Monday, July 28, 2014

Back in the Saddle

This past Saturday we went to the first training that we need to become an active foster home again. It's been over two years since we have done foster care. A lot has happened in two years. We have fought an appeal, adopted, and moved in a young mom and her son. We have been busy, but not with foster care.

On the way driving out to the training I had a pretty epic meltdown. I said it was about hamburgers and running late but I know myself well enough to know that my freakouts are never about what I say they are about.

While we were driving and I was crying, Matt offered to turn around. "We don't have to do this!" he said, "We can go back!" I considered it for a second. We don't have to do this. My life is full enough. Complicated enough. Then, I remembered the thing that I always remember.

I remembered the kid. The kid I haven't met. The kid I know nothing about. The kid that's already out there, most likely experiencing a version of hell that you and I have not had to survive. That thought made my heart shrink down to the size of a raisin. That thought makes me want to simultaneously lie down curled, and run through walls.

As we come up on our sixth year doing foster care, knowing what we know, seeing what we've seen, the question has gone from: "How can we do this?" to: "How can we not do this?"

My husband lied. The first part was right, we don't have to do this. But his second statement was a lie...
We can never go back.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The truth about Emman

He skidded into our lives on the tail end of the hardest placement in our foster care career. I often liken the time with that placement to wearing shoes that were too small...for nine months.When Emmanuel came, we were emotionally drained from caring for these extremely needy kids whose personalities just never really meshed with ours.
Emman came with some diagnoses on paper that, once we got him in our home, we realized we were dealing with someone very different than who we had met on paper.  We went from having a kid with cerebral palsy on paper to a kid with a very real sensory disorder and attachment disorder.The implications of these new diagnoses were much more abstract and much less concrete than what we expected.
Then, right before we were supposed to consummate the adoption, we got news that his bio dad was going to fight. That fight lasted seventeen grueling months. Sometimes, when Emman has the hiccups he says: "I am hiccup," I smile and agree. He is hiccup.
Nothing with Emman has gone as planned or as expected. He has been hard won. From his legal standing, to his services, to his affection, to his diagnoses. Fight of my life. That phrase echoed in my head when the appeal began. The appeal was the fight of my life in a lot of ways. It felt heavy and awful. It was an invisible cloud of uncertainty. An unbecoming filter that colored everything I did and everywhere I went. The chance of losing him was crouching in the corner of every room I walked into for seventeen months.
I wanted to hold back from this kid who desperately needed me to give unreservedly. I wanted to protect myself from the pain of losing my son. I had to fight to keep hope, and faith that all would work together for my good. Or that, if it didn't, would God still be good? Could I still proclaim that? I look back on the seventeen months and all I know is it felt like what war must feel like. That it felt like something was pinning me down. That hope was always one inch beyond my fingertips.
I look back through my journal and it's pages and pages of scratching out verses about the character of God, of the promises of God, and begging them to be true. Begging Him not to change my life, but my heart.  It took up most of my emotional energy most days. All the while trying to fight for his affection. And trying to fight for control of this little tornado.
He bucks everything from my boundaries to my affection. We were at Hope Connection Camp last month and the family counselor and I were talking about my competitiveness (shocking, right?) and he said: "When it comes to kids in your peer group, like the children of your friends, who is winning?" I didn't hesitate. "Me." I have held back from writing about Emman because I don't want to be misunderstood. Or because I felt like having a different relationship with him than Isaiah is wrong. Bonding with a two year old when you have just twinned your two year old is...the truth about Emman is that he is HARD. He is stubborn and contrary. He is volatile and unpredictable. He is complicated. He pushes you away while clawing to keep you close.
I am constantly assessing whether what we are facing is developmental, sensory, or just cheekiness. He bucks and fights me every step. He is exhausting. Someone asked me the other day if I mainlined cocaine to keep up with him. I don't. He is a constant vibration of whirling energy.
The truth about Emman is that I lose sleep over him. I worry about him making friends. I worry about him in school. I worry about if he will ever attach to us in the way I want him to. I worry if he will be misunderstood. But the truth about him is that he is hilarious and quirky. He is brilliant. He is affectionate and friendly. The truth about Emman is that all of the fighting, the hiccups, the complications, the missteps, mishaps, and set backs have only added richness to my life. The truth about Emman is that I have gotten so many things wrong in the last two years and many days have felt like losses.
The truth about Emman is that he is my beloved son and that is a win. Its THE win.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Buying the Field

"The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
Matthew 13:44

This verse has been rattling around in my brain the last few weeks as I reflected on the last year for our family and looked ahead to the next year. As I have prayed and asked the Lord for vision, this is what keeps popping up. 

So I think maybe this year is about buying the field. 

I have been thinking a lot about the cost of following Jesus on my life, my kids, my family. I have been counting the cost of the Kingdom. I think this year, more than any other year, the cost has become very real to me. We have had to truly consider and sacrifice things we thought were important, the things we thought we needed and the things we thought we valued. We have had to lay down our lives and follow this call. It has been painful and uncomfortable and stretching. This year more than any other year I think Jesus has become very real to me.

Before I didn't really believe that the Kingdom could come in my minivan, at my dining room table, in my time, in my finances, in my life. But that's because I never made space for it to come. I never let God have it to do what He pleased with it. But once I started, I couldn't stop. I handed Him a piece and He transformed it from mundane, plain, and ugly to a thing of beauty. I handed Him another piece and He cleaned it up and multiplied it. I handed Him my Saturday and He filled it with picnics and baby showers with these precious mamas and their babies. I handed Him my minivan and my gas budget (for real) and He filled it to bursting with life and friendship and laughter and the CUTEST babies ever. I handed Him my plans and my spare room and He grew people into my family in a way I could never imagine, but now I couldn't imagine my family without them. I handed Him my heart and He transformed it so I could love Him better and filled it with a deeper love for his people. 

At the end of my life, I probably won't have aged beautifully, I probably won't get to retire early, or travel the world. My kids will probably not have new clothes or the finest education. But maybe I will have the field. See, the cost of the Kingdom is that my kids spend a lot of time in their car seats while I shuttle people around to appointments and school. They share me and they share their stuff. That I don't get a lot of ME time. That my husband and I don't hardly have date nights. Our house is always messy. There is always too much month left over at the end of the paycheck. 

But we have the field. And we are selling everything else.