The Weakest Link

It was one of those days. Again. Chaos. Every moment of that day, as the day before, and the one before that was utter chaos. Fights. Destruction. Aggression. Noise, so much noise. Anger. Tears. I laid down that night as I had many other nights and wondered how I was going to get up again. I was so thankful that at the very least, once they were asleep, I could count on a few hours of rest. I know some people who are not that lucky.

I had flown off the handle more times than I could count. I was tired. I was angry. I was pushy and all of the other things that I never wanted to be as a mom. My oldest told me that I was setting a bad example.  I felt overrun by my household of children and he noticed my behavior despite the chaos. And this was not the first time.

What I did not really comprehend, and still struggle to internalize, is that there are 4 fragile people that I am parenting and they are not as strong as I think they are.

When there is another potty ‘accident’ that was intentionally hidden for the fourth time today, I get angry because that is almost always after I have finished that last load of laundry. When we think the kids are in bed and then a rage cycle starts that leaves bruises and tears, all I want to do is crawl in bed and sleep. When I do not allow candy or chips (very rare in our house any way) for dinner and furniture gets thrown around for the third meal that day and I just can’t understand why. When one of the kids who has not had a lot of attention that day asks me to play with them and I snap that I cannot because I have too many other things going on at the same time and in the back of my mind I wonder when they will stop asking all together. I need to break apart fights, fix or remove destroyed objects from rooms, or try to put a meal together that wont get thrown across the table, while simultaneously trying to watch four kids who are either trying to hurt one another or who are screaming, whining, or crying for reasons that they cannot themselves tell me.  I just want a break.

I think they might feel the same, only perhaps they cannot articulate it.

You are only as strong as your weakest link.

The thought is rather simple. If a team wants to work together, they must make sure that they do not go any faster or farther than the weakest person is able to go. Otherwise, that person gets left behind. Often this is very aggravating for the stronger members of the team who have places to go and people to see and who feel held back. Those who are weaker often keenly know that they are holding every one up. I have bad knees, and I remember several instances of hiking in groups and feeling very much aware that I was holding the group up because try as I might, I just could not move any faster. They could either leave me behind and catch me later or slow down themselves and stay together.

My kids are all weak in their own sense. My biological children are young and still learning about life and they have their own delays and struggles. My two foster children come from a background of trauma and their behavior reflects it. They are ‘labeled’ and delayed and frankly a handful. Many days our family seems to lurch around in a daze. I cannot make them go any faster or farther. I can encourage, bribe, threaten, or push all I want, but they have to develop and go forward as their strength allows them. They should be pushed for excellence and independence and strength on their own, but dragging them behind me was not going to work. They want to be strong. They want to be good. They want to make me proud. There are days where we see victories, even little ones, as we watch them learn and grow. We are so thankful for those moments.

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Then I realized that they were not necessarily the weakest ones.

I was.

In all of the time that I thought I was strong and put together I did not see the areas that I have slowed my family down. Sure I had faults, everyone does, but I did not think that I was contributing to the chaos.

Instead of slowing down and allowing the child who was struggling that day to rest and catch up, I would get frustrated that they could not keep up with the pace or the expectations. Instead of helping them with their weaknesses I would groan and complain that they were somehow responsible for my lack of empathy or patience. This might not have been a conscious thought process at the time, but in reflection I can see how my words and actions came from that dark place in my heart.  I cannot do this on my own. And Jesus knows it.

He knows that I cannot do it. He knows that it is too much. He knows where my weaknesses are and yet he does not give up. The Lord does not set us up to fail, but He places us in those situations that teaches us definitively that we cannot do this life on our own.

I might fail again and again, but He is faithful and true. My children need to see that their strength does not come from me, but from their Creator. They need to see that I am weak, but that He is strong. I need to embrace their weaknesses because He has embraced mine. I need to show them grace, because He offers His perfect grace to me, even on the worst of days.

“…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) His grace is enough. It is enough to get us through one more day or one more hour. It is enough to fill the gap when we fail time and time again. The weaker we are, the stronger He is.

We know that we are in a difficult season that probably will not last forever. We know people who walk much more difficult roads and we do not understand why. We also know that we serve a mighty King who has a special place in His heart for the weak ones in the kingdom, especially the children, who are the weakest of them all.

