Why You Should Still Do it Even Though It’s Hard…

As a foster and adoptive family, we have heard so many different comments from people regarding our choice to reach out to these vulnerable little ones.

Some of them have been very encouraging and inspiring, and we are thankful to have a great support network of people who are behind us in this venture.

But along with that, I think we have heard every reason in the book why someone might NOT want to adopt or foster.  People seem to think they need to explain to me every reason why they can’t or won’t get involved.  I often stand there quietly, silently struggling for words as they unload on me.  Most of the comments seem to be guilt or fear driven.

“I would get too attached.”

This is the most common statement I hear in regards to foster care, specifically.  I know where this comes from, because I used to say it too.  While I always had myself convinced I could never foster because I would ‘love the child too much to give them back’ I now understand the arrogance and selfishness of that statement.

“Too loving to love” is the idea most people want to convey in this statement.  This is completely unbiblical.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.         (1 Cor. 13)

True love is not based on what may or may not happen.  True love is a choice: to commit, to sacrifice, to put someone else’s needs ahead of my own.  True love rejoices in good things…and healing broken families is certainly a part of that!

Yes, I know…things can go horribly wrong.  You will be working with a broken system and broken families…but that is no excuse!  As a believer in Christ you must believe that God can bring beauty from ashes and is fully in control over all of life’s circumstances.  We will not always understand, but we are commanded to trust and obey.

Many families have walked heartbreaking journeys beside children in their care, and many times things did not turn out as they hoped or planned, but as followers of Christ we need to believe that His purposes will not be thwarted.  We are working for the Potter who can redeem even the most shattered of vessels.

“I have my ‘own’ children to love and care for.”

While I understand our commitment to guide, protect and nurture the children God has placed in our care, I think our idea of what this looks like is often twisted.  There are many children who have been taken all over the world on the mission field, living in less than ideal conditions, being exposed to life threatening illnesses, residing near war zones and being exposed to all kinds of danger physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Is this a reason not to go?  Do the positives outweigh the negatives?

I will not pretend to think that every family can easily begin fostering or adopting additional children, but I want to challenge your perceptions and ideas on this.

What is it that you dream of for your children?  Do you dream of health, wealth and happiness…or do you dream of something more?

Do you dream of seeing your children evade the materialism and entitlement so prevalent in our culture today?  Do you dream of them becoming world changers?  Do you dream of them developing a deep compassion for the less fortunate, the marginalized, the oppressed?  Do you dream of them understanding that all we are given is to be used in service for Kingdom Building?

What is more important?  That their personal comforts and privileges are guarded and protected?  Or that they are given opportunities to build character qualities that will prepare them to be used in spreading the gospel?

Yes, you need to keep them safe.

Yes, you need to place them above your own ambitions.

Yes, you need to be prepared and have a plan.

But know this.

If you are called, you will also be equipped.  And it just might surprise you what fruits you see emerge in your children as you serve in this way together.

Oh, and one more thing.  Please don’t use that word…”own.”  It’s time to extend  your borders and start calling someone else your “own.”  Love is a choice.  Choose it.

I am not ‘cut out’ for that.  That takes a special kind of person.

I understand.

I understand what you mean when you say this.  But I can’t help but think it’s a pretty easy way to let yourself off the hook while millions of orphans around the world wait for a select few people to be ‘cut out’ for this job.

What is this job exactly?

This job is parenting.

This job is sharing generously your time and resources.

This job is being willing to love the least of these…with no expectations in return.

This job is caring.

What exactly about this job do you need to be ‘specially equipped’ for?

What about this job is so much harder than any career path or ministry you may pursue?

What about this job does not line up with exactly who Christ asks us to be, and the example He left us to follow?

It’s time to stop waiting to be ‘cut out’ for this job!

It’s time to pray and ask God to equip you for this task!

He can and he will.

Just ask!

“But I’ve heard that…”

Oh the stories!

Everyone has a horror story about adoption, foster care or the local child protection agency.

Are they true?

Some of them, yes.

But please…don’t make your decision based on somebody’s story.

Do the research.

Find out for yourself what you need to know from a reliable source.

Don’t believe everything you hear.

There are always two sides to a story, and the worst stories are only ever one sided.

I believe Satan is using this tactic powerfully to keep people from pursuing foster care or adoption.

I’ve been disappointed at the number of Believers that will gladly join the bandwagon of complaints, criticism and disgust.  This is not helpful.

We need to be wise.

We need to pray for discernment as we engage the world and it’s brokenness.

We need to be prepared to give an answer for what we believe and we need to be firmly rooted in Truth, so that bitter stories and angry rants will not sway us from what we know to be true.

All I ask is that you choose to believe and repeat only things that you know for certain are true and valid.

Horror stories passed on through friends and acquaintances do not fall into this category!

If the story does not honour all involved, including the birth family, adoptive family, children and professionals…please take a deep breath and keep silent.  Try to imagine what the opposite side of the story may be and realize that almost all situations in the foster and adoptive world carry grief, loss and trauma.  They are complicated, sad and easily misunderstood.

God never promised that His plan for our lives would be easy, comfortable or even make sense in our worldly vision.

In fact, He promised the opposite!

