Christmas · Giving · simple · Uncategorized

Simple Christmas

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This Christmas season hasn’t at all been what I had hoped it would be.  It started out well (at least what I typically define as “well”) but for some reason after we returned home from visiting family in Illinois for Thanksgiving I just could not for the life of me get my act together.

I decorated for Christmas before we left for Illinois, because I knew I would be tired when we got home, and I worked on Christmas cards during our drive there, because let’s be honest….what is there really to do when one is stuck in a car driving for 12 hours?

I’ve worked so hard to simplify Christmas from year’s past.  To lower expectations.  To not overschedule and overcommercialize, and yet this year I realized that despite how little we choose to do every year for Christmas, my expectations of what I thought Christmas should be still weren’t simple at all.  They were just that…expectations.

We arrived back home on December 2nd from Illinois, and Dave finally had a chance to put up the Christmas lights on December 14th.  I told him to forget it, because it was a lot of work for only a few weeks, but he said “No, I like seeing them when I get home.”  So up they went anyway.  It took me until the 3rd week of advent to even get our advent wreath lit.  We were gone for the first Sunday in advent and the 2nd I was just still too exhausted from travel, so last week we did 3 in 1, and you know what….that’s ok.

Our family advent devotions have been sporadic at best, and I always like to bake Christmas cookies because well….it’s tradition, and it’s something we “should” do right??  Or is it?  Traditions are good things, but they shouldn’t turn into expectations or more pressure on ourselves.  I couldn’t bring myself to let the kids mix the dough with me for the cookies because honestly….the 3 of them together all at one time is still really really hard.  They fight, and bicker, and battle for control, and it rarely ends up “good” so I ended up making the dough myself, and decided we could bake them and decorate them together.  I mixed up the dough early Sunday morning thinking I might bake 1 batch with the kids that afternoon…..that’s when child #1 got sick so I let it go….then child #2 was coughing…and I knew that no children would be touching these cookies, but I needed to make them soon or the dough would go bad so finally I just did it myself.

But I realized part of what I love about the tradition of baking cookies is doing it together and now it was just me making cookies and leaving my kids out.

The cookies are all baked now, but I haven’t frosted the cut outs because I can’t bring myself to do without the kids….because in the middle of all of that child #3 got sick and I honestly don’t even know when the coughing will stop to allow them to participate or I may just end up doing it on my own.

I was almost in tears yesterday morning as I took the 2 girls to the doctor and 1 of them was diagnosed with Strep, the other finally had her fever break after being home from school for 3 days, and now just when I thought I could catch a break, another one gets to stay home from school.

I spent the day yesterday deep cleaning, disinfecting, and let’s be honest…lathering myself in a vat of hand sanitizer to hopefully prevent myself from catching whatever the kids had.

Anyway, I digress….I have just been feeling like a failure as a mom this Christmas.  The same lie I struggle with all the time…”You’re not enough….”

And I struggle to combat those lies with truth as I compare myself to what everyone else accomplishes at Christmas time….

An HGTV Christmas decorated house…

All the festivals and tree lightings one can fit into their schedule during the month of December….

We don’t have an elf on the shelf or counter or whatever the heck they are called…

No one believes in Santa anymore in our house which quite honestly is a relief.  I never really knew how to handle the Santa thing anyway, and honestly, my kids would probably tell you that this Christmas has been just as magical as any other.  They don’t place expectations on Christmas like I do….or can I saw “we?”  I’m sure I’m not the only one out there that struggles with this…

However when I look around me at what we did get to do I realize we still did a lot, and it’s good, and it’s ok, and it’s just enough….

We did get to decorate the tree

The kids did get to eat some of the cookies.

They got to buy presents for each other wrap and start wrapping them.

They got to play in the snow

We did get to drink hot cocoa and watch a Christmas movie

And light the advent wreath (even if it was starting on week 3).

Every year we place a Giving Manger at the base of the tree that Dave built when Abby was a baby.  We then place pieces of straw in the manger when we catch each other doing random acts of kindness, and this year our manager for baby Jesus still sits empty because life has been so full and chaotic that it’s just honestly been really hard to think about one more thing….

