The Going & the Staying 

Tomorrow he leaves for preschool – two years ago tomorrow he came. 

Little man’s school starts tomorrow after being home all summer with me. This past few months is actually the first time he has NOT been in school at least a couple days a week. Early days I was still working (out-of-home), and then he just really liked the structure (so did I, let’s be real). It hasn’t taken long to get used to allllllll the together time and to be just a smidge bummed about the mornings alone at home, coming up. 

  

[the closest I could get to a “school orientation day” picture]

Two years. 

On Cary’s birthday in early August we reached the halfway point – half of his life without us, half of his life with us. Took a while to get there. I thought I’d post something then but nothing particularly came out. I thought of plenty to say to him. Not much for the rest of you. 

Sorry.

Boom boom boom, all just about a month from each other – the Halfway Point, the 2-Year-Anniversary, and dude’s 4th Birthday coming up in a few weeks. 

I could tell you again about how hilarious this child is. How impetuous. How lightning-quick and lightning-intense. How he actually seems to just burn brighter than other kids around him. For good and for…challenging. The child does nothing halfway. He has an intensity that never slows – which sometimes means punching other kids on the playground (or The Incident as it’s referred to at our new church), and sometimes means things like counting to 100 and sounding out words at 3, and doing most of a kindergarten workbook 2 years before kindergarten, and being the only kid in his class to come close to conquering EVERY single activity in gymnastics at the annual assessment thing even though he’s only been 5 weeks. (Seriously, his teacher was like “He did amazing. No, like, Amaaaaazing. No like I’m serious. I was showing him stuff we’ve never even gone over before and he’d just, like, DO it. No I mean it’s not NORMAL.” with some major Serious Eyebrows so I’d know she meant business. I played it cool. But I know he’ll be an Olympian if he wants to be.)

He is literally like no one else. He is infuriating and thrilling and fierce and brilliant. 

There is actually no other kid like him.

Except every other kid on this here little planet. 

But here is the thing about my boy, my forever boy, my threenager-man-baby, my battle-hardened warrior – he is KNOWN. 

I am not kidding you that I find him eleventy times more fascinating and exciting and valuable than any other kid in the entire world. He IS more fascinating and exciting than any other kid in the entire world. To me, and to his Daddy. Because that is every child’s right. Not a one is more valuable or important than another. But every single one deserves to be THE WORLD – to their parent(s). 

To be known. 

I have screwed up so much in two years I can’t even believe I have the audacity to do this again. Sometimes I wonder what the **** I’m even doing. I wish I could say, and that he would understand at his tender young age, that I am SORRY for all the things I have misunderstood, I am SORRY for the wrecked state he found me in, I am SORRY for all the things he’s lost, for all the fights he’s had to fight and the ones he didn’t have to fight and the fact that he was a baaaaaby (for crying out loud!) and he didn’t know how to tell the difference, so he spent so long fighting everything and everyone, bless his little heart. 

But I know my boy. He surprises and moves me daily, I’m not kidding. I get more punch-in-the-gut moments than I ever dreamed I would (the sweet-sad, metaphorical kind [although I get my share of the literal ones too….]) where the depths of his thoughtfulness or understanding or brilliance or sweetness or bravery just blindside me. I will never, ever know all there is to know about this boy, but I know him deeply and richly and truly, and I also love him with a COVENANT I made that means that I will never, ever, ever go anywhere. A sticking love, a staying love, a digging-in love, a not-leaving love. 

Every single child deserves that. Everything (everything) else is negotiable. 

Do you have any idea how many kids reach “adulthood” without that? I could give you a statistic but you wouldn’t care. ANY. Any kids is too many kids. The truth of it is – there are thousands of kids waiting for families, but there are literally more churches than waiting kids in TX. Entire churches. Outnumber these kids. And still thousands wait. Church, where are we? Come on. This is our job. Again, I could give you scriptures but you have heard them before. I’m not giving you quotes and numbers for you to skim over. Go look it up if you want. It’s in there dozens of times – care for orphans, a family for the family-less. 

Providing is great, feeding is generally a good idea, fun times are nice, but this is your call (should you choose to accept it) – to know these kids and to stay. You don’t have to be hilarious, you don’t have to be fabulously wealthy, or have 8 Pinterest boards of sensory-rich developmental activities. Know them. And keep your promises. 