Our task here is to daily ‘take up our cross’ and follow him.

Our retirement will come in heaven.

As long as we are here, we are to be busy building his Kingdom, reflecting His character and taking the gospel to the broken.

AF

 

 

 

What I Love About Homeschooling

It’s been a year since we pulled our daughter out of school and decided to homeschool.

She needed to be at home with me; to find a safe haven in the storm of a life that had been constantly changing for the past six years.

I needed her here, too.

I needed to see her.

To know her in the way that mothers know their children from the constancy of life.

To watch her grow and discover and pour out oil on her broken places.

To search out what it feels like to walk in her tender footsteps and breathe in the world around us through her little heart.

The past year has had it’s ups and downs, but there are many things I have learned to love about homeschooling.

It is a year I will never regret.

Now, on the brink of reintegrating her back to school…every day feels a bit bittersweet.

I love these days I have with her, even while I feel tied down, exhausted and claustrophobic!

Here are some reasons why I have loved homeschooling:

1.Flexibility –  It has been so nice coming home from a busy weekend and knowing that I can let my daughter sleep as long as she likes on Monday morning and let her ease back into the routine slowly.  There are days we accomplish tons of work…and there are days we accomplish very little.  The beauty of this, especially with a special needs child, is that when one of those days come along where you just know that learning is going to be a constant challenge…you can just NOT.  Some days we go for a walk instead, or spend our morning running errands.  Some days we visit friends, snuggle on the couch or take a nap.  I will miss this when I have to make sure she’s ready to go out the door every morning promptly, ready or not.

2. Integrated Learning –  I love that because I know exactly what my daughter is learning at all times, I can incorporate it into anything we may be doing.  If we are learning about money, for instance, we notice prices at the grocery store and talk about coin values when we count out allowance money.  She notices anything from spelling patterns to colours to story themes that we’ve been learning about all around her and I love that I know exactly what she is talking about when she mentions them.  I believe this is the most powerful way for a child to learn, when all of life becomes integrated.

3. Growth –  So, so much growth!  There is a huge, indescribable feeling that wells up in my soul when I hear her voice lacing out words and stories and poems as her eyes scan a page.  That was us!  Not me, not her, but us!  Together we have learned that she can read.  Together we have explored the sea and memorized the 7 continents of the world.  We have counted to 100 and explored the relativity of one number to the next.  Building blocks of tens and hundreds.  We can add them together or take them away.  We can write them and say them and see them and feel them.  Together we have bent our heads over books and papers and tiny little bugs.  We have run through the breeze and lifted our eyes to the sky, taking in the big wide world above us.  I have listened and listened and listened to her chatter.  Day after day after day until I thought my ears could take no more!  But in all the words and chatter and stories, she has given me her heart, offering it up to me in each little refrain.  Each and every small moment; put them in a box and you would see that we have learned!  We have grown.  I missed the first five tender years of my little A’s life…so when I look in this box I see a little bit of redemption.  A little bit of grace poured out that we could spend these moments together.

4. Play – Childhood is so short, and in an age where we are constantly measuring our children by charts and graphs and statistics from the minute their eyes first open, I want my children to have the chance to enjoy being a child.  I want to make sure that even while they are learning and growing, they are being given space to be children.  To laugh, to be silly, to explore, to create and to pretend.  Play in a child’s life is an essential part of their development as person.  Children use play to learn, comprehend life’s experiences and to communicate.   It took a long time for my daughter to be able to relax enough to really play, so when I see her carting her babies around, creating sculptures in the snow, setting up a house or building a fort…I cherish it.  It is a sign of the healing of her heart.

5. Sibling Bonds – When we chose to teach our daughter at home, we did not realize we were offering her an opportunity  to build a bond with her little brother that she wouldn’t have had the opportunity for otherwise.  With her older, more capable sister gone, she got a chance to form her own unique relationship with him.  Now, at age 14 months and 8 years, they spend every day together.  She is his favourite person to follow around and the games and stories she makes up for him keep him delightfully entertained.  Together they play cars, dolls, read stories and colour pictures.  Whatever she is doing, that’s what he wants to do, too.  Having the chance to be so adored, despite the many squabbles and struggles of siblings, has given her such a boost in confidence and self esteem.  Every day he proves to her by his little pattering feet following her around the house that she is worthy, she is loved, she is wanted.

6. Individualized Learning – While teaching a child with learning disabilities at home is not for the faint of heart, it is also incredibly relieving to  be able to step outside of the box and teach your child on his/her level with no pressure of ‘grade’ performance.  Most homeschooling families follow their child’s lead as to what they are interested in and then use that as a platform to build upon their learning.  It’s ok to be working at multiple grade levels.  Every child has strengths and weaknesses.  If math is going great and reading is a struggle, it’s ok to be working at a substantially more difficult level for math than for reading.  If your child conquers long division in just a few short lessons, it’s ok to move on to something new without doing the whole unit.  If your child has a short attention span, or learns more kinesthetically you can build breaks into their day that will help them thrive.  Math facts can be memorized while jumping rope.  Stories can be read at the park.  Spelling words can be created with paint and glue and soap bubbles.  If your child can spell orally but not with paper and pencil, it’s ok to test them that way.  If tests make your child anxious and he or she performs less than their best, it’s ok to toss tests out the window.  As his or her teacher, you will have a very good idea of what they are comprehending, so choosing to do tests will only be a formality of what you already both know.  If your child needs a  nap or some quiet time, it’s easily accessible.  If you decide to go on vacation in the middle of October that is perfectly ok!  I have loved being so involved in my child’s learning and being able to make decisions based on her best interests academically.  It has also given us more freedom as a family.

