I’m Pretty Sure I Can’t Do This

After The New Kid left us we had a couple of months to regroup. We needed the time. As much as we loved him, The New Kid had given us a run for our money and we were tired. We weren’t sure we were going to continue to foster. His story had been a success, the first and only kiddo we have fostered who was able to be reunified with his parent. He was a challenge but in the end we felt good about where he ended up and thought maybe we would end our foster care career on that high note.

And then we got a call.

The phone rang at 4:00am. A two year old girl had been taken into care and needed a place to stay. I said no. I had to be at work in a couple of hours and couldn’t make childcare arrangements on such short notice. After I hung up the phone my husband reminded me that it was my day off. I quickly called the number back and they excitedly told me that someone would be bringing her to us in about an hour.

She entered our home quietly. She was beautiful and bewildered and exhausted. She spoke very little for quite some time, but what she lacked in verbal communication she more than made up for in attitude. She had sass and spunk and a personality that quickly came to light. Miss Moxie seemed a fitting nickname.

She has lived with us for almost 9 months and we are hopeful that she might just get to live with us forever. Yep, we are on the road to adoption. Again. We weren’t expecting to be here. Again. We are terrified. Again. We are excited. Again. It’s familiar and different all at once.

I’m trying to do less worrying this time around. Less fretting and more faith. I cannot really do anything to change the outcome, our fate rests in the hands of lawyers and judges at this point. I can only trust that God knows what is in store and He will reveal it to me when the time is right and help me navigate whatever waters he puts me in.

Besides all that, I’ve already done plenty of fretting. When faced with the decision to adopt, we had to take a good long hard look at ourselves and our life. Could we start over with a toddler? Could we fit another person into our home, our family, our life? Could we  muster the energy to keep up? Could our kids handle it? Could our marriage handle it? COULD WE DO IT? The answer was and is ….. no. We can’t.

There isn’t enough of us to go around. We can’t meet all the needs and wipe all the noses and dry all the tears. We can’t be present with all the people all the time. We can’t give our kids/each other/ourselves all of the attention. We can’t do it. And that’s when a familiar calm washed over me. I can’t, but God can. And there it was. The peace that I needed. It is the best place to be, leaning hard on God. It is a familiar calm amid a storm of unknowns.

We are currently enjoying our time with Miss Moxie, knowing that there is a chance she might not be with us forever. We are reminding ourselves that we don’t need to build walls around our hearts fearing the “what if”. We are ALL IN knowing that if things don’t end with MM with us permanently that we have poured all the love that we could into her in the time we were given. And that if our hearts shatter in the end, God will be there to patch us up.

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Tonsils. Who Needs Them??

Update: The New Kid has to have his tonsils removed. This is new territory for me. #1) I’ve never had a foster kiddo who had to have surgery and #2) I’ve never had a kid that had to have a tonsillectomy. So.

I’m not really nervous about the surgery itself. A quick google search told me that just over half a million of these procedures are done each year. The doctor who will be performing the procedure seems very qualified. The New Kid will be in and out within 30 minutes. No biggie, right??

What I’m worried about is the week following his surgery. This kid is going to need A LOT of extra care. And although he is hilarious and we are really growing to love him, he is still just a few weeks post “complete-stranger” status. It’s a little intimidating to know that I’ll be responsible for this child as he goes through what will quite possibly be the most excruciating few days of his short little life and we are still just getting to know one another.

This reminds me of a few years ago when my then-foster-child-now-son had a stomach bug. I had a vicious case of the “am I doing it rights?” and second guessed myself in a bad way. Turns out, I was doing just fine all along. Re-reading my own words reminds me that I can do this!!

Prayers and good vibes appreciated for The New Kid. 

1/22/13

No one likes to be sick. It’s the pits. You’re weak and achy and tired. You don’t feel like eating or reading or even really talking. Even worse than being sick though is having a sick kiddo. It’s heartbreaking. You wish you could be sick in their place; somehow take the illness away from them. They’re so fragile. They’re weak and achy and tired. They don’t feel like eating or reading or even really talking. But what seems almost universally soothing to pretty much every sick child is snuggling. That wild, energetic ball of energy who rarely slows down for a quick hug seems to want nothing more than to climb in to your lap, cuddle up under a blanket, and just be. Comfort. I get a guilty satisfaction for being the giver of this comfort. I genuinely don’t want my sweet one to feel bad but I will SOAK THIS UP!!!!! This is a momma’s time to shine: to nurture and care for and to….mother. I mean, I still want MY mom when I’m sick. Which makes me wonder, does our little addition want his mom right now even more than normal? Does his weak, fragile state cause him to recall how her lap felt, how she rubbed his back or touched his face? Did she feed him 7-Up and crackers or popsicles or broth to soothe his sick belly? AM I DOING IT RIGHT?!?! Or does it really matter? Soup or 7-Up, back rub or back scratch…as long as it’s done with love I’ve found that he will gratefully accept my attempts to help and he even seems to be comforted by them. Apparently my lap snuggles just fine.