Every individual one of them is truly, actually infinite in their humanity – humor, talent, sweetness, hurt, insight, compassion… Each is made in the image of an infinite God and nobody else carries the same piece that they do. That’s our call – it’s not paperwork and it’s not classes and it’s not logs and it’s not even sleep schedules and packing snacks and changing diapers – it is to KNOW these children who deserve to be known the way that only parents can. That’s how it was always intended. 

And for those of you who think our dude is lucky – I am telling you now that for me it is a PRIVILEGE. I cannot thank God enough that this child got the opportunity to be known by his own parents, and that we get to be the ones to do it.

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Residual

Third and fourth foster/adopt training classes today. 3 – Communication (with kids and with other workers), and then 4 – Grief and Loss.

Just a little snapshot for you:

We were in the Grief/Loss portion of the day, talking about Attachment. Our instructor for this whole 7-part series is actually fantastic. She is articulate and thorough, compelling and challenging. I truly believe that she would rather have someone leave the class (and her agency) than have someone licensed who is ill-equipped to care for “her” kids (she is a case worker as well). I like her a lot and also based on how much she talks about shopping at Target and being neurotic about eating timely meals, I think we could be great friends.

So, attachment. It’s a major word in foster-adopt world, if you didn’t know. People go to seminars and hundreds of hours of therapy and read books and obsess and cry and pray about The Almighty Attachment. We were discussing the different types of attachment from the good (“secure” or “earned secure” attachment) to the pretty bad (avoidant, hostile, etc). It essentially describes the relationship a child has to their caregiver or parent, and she was describing how studies show that kids show significant signs of mirroring their caregivers’ or parents’ attachment styles within 3 months of entering a new situation.

So this means that if a kid has never had a trusting, nurturing, “secure” attachment environment and instead avoids or conflicts with their caregiver all the time, and that is how they are accustomed to relating to their caregiver (and therefore the world), it is typically within 3 months of being in a nurturing safe trustworthy environment that they begin to “latch on” and respond in kind to the new parent or parent figure.

All good things. A bit oversimplified, in my mind, but she’s not saying all problems are gone, just that kids respond in a relatively short time and begin to mirror healthier ways to relate to people, so okay, I’m with you.

She described a study in which (older) babies were brought into a room by Mom, and then left there for about one minute with a different supervisor adult, and they studied how they responded to their mothers leaving them. They then had the mothers come back in but stop just inside the door, and see how the infant responded. The ones with “secure” attachment would of course cry when Mom left, not be particularly soothed by an unfamiliar supervising adult, and then when Mom came back in they would book it across the room and hold up both arms to be picked up. Our instructor described how the babies would be quickly pacified as soon as Mom was back, and would often lean back to look in her face, and reach around and hold onto Mom’s hair, or the back of her neck.

This brought back some pretty acute memories of our baby, and the ways he would respond to me, and filled me with that sort of sick-sweet achey-happy warm-memory feeling of how healthy he had been, how happy, how attached, how wonderful it was, but you know. No more. So I kind of said to Dane, “Ha, I think I might cry,” not really meaning it.

I raised my hand at one point.

“What about the other direction? So for instance, we had a baby from 3 months old until 13 months old, and he had all of these ‘Secure Attachment’ things, but then he went back into a more chaotic environment where he probably had inconsistent caregivers, less needs met, stuff like that.”

As far as I can tell so far, we are the only “experienced” (meaning having ANY experience at all) foster parents in the room, so I wanted her to tell all of these parents about how even if their little one goes back home, they have made a forever difference in that child’s ability to relate to the world and to connect to people. I thought I already knew the answer.

“Well, it really lasts about 3 months,” she said. “Children from secure attachment backgrounds also really shift into the other attachment types if they are put into that environment, after about 3 months.”

So I clarified. “So the secure attachment, it doesn’t, like… stick with them somehow?”

“No,” she said, “not really. They will begin to be defensive or avoidant or whatever they pick up from the situation they’re in.”

Now listen. I know this is entirely too simplistic. I believe that this instructor knows a lot of things I don’t and has been involved in cases I couldn’t dream of, but she has also never parented, foster or otherwise. I think some of these things are coming from a textbook for her. I knew that her word was not gold. But it stung.