7. Life Skills – By choosing homeschooling you give yourself and your child a great opportunity to get involved in everyday activities that will teach them valuable life skills.  By bringing their learning home, you will be able to involve them in all your daily tasks.  Cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, making a budget, the arts and music all become intertwined into their daily lives.  A child who has spent 8 hours a day at school will most likely not have the energy to enjoy baking cookies or doing the grocery shopping with you after school, but a child who has more space and free time will be more apt to learn these skills well as they have time to enjoy it.

Homeschooling has many challenges, and like most thing there are pros and cons no matter how you choose to educate your children.

 The past year has opened my eyes to the reality that homeschooling is not only possible but a really good option for many families.

 It is a great way for children to grow and learn and it is ideal for families who are craving connection and freedom from schedules and regulations.  It is ideal for adoptive families who are struggling with attachment issues, learning disabilities and trauma.  We were able to connect with a great homeschooling group locally that offered us support, diversity and fun, which was an added bonus.

We may or may not return to homeschooling in the future but either way I have enjoyed this year in ways I never imagined and I will never regret it!  If you have thought about homeschooling but feel it is too challenging, too complicated or too boring, hear this:

It was easier, more fun and more rewarding than I ever expected!

AF

Claiming Your Adopted Child

For weeks, months or possibly even years you’ve been praying, decorating bedrooms, buying clothes and stuffies, asking questions, researching and observing.

Then suddenly, the time is here.

One of the toughest transitions in your adoption process may be when your child finally comes home.

Now it’s time to parent, and suddenly you realize that the child before you is a stranger.

On top of that, they may be dealing with the trauma of yet another move and disruption in their attachment.

How do you claim this child as YOURS even when you don’t feel that reality?

What if you don’t feel love toward this new person that is now in your home?

First of all, don’t panic!  It is perfectly normal to feel awkward, uncomfortable and even a bit resentful toward a new child in your home.  Your normal has been upset, and it’s going to take time to feel the comfortable familiarity we usually associate with “family” and “home”.  The good news is you have lots of time!  It will come, so just relax and admit that it may be harder than you envisioned.  If you have other children in the home, make sure you acknowledge this to them as well and give them space and assurance that the emotions they are feeling are perfectly normal and acceptable.

It’s ok for things to not feel ok for a while.

In these early days, try to find ways to imitate the natural bonding that would typically occur between a mother and newborn.  If the children are young, make sure you take full advantage of physical closeness (as long as they are comfortable.)  Help them bathe, rub lotion on their body, snuggle while reading a story or wrestle with them on the floor.  For older children you can brush their hair, give a back rub at bedtime, hold hands, do foot massages, have a spa day involving foot baths and face creams.

Another essential way infants bond with their caregiver is through food.  The act of meeting basic needs in a child’s life is extremely powerful to the brain.  One of the best ways you can connect with a new child in your home is to make sure you take charge of their food.  By this I mean that you offer them food regularly, take time to prepare it for them and constantly ask if they need anything to eat or drink.  Peel an apple or fix breakfast for a teenager who could do it themselves.  Pack their lunch, including their favourite foods and some treats.  Get them a glass of water instead of showing them where they can get it themselves.  Feed toddlers and preschoolers from sippy cups or bottles so you can hold it for them while they drink.

 Your approach in this situation is to do the opposite of what typical parents do.  Instead of encouraging independence you want to encourage their dependence on you.  It is in this way that trust is built and emotional connectivity happens.

Another way to connect with your new child and claim them as ‘yours’ is to make sure to give yourself space to be you.  It is amazing how the little things help it to feel more real for you!  Let yourself be a new parent.  Brag, spoil, buy and take lots of photos.  Your family has just gained a new member and you have every right to all the emotions a mother has in the first weeks after giving birth.

Other things you can do:

  • Start new routines…or revamp old ones they are familiar with
  • Listen closely to the ways they are trying to communicate with you
  • Spend TIME together – there is no substitute for this!  It is the ONLY way to get to know your newest son or daughter and for them to get to know you.
  • Hang their photos on the wall, their artwork on the fridge and leave their sticky fingerprints on the window.  They are all physical evidences of the reality that your family has expanded.
  • Host an adoption celebration when you think you and your child are ready.  Make it official and memorable.
  • Pray for your child and for the Holy Spirit to guide you as you try to reach his or her heart.  Much wisdom and grace is needed…especially when your attempts are spurned.

I hope that by reading this post the overwhelming message you are hearing is that

YOU HAVE A CHOICE!

We all love the idea of love at first sight and happily ever after…but if we’re honest we also know that is usually not reality.

Love is not a feeling or emotion that is left to fate to decide.

Love is a choice.

Adoption is a choice.

When you choose adoption, you are choosing love.