Wear Confidence

I had lunch with a friend recently. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss some heavy stuff: our calling, God’s plan for our lives, service. Big stuff. However, we are a couple of girls so the conversation began with less weighty matters. We talked about clothes. And hair. And about how it isn’t fair that it seems for every decade older we get, we pack on another 10 pounds or so. She said that she thinks it’s all about picking the right clothes for the body you’ve got. I agreed…I’ve not mastered it, but it’s true. Accentuate what you like, camouflage what you don’t.

The conversation quickly took a more serious turn. My friend and I have both adopted. We’ve grafted precious littles into our families. We talked about our unique adoption processes, because just like birth experiences that usually end with the same outcome, the journey there is different for everyone. We celebrated our special families and talked about some of the unique challenges. Adoption is hard, no doubt about it. But adoption is beautiful.

When you’re on the adoption journey, there are SO many unknowns. Your whole world feels fragile, like it could come crumbling down at any minute. You spend most of your days nervous, anxious, worried. But, like a veil hanging over it all, there is such JOY!!! And peace. It is almost unbelievable that you can harbor both worry and peace inside the same person, but I promise you can. You worry in the minutes but you have peace about the plan. When you’re on that difficult, scary, hard journey you KNOW that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Deep in your bones you just know that God is pleased and you lean on that so hard that you know without God you’d just crash.

On both of our unique journeys, the ending was beautiful. We snuggled our sweet boys into our families and breathed a sigh of relief that the legal process was over and we could get on with the business of living our lives. The days melt into weeks and then months pass and we’ve both felt sort of an uneasiness. A restlessness. What on earth?? We’d just held God’s hand through a really difficult leg of the race and he helped us to the finish line and there we sit feeling…..weird. What happened?

It’s hard to go from a place of complete dependence on God, where you know that without Him you’d be a mess, to a place where you’re able to stand on your own again. Don’t get me wrong, I know I always NEED God, but sometimes I know it intellectually and sometimes I feel it, viscerally. I want to feel it that way all the time. I get hooked on the feeling but I struggle with how to find it. I want to know that I’m doing His plan in my everyday life with the same confidence that I knew I was doing His will on our adoption journey. How?

I’ve pondered this quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, since my lunch date with my friend. We opened our hearts that day and laid a lot on the table. We wrestled, figuratively, with the logistics of living God’s plan in our everyday lives. But at the end of our time I think we both walked away with more questions than answers.

I think the answer to our dilemma about God’s calling might have something to do with the conversation we had about fashion. Seems strange, but hear me out. We aren’t always exactly where we want to be. Our heart might be in missions but our children might just need the stability of being here. Our desire might be to fund a shelter for battered women but our bank account doesn’t reflect that. Our yearning might be to spend our days volunteering with needy children but our career path hasn’t led us there. I think the secret might be in picking the service for the life you’ve got right now. Today. Where are you right now and what can you be doing to share the love of Jesus? Ask yourself that question and then do it, with confidence.

It’ll look different for all of us. Some might answer it in big ways, making a huge life change. Most will answer it in small ways, little moments of kindness throughout the day. It really doesn’t matter how big or small it is because God doesn’t measure it that way. We can’t get caught up in the next big thing or we will be chasing air. I have done big things and I want to do more of them because they’re big and important and feel good. But those small kindnesses? They are just as big and important to God. I forget that often. If we’re running from big to bigger to biggest, we’ll end up exhausted.

It’s easy to find God when I need Him in that visceral way. But if I can’t slow down and quiet myself to find Him when life is calm and almost boring, that’s on me. He is always there. The challenge is sometimes in the mundane. I get discouraged, which is ridiculous because there are so many ways to serve. It’s like I’m standing in front of my closet full of clothes complaining that I have nothing to wear. The opportunities are there, they might not be flashy or trendy or glamorous but they might be just exactly right for me.

If you’re being called to something big then by all means, attack that big thing with tenacity and ambition. Own that big thing! If you’re being called to be kind to the lady in the check out line, OWN THAT TOO!! Be confident in where God has put you RIGHT NOW. It is no accident.

God’s will?


I’ve spent a whole lot of time all twisted up about God’s will for me. I’ve spent many hours thinking about it, talking about it, praying about it. Honestly, I’ve been obsessed at times. And I’ve been frustrated beyond belief.

This journey of foster care/adoption has brought me TO MY KNEES on more than one occasion. My prayer usually ends up being that God would show me His will with a big neon sign (subtlety isn’t my strong suit). I’ve thought that if there was something God wanted from me He would make it obvious. And He has done that. And that didn’t work out.