But isn’t that the same type of manger that Jesus was born into?  An empty one?

And so despite my best efforts in the past few years to simplify our Christmas, this year I was humbled to realize that our Christmas was still way more than God ever meant for it to be.

That Christmas comes despite all the decorations, cards, cookies, and presents….babies come when they are ready, and new life is born into this word simply.  Jesus was born into absolute nothingness….a stable where his bed was a manger, and his mother was an engaged young virgin, and his earthly father was a carpenter, and that was good enough for a King.

There are still some things left that I would like to do before Christmas and over the kids break….

  • Driving around looking at Christmas lights with hot chocolate and Dunkin Donuts munchkins or Christmas cookies
  • Wrapping presents
  • Daily advent readings
  • A few more presents to buy
  • Making a Gingerbread House with the kids
  • Time for the kids to get together with friends since it’s so hard to do during the school year.

 

But I’m choosing to give myself grace.  To remind myself that I tried, and it just didn’t all work out this year, and that’s ok.  I’m not sure if I am going to get through this whole list….some presents may end up “wrapped” in a grocery bag, but even that’s ok, because God never intended for us to put all these expectations on ourselves when we were in the midst of celebrating his son’s birthday.  No, God wanted, and still wants us to just receive this precious gift…to not do anything else in return, other than accept what a beautiful gift of selfless love that Jesus birth was.  Quite honestly there is nothing else more beautiful in all the world than the fact that God sent His one and only Son to live a life here, and ultimately sacrifice His life for us, because of how much He loves us.

 

Blessings,

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Christmas · Foster Care/Adoption · Giving · Uncategorized

Christmas Giving and Dirty Hands

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This week when I was running some errands and listening to the radio in the car, I heard the radio host talking about giving at Christmas time.  Often times I tune out a lot of the talking portions from hosts on the radio and listen more intently to music, but the subject piqued my interest so I paused to listen for a moment.

As he went on he was talking about really considering what we are “giving” to this year at Christmas, and if the cause was something good to give to or not.  Typically in past years I probably would have nodded in agreement, and in this particular moment it wasn’t that I disagreed with the host, but that I wished he would have talked about giving at an even deeper level.

You see, this time every year despite who we are, our religious affiliations, or our political stance, almost everyone I know seems to be more readily giving or willing to give during the Christmas season.  Which is absolutely beautiful, and I love that part of Christmas, but this particular message made me stop to pause and reflect more deeply for a moment past how much more quickly I press “buy” on my amazon account, grab my checkbook to write to a needy cause, or say “yes” when at the grocery store to donate dollars to a local food bank this time of year….I realize how often my “giving” comes in the form of my finances, and a box checked on my checklist than an event deeper sacrifice that comes from giving of my time, and choosing to get my hands dirty.

Getting our “hands dirty” goes way beyond giving of our finances.  Getting our hands dirty means willingly being obedient to whatever God leads us to do despite whether it inconveniences us or not….

  • Turning around when we see the homeless man, and grabbing a few groceries for him or a sandwich at the nearest fast food restaurant even if it means we just got back from the store and have to go back again
  • Showing up at a friends house who is struggling with postpartum depression with coffee, a smile, and a listening ear.  Maybe help fold laundry or do dishes if it’s needed and she seems ok with it.
  • Go on a mission trip
  • Help at a food bank or serve meals at a shelter
  • Get involved in organizations like Big Brother Big Sister, Boys and Girls Clubs, or youth groups and give kids positive role models to look up to.
  • Bring groceries to a family in need
  • Help a widow or struggling family with home projects that they don’t have the knowledge or resources to be able to complete on their own
  • Foster/Adopt a child

I could go on, and on….there are endless opportunities surrounding us in our own communities of ways we can serve others by getting our hands dirty, and these needs don’t just exist at Christmas…they exist all year round.