Unconditional love.

That sounds big…and it is…but really it is just a life full of little choices.

Day after day,

moment after moment,

I will choose love.

Some days it will feel hard and the sacrifice will be great.  There will be tears, and yes, even regret.

But other days will be so full of genuine, authentic, life giving joy that you will catch your breath and think, “How did I ever live without you?”

And suddenly, you will know it.

I love this child.

He is mine.

AF

Adoption vs. Birth

I went into adoption absolutely certain that I could and would love children born to another woman.

I was right.

I knew long before I met my girls that my love could run as deep, steady and strong for a child I chose through adoption as a child I gave birth to.

But there was also a lot I didn’t understand until I gave birth to my son.

Before we adopted I naively thought that love for my daughters would come instantly and feel deeply maternal.

I was wrong.

While I did fall instantly in love with my daughters, it was a very different kind of love than the love I felt when I gave birth to my son a  year and a half later.

It took day in, day out, month after month after long month of choosing to love my daughters before those feelings of natural, instinctive, maternal love came to me.

In theory I loved them fully and intimately, but realistically

we were strangers

and we needed to get to know each other.

I hadn’t spent nine months feeling the stirrings under my heart.  I hadn’t held them for those first breaths and watched each tiny movement.  I hadn’t witnessed the steady growth and development and learned what experiences formed in them their character and who they had become.

I have missed so much and I grieve that deeply.

When my son was born his innocence and purity took my breath away.  He was…and still is…so unscarred by this world.

My daughters never had that experience.  Even prenatally they struggled against circumstances beyond their control.

They fought for survival even before their first breaths.

I would give anything to give them the innocence my son got to experience, but I can’t and that is hard.

It is hard to look into my daughter’s eyes and see longing there as she says, “Mommy, I wish I grew in your tummy.”

Or to hold her shuddering little body as she cries tears of grief and loss for her birth mother…tears that she can’t even understand they are so complex and raw.

When my daughters came to me at 7 and 5 years old, they had personalities, character traits and a whole life that I knew very little about.

Sometimes that still gets in the way.

Sometimes I see fear, and I don’t know why it’s there.

Sometimes I see pain, and I don’t know what it’s about.

Sometimes there are vivid memories of people and places that I don’t know and I have no way of knowing if these memories are accurate and true or distorted by a child’s memory.

They’re looking to me for answers and I don’t know what to say.

Sometimes I see anger and resentment and I have no words to unravel the pain behind it all.

Sometimes I am the one battling the deep feelings of loss, of insecurity, of resentment and of exhaustion.

It is so tiring to constantly battle the layers upon layers of grief, fear, loss and trauma written on the hearts of children who have seen and heard and felt the unimaginable.

There is always always an unknown factor to consider.

Just because I chose this doesn’t mean it’s easy.

It’s not always fun.

Hurt makes people hurt.

Fear makes people push away.

Betrayal makes hearts break and the healing is slow and painful.

Sometimes I just want a normal family.

Yes, it’s true and I said that out loud.

Sometimes the guilt of that tears me apart.

But so many other times I see love, and I feel honoured to be their mother.

I see happiness and it overwhelms me with joy.

I see healing and it makes me fall to my knees in worship to the One who can bring redemption out of so much pain.

So many people see all the hurt and pain that often goes along with adoption and they decide they could never do it.

Too many risks.

And it’s true…after having experienced both adoption and natural birth, I will atest to the fact that giving birth is probably easier.

It’s the natural way to receive a child, the way our Creator first designed for families to be born.

It’s beautiful.

But what about when the original design falls apart?

What about when pain and destruction and sin enter in?

Ripping, tearing, breaking;

leaving wounds upon both the innocent and the guilty?

Then what?

Is there any hope of redemption?

Yes!

A thousand times yes!

I cannot begin to pour enough passion into these words.

To let you see,

to let you feel

the incredible grace

that our Father pours upon those who choose to engage the pain.

How he takes the ashes and creates beauty from them.

How he takes the broken and uses the scars to proclaim His glory.

How he bathes us in grace upon grace.

How he heals and transforms and gifts.

How we see the gospel through this thing we call adoption.

It is probably true that nothing quite prepares you to face the pain of this.

But it is absolutely true that nothing will prepare you for the rewards you will experience and the victories you will be a part of.

Nothing will prepare you for the small things that will bring you joy,

the grace you will receive

and maybe most of all the love that will grow strong in your heart for these children you’ve chosen as yours.

Yes, yours.

It will become their identity.

Your children.

It’s my favourite thing to say.

My daughters.

One of my favourite narratives in scripture is the account told in Hosea of God lavishly loving upon the people who had turned their backs on him.

Hosea 2:23 says,

“I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!'”

When I read these words, there is something that resounds within my heart.

I will say to those who were once not my own

“You are mine!”

I will choose, despite all odds, to

lavishly love

upon these people who were once strangers to me.

And in it all, the unthinkable will occur…

we will become one.

A family.

A home.

A testimony of grace and redemption.

So even though adoption can be hard and messy and complicated

it is so worth it and in it’s own way

it is so beautiful.

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

AF

We Are Home Schooling!

Yes, you read that right.