She seemed to kind of catch herself; what she was saying, and to whom.

“I mean, um, I didn’t mean to like, that sounds so depressing…”

I just said “It’s fine, I shouldn’t have asked,” but my eyes were sort of welling up. “I thought you’d say it leaves a positive impact long-term,” [uncomfortable laugh], “but I just shouldn’t have asked.” I had this idea, I thought, about how that year we had with our baby made such a difference, but when I think about it, where’d I get that idea from? Wishful thinking?

So I sort of waved her off, like please move on, because I was kind of embarrassed, because you guys I am still so often caught off-guard by how potently certain random things can sting and hurt. It’s not in the rational part of my brain and I can’t talk myself out of it, like I typically have with everything else in my life. I just sort of scrambled to take my hair out of the ponytail and let it hang down, look down at my paper, act cool, pull myself together…

I could tell the instructor was still looking nervously over at me every so often. Not so much nervous as kind of guilty. I’m not sure what she thought I meant by my question, or what she thought the answer would mean… I gave her the context.

But it wouldn’t pull together. So I ducked out the back.

In the stall of the bathroom the tears just FELL. It was as much because of this clear-as-day memory of little one booking it across the floor to me when I walked in, and his fingers in the back of my hair — as it was about her just telling me it was basically for nothing. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was but I tried to just wait it out.

A minute or two later the door opened and I heard “Hey….?”

I said “Hey,” and kind of wiped my face and came out trying to smile it off.

This lady from our class who I’d never spoken to before, but who I recognized as someone who came up with great questions and had very challenging input, who is actually super gorgeous and sort of assertive and smart and I had already developed a tiny girl-crush on her, was standing out there, looking kind of nervous to be butting in.

“I didn’t want to make a whole thing and tell my life story to the whole class, but I just really want to tell you,” she said. She proceeded to tell me about how she grew up in the projects with a single mom who I think she said was an addict, and a ton of siblings, and she lived in the world of the chaos and the defensive and the fend-for-yourself. She never knew her dad, but her grandma on the dad’s side would keep her for a few days at a time, just when she was REALLY little. She said they moved away and she stopped going to her grandma’s house when she was 4 years old, but she remembered, still and always, how Grandma’s house had different rules. You spoke more softly. You treated people with respect. You knew you were going to be taken care of, and you didn’t have to fight for yourself. She had her hair washed and brushed out at Grandma’s, but usually not at home. She wore shoes at Grandma’s house, she went to church at Grandma’s house, she was listened to at Grandma’s house even without shouting.

She said every time she went back to “Mama’s,” you better believe the gloves came off again, the shoes came off, the shrieking and pushing and clamoring came back, because that’s what you had to do there. She said “I think she’s talking about behavior. My behavior went right back to chaos every time I went back to chaos, because it had to. But I never ever forgot that environment.”

She said even though she was too young to have clear memories of it, she always carried with her this idea that the mess she lived in was not the only way to live, that this wasn’t the only way to treat people. She said when she grew up she based her life around “I want to create a home that’s like Grandma’s, not like Mama’s.” She said she doesn’t do perfect, but that’s why she’s here, in this class, that’s why she wants to care for these kids, is because Grandma showed her a different way to live.

I don’t think he’ll remember us, not at all. I reconciled myself to that idea almost 2 years ago. But the familiarity with a different kind of family, a different kind of relating to people, the idea of a place that’s safe and sweet and nurturing, my new friend says — that can stick a lot longer anyway.

So yes, I did end up hugging a total stranger in the bathroom today. I’m not sure there are many people who could have given me THAT medicine at THAT time but she was just there, just then. And thank God for that.

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Breaking it in

I studied abroad in Spain for a semester in college.

I can remember reaching a point partway through the semester when I had made some Spanish friends and I remember thinking one time that I felt like I was around people a lot, and hanging out with people a lot, and having a lot of fun and traveling to other places and having a ton of invaluable experiences, but how I felt like there was kind of a wall I’d hit, because in Spanish I was basically kind of like an 8th-grader, language-wise.

