Thursday, March 31, 2011

Do not be anxious

A couple of days ago, I opened up my oh-so-convenient email devotional and got this scripture:
Philippians 4:6 (The Message) 6-7

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Then, that same afternoon, my husband sent me a text with the same scripture. I didn't really pay attention at the time. But this morning, at 4:15 am - when sleep escapes me, I am paying attention.

I'm worried.

I woke up with a start at 2:00am. You know, when you get that terrible feeling, like when your plane is taking off and you can't remember shutting the garage. Or when your phone rings in the middle of the night. Or when you just know you have forgotten something really important. I laid there for a moment, then realized what it was. Matt and I were paying bills the night before and after we were done we were in suprisingly good shape. (By the way, even though I am still receiving a paycheck, we are not touching it so we can get used to living on one income. ) I realized at 2:00 am I had forgotten to write down our mortgage and our monthly giving to the church. I got up and refigured what was left for the month. Let me just say friends - it's bleak. Very bleak.

I'm worried.

I want to take control of the situation. I want to crunch those numbers into submission. I want to go back up to my principal and tell him I have changed my mind and that I don't know what I was thinking. I want to take in more foster kids. I want to ask Matt to take a job that maybe he loves less but makes more. I want to take control. That's what my flesh wants to do.

But then I read:
Philippians 4:6 (The Message) 6-7

"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. "


James 1: (The Message) 5-8

"If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open."

And that sounds pretty good. I mean, "People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves." Who wants to be that girl? I will be honest folks, I do not trust God to provide but I want to. I have been self-reliant for too long. I think the more we rely on ourselves, the smaller we make Him in our lives. The more capable we think we are, the less capable we think He is.

I want to be smaller, I want Him to be bigger in my life. I want to value what He values. I want Him to determine what my needs are and how they are gonna be met.

When I was in college, I worked at an orphanage one summer in Matamoros, Mexico. Sixty-something kids all cared for by one couple. They lived in abject poverty. One day, one of the caregivers at the orphanage prayed to God that he would have orange juice for the kids. The next day, a truckload of oranges pulled up from a local produce dealer.

God is big, and good. He cares if orphans have orange juice. He cares for me. I mean, He is the fishes-and-loaves God. He can make my budget work. Heck, He is the bring-folks-back-from-the-dead God. He is the parting-the-sea, calming-the-storms, blind-can-see, lame-can-walk, Saul-became-Paul, save all of mankind God. That is a God you and I can rely on.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What's For Dinner? Wednesday

I am thinking about adding this feature to my blog and I want your opinion. I am kinda a food snob but I am also poor, and most of the time have to feed children. That being said I have a lot of delicous (in my opinion), simple, cost friendly, and most of the time kid friendly recipes. Do you all think I should share them? Leave a comment with your thoughts! Thanks

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Never say never....

I used to have a lot of opinions about what I would never do with my life:

I would never get married…(been married for almost 10 years now).

I would never move back home...(I probably live 7 miles from my parents).

I would never teach in public schools...(guess what I’ve been doing for the last 5 years).

I would never have more than 2 children...(yes, that was me carting the three into the grocery store, and yes - that license on my entryway wall says we have room for four-YIKES!)

I would never drive a minivan...our car is currently on the market and what am I shopping for? :)

Last, but not least, I would NEVER quit my job and stay home to raise my children...well, surprise! I am.

I had always maintained that I would be a working mom. That is what worked for me. I completely respected stay-at-home moms but I could never do that. I liked being busy, I liked being around adults, I liked the money, I liked the sense of accomplishment, I liked going somewhere and doing something that, on most days, I am pretty good at.

Well, this past summer that started to change. We had our second foster placement in a year; off from teaching for the summer, I was working the day camp that I had done for the last three years. It is an awesome job that I love; but this year, with kids at home, it was harder. I was constantly, keenly aware all day that I was losing time with them. In the mean time, we were getting submitted for adoptive and legal-risk placements by the fistfuls. My family was on my mind. One night, when I was feeling overwhelmed and praying about all of this, I felt the Lord clearly say to my spirit: “You have two callings on your life and one is louder right now.” I immediately called my fabulous director (yeah Josh!) and we agreed that I could go part-time for the remainder of the summer and officially resign from my position at the close of the camp. So, I thought: Well, that’s that! But the Lord had more in store as he so often does. This was the beginning of turning my heart. Turning my heart from my story, to His story, to the Big story.