In this journey of foster care we often get praised for the work we are doing, and the encouragement is so helpful especially on the hard days, but even we must still remember that yes, we maybe currently fostering, but our own checklist isn’t “done.”  This maybe something that God wants us to focus our energy and attention on most right now in this moment, but if we open our eyes and our hearts to really listen he often times gives us more assignments even in the midst of busy-ness, and if we don’t stop to pause and reflect, we may miss it….we miss HIS best yes.

I pray that this season reminds us most of what God sent His son to us for….

He was the Servant King, and His life is a reflection of what He desires for us to become.

So much hope was wrapped up in swaddling cloths in a manger that first Christmas.  A king who would be far different from any other king who ever lived.    A baby, born in the image of God who chose to sacrifice His life for us, and get His own hands dirty that we too could live.

 

Blessings,

 

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Foster Care/Adoption · Uncategorized

Juvenile Court

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Photo Credit: www.weisspaarz.com.

Today, I attended our foster child’s first court date.  I honestly had no idea what to expect, or what would occur.  I can’t remember the legal term they used, but basically this hearing was to transfer legal guardianship of our foster child to the county within which we will serve as the resource family for her.  I wasn’t sure who all would be there- birth parents?  Family?  I didn’t know if I would meet any of them, or if there would be an uncomfortable confrontation.

Every case is different.  In our case the most uncomfortable part of the day was the wait- court was running behind so we sat waiting at the court house for almost an hour before our names were finally called.

To protect the privacy of our specific foster child’s case I am not going to share any of those details, but more so about the experience as a whole at Juvenile Court with a foster child.

Sitting in the waiting room was interesting.  The room was filled with people- children, birth parents, foster parents, a couple that I’m guessing was a kinship relationship because they looked to be grandparents age holding a baby.  There was a room filled with social workers who worked for the county representing each of the people sitting in the waiting room.  Attorneys, and security guards were also in the mix.  Our social worker from our foster agency was there for support for me.

I tend to be a very intuitive person.  I can feel emotions from other people across a room in a very heavy way, and I find it hard to sometimes shake off these feelings.  One family came out of the court room after obviously hearing bad news- mom was in almost hysterical tears, her kids running after her, dad (or whom I presumed was dad) was spouting off lots of angry words and eventually had to be removed to go outside.  A father and teenage daughter sat off to one side, and entered the waiting area in somewhat good spirits, but eventually I saw tears and muffled arguing from the daughter, and the rest of their interaction was spent on opposite ends of the couch with backs turned to one another.

When it was our turn to go into the court room, our girl started to get clingy which I have learned is one of her coping mechanisms for when she is anxious or scared.  She started to walk really slowing with me, and was very hesitant to enter the court room.  I had to remind myself that this is the first time she has ever even been in a court room like this unlike a foster child who has been in care for quite sometime and this is now their norm.  Which is another sad story in and of itself…up until about a month ago my kids had never even seen in the inside of a court room because this is not most kids norm…it shouldn’t be any kids norm.  We were only in one at the time because we attended our friends adoption hearing.

As I led her toward the judge, and the large group of people waiting at the front of the room, they were all very encouraging to her, and gave her some candy which seemed to win her over.  As I sat down, I saw her turn to look at me…to make sure I was still there….how can I already be her constant…her source of comfort after only 9 days with me….it’s just messed up.  No one from her family was present.

We were dismissed from the courtroom very shortly after entering.  I was grateful for this….I really didn’t want her to hear all the details, or have to think about all the weighted adult things they were going to talk about.  My social worker came out shortly after to brief me on their discussion.  I didn’t really find out anything new.  There is another date next week we are to attend that will discuss all the details- what the birth parents have to do to regain custody, our role, her progress in our home, etc.  That meeting is called a “Full Disclosure Meeting.” (for anyone here who is trying to educate themselves on the process-  part of my hopes in sharing this is to bring some light to things that are rarely discussed about foster care to make it not seem so scary, since there are so many unknowns to a new foster parent).

As I sat and spoke with my social worker the tears came….the heaviness of the whole thing just came crashing down….not a single person from our foster child’s family showing up, the upset parents in the waiting room whose children ran out after them crying, the broken communication between the dad and teenage daughter….a bunch of kids forced to be in a room that they shouldn’t even know exists due to adults bad choices that they now have to have consequences from for things they didn’t even do.