Typically I am a very VERBAL person (no way hyuk hyuk) and I was kind of thinking how I could get to a certain point with certain friends, but then my humor just didn’t come across, or I wasn’t sure what my stilted language was doing to my personality, or I would be listening to some kind of political or artistic debate and I had so many VIEWS but I just didn’t quite have the language to bust in and share them, or I would just get frustrated at trying to get my point across with utmost clarity and just kind of quit on the conversation, and we all know that early-20-somethings are nothing if they can’t pontificate with vigor, persistence, and irritating frequency.* 

Anyway all that to say. People are so nice. We are finding more and more opportunities to hang out with folks. The sea of faces from the stage at church is slowly resolving into more and more recognizable ones, and even some with names! But it still kind of feels like that thing in Spain – like there’s a little bit of a wall. 

We have to go through the stuff, every time, the “How old are your kids,” “What do you do,” “How long have you lived here,” “Where is your family,” and we have to do that because it sketches the outline of the person that could some day be our Robin and Greg or our Jon and Denise, but I’m pretty eager to get to the part where — Ok so for example: We went to a wedding this weekend. Dane was a groomsman. It was for my cousin. Now, a lot of people in Dallas, if they said “Hey, what are you doing for the 4th,” and I said “I’m going to Walter’s wedding,” their eyes would well up with tears, and they might hug me. Because a ton of them spent years praying for my cousin, and others of them went to Honduras with him right after he successfully completed rehab and heard his story. Some of them remember when he painted the sets during a good spell while he was staying with my parents. These are the things. You skip to 15-feet deep without so much as a word. 

Good Lordy but I am impatient. 

As you all probably know, we are (still) [interminably] {like it’s our job} working through getting back on the list of waiting families for little foster kiddos. 

Here’s the God’s-honest. You don’t come here for rainbows and butterflies. To be honest, there are parts of me that are like “give me a baby to snuggle!”** but there are BIG parts of me that are just a teensy bit utterly and abjectly terrified at the prospect of that SHIFT. The shift is not easy. The shift from 3 to 4; the shift in sleeping schedules for pretty much everyone involved; the monumental, tectonic shift ONE of us has to deal with from Mom-and-Dad’s-Only to Not-Any-More; and of course the usually-underemphasized shift ONE (or two) of us has to deal with from The-Only-Place-I’ve-Ever-Known-with-my-Own-Actual-Family to Total-Strangers-in-Strange-Place-with-No-Warning-and-No-Comprehensible-Explanation. 

There are big ole parts of me that don’t want to MAKE new friends in a new place, and don’t want to BRING another kid in, but I want to HAVE DONE those things. I want to skip the itchy, grouchy, ill-fitting, unfamiliar, weird-smells, frustrated-plans, not-what-I-expected chapter. I want to jump past the part where your kid(s) is(are) miserable and you pretty much just don’t have an answer or a solution, and BE a family of 4, or 5, who have friends who show up at my house and get food out of my fridge without asking and holler at my kid if he’s asking for it.

This is expected. I knew we’d be fine, I knew people would be friendly, and I knew we’d have some time before depth happens because good things are earned and there’s no shortcut. I knew fostering and adopting would take longer than we wanted them to, and we’d feel like we were going in circles; I knew these things. But that’s kinda where we are at the moment.

There have been some great moments of just what we need when we need it – like this wedding yesterday, right when little man hit the pinnacle of “I want to see my FRIENNNNNNDS” and bam! Out of nowhere, a day and a half of cousins and all the family, all at once, in a place where we slept next door to each other and had nothing to do but hang out. 

Today we were going into church, and for once I wasn’t in the band, and on the way in I was talking about Sunday School, and he said “I wanna stay with you.” So we talked about how if he wants to stay with me, he has to be quiet in big church, and he can’t change his mind a bunch of times, and all his friends are in Sunday School and they’ll color and play on the playground and play with toys… but he wanted to stay with me. So since we had the luxury of that option this time, I took him into big church.

After one song, he was just so droopy with his head on my shoulder. He looked up at me and said “I don’t want to go to this church, I want to go to our OLD church with my FRIENDS.” I thought about it for a minute and finally I just told him, you know? It is crummy, and it is hard, and I am sorry. Daddy and I miss our friends at the other church too, and I know that it’s sad. But the truth is people here are just as awesome as people there, and all of us have to work pretty hard here at the beginning, and keep showing up even when we’re kind of tired and kind of sad missing people, because we have to try to get to know them as well as we knew the other people in Dallas. It’s hard for me and Daddy too but we have to work on it so we can get to where these people are just as awesome as the Dallas people because this is where we live now. 