As more time went on, I started the school year, and it quickly became clear to me that I wanted to stay home for many reasons, mainly because I was sick: I was sick of having to choose between my job and my kids, sick of long meetings, sick of my mom having to keep the kids when they were sick in order to save my personal days in case we got an adoptive placement, sick of fighting with doctors to get appointments AFTER work hours, sick of only getting to see my kids for a couple of hours between school and bed, and sick of getting home and being short with my kids because I had used all my energy and patience on someone else’s children. I felt like my students at school suffered and my kids at home suffered. I was a half-assed mom and a half-assed teacher. I told Matt I just wanted to be full-assed at something. We decided that I would finish the year and stay home next year. Once again, I thought: Well, that's that. But again, the Lord had more.

On October 22, we got the call that we had been chosen for a legal-risk placement for a baby boy from Houston. Nine days later, my son, Isaiah, came home. I took two weeks off from work and again, I was keenly aware of the clock ticking down and I hated that feeling. But after those two weeks, I sent him off to daycare and I was sad, but OK. I just had to finish the year. The next few months were not difficult, I was fine. Then the snow and ice came and we had an unplanned six days at home. That last Sunday night, I was devastated at the thought of sending him back to daycare. I think it was harder this time for a lot of reasons. For one, I was more bonded to him and also, I didn't have breaks coming up (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc). I was sobbing and Matt said: "Well, just quit." (This is one of those moments where Matt offers me an option that he knows isn't really an option). I tell him I can't break contract, I will just have to suffer through, blah, blah, blah - poor me. At school the next day, I have a stroke of genius! I am entitled to 12 weeks under the Family Medical Leave Act and I have only taken two. I called my HR department and they say: yes, I can take the 10 remaining weeks. I looked at a calendar and figured out that if I took it after Spring Break, it pretty much carries me to the end of the year. I tell Matt my "good news".

Fast forward to today, my second day home with Isaiah. When people hear that I have quit my job, most of the reactions are surprised, questioning: "I never thought you would do that!" or "Are you sure you want to do that?" My responses, respectively, are "I know, right?" and "Yes". The long and short of it is that there are a lot of reasons I am where I am.

I believe that we are called to continue foster care. I feel like I can honor that calling better if I do it full time. I feel like the Lord has specifically called me to this season to work on some personal stuff in me. I missed the first four months of Isaiah’s life, I can't get that back, but I do not have to miss any more. I mean, there are more logical and responsible reasons to keep working: we can't afford it, I have a great job that I love with people that I love - which is hard to find, what about retirement? Insurance? The economy? I mean it is truly foolish.

But who can argue with this? This is it folks - you are witnessing the moment my heart was totaled. I mean this guy wrecked me...

It's funny, after all of these declarations I have gone back on, I try not to make them anymore. I try my darndest not to make plans. When people ask how many kids we are gonna end up with, or if I will ever go back to teaching, I just shrug. This Sunday there was a guest speaker at the church and he talked about taking your story and placing it in God’s story. How easy it is for us to write our own story and tell God to help us make it happen. I want to be in His story - it's always been better than mine anyway.

Now for my disclaimer: this is MY choice, MY calling, and what is right for MY family right now. I truly think that each family has to find what works for them. I am NOT dogging on working moms; after all, I thought I would always be one. Never say never, right?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Content of Character

In the last two years I have parented two little Hispanic girls, two multi-racial children, and I am now in the process of adopting an African-American baby boy. The racial and ethnic identity of my children isn't super important to me. Most days, I don't think too much about it. I don't say this in a "Oh, I-am-color-blind" manner. I know that my children's skin color is different than mine, and I know that this is and will be one facet of their cultural identity, and I celebrate that.