Me and my littlest A are homeschooling!  It’s been 2 weeks and maybe we are just honeymooning but it has been AWESOME!   I love it!

Now I can just about see some of you rolling your eyes, making that skeptical face and going…yeah whatever.

I get it.

I never wanted to home school, either.

In fact, until I read through my daughters’ adoption files I always said that I would never do it because I would have hated it as a child, myself!  I thought that home schooling was for really large families who like to hide away from the world or display their family on TV shows!  I thought children who were home schooled were all really smart, a little socially impaired and just not normal!  As you can see, I really hadn’t spent much time thinking about it or taking a look at people who actually did home school!  These were just my misguided perceptions, which I am thoroughly embarrassed of now.

But when special needs walks into the picture, everything changes.  Suddenly I could see that even though I loved school and it would have made me miserable to be at home, for some children it may be the exact opposite!

For some kids, school causes so much stress that they spend all their time just trying to cope!  This may be a result of trauma, attachment issues, learning disabilities or any number of other special needs.

There are tons of supports available, but you have to fight for them and it’ll take time.  I certainly don’t recommend that every parent experiencing difficulties with their child at school should just pull them out without exploring their options, but sometimes all the support and time in the world won’t meet the real needs of your child.   This is especially true in adoption.

For months, I had been saying…we’ll just give it some more time.  Or, I’m not ready yet so that’s just where she needs to be.

In truth I wasn’t confidant enough that I was ready to commit to this journey or that it was the right path for my daughter.  For some reason I was really afraid that I would pull her out of school and then fall flat on my face!  I was afraid she wouldn’t learn, that it would all be a mess and that we would all hate it!

But somehow God has a way of making things clear and as things got worse at school my mind lingered more and more on the idea of home schooling.  Part of me fought it…simply because I love school!  I love the specific school my daughters were attending, and where my oldest daughter still is.  I love the community.  I love the staff.  I love the atmosphere and all the kids.  I love the special projects and events that are connected to school.  I love the opportunities school brings to experience life alongside others and to have a broader view of the world.  I just love it.  I am a teacher, after all.

However, God began to speak to my heart and show me that my daughter needed something different.  My husband and I had always promised that we would make decisions about our children’s education according to what was best for each child, one year at a time.  We could no longer claim that we were doing that, and that bothered me!  Even worse, I was scared and discouraged as I watched my daughter start to fall back into behaviors and patterns that we hadn’t seen in a long time!  I felt like we were losing ground instead of gaining, and I missed my happy little girl.  Though we had a great team at school and communicated regularly, I realized that my daughter didn’t need a teacher.  She needed her Mommy.  She needed me.

So in some ways I chose to home school out of desperation and because school was not working…but even more I chose to home school because I realized that I wanted to!

I missed the first four and a half years of my daughter’s life.  I want to spend more time with her!  I want to be there all day, every day, even though it truly does drive me crazy sometimes!  I want to know every little thing that happened in her day, and to be the constant that she comes back to.   I want to be the one who laughs with her, gets frustrated with her, explores the world with her and watches her learn and grow.  Because even after 18 months together, I’m still getting to know her.  I’m still trying to figure out who she is and how she thinks.  I’m still learning her challenges, her strengths and her learning styles.  I am still figuring out her love language and her sense of humor.  I am still proving to her little heart that I am her Mommy and I will always love her; that even though others have come and gone I am here to stay.  There is nothing that can replace TIME.

So, here goes nothing!

The next half year is a bit of an experiment, but I am so excited.  I am excited to be able to focus on the things my little girl is good at, and remove some of the things she is not yet ready to handle.  I am excited to use the teaching skills I have to figure out how she learns and to make learning fun for her.  Choosing to home school a special needs child is completely different than choosing to home school a child who is gifted or even just average.  For the special needs child, you need to lay aside curriculum expectations, most typical teaching styles and any methods that conflict with your child’s exceptionalities.  I have to fight against the temptation to follow a book, accomplish too much in one day or copy other’s home school structures.  Home schooling is all about finding what works for your child and your family.  Once you embrace that, there is immense freedom!  It is wide open from there!  You get to decide what you study, how much, how long, where and when.  You get to decide everything.  This can feel scary, but chances are if you set out on this venture your gut will let you know the answers to these questions.

 So far, it has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

I have my little girl back.

I’m seeing peace where I saw frustration and agitation.  I’m seeing happiness where I saw a constant edginess.  I’m seeing success where I saw failure academically.  I’m seeing gentleness where I saw anger.  I’m seeing a glowing pride in her bright blue eyes where I saw confusion.

It’s not all perfect, and I’m still figuring out how we’re going to handle all this.  I don’t know how long we’ll be doing this, but for right now it’s the right thing.  I am sure of that.

I was given some great advice from another home schooling mom.

Pray.

Pray over everything you do.  Pray over the math, the spelling, the reading books and the colouring.  Pray for wisdom, pray for patience, pray for grace and perseverence.  Pray for courage and a sense of humor.  Pray for yourself, your child, your husband and your other children.  Pray blessings over your child and their school work.  Pray blessings over your home and family.

Know that this work you have chosen to do…been called to do…is valuable and important in the eyes of God.  At the end of the day, you are Kingdom building, not just teaching ABC’s.

