Foster Care is a Team Sport

Yesterday a friend stopped by and gave me the sweetest gift. With the help of her mother, they made a quilt for all of the future babies that may come through our home. It’s beautiful and perfect, complete with llama backing. 

I love llamas! 

It was such a thoughtful gift and a reminder of how many people are loving on and praying for these sweet babies. 
Foster care can often feel lonely like no one quite understands the burdens and stressors associated with raising someone else’s children. It can feel isolating like no one quite recognizes that trauma is the root of so many unpleasant behaviors. It can feel exhausting like no one is quite as invested in these little lives as you. 
Although it can feel like an individual game, foster care is a team sport and yesterday my friend reminded me my team is bigger than I imagine. 
There are so many people praying for and loving on these little ones. There are people they may never meet who know their name, have heard parts of their story and love them fiercely. There are people near and people far lifting them up, praying for their future, their forever family. 
These children’s foster family extends beyond the walls of this home, blocks, miles, states away to all the people who love them and lift them up daily. 
We are so blessed by friends and family who support us in this journey. We are so blessed by friends and family who embrace these precious babies and shower them with love and prayer for as long as God allows. 

We are so blessed to be on a team willing to be God’s hands and feet to these precious babies.

Every Good and Perfect Gift

It’s hard to believe we have officially entered 2019. Another year has passed in the blink of an eye and I find myself, yet again, sitting on New Year’s day amazed at the year behind me. 

We start 2019 with a new member in our family and a heart ready to love for as long as we’re called. We start 2019 with hope for reunification mixed with sadness at what that means for our home. We start 2019 with unknowns, but carry the known truth that God holds us in his mighty hands. 

2018 treated us well and now that I can reflect on the holidays, I stand in awe at the memories made, the treasure of family time. Christmas in our house is barely controlled chaos, but oh so much fun. With so many children close in age, we have embraced the flying paper and shrieks, but this year was a little different. 

There was still plenty of flying paper and shrieks, but this was the first year we had a non-believer in our midst. 

Several weeks ago my oldest son, newly ten, approached us about the truth regarding Santa Clause. We had a great conversation and discussed the magic of Christmas and how it’s all of our jobs to keep the magic alive. He took his job very seriously, moving the elf each evening and entertaining the younger children’s conversations about Santa, his elves and the North Pole. 

It was endearing. 

The part that touched me the most though was his gratitude on Christmas morning. My oldest son took every opportunity to thank his father and I for the gifts under the tree. He told us at every turn how grateful he was. It was so different from years past and different from my other children. When he knew where his blessings came from, he was more apt to say thank you. 

It was a mind-shift. He suddenly knew the origin of the gifts and more freely expressed gratitude. 

As I reflect on 2018, I keep going back to Christmas morning and my son’s enthusiastic thank yous. I keep thinking about how we should all be more enthusiastic in thanking the giver of all the most perfect gifts. 

We should all be more enthusiastic about thanking God for his blessings. If we know from where the blessings come, and we acknowledge God as the giver of all perfect gifts, why do we not enthusiastically thank him? 

My son on Christmas morning was a stark reminder of what I can focus on in the new year. Enthusiastic gratitude for all that comes my way. 

Enthusiastic gratitude for the good and perfect gifts that come from above. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17

The Hard Conversations

On Black Friday, I spent twenty minutes in my car sobbing. I was sobbing at the realization that my babies were no longer babies. I was sobbing because my oldest son, just turned ten, was asking about the reality of Santa Clause. I looked up ways to tell him and I found letters and other Pinterest worthy ideas. It really broke my heart. I realized that childhood as I knew it for my children was going to change. I knew that things would be different and I simply wasn’t quite ready to let go of the magic. 

A few days later while at dinner with some friends, I received a text from my husband stating our son wanted to talk to us because his friends have said some things and he needed to know the truth. My heart instantly sank. I thought we had bought ourselves a bit more time of magic, but I was clearly wrong. I finished my dinner and hurried home with a heavy heart to have the dreaded Santa conversation. 

Much to my surprise, I got home and my son didn’t want to talk about Santa. Inside, I jumped for joy that the magic was still present but when he continued to talk, I realized the hard conversations aren’t of Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. The hard conversations are simply of life. 

With tears in his eyes, my son said, “mom, my friends on the bus keep asking why my other mom and dad didn’t want me.”

I wanted to shout. I wanted to cry. I wanted to wrap my son in a bubble and keep him away from the realities of his past.