But when I think about the children I have parented, I think about how I have parented two super-sassy toddler girls - one who was a little mama who loved swaddling baby dolls and folding clothes and another who was a little diva and loved cell phones and make up. I have parented one quirky but BRILLIANT boy whose fine motor skills were exceptional and who could give you the run down of trivia on a multitude of subjects including, but not limited to: pandas, dragons, dinosaurs, sharks, and his family. I have parented a baby girl who loved to be held and snuggled. I am parenting a baby boy who isn't much interested in that, but who loves to wrestle and laugh and jump. I have parented a girl who loves Jesus, who loves "church music" and the Bible. I have parented swimmers and kids that afraid of the water. Kids that love vegetables and kids that eat nothing but noodles and kids that hate noodles. Kids who need pacifiers and kids that are thumb suckers. Kids who are fearless and kids who fear EVERYTHING. Outgoing kids who will talk to and go to anyone, kids that are slow to warm up. This is how I think about my children most of the time.

But the outside world, sometimes even my friends and family see things differently, sometimes see my kids differently. They seem to think the most important part of us is the fact that they are not Caucasian and I am. I can handle the curious questions, I can even laugh them off sometimes. The questions like: "Where did they get their curly hair?" Or "Is his daddy African-American?" or "Is he adopted?" What gets to me are the sneers. The whispering, the pointing, and sometimes laughter. The staring puts me on the defense - I brace for the worst. I cannot go into a store and be invisible anymore. There is no flying under the radar. Everyone I come across has an opinion, a thought about who I am and who my kids are. They stare, they double-take, their eyes narrow. They are missing it. It makes my heart ache and long for a better place.

This year, Martin Luther King day was different for me. More personal. Because my son has come home, and I am so excited, and the color of his skin is different than mine. This year when I was listening to the "I Have a Dream" speech and I heard the line: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Something caught in my chest and the tears started because so many people miss it. They miss the whole thing. When people focus on the color of my children's skin they miss other things that make them who they are. They are African American, or Hispanic. But they are also strong, loud, quiet, funny, serious, fearless, timid, compassionate, outspoken, shy, creative, quirky, and so many other things. These things(including their race) make up the whole of who they are.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fraction of a Fraction

Tomorrow, Thomas and Joy are leaving. These are the kids I have fostered for the last 11 1/2 months. Also, today is my last day as a Special Education teacher - a job I have had in one form or another for the last - I dunno - 15 years.

I am feeling a lot of things right now, including, but not limited to: excitement, fear, sadness, regret, and loneliness. For the last month or so leading up to today, I have tried my damndest to hold it together. I have poured food on top these feelings, avoided talking about these things with the people that love me, plastered on a smile, and said things like: "It's what we signed up for" (referring to fostering, and T and J leaving), and "I'm really excited" (referring to leaving my job) and while those things are true, they are a mere fraction of a fraction of the truth.

The truth is: We did sign up for foster care; but we also have fallen madly in love with these kids. They are going back home and that is good, but it isn't entirely stable. I know the Lord has a plan, but it breaks my heart that I won't see them again after tomorrow. I will miss Thomas’ quirks and rigidity, and Joy’s sassiness.

The truth is: you pour blood, sweat, and tears into these kids, you pour love in. You provide stability; you spend yourself trying to undo everything that has been done. Then you send them off, hoping against hope, that it is enough. You pray that they remember love, that you have given enough to last. You dream about seeing them again, but pray they don't have to come back, because that means things never really got better.

The truth is: I am excited about staying at home with Isaiah, but I am also afraid. Afraid of how we are going to be financially. Afraid that I won't be a good stay-at-home mom. I love my job. I am good at my job. My job is safe, I know who I am with my job. Working with individuals with disabilities has defined so much of who I am for so long. I am also sad. I LOVE the people with whom I work. I have been with them every day, every week, for almost three years. I will miss laughing and working with them.