He looked up and saw a friend, another dad, who is quite tall, who we ate lunch with last week, all the way across the room, and perked up visibly. “Hey, I know that guy!” So I said yes, you do, and you know X and Y and Z, who will be in your Sunday School class… and he chose to go to his class. This is the first time he went in without a big to-do since we moved here, and I didn’t feel like I was peeling him off and shoving him in to get on stage on time (which makes me feel like a MONSTER). 

So we will get there! Also, we are painting basically our entire house this week while my in-laws are in town, so we are quickly making this house OURS whether it likes it or not. 

That said – be ye Houston or Dallas – come visit! Come and populate our house. If you’re new (to us), come be awkward for a minute so we can clock those hours and get to the good stuff. If you’re old (to us) our guest room is now fully furnished and will be painted within the week. I got a chalk board for the door so I can personally welcome each of you. Eventually we’ll even have a table to eat dinner on. 

———————————————————————-

*Another phenomenon I have witnessed every time I’ve been somewhere away from home for more than about two weeks: When you hit right around that 2-week mark, you start seeing dopplegangers of everyone from back home. This even happened in Romania. It was like everyone had turned into darker-complected, dark-haired, tall thin supermodel versions of themselves, but we all at the same time started to be like “she reminds me SO much of ______.” “He looks SO much like ______.” Has anyone else experienced this?

**Tbh I’m not a huge fan of the babies-only deal in theory, sometimes, because it’s not honestly where the need is, but every single errbody recommends keeping your oldest oldest, and knowing my kid which I flatter myself that I do, I do think that would be best, so we are looking at requesting placements that are a decent bit younger than he is, maybe 2 & under? Although the first time around we asked for 7 yrs & under sibling pair and got a single 3-month-old, and while they DO respect your wishes if you stick to them, the foster system enjoys having a big guffaw at people’s ideas of how things should go, so who knows.

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Houstonian

Well, we have not floated away yet, so that’s good. My child is doing pretty ok as we have found plenty of indoor play places and stuff to do just getting situated. My poor dog, however, has no such luxury. I think she’s about to go stark raving.

I started out by setting a few small goals for each day so I could measure what we did. Explore a new area, get one or two or three things done like finding a place to print or mailing a package or touring a preschool, find one more viable play area for Avery, figure out something domestic like organize our stuff slightly better or do laundry, and go easy on myself about just passing time which usually I don’t like to do, but I’m setting a pretty low bar for these first days in a new place.

“Shopping”

Well, here we are just over 2 weeks in, and no major meltdowns yet, except for that one time I cried in front of the real estate agent. I figured out why there are so many real estate-related reality shows, because hello, drama. I’d watch that stuff.
So we are living in the upstairs of Dane’s aunt and uncle’s house, which I thought would be this HUGE favor and this huge imposition and a lot of dancing around each other, and it turns out it is actually very very fun. Uncle likes to play with Avery in the evenings and hide under his blanket and read him goofy books and introduce him to indy racing and golf on TV. Aunt and I have coordinated on just a few meals and she lets me talk her ear off all the time at night because I’m away from my sisters and mom and friends, and may well explode outright if I don’t. Sometimes they have stuff to do in the evenings, sometimes we do. We’ve had a couple of pizza nights, since my family is biologically programmed to demand pizza at least once a week or we start in with the tremors and hallucinations. They both work during the day, so I’m not all worried about keeping Avery out of someone’s hair or whatever. They are gracious and friendly and easy-going. It’s actually kind of perfect, and to be honest I found myself the other day a little sad about the idea of leaving. 🙂
Keeping up with cousins

Keeping up with cousins

A few folks from the church have had us over or invited us swimming or out to lunch, and we are slowly but surely starting to make friends! I have already been to my first missions meeting, and barely even have the beginning of an introduction to what that will look like here, but a start is a start.
Making friends