This is the perspective I want to embrace as we dive into this new venture.  I want to teach my daughter out of a sense of gratitude, and hand all the work of our hands over to the One who can make it beautiful and valuable.

 

 

Don’t Grow Up So Fast

I am transitioning into a new phase and it’s taking the wind right out of me at times!

My daughters are now 9 and almost 7…and they are growing up so fast.

Last September I was walking my girls down the hill to school every day and watching until the last possible second as they would go inside with their classes.  If I turned my back too quickly my oldest daughter would have a meltdown, crying and screaming at the sight of me walking away.  She was terrified I was leaving her forever.  I will never forget the hard knot in my chest having to walk away as she screamed and cried, trying to run after me down the sidewalk.  It was one the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  My littlest A didn’t struggle with anxiety over me leaving, but her little soul was still struggling furiously to figure out what had happened to the safe little life she’d loved so well.  We had a long year full of discouraging ups and downs, never being quite sure what was going on inside her little mind.  Daily check ins with an incredible teacher were my lifesaver.  I needed to know what was going on in her world so I could figure out what was going on in her heart.  It tore me apart watching her struggle and feeling like I had no idea what to do!

This September, we are walking triple the distance to a brand new school that all the kids from two old schools in town have moved to.  The old school just down the street is sitting vacant and quiet, and it takes a lot more work for me to wander by my daughters’ school at recess time just to make sure they’re ok.  As if the distance alone isn’t enough to discourage me, the load I’m carrying on my feet these days is substantially more as well!  At 8 months pregnant, walking is getting less and less appealing.

So this August, as the first day of school approached, I was in a pickle.

Last year I spent tons of time at school; volunteering, checking in, bringing whatever it was that had been forgotten.  Barely a day went by when I wasn’t in the school for some reason or another, and it was reassuring to be able to check in on my daughters while I was there, even if they didn’t see me.  With only a bit over a month to go until Baby arrives, I knew that this year was going to look very different than last!  All summer I heard murmurs about bussing schedules and numbers to call to check if your kids were eligible for the bus.  I, however, pushed them aside and firmly stuck to my guns.  We would walk or bike or drive.  I didn’t want to lose that daily connection and I couldn’t quite fathom sending my kids off on the bus every morning and very possibly never walking into the school yard at all for weeks at a time!  On top of that, we weren’t able to find out who my kids’ teachers would be until the first day of school.  I tried to stuff down the worry, but I was concerned.

A week before school started, I got a call from the board of transportation, letting me know my daughters were eligible for bussing and that Bus #534 would be stopping at the bottom of Logan’s Lane every morning at 8:15.

I kept this news to myself, knowing in my gut what both my daughters and my husband would say if I were to bring it up.  Until this point I had not known for sure if we were far enough away to be eligible for transportation.  Now I knew and the picture suddenly seemed pretty clear.

By mid October I would have a newborn, and shortly after that the weather would turn cold.  Snow would bog up the sidewalks and I would be leaving the house twice a day with an infant to pick up the girls in the van.  This would mean lugging a car seat in and out of the house twice a day, leaving the house on time and still only really gaining a peek at the school, not connection with the teachers.

Or…

We could enjoy the nice weather while it lasted, walking and biking, and have a short walk down the hill to the bus stop all winter long while the snow and cold took over.  Baby could stay snug and warm inside as the girls walked up and down the street to the bus twice a day.  No car seat hauling, baby bundling, or interrupted naps…unless I felt up to it.

Sigh.

But oh I fought it.

When I finally admitted to my husband the call I’d received he laughed out loud and said with no room for discussion the girls would indeed be taking the bus all winter and that I had better get them on it ASAP so they know how to use it when Baby comes on the scene!

The girls were thrilled!  They loved the idea of using the bus and immediately wanted to try it out!

So that is how I found myself watching them climb onto that big yellow bus on the second day of school…the first I insisted on walking them!  Big smiles, calling “I love you”, all excitement and confidence.  Since then they’ve gone on the bus a handful of times, though I’ve encouraged that we enjoy this beautiful weather and walk or bike most days.  I need the exercise even if they don’t, and even though they enjoy their independence they do love having me there, too.

Since my ever-growing weed of a 9 year old is a pretty fast biker, I’ve even cut the apron strings and let her go ahead of us all the way to school!  There are two small, quiet streets to cross alone and then one busy one that has a crossing guard.  It nearly made my Mommy heart panic the first time she sailed off out of sight alone, but I also knew in my heart that she was completely capable and I needed to let go!

What amazes me every single day is the huge difference I see from last September, and every day I go away absolutely in awe, praising God for what He’s done for us.  It’s incredible!

Akeisha is thriving on her newfound independence and wants to bike to school alone every day!  Her confidence and enthusiasm makes me so proud.  She is so not my little girl anymore.  In her words, “Mommy, I feel like I’m growing up so fast!”  She truly has grown and matured so much in the last year and the security she feels now has given her wings to soar!  It is beautiful watching her thrive.  I know she is going to love being a big sister to our newest little addition, and I am enjoying watching her grow up even if it tears at my heart some days.  Happiness looks gorgeous on you, my girl!  You have no idea how my breath has caught in my throat these past few weeks as I watch you take on the world with all the confidence and grace you possess.  I will always be cheering you on, and I’m trying hard to keep up to you!  I’ll try to give you the wings you need to fly!