One of the things I am very grateful for that came out of today is more empathy.

Empathy for these kids who need security, and safe places to be…to have a stable life instead of living in limbo and being in constant fight or flight.

Empathy for our foster child as we try to figure out how to attach to a child backwards than our own biological children…it’s no easy task, and in many ways feels like loving out of duty before actual feelings of love come, but today….today brought more compassion to fight for her.

Fight for her right to just be a kid, and not have the knowledge of grown up problems in a 7 year olds body.

Fight to help her have a voice that she has always deserved to have even if she wasn’t given one before.

This bible verse from Proverbs 31 kept going through my head all day:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”

May God give me strength to continue to speak for her, that which she cannot speak herself!
Blessings,
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Uncategorized

Forgotten

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This morning I had a moment of just feeling FORGOTTEN….I know that’s not true, but it is how I feel sometimes in this waiting.
The questions start to come..
“God are you in this? If so then why the stillness? Why this long of a wait?”
I’ve been here before.  Many times in this journey towards adoption, or at other times in my life I’ve been here, and every time I find myself questioning. I am reminded of His faithfulness. He gives me peace to be still in the waiting.
The circumstances may not change, but my heart posture does. The questions and the desire for control turn into trust in His sovereignty, and faithfulness when I fully lean into Him.
He has not forgotten us just the same as He has not forgotten the barren woman, nor the single mother.  He has not forgotten the woman who just received a hard diagnosis or the one who just found out her husband has been having an affair….no He HAS NOT FORGOTTEN YOU!
As I was praying over this this morning I opened my bible to a page that was actually bookmarked, and a verse that I had underlined before stared back at me….
“Yet Jerusalem says, ‘The Lord has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us.’  ‘Never!  Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?  But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!”
Isaiah 49:14-15
His word is true, never changing, and here he promises HE WILL NOT FORGET ME!
I haven’t had the heart to remove the notes and presents Abigail left from us from our foster girl’s room yet, because the truth is, in my heart…it’s still her room right now. I know it won’t be, and I know some other little girl someday will bring so much joy to us, and this will all make sense, but today is not my someday, and for now they are vivid reminders of what I thought would be.
These reminders also help me to remember to pray for a sweet 6 year old girl who is trying to adjust to her new family and has been through so much.
To know that I can pray for her by name even if I never see the results of that…I know it matters, and I pray God uses her story mightily!
He has not forgotten me even if His answers don’t match my plans.
I can trust His plans because I know He is good, and I have seen His faithfulness in my life and so many others.
No friend He has not forgotten you either.  Trust Him in the waiting!  Trust that His plan is good, and focus your heart on His faithfulness.
For His word says:
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord.  ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9
Keep on waiting even when the stillness and quiet feels deafening….His plans are good, and worth waiting for!
Blessings,
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Uncategorized

Why In the World Would Someone Choose Foster Care

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So I realized….I haven’t shared this picture with anyone yet, and I figured well…might as well do it!  We took this photo last fall, in anticipation of knowing we were in the process of fostering, knowing someday we hoped to adopt, and as a mom, whether biolgical or adopted children, my heart longed for every single one of my babies….I took pregnancy pictures with my own bio kids in anticipation of welcoming them into our family, so it was important for me to acknowledge this about God’s plans for completing our family as well.

I felt God nudging me this week to share a really raw journal entry I wrote.  It’s something I wrote almost a year and a half ago now….as I was in the midst of wrestling with God about whether or not He was calling us to adopt/foster.  My heart was so raw when I wrote this.  So raw, that I remember it happening right before we went back to IL for Christmas, and it was so fresh that I couldn’t bring myself to speak a word about it to anyone back home…my heart needed time to fully comprehend what this thing really was that God was asking us to do……

December 28th, 2015

By the time anyone reads this, months will probably have passed.  My heart is too raw to share now.