Making friends

 We are working on relicensing but a lot of things are held up until we close on our house, which if all goes as planned, will be in just a couple weeks. I LOVE the house, by the way. It’s older but so cuuuuute and has big ole trees and a big yard and room for lots of people to come over.
I’m pretty excited about the part where we find a Place for all the Things instead of constantly looking in 18 places for something and then realizing it’s back in Dallas. But it will come, it will come.
Welp, that’s the update… I’m hoping the rain lets up long enough to let my mom come visit EVER, and also the puddles go away before, like, November, so that MAYBE we won’t all be completely consumed by mosquitos until we are sucked-dry raisin-people.
Memorial Day fun

Memorial Day fun

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Cahoots

I spent today (Mother’s Day) thinking about a lot – the fact that we’re moving tomorrow away from my own mother, and my mother-in-law, and all my friends who I have watched become mothers over the last 9-ish years…

Thinking about my own baby’s other mothers, the one who birthed him and fought tooth and nail for him and lost, the other one who had a lot of putting-back-together to do and who also fought tooth and nail for him and lost… and the other boys I’ve been mother to for 10 months or 3 weeks or 3 hours, and their mothers now.

My little man (who is so much more man-ish every day, not just in the way that his cheeks are thinning out and his pants are all suddenly capris and he is built like a pro wrestler. Mostly in the way that he gives the best trike to his cousin who is tired and not feeling well, and in the way that he stops whining and asks how he can help us get ready to move when Mommy is starting to get a little too stressed out. And in the way he has started to tell his own funny jokes and stories, not just repeating things he’s heard, and in the way he tells me repeatedly, every single day, how pretty I am and how I am the most important and I am a flower) feels more like MY little man than he ever, ever has.

Today in the car on the way to church we passed a park he went to once with my sister while I was at a meeting.

“I went to that park with Bonnie yesterday,” he said.
“You did, a while ago,” (it was at least 6 months ago…)
“I missed you, while I was at that park.”
“But I came back, right? Just like always?”
“Yeah. … I’m gonna be yours forever.”

I mean, I know, oooohhhhhh how sweeeeeeet you practically have diabetes now. And yet. It’s one thing to say it. It’s another thing to mean it-mean it, and know it’s actually legally happening, and have the judge decree it, and have the family and the witnesses, and to make a covenant. It’s altogether another thing to have him understand it to a level that he repeats it back to me, unsolicited. I know he doesn’t know what forever is. But this is something that in our family, we don’t take for granted.

We’re packing up a car tomorrow to head down to Houston. We’re leaving a lot (LOT [LOOOOOOT]) behind, and the weight of it is pretty intense. I have some pretty dadgum deep roots in this place. We’re going into a lot (LOT [LOOOOOOT]) of exciting new possibilities, and there is a huge part of me that is so thrilled.

I can’t yet fathom going weeks at a time without a Dad Bear Hug or having his arms radiate warmth from the next chair over during a frigid church service… or going weeks at a time without being able to just come crash down at my mom’s house and send the LM off with cousins and help myself to a drink and just chill for an hour or two… but I also have seen little tiny pieces of some pretty unbelievable humans down there in Houston and I can’t wait to get to know them as well as my dear, dear friends here. There’s a church that’s growing and moving and going and I have a role there, and I’m so excited to get my hands dirty.

The thing is, though, that along with the clothes and the junk and the crap and even our sweet Penny Pooch, two men (one little and one big) are going into that car, and down I-45.

It’s fun adding to the permanents. It’s an interesting thing that whatever I do, we do, from now on. That WE are going to miss OUR friends, WE are going to make new friends, WE are finding a house, WE are packing and unpacking, WE are getting used to new house-smells and house-sounds, WE are WE are WE are. It’s duh, but it’s also pretty incredible, when you think about it. That whatever I leave and whatever I enter, I do it with these two, and I absolutely cannot imagine it any other way. Nobody else I’d want more, in my roller coaster car.

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Packing it up

SO YEAH if you managed to miss it recently, Dane has accepted a job offer in Houston and we are MOVING in about 3 weeks. So there’s that.

There are so many things recently I’ve wanted to be able to explain to people but I kind of couldn’t until we knew how things were going to play out. Honestly, this job change has been in the works for like many many moons, which is why we went ahead and pulled out of our church during his interim stint at another church, and why I vacated the Missions Chair position, because we knew that while that one wasn’t likely to be super long-term, it would probably last until another full-time job did come, so it made sense to go ahead and transition. Now, that one ended up being shorter than we expected, because they knew we didn’t want part-time for very long, and they found someone who wanted part-time indefinitely, which good for them, so we ended up BACK at church and I’m sure people were like “why did you quit all that stuff and why aren’t you picking it up again?” and now you know.