Since Akeisha wants to bike, Alexa sometimes goes on the bus all by herself, which makes her feel about 10 feet tall!  I have to admit I am holding on to her for dear life seeing Akeisha take flight from my little nest!  It’s nice to still have someone who wants me to be there with her, and she readily admits she needs Mommy to be there at the bus stop morning and night.  I love seeing her happy little face beaming at me through the window and waving furiously as the bus pulls away.  Admittedly this is enough to bring a few tears some mornings, which we will definitely blame on pregnancy hormones 🙂  On our walks I revel in those moments when she takes my hand in her little one and squeezes our code: 3 squeezes for “I love you.”  Then I look down and she’s looking up at me with those big blue eyes so innocent and vulnerable and my heart skips a beat.  She is so happy these days, and even though life and especially school will never be bump free for Alexa, I love seeing her so happy.  For 15 min all the way to school and 15 min home she chatters non stop to me and I just keep thinking that too soon it will end.  Too soon she won’t want to hold my hand or squeeze me so tight it hurts.  Too soon the chatter will change and knowledge will take over that sweet innocence she carries.  Maybe when it comes I’ll be ready, but for now I am so in love with my little girl.

Both girls are learning how to help pack their lunches, bike and play out on the street without me there watching and sign out books at the library all by themselves.

The first year of adoption we cling so tight, struggling to learn how to be a family and that we belong to each other.  Now in this second year, I see it is changing so much.  They are so much more settled.  They’re ready to grow a bit.

Life looks pretty bright these days.

We are so excited to meet our baby and become 5.  My nesting instincts have kicked in and I am trying to prepare as much as possible on the limited energy I have.

We are so blessed.

My heart feels full and overflowing with gratitude for the grace God has shown to us this past year.  Only He could have accomplished this.  There is nowhere else I’d rather be than here.  Part of me wishes we could just freeze this moment in time.

My girls laugh when I sing this song to them, but it’s one of my favourites these days.

Don’t Grow Up So Fast

You want it all right now, let’s hurry up and wait
Girl, you’re right on time, trust me, you’re not too late
I hate to see you rain, those mascara tears
But you can drown in the water beyond your yearsJust don’t grow up so fast
You don’t want to know what I know yet
Maybe on paper it looks better way up here
Don’t you hurry, try to take it slow
You will get there before you know it
Ain’t just the bad times, the good times too shall pass
So don’t grow up so fast

The world will turn, shadows fall
There’s your pencil marks in the corner on the kitchen wall
Yeah, to remind us all

Just don’t grow up so fast
You don’t want to know what I know yet
Maybe on paper it looks better way up here
Don’t you hurry, try to take it slow
You will get there before you know it
Ain’t just the bad times, the good times too shall pass
So don’t grow up so fast, ooh

Just don’t grow up so fast
You don’t want to know what I know yet
Maybe on paper it looks better way up here
Don’t you hurry, try to take it slow
We all get there before you know it
Ain’t just the bad times, the good times too shall pass
There’s only so much sand in the hour glass
So don’t grow up so fast, ooh

All of Me

It was such a lucky encounter.

There we were, at the library once again for our tutoring session on a perfectly normal Tuesday of the summer.  As usual my daughters headed straight for the back corner for the games and toys.  By the time I caught up to them, there they were sitting on the floor watching a little boy as he raced his cars and trucks around on the floor making appropriate loud vrooming noises.

As I approached, smiling at the man sitting on a chair watching the little boy, my daughter looked at me and said,

“Mommy, who is this?”

She’s very curious about people, especially little people, and since we often run into people I know that she hasn’t been acquainted with yet it’s a somewhat common question.

I responded with a grin toward the man,

“I don’t know!”

Halfway through my answer the man cut in and said the little boy’s name.  My daughters both glanced at me with wide eyes and I stumbled for words, finally blurting out,

“Did you say _______?”

I knelt down on the floor and took a closer look at the little boy my girls were so intrigued with.

Sure enough.

My breath caught in my throat as I stared in disbelief.  Just the right age, just the right eyes and complexion.

Last time I had seen this little boy I was kissing his soft cheeks, caressing that dark hair and fighting back the tears as I buckled him securely into his infant car seat.  I had loved him with a passion I had never known before.  He was the very first child that made me a mother.  The very first child that turned my world upside down.  The only child I’ve ever grieved quite that hard for…simply because I had no former experience to brace me for the goodbye.

For the next hour I watched him play, studying his sturdy toddler movements, his joyful little personality bursting at the seams.  I talked to him, handed him toys and smiled at the sight of my beautiful little girl playing at his side.  The irony was so intriguing…here we were two and a half years later and our lives had traveled such a distance from each other, despite living in the same small town.  When I was able to catch his eyes I saw in them only the reflection of a stranger.  I was a complete stranger to him, and he to me.  Yet at the same time I knew watching him run and laugh and play that I would do absolutely anything in the world for this little boy.  The moment he entered my life, my heart claimed him as my own.  Our time was so short…only 5 weeks…but it was more than enough time to establish a bond strong enough to last eternity.  Every child I have ever cared for has claimed a piece of my heart and in return I have offered each one a vow.