On December 6th 2015 after years of gentle nudges on our heart from God, and pretty intense pressing on us in the last 3 to 4 months, we decided that God was indeed calling us to adopt.  We already had made an appointment a month prior to meet with an adoption agent from a local agency that we knew through mutual friends.  So on December 8th we met.  Something became very clear to us in that meeting…

That adoption is hard.

Adoption isn’t pretty.

Adoption is picking up pieces of brokenness and trying to piece back together what God intended to stay whole.

It’s tears.

It’s battle, and to be quite honest didn’t look like what we had hoped for it to look like.

In my mind adoption was a neatly wrapped up package with a beautiful bow.  Sometimes it can be that way… sometimes not, and so in efforts to prepare ourselves we have to be ready for the worst, and hope for the best.  What was most confusing to me in this whole process, was that we never were quite sure how we would adopt…private domestic, international, foster to adopt.  We had no clue.  The only plan I had in my mind was I don’t think I fully comprehended the hardness that this whole process could be.  The more God revealed, the more we prayed, the more it seemed like Foster to Adopt may very well be what He is calling us to.  As I sit here right now in this moment, I still don’t fully know.  All I know is that fostering really wasn’t in my plan.  I suppose that is what makes it so hard.  My expectations were different.  My plans weren’t His….

As I prayed and wrestled with what I felt God asking us to do, I found myself questioning Him…

“God this is going to hurt.  A lot.  I don’t want to hurt.  I don’t want to suffer.  I don’t want to possibly give of myself 18 or more months of my life, loving another, only to possibly have to hand them back.  We want to complete our family God.  This may not complete it.  We may have to hand them back, and what if we do?  Will we have what it takes to endure another placement?  I am not even a kid person.  God how in the world can you possibly think that, ME, of all people is cut out for this?!”

The questions went on.  There were many more.  There was a lot of arguing, justification of my reasons, and each one He had such gentle responses for….

In response to the fear of suffering-

“It will hurt, but I understand suffering.  No one wants to suffer but my own son asked me to take the cup away from Him if that was my will, but I couldn’t.  This was something He had to do.”

In response to not feeling equipped to do this-

“You aren’t able, but I am.  I will be your source.  I will be your strength, and I will bridge the gap when you have nothing left to give.  Trust me.”

But God we wanted to complete our family?  This isn’t what we had planned!

“I know, and your family isn’t complete yet, but it will be.  It may not be through a first placement.  It may not be through a second, but I will complete it in my timing, in the way I have always planned.  Trust me.”

Since that meeting on December 8th, we have had a lot going on…traveling back to Chicagoland for Christmas, lots of holiday festivities, and now calm after the chaos that is the season.  We left our meeting that night knowing we felt called to adopt, but absolutely terrified of our next steps.  The agency we are working with offers mandatory training every other month that is 3 full days.  It’s a big commitment to do something like that without being fully sure, especially since we would need to find childcare for our kids, but at church yesterday it became very clear, that we need to take the next step.   So we are going to be taking the classes in January along with 2 of our friends from small group who are also pursuing adoption.  The way that all happened is another story for another day, but let’s just say that God doesn’t make mistakes, and we are so blessed to have such great friends already walking this road with us!

To date, we haven’t really talked about this to many.  Very few people know, besides a few of my close friends who have adopted before, and I knew I could trust being very raw and vulnerable with.  You see part of what scares me most, at least at the current time, is people’s response.  Well meaning people who say the wrong things.  I can’t handle negative right now.  I’m too scared out of mind to hear anything negative right now.  In due time, I know I will be able to handle those comments with more grace, but right now, my heart is raw, and needs time to process this thing God is asking us to do, because it doesn’t look like what I wanted it too.  I need time with God for Him to reveal to me His goodness in this, because He is good.  He is always good, even when He asks us to do something hard.

How can you pursue something you know is going to cause suffering?  Because you know to your very core that God is good.  You  know that when He asks you to do something hard you obey.  You know He has a purpose, and a plan for your life.  That his plans are to prosper you.  Not harm you.  To know that whatever the suffering may be, whatever hurts, that God has a greater purpose in it.  That this is part of our story, and He has great blessing in it for us, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to drink from the cup….

Blessings,

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