If you know me, you may not know any of this - you may think I am at peace and excited about this new season, this transition, and I am; but that is only a fraction of a fraction of what I am feeling. I am good at stuffing my feelings deep down inside. I avoid situations and people in front of whom I will fall apart. I skipped church on Sunday because I didn't want to be the girl sobbing in the second row. It took me 5 minutes to get out of the car at my LifeGroup (I even told Matt “I don't want to be here”) because I knew I would lose it - (and I did). All of this stuffing, and bearing down so hard, has resulted in a five pound weight gain and full-body hives. And guess what? I'm lonely. I don't want to do it alone, but I don't want to be vulnerable, and I don't want to be perceived as weak. So last night I got in the shower got on my hands and knees and cried body wrenching sobs over the drain. Cause if you try to hold it together it comes out anyways through hives, or snappy short temper or night mares, and if you just let it go and fall apart that's when Glory falls; in the shower covered in hives crying into the drain.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


We were supposed to go to church this morning but I woke up tired and sad. So we stayed home. I bathed my baby, we went on a walk just the three of us, I took a nap before nine, ate blueberry cobbler for lunch (I know this is recurring bear with me it's a grief thing). After all that I feel a little more healed, a little more whole. The sacred in the mundane. Slow down breath, talk a little less, listen a little more. It's there.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Random Ramblings

I didn't have a cutesy alliterated title for this blog post, or one that at least rhymed, but I'm not good at cutesy. I sent it to my husband to proof read and he came up with the title , he on the other hand is way cutesy. So here are some things that have stuck out lately.

*This morning my two-year-old foster child as we were pulling out of the driveway said "Rachel why is Matt not kissing you?" I thought Good Question. So I rolled down the window and asked him the same thing. He laid one on me. I love that my foster children are learning a new norm about marriage and male/female relationships.

* Yesterday, my two-year-old foster child looked at me and said "You are not my momma, you are my Rachel." This was sweet and sad and painful all at the same time. She knows she is going home, she is becoming more attached to her momma.This is good but it hurts a little too.

*I have six days left at my job. This makes me feel nervous, excited, hopeful, and scared all at the same time.

*My foster children that I have had for almost a year are leaving the day I leave my job. Isn't life ironic?

* I feel like I should be sadder about the fact that they are leaving, I fear it is gonna hit me like a ton of bricks.

* In the last two days, my four-year-old foster son has told me that he can change his eye color, that his tears are coming because "I told them to", and that panda bears will evolve to have dragon wings.

*In the last week, I have consumed probably half of a blueberry dump cake (with ice cream) and I plan on making another one this weekend. Wanna guess what one of my top coping skills is?

*When I wear belts high and at my waist, people ask if I have lost weight, I smile and say "I do not think so but thank you" and my blueberry dumpcake filled tummy laughs as I walk away.

*I have changed some things about my blog lay-out that should make it easier to comment and subscribe. I would LOVE to hear from you if you are reading.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mercy and Lemonade

Two of my children are going home. This is hard and it makes me want to detach, it also makes me impatient and testy. They are transitioning home now, which means that they are spending weekends with their mother. This makes them super-hyper, they test boundaries, turn up their volumes , are confused, but it excites them oh-so-much.

The other day, we had an activity planned for the afternoon, a play date with a friend. I picked them up from daycare and as I was in the process of getting the baby out of the baby room, they were running around the hall - screaming, climbing on things, acting downright feral. I blew my top because we have talked endlessly, and they know about how they are to behave when I am getting the baby out of his room. I told them to forget it, we were not going to the play date. I was frustrated and feeling daunted about how they might behave once we got there. I had horrifying visions of wrangling those two while tending to the baby as well. They were so upset, both crying and pleading, I just ignored them and headed home. As I was driving, the Lord said, "Come on, bless them," and I thought: Well, they don't deserve to go - they did not listen to me, they have been acting horribly. Then the thought popped into my head: "Good thing you don't get what you deserve" and with that thought, I turned the car around, went to the Chick-Fil-A drive thru, got each of us a lemonade, and headed to the play date, and said nothing about it. And you know what? They were fabulous, and I had a great time visiting with my friend.

Hear this: I am not condoning not following through with consequences; but I will say: sometimes a little mercy goes a long way. There is a sweetness to not getting what you deserve and to second chances. Sometimes, you can flip the whole day around by loving them up and blessing them unexpectedly.

Also, I now pick the older kids up after the baby, he is heavier but definitely easier to manage.