 

 

 

 

Honestly Inconvenient

Fostering, like parenting, is hard.

We have been enjoying Halfpint, and she is sweet, but she is also starting to show some serious stubbornness. It has not been easy, but it has actually been an easier transition than we anticipated. We braced ourselves for the worst, knowing that it really could be the worst because we have heard all of the stories. She came home and the transition was relatively smooth. As with any growing family there were bound to be fights and jealousy and anger, but those have calmed down. We still have things we are working on with her, and will continue to work on for a while, but for the most part things feel like they are back to normal.

Halfpint has a slightly older brother. They had not seen each other for a while and the plan has always been to find a home where they could be together, but due to some circumstances that couldn’t happen until now. We have always known about him and we decided we would be willing to take him as well if the situation moved in that direction.  We met with his therapist, case worker, and play therapist and they all told us how sweet he was. And how active. When he came for some visits at our home we couldn’t believe how much energy he had. And how much maintenance he would require.

He visited several times and we had the opportunity to get to know him better and to see his personality. He is very active and he is very independent. He also has some struggles. Bill and I spent a few hours discussing our thoughts about him and the situation that we were facing and we came to the same conclusion.

Honestly, it is just inconvenient.

His behavior was going to be inconvenient. Having a fourth child which will require us to drive two vehicles will be inconvenient. Messes will be inconvenient. IEP’s, doctors visits, court appointments, therapists, evaluations, and required visits with other siblings will all be inconvenient. The paper work itself will be inconvenient. The stress and the headaches and everything else that goes with parenting will be inconvenient.

He is a child and children are inconvenient. They cramp our schedules, wear us down, make us lose sleep, and bring us to the point of exhaustion. They disobey, make loud noises, ask a million questions a day, and break everything. They either refuse to eat or eat all of the time, take FOREVER to get out the door, and embarrass us in public.

They just do what kids do.

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That night we had to decide a very important question.

Was he worth it?

I mean, yes, theologically God loves children and wants us to help the vulnerable. We should love children and want to care for them because it is something on God’s own heart (and we really should do this). He is worth it to God, of course. Is he worth it to us? We knew that this was not permanently binding for us. We knew that if things got really bad, we could send him back. We knew that we did not even have to accept him to begin with.

We looked at each other that night and we knew that, despite being inconvenient, he is worth it. He is worth the fights and the stress and the hurt. He is worth the disappointments, late nights, and mess. He is worth it because he is made in the image of God. He did not deserve for his life to go the way it did. He did not ask for the trauma, disappointments, and failures of adults who he depended on. He deserves to be in a family and to be loved because he is a child and because that is what every child deserves. In God’s infinite wisdom he established families and placed children in families. We know that we cannot leave him where he is. We look into his eyes and we see the history that is written in his case file. We see the longing for family and love and permanency. We see the excitement of seeing his sister and meeting William and Eden. We see the desire to do good, but the struggle to make those choices. We also see the terror of being in yet another place with people he barely knows for reasons he doesn’t understand.

How can we justify wanting to keep his sister, but struggle to want him? How can we say our lives would be easier without him? What makes one child “worth it” and another not? Is it not the battles they are fighting? We want the perfect, compliant, easy going, fun child who obeys without question and who doesn’t cramp our style. We do not want to deal with anger. Or destructive behavior. Or manipulation. We do not want to be inconvenienced. Have we not seen this behavior with our biological children? Aren’t there days when we have wanted to give up? Have we not seen the Lord work in their lives and can He not work in the lives of these children as well?

There is nothing convenient about a child in foster care. There is nothing convenient about orphans and broken families. There is nothing convenient about Christ choosing to love us and dying on the cross for us. For our brokenness and our messed up relationships and families and communities and lives.

When we look at our new son, whether it be temporary or permanently, we want to teach him that he is not inconvenient. That he matters. We want him to know that we are going to fight for him because we have Someone fighting for us. That we are going to take up his case. That we are going to defend him and love him. That we will get frustrated and angry and we will make mistakes. We want him to know that we will apologize and seek to honor God. We want him to know that we will not give up the fight. We will have to fight to love him. We will have to fight to want him, I mean, to really want to want him. I do not say this to be disrespectful to him or his situation, it is just the reality of how we are processing our feelings now. He is a good boy and has some awesome qualities, but the reality is that he also has some challenges.