I would have rather talked about Santa.

We talk openly about adoption in our home and we have always made it very clear their birth parents loved them very much. I reiterated that sentiment with my son and held him closely as he cried his confusion. 

I don’t understand why children are so cruel, but I don’t believe they meant to be. I believe they don’t understand because it’s not part of their history. I believe they don’t have the language capacity to express their thoughts in an appropriate manner. 

I believe their intent is not malicious. 

Although I believe these things, my heart still breaks for my son. My heart breaks for the trauma he carries from a past he doesn’t remember. My heart breaks for the story he’ll have to tell again and again. My heart breaks for the confusion he feels not sated by my words of encouragement. My heart breaks that he’ll never have the opportunity to ask his biological mother in person. 

Regardless that it was for the better, his life was irrevocably changed the day he came to us. That is a reality and hard conversation we will have to revisit many times over the next years. 

I Don’t Know

On Monday, October 25th we became a family of seven. We added a beautiful, four-day old infant to our already crazy house. We instantly fell in love and have spent the last two weeks trying to get our bearings, remembering what it’s like to have a newborn in the home.

Many unknowns come with being a foster parent as you often don’t get a lot of information when a new placement comes to your door. When you agree to be a foster parent, you agree to being in the dark … a lot.

What I’ve learned over the years, however, is people just don’t understand this aspect. In general, people don’t understand foster care nor do I expect them to, but I’ve found myself saying, “I don’t know” more often than I care to admit.

What’s her story? … I don’t know.

How long are you going to have her? … I don’t know.

Are you going to adopt her? … I don’t know.

I have to answer a lot of questions with “I don’t know” because I genuinely don’t know. I am in this moment doing my best to make this little lady feel safe and loved.

Although there are a lot of things I do not know, there are more that I do know.

I know that God has a perfect plan for this sweet girl.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

I know that God is with us, and her, every day even in the unknown and the scary.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

– Joshua 1:9

I know that we were created to be in relationship with others and together, bio parents and us, can be a beneficial team for this child.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.

– Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I know that although there is a lot I don’t know, there is a God that does know and I can count on him. As we approach Thanksgiving and week three with this perfect, precious bundle of pink, I am thankful for a God who holds the answers so I don’t have to. I am thankful for a God who continues to provide even when I’m not sure how and a God who believes in me, trusts me, and loves me enough to allow me the privilege of being the first person this tiny miracle bonds with.

And a privilege it is! A scary, difficult at times, but beautiful privilege to lay a foundation of security and love. A privilege to instill the knowledge that her needs will be met and she can count on the people around her. A privilege to truly be the selfless, sacrificial hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

– Mark 9: 36-37

Needless to say, our life has been flip-turned upside down the last couple of weeks and honestly, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am soaking up the sleepless nights and daytime cuddles, the stinky diapers and manly burps. I’m soaking them up because I don’t know how long they’ll last, but I do know that right now, God intended them just for me.

Never Give Up

We’ve spent the last month detailing ways to bond with our children. We’ve discussed strategies to build relationships and remind our children we love them. We’ve taken time every day to find a new way to embrace the relationship we have with our children and enrich it.

Parenting is hard! We can all attest to the fact that every day is a new adventure and you never know what you’re going to get. We can all agree parenting is the most rewarding yet terrifying adventure we’ve ever been on.

Parenting is the one phase of our life that we rush along and then mourn when it’s done.

Through the phases, the chaos, the joy and heartbreak, it’s imperative we build bonds with our children that will last through adulthood and beyond. It’s essential we make bonding a priority, constantly remind our children we love them through it all.

We end this month, this challenge, by remembering to never give up. We must never allow the difficulties to bring us far enough down that we forget to embrace our children, love and bond with them. We must never allow their behavior, their poor choices, to break us to the point of giving up.

One final way to bond with your child is to always be there, available and willing to stand with them through life’s trials. Offering grace, compassion and forgiveness even when they don’t deserve it is the truest testament of love we can hand them.

Our children deserve to know they are not alone, nor ever will be. They deserve to know they are worthy – even in their darkest moments – of our love.

Our Father in Heaven has never given up on us. He stands at our side even when we deny and disobey Him. The least we can do for our children in this life is show the same dedication and love.

Bond with your child every day, in many ways, creating an unbreakable bond of love, trust, forgiveness and respect. Bond with your child every day, in many ways, so that the trials and tribulations of this world don’t have a chance of getting between you. 

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