MYSTERIES UPON MYSTERIES. I know that everyone has been completely bamboozled and driven to distraction thinking about our lives and wondering why we have been making the choices we made. I know you’ve all lost sleep over this, don’t even front. So now you know.

If you may allow me to ALSO go ahead and draw that parallel to why we only had that one teeny placement in February, and then didn’t take any placements after that, because this Houston thing was already in the works and we couldn’t risk having to disrupt another placement. So after waiting SEVEN months for our relicensing, we had to wait more, and now we will have to transfer agencies. Hopefully a lot of things will transfer since it is still in-state, but I expect no less than 6 mo before we are up and running again on that front. So probably a little over a year later than we kind of hoped to be moving in this direction, but c’est la vie. 

The good news is, if we don’t love the idea of our little dude being like 4 1/2 years older than his younger sibling (I don’t know but I’d love for them to be closer), we don’t actually have to start with newborns! Adoption bonus!

But rest assured (MOM) that we are absolutely moving forward with more little ones and, God-willing, adopting again, although we will be taking foster and foster-to-adopt and adoptive placements (not all at the same time HAR HAR) so we might send a couple home before we are able to finalize again, we’ll see. 

Real talk: I am abjectly terrified of moving so far from my family and fostering again. I intend to go into our new church with pretty bald expectations for them to support us. Our current church home and our family have set the bar so super high, but that’s the beauty of moving right into the middle of another piece of the Body. This would be infinity more terrifying if we weren’t being welcomed so warmly and completely by a new church.

We’ll get to buy a house, finally, which is exciting and also quite nerve-wracking. I told Dane last night that I finally sort of pinpointed what it is that scares me about it: Any Thing that we own has the potential to end up owning us, but I feel that I have seen this be true about houses more than any other particular Thing. Houses have the potential keep you where you are longer than you want to be there, they can keep you working when you want to stay home with your kids, they can keep you from going on vacations or out to dinner with your friends. 

That and there are a lot of things people take as incontrovertible, undeniable necessities in houses that I just don’t agree – I have seen too much of the rest of the world and even the rest of this country outside of the rich suburbs, and I know what humans actually NEED, and most of the time what sales people are telling me is not it. Kids can share rooms without dying. People can (gasp!) become productive members of society without having a dedicated study space. Family members can remain tolerant of and even affectionate towards each other without seven separate recreation spaces and multiple different tv rooms. I spent several years of my married life cooking in some truly teeninsey kitchens, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t starve. I’m not saying we won’t have any “comfortable” things, I’m just saying I recognize that we don’t need them. There are times I feel like our 1,000 sq ft house we’re in now is an absolute palace, and on a global scale, it totally is. Are there times I wish I could watch a movie without monitoring the volume every 2 seconds because our boy is sleeping 18″ from the speakers? Maybe. But you know what? I’ll live.

So we were just kind of talking about how I want to set a CONSERVATIVE budget for this and then I will probably be obnoxiously rigid with whatever realtor we end up working with, because I simply will not be talked into more than I want to spend, and have it lord over me for the next 10 years. Anyway that’s my naive noobie perspective. And yes, I do put it here on purpose to hold me accountable.

Anyway we’ll let you know how that goes and then maybe this will totally turn into one of those home reno blogs when we start doing all the SUPER FABULOUS AND DIRT CHEAP upgrades we’re totally going to do (ha ha) (with all the free time we’ll have) (I’m not anticipating quitting either of my jobs actually but also kind of taking on a third) (so yeah I totally will be the DIY master).

So we are excited. All of us. Little one I’m sure isn’t 100% sure what this whole thing means yet, but neither are us 2 big ones, if we’re honest. There are pros and there are cons, but more than anything, I know it’s right. 

And the truth is, we can Facebook and FaceTime and text and call and visit. We’ve already scoped out camp grounds halfway between there and here to meet up with family and friends on weekends. We’ll make so many new friends and new connections, and I’m so excited to know and love MORE people as well as we have known and loved people here the past 9 or past 31 years, depending on how you look at it.