He is not a charity case or a ministry project, and we certainly are not heroes. Let us face it, not much in the Christian walk is convenient and the only Hero is Christ. There is the daily choosing to lay ourselves down. There is the constant tugging of the Holy Spirit as He seeks to fill us with His presence. There is the commands to love others and forgive when we don’t want to and apologize when we are at fault and at times when we do not think we did anything wrong. There is the ongoing battle with sin. We are constantly being broken down and rebuilt. We are asked to lay down our lives, physically if necessary. It is a hard and painful process, not unlike raising a child.

We want to throw in the towel because we anticipate the challenges that we are going to be facing. We do not want the interruptions and the constant chaos. We want to be comfortable.  As we walk down this journey, we realize it is less about us, and more about Christ. It is less about our children and their behavior and more about the state of our hearts. All of our children need healing of some forms or another and they need grace and love. We are in a spiritual battle more than anything else and our hearts are in just as much need of refinement as theirs are of healing.

We are preparing ourselves for a battle. A battle for his heart and for ours. We are preparing ourselves for the Lord to manifest Himself in ways we have not yet seen. We are excited and terrified at the same time. We believe that the Lord will heal, that He has already healed, and that he will walk us through what ever comes next. We believe that the Lord knows all of this, has seen it from the beginning of eternity, and has chosen us for some reason for this moment in time. He often uses inconveniences and difficulties in our own lives to show us His glory. We believe that He is faithful and that His mercies are new every morning.

Spider-man came home yesterday morning and we had a wonderful day. We were thrilled and thankful that the Lord gave us this beautiful start. We unpacked his clothes and toys from his previous home. We watched a movie as a family and we prayed over him as he cried when he went to bed. This morning I thought I would have to take him to the emergency room for an injury because he is almost always moving at a very fast pace. Yes, this will be a difficult journey. It will be worth it though, because he is worth it. He is worth it, because Christ is worth it.

We have been Invaded

The phone call changed everything.

We have a toddler who needs a foster home. Are you willing to take her?

We had not even received our physical foster license yet. We had just completed and adoption class. We knew the call could come any time, but all of the preparation in the world could not prepare us for what we were feeling that moment.

Yes, of course we are willing to take her, this is what we had prepared for.  As soon as I got off the phone I wondered what I had done. We were about to be invaded and outnumbered.

The next day we watched the car pull into our driveway and  there was such a sense of excitement and fear. Were we doing the right thing? Would she like us? Would we like her? How is this going to effect our kids? What are we going to do next?

We have been praying for a foster child and that the Lord would orchestrate the circumstances to allow us to foster and possibly adopt. We have prayed for a seamless transition and a child who would fit in with our family.  We prayed for their health and their future.

As we started to internalize the situation and the whole process we began to pray differently. We began to pray that we would be a family to her, not just that she would be part of our family. We began to pray that we would be the hands of Christ to a child who may have never heard of Him, even if she is only with us for a short time. We began to pray for her biological family, of whom we knew very little, but we knew enough that they needed prayer too. No child ends up in foster care without significant trauma of one form or another and no parent whose children have been taken is not in need of prayer and hope.

We began to hear questions in our heads that we were not prepared for. What if she and our biological children do not get along? Like ever. Will we still love her? Can we meet her needs? What if it becomes too much?

We take for granted that we know our biological children and have followed them develop so we can instinctively tell what they are going to do next.

What a privilege it must be to have this information. To have baby photos and videos and cute mementos. Halfpint came with a trash bag of clothes, a couple of dolls, and no instructions. It has been an adventure to see what she likes. She went straight for the Brussel sprouts instead of turkey at Thanksgiving. Surprise. She is sweet and spunky and friendly and responsible. She is part of our family now, for however long she stays.

How amazing is it that the Lord knows all of this about us and more. How crazy to think that He has known for eternity who we are. Not just our circumstances. Who we actually are and who we were made to be. Halfpint is not just a foster child, she is beautiful creation made in the image of God. She is His daughter. He is heartbroken over the hurt that she has undoubtedly gone through. He is sorrowing over the sin in this world that causes orphans and broken families and pain and poverty. He is wanting the church to respond to the lost and vulnerable. We wonder why does He allow these things to happen? Why does He not act?

