we made that decision, things have calmed down a little, and…
  5. We are going back on the list tomorrow! The thought of a child not having a place to call home on Thanksgiving was seriously bringing us down, and we decided to go back on the list to just see if we get a call before then. We may not though, because we’ve been hearing that there just aren’t a lot of kids coming into care right now, which is a great thing! We have changed our minds AGAIN and are opening our house to a child between the ages 0 and 6. This is a big jump for us as we may be welcoming our first school age child into our home. I’m surprising myself these days because I didn’t think I would recover emotionally from our last placement this quickly. I thought I would need a younger placement in between.. but like I said, there has been healing lately and I know that God is giving us the tools and skills we need to be successful in this journey.
  6. I am working harder than ever to get healthy. There have been LOTS of ups and downs – which is why I don’t talk a lot about it on social media. I’m afraid to fail and to let people see it, but I’m forcing myself to get over that. I feel better than I have in a long time and I’m taking it one day at a time. The days are long but I have much more energy than I used to – which has made everything else in my life a lot easier.

Whew. I think that’s it. It’s been a crazy but amazing month. My favorite part by far has been the extra time I’ve gotten to spend with my husband. I couldn’t be doing any of the things I mentioned above without his love and support!

Thanks again for reading and being a part of this crazy life we live!