I’ll be honest though – the one thing that just eats my lunch is this right here:

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This is where I start to feel like the biggest black-hearted traitor because not a one of the 3 of them understands that they’re about to go from playing together like 3-4-5x/week, being the inseparable trio, to periodic visits and (FREQUENT!!) FaceTime calls.

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Let’s not even get INTO grandparents. Alllllll of them.

Maybe they’ll always just pick up where they left off.

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But we do what we need to do, right? Just please God help them always love each other like this:

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(I mean, a TAD less pushing and grabbing and shirt-pulling and screaming COULD be appreciated at SOME point, but what’s lemonade without a few lemons??)

Posted in Fostering, Posts by Abbey

Good Friday

Last year I wrote a blog post called Tenebrae. It was about the things I was believing would die on Good Friday, and the things I was believing would get up and go out, Sunday morning. I stand by that.

But I have a somewhat different perspective now.

A friend asked me recently what Good Friday and Easter actually mean, actually to me, actually now, in 2015. 

I think it’s in Radical [look, if y’all expect me to actually start researching and citing my sources you’re going to have to get me some ad revenue or something #realtalk] where David Platt talks about how countless people besides Jesus were crucified, including some of his own apostles. Countless people have been martyred in other ways, some far more violent or cruel. And some of them never even sweated blood, or asked that the “cup be taken” from them. So does that make Jesus less brave than those people? Platt contends (and this made more sense to me than I had ever quite understood it before) that Jesus wasn’t facing death, or I mean he was, but he was also facing the wrath of God and the consequence of every sinful choice throughout human history and human future (if that’s a phrase). That’s why you see the unshakeable Jesus… frankly kind of freaking out. But never failing to submit.

Anyway, I look around me at things I’ve become more aware of than I was as I was growing up, and know I’ve only barely begun to scratch the surface. The hot mess that is the foster care system. My own kids’ stories, to be frank. The broken families affected, the stories I hear, the people I have met. Abuse. Addiction. Generational cycles. Poverty. Precious littles with FAS, PTSD, SPD, etc. Depression. Racism. People being hateful in the name of Jesus himself. Divorce. People being utterly devalued by others until they are devalued by themselves. Trafficking. ISIS. Boko Haram. And I don’t want to pretend like it has to be things that look so “extreme” on paper — my temper, my selfishness, my laziness, the wounds I inflict on my friends and family, and myself. My greed and materialism. My friends who believe the promises of the world and find themselves so isolated, hurt, disillusioned. 

If you’re not horrified by the effects of sin* in the world, you’re not paying attention. I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s reasonably possible in this day and age to isolate ourselves from it, but make no mistake: Past a certain age it’s a willful ignorance. 

And I simply believe that the more you are horrified by the effects of sin, the more you are remotely capable of understanding what redemption means, and what Easter means. 

There are battles I hope to get up and fight every day – to be part of the redemption of my kid’s life, of my own life… the constant daily breaking and redemption of my marriage – making Dane and myself into what we were created to be… giving the orphan a home and a family and a name, teaching love and joy and peace where there was dissension and anger and fear… feeding the suffering hungry… freeing the oppressed… loving the lonely…

And the truth is, some days I don’t see how I could EVER lose, fighting these battles. The only way I could lose is to stop, because the winning is in the fighting.

But the truth ALSO is, that some days, and often even the same days, I know that we will NEVER EVER win these battles. 

So that’s what Good Friday means – every kid crying out unheard in the middle of the night, every girl locked in a brothel, every martyr beheaded on video – that’s what made Jesus sweat blood. That’s what he faced, felt, carried. All of it.

And on Easter – he BEAT IT. He won. 

He didn’t just get up from being dead. Lazarus did that. That one dude’s daughter did that. If that’s all you think Easter is, you’re missing out.

Listen – I won’t win, in my lifetime, nor will anyone else, in anyone else’s lifetime – but as long as we are part of the redemption effort, the surge of troops, we also can’t lose… but we come at it every day knowing that it’s already won. In the end, and in the beginning and outside of time – it’s already won.

I can try to help my kid face demons and drop baggage placed on his little life before he was ever born, and I will get up every day and do the work set out for me, but I will also know ultimately that all of that died… and He rose.


* FYI – by “sin” I mean when people make choices that are not in line with the ways that God teaches us to live for “the life that is truly life.”

Posted in Uncategorized