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And then it becomes real. He did.

Jesus came. He came to right the wrongs. To fix the problems. To mend the hurting and save the lost and bring hope to the hopeless. He came to adopt us. It is a beautiful image, but it is an ugly process. Adoption is born of pain and anger and suffering. Christ came to bring us all, the ugly, the angry, the hurt, the wronged and to wipe it away and give us a new heart. We may give this child a home, temporary or forever, but Christ has given us so much more. Christ works in our hearts changing them from cold and selfish to torn and aching and in that process He heals with his grace and He offers us life.

She has had a runny nose for a few days and she will not let me wipe it, not because it is uncomfortable, but because she wants to do it on her own. I want to fix my heart on my own because I know how to take care of myself, but God is asking me to stop and to allow Him to wipe my nose. And heal my hurts. And take care of the things that are beyond my control. And to bring peace when there is chaos and joy when there is anger and exhaustion. And to convict me of the sin in my life that prevents me from teaching them about Christ.

We want to extend the good news of the gospel to our children and we want them to see Jesus, but there are many days that it is through them that the gospel becomes real in my life. They are the Lord’s little imperfect instruments to teach me what it means to love and show grace and forgive and heal and pray and repent.

Were we prepared for this? No, we were not. The papers were in order. We had prayed and done everything necessary, but we were not prepared for this. I am thankful for that because we now have the opportunity to learn and grow in the grace of the Lord. He has given us the tools necessary to navigate the days ahead and He gives us the strength on the many days when we are weak. He lifts us up when we fail, again, and again. He stands in the gap when we just do not know how to pray or what to do and all we want to do is retreat.

We do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future and in Him we will learn to rest. He has invaded our family with a little girl and with His love and that is what happens when the gospel becomes reality.

 

Our journey to fostering (so far…)

We have two biological children and they are amazing. Why would we choose to pursue fostering and adoption? We have been asked this several times already, even though we have just finished the licencing process and have not had any children placed in our home yet.

How can we not choose this?

After the birth of Eden, I was tired. We had two children in two years, were finishing grad school, and were planning a long term move to India. We decided that two was enough for us and that if we were to expand our family it would be through adoption. I have wanted to adopt long before I was married and Bill started having that as an option in the back of his mind as well.

Why should we continue to have children of our own when there were children all over the world and across the street who do not have a family?

We did not feel right about having more children when there were children without homes around the world and in our own cities. It would be nice to have another baby and to be able to name them and see who they looked like and who they take on after, and if the Lord blessed us with a pregnancy, we would be thrilled. I know several families that have a lot of biological children and I am very happy for them. Fostering and adoption is not for everyone and that is okay. God has a heart for the orphan and the broken of this world and somehow we sensed that He was going to lead us down that path at some point.

When we moved to India we looked into options for adopting, but our stay was shorter than we anticipated and adopting from India is extremely difficult especially for a foreigner (if you would like more information as to why this is I can pull out my soapbox later). We returned to the States weary and overwhelmed with the needs of our son who needed speech, occupational, and physical therapy and a ‘diagnosis’ that changed with everyone we talked to. At this point, adoption was just not possible, and frankly, we could not imagine having another child.

Fast forward four years and the desire for more children and a heart for orphans has gradually increased again, and we feel the Lord leading us to move forward. We decided to go through the foster care system through the state and started the process in August. The paperwork process is daunting but doable and the classes and meetings have kept us busy, but it is October and we are licensed already. It is a lot of work, but having biological children was a lot of work as well. We worried and prayed and processed. We bought stuff not knowing what we needed or what to expect.

Now, when we see a movie that has an adoption theme, or talk with someone who has adopted or fostered, or even hear a song about adoption and the need worldwide, we are convinced more than ever that there is a child, or children, that the Lord wants to place in this family and that He is preparing them, and us, even now for what will happen next. There have been times when we have questioned our sanity, but it seems that those are the times that the Lord gently tells us that He is in control still and will walk with us through this.

We do not know what to expect, but we know that God does and we rest in His timing and plan. In the mean time, we jump when the phone rings and the kiddos often come home from school and wonder where the new boy and girl are (they don’t quite understand how this works, but we love their enthusiasm). Please keep checking in on us and we will keep posting about what this process is like and how things are going. Thank you for walking this journey with us.