We were at a crossroads once and I didn’t know which way to go.  I knew there was a correct answer, but I couldn’t figure it out. I knew there was a sure bet, but I didn’t know what it was. I thought and talked and prayed about it. So much (too much??).  Then He revealed his will. I saw The Plan and it was perfect and obvious and beautiful. We moved forward and felt so much peace. And then it fell apart.

Frustration is an understatement. I was crushed. Confused. I felt abandoned. I had been so sure that we were following The Plan and yet, we weren’t. What I thought was the sure bet, the correct path, the right answer?? Well, it ended up being a big, fat nothing and we were back to square one. There was still a decision to be made and I felt less equipped than ever to make it. I fasted and prayed and listened. NOTHING.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re sitting there right now. At a crossroads, pondering a decision, ready for a change but with absolutely no idea what God wants you to do. Questioning a job change? A move? An adoption? Have you prayed about it? Still, nothing?!!? Let me share with you something that someone told me when I was in that scared/frustrated/crushed/confused place. Could you consider that maybe, just maybe, IT DOESN’T MATTER. Don’t misread that. I’m not saying that YOU don’t matter or that the decision you’re making isn’t huge and important. But do you think there’s a chance that no matter what decision you make GOD WILL BE THERE? That maybe there’s no correct answer, no sure bet? That God is waiting patiently to hold your hand no matter what? I think so.

This has changed me. As a recovering legalist, things have always been right or wrong in my eyes. It blew my mind to think that maybe there’s not a right or a wrong answer in every single situation. Sometimes there’s just a decision to be made and you make it the best you can and God is there on the other side of that decision to help you through it. He’s not waiting behind door number 1 or door number 2. He’s behind all the doors. He’s a big God.

God’s will for my life? To love Him and love others. If I’m faced with a quandry, and regardless of my decision I will be able to love God and love others, then I just do the best I can. God can use me no matter which way I end up going, as long as I’m still loving Him and loving others.

So let yourself off the hook a little. Absolutely keep praying. Don’t stop. But don’t get stuck. You’re smart and capable. Use what God has given you and make the very best decision you can make and trust that God will help you navigate it. Making difficult decisions is liberating and refreshing. It will build your confidence and your faith. And I suspect that you’ll look around in a few years and realize that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

 

Considering foster parenting?

We are coming up on our four year anniversary of being licensed foster parents. It feels like just yesterday (and an eternity ago) that we signed the last document, had our final home visit and became OFFICIAL!! It only took a few weeks for us to get “the call”, our first kiddo!! We have figured a few things out during the last four years. For what it’s worth, here are some things I’ve learned.

YOUR FAMILY IS GOING TO GROW. Duh, right? You’re inviting kids to live with you, obviously your family is going to get bigger. But your family is going to grow by more than just a kid or two. Spoiler alert: those kids bring with them parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. More than likely you’ll build relationships with those family members along the way. I really hadn’t prepared myself for this new extended family. Honestly, it’s pretty great. A sort of a hidden bonus. Sorry to spoil the surprise.

NEVER SAY NEVER. Because God has a fantastic sense of humor. We were NEVER going to adopt…you know, until the time came that our son was going to live with another family and we declared, “over our dead bodies.” We weren’t going to take a baby because we were NEVER going to do diapers again….then we got a darling 4 year old who wasn’t potty trained. Yes, it is important to establish boundaries and recognize your strengths and your limits but don’t be so committed to your plans that you’re unable to bend a little. Some of our biggest blessings have come from our “nevers”.

OH, THE FEELS. Sure, you’ll experience the expected range of emotions: happy, sad, excited, nervous. Then there’s this whole other subset of feelings that I didn’t even know about. Like when you’ve exercised and wake up the next morning and have sore muscles that you didn’t even know existed. There are these weird combo emotions that I don’t have names for. The celebration of a child being reunited with their family as my heart is absolutely crushed by their departure….what is that even called? How am I able to praise God for the resiliency of a child while being so angry at Him that the same child has lived a life that required such resiliency? Foster parenting brings with it some of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Learn to celebrate the good times and understand that the bad times are only temporary.

READ THE BOOKS BUT TRUST YOUR GUT. If you look, you’ll find a plethora of books. And blogs. And support groups. And opinions. Read them, join them, listen to them…but don’t live by them. You’re smart. You’re equipped to do hard things, do not underestimate youself. If you’re going to lean on something, make sure it’s God. Everything else is just someone’s best guess. It’s awfully easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re not doing it right. Remember that somebody else’s “right” might be all wrong for your family. You know your people best.

REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE DOING IT. Because you’re going to question yourself. Some day when you’re picking nits or cleaning  poop or testifying in court or answering a hotline call (because foster parents get hotlined sometimes) you will say to yourself, “WHAT was I thinking?” When you get a call from the daycare that your kid is sick and you have to sacrifice precious vacation time to take them to the doctor, you’ll wonder why you signed up for this. When we started our journey I wrote an entry in my journal about why I felt compelled to foster. I’ve gone back and re-read it on more occasions that I can count. I’ve needed reminding many, many times.

YOU ARE GOING TO MEET THE TOUGHEST, BRAVEST, MOST AMAZING KIDS. You will wonder why everyone in the world doesn’t foster. Yes, it’s hard. But it is also  incredible. To be able to watch a scared, sad, timid child morph into a confident, happy, silly kid is beautiful. And to know that you got to play a tiny role in that transformation is just one of the best feelings in the world.

What’s Wrong?

Sometimes kids just need to be sad. It stinks and it goes against every fiber of my mom being. I want to be the fixer, the hero. I want to offer treats and trips and fun just to force a smile. I want to joke and tickle and “turn that frown upside down”. But I don’t.

Sometimes kids are legitimately pissed off. Like, legit. Not one of those “he’s looking at me” or “she’s breathing on me” but an actual injustice. Sometimes bad things happen and kids get mad. That’s ok too. Sure, I wanna go into momma-bear mode and right their wrongs for them. Sometimes I should (and do), sometimes I shouldn’t (so I try not to).

Occasionally they’re going to crawl into the crap and revel in the misery of it. Other times it’ll get dumped on them and they’ll have no choice. They can’t live in it forever but IT’S OKAY TO FEEL BAD SOMETIMES! In fact, I think it’s healthy. If they can learn to feel their feelings now and not push them away or ignore them or think there’s something “wrong” with them, I suspect they’ll be healthier adults than if I were to run to the rescue every time they hurt.

I’ll rub his back or brush her hair. I’ll pray with them. I’ll pray for them. I’ll sit in awkward silence or listen while they rant. I’ll (try really hard to) keep my advice and lectures to a minimum. I’ll reassure them of my love for them. I’ll try not to press too hard for a “why” because I know they don’t always know what it is. I’ll allow a safe space for them to feel what they need to feel. I’ll crawl into the crap with them if I need to so they don’t have to sit there alone.

Sometimes kids just need to be sad. And it’s ok. Sometimes I just need to be sad too.
 Sometimes (like the mighty hippo) you just need to wallow in the crap for a minute.

How It Began

I’ve kept a journal since the beginning of our foster care journey. It’s fun to look back on. Sometimes I can’t help but think, “Oh Abbie, how sweet and naive you once were.” 🙂

I often go back to my very first entry. When I was very first figuring it out. I was learning how to foster. I was learning about Caleb. Most of all, though, I was learning about how God works.

August 26, 2012. Six weeks after meeting the sweet boy that was to become my son. I had no idea. Here’s a glimpse into the mind of me:

“Today during church I was admiring the blue corduroy Gap loafers of the sweet boy sitting in my lap. I was thinking about how those exact shoes have been worn by two not so different boys who have lived 2 very different lives…or have they?

Both boys have loving grandparents who have entertained them, fed them, clothed them, and taught them. Both boys have loved Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, and Hot Wheels. Both boys have learned to ride a bike (although only one has mastered the art of riding without training wheels). Both love McDonald’s Happy Meals.

I know jut about all there is to know about the first owner of those blue shoes. I know his birth weight (6lb, 10oz). I know how he got that scar above his right eye (New Years Eve, 2 years ago, he met the corner of my parents’ entertainment center). I know this difference in his ‘whiney’ cry and his ‘hurt’ cry. I know that he likes to hide the last puzzle piece and the be the hero when he ‘finds’ it. I know that he loves me and I love him.

I know considerably less about the current owner of those very same navy blue shoes. I don’t know where he was born. I don’t know if he has ever seen a movie in a movie theater. I don’t know who taught him to ride a bike or if he’s ever been to the zoo or had a pet. But I’m learning. I’m learning that ‘rimmatoop’ means swimming suit. I’m learning that he loves our dog, Maggie. I’m learning that he wakes up early but is okay to play alone for awhile.

I’m learning to love him as he’s learning to love me.”

Sweet memories!

Apparently I didn’t feel like mentioning the part about how the little cutie had a habit of running (in those cute navy loafers, or any shoes he could put on, or BAREFOOT) out of any door that wasn’t locked. We live on 5 acres and he is/was FAST! It is/was an incredible journey but it also is/was hard.

I’ve learned so much since that journal entry 3 1/2 years ago. I’ve gotten answers to many of my questions about Caleb’s past. I still have so much to figure out about fostering. On the job training, so to speak. I’m so grateful for the opportunity.


The owners of those cute shoes. Bros.