I will love you.

Unconditionally.

For as long as I can,

As well as I can,

No matter the cost to my own heart.

I will fight for you,

And protect you.

I will claim you as my own, and love you without boundaries.

A piece of me will always be yours to keep.

Because I have been so loved,

I will love you.

This is the beat of my heart, and the passion that God has placed within me.  When He called me to serve the least of these, He called me to do it with all of me.  I have struggled at times to keep this vow.

It is hard.

It is messy.

It is scary and vulnerable.

It means holding tight and then surrendering with abandon, believing that God goes with each one even when I can’t.

It means facing the truth, even when the common cliches would be much more comforting.

It means asking hard questions and committing to heavy burdens…but not letting them pull you down.

It means taking one day at a time and believing that now is as important as forever.

It means giving more than you think you have, regardless of the consequences.

My biggest prayer every day that I have been a foster parent has been that I will love every child God places in my care this way.  Why?

Because they deserve it.

Because it is right.

Everything I believe about fostering and adoption has it’s roots in my belief that God is our Creator, and that He delights in each and every person that He creates.  Every little person that has entered my home or ever will has unimaginable value in His eyes.  For me to treat them as any less is horribly wrong.  He loves us regardless of our performance, and gave the greatest He could possibly offer us even though we had done nothing to deserve it.  He takes us as His own and gives us a future and a hope.  He puts everything He has on the line so that we might experience redemption and relationship with Him.  When I realize that He has died for each of these little ones…what else can I possibly consider than to give everything I possibly can for them as well.

Too many children are living in the foster care system believing that somehow they are second rate.  Despite the fact that they have been so wronged in so many ways, most of them believe it is them that are somehow to blame.  Even more horrifying is the fact that the general consensus in society is the same!

Too many foster parents survive the constant change over in kids by holding back pieces of their heart.  Don’t get too attached.  Brace yourself for the goodbye.  Put your own needs and family first.

I get it.

It can be hard and the lines can get pretty gray.

But I also know that a child can absolutely sense those attitudes and they do more damage than you can imagine.  We have a whole generation of teenagers emerging from the foster care system who have never once in their life felt like someone would do whatever it takes.  They know better than anyone that when push comes to shove, foster families will protect their own backs.  They’ve heard all the reasonings and they know what they are…excuses.  The words they hear are:

“You’re too much.”

“It’s too hard.”

“Our own children are more important than you.”

This doesn’t mean that the answers are always the same.  Sometimes loving does mean letting go.  Sometimes loving means drawing some hard lines.  Sometimes loving means realizing this child needs more than I can give.  But too often those kinds of ‘love’ have little to do with what’s best for the child and much to do with what’s best for me.

So I am begging you.

Dare to invest as much in these kids as you’d invest in your biological children…because they are every bit as valuable and every bit as important.

Join me in starting a revolution in the foster care system.  A revolution of Christian families stepping forward to say,

“Yes!  I will love these children with all of me.

My littlest A loves this song by John Legend…it’s a song that takes her back to a familiar place that felt safe, happy, warm…and every time she hears this song on the radio her blue eyes light up with joy.  So I’ve started singing this song to her.  It’s a connection point that reaches her heart.

ALL OF ME

What would I do without your smart mouth
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out
You got my head spinning, no kidding, I can’t pin you down
What’s going on in that beautiful mind
I’m on your magical mystery ride
And I’m so dizzy, don’t know what hit me, but I’ll be alright

My head’s underwater
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, oh
Give me all of you, oh oh

How many times do I have to tell you
Even when you’re crying you’re beautiful too
The world is beating you down, I’m around through every mood
You’re my downfall, you’re my muse
My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues
I can’t stop singing, it’s ringing in my head for you
My head’s underwater
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, oh
Give me all of you, oh oh

Cards on the table, we’re both showing hearts
Risking it all though it’s hard

Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

It’s not the song I would have chosen in my sentimental mind to be the anthem for my baby girl, but she chose it…and really…it’s perfect.  I will always love you, babe.  All the imperfections, in all your mess.  I am so bad at this, and I have no idea how to be everything you need me to be.  But I love you, and I will do my best to give you all of me as you, in all your vulnerability, choose to put your trust in me.  And to all the rest of the kids out there who have taken pieces of my heart…I hope that you grow up to know that at least one person in your life loved you with everything she had!

Walking home that day after our encounter at the library with my baby…yes, my baby…I felt so blessed.  Even though it can be hard to see kids later and face the facts of their life, it’s still an experience that is very meaningful.  Even though this little one I gave everything to just a few short years ago looked at me with no recognition or attachment, it made my day to see him smile.  I delighted in his chubby cheeks that once lay on my chest, the little legs running around that once kicked in distress in his hospital bassinet.  Memories came flooding back, and it was beautiful to relive them.

Thankyou, Jesus, for the gift of that little moment.

Was it a lucky meeting on an ordinary day?

Maybe.

Or maybe it was just a little reminder from my Jesus that He’s right here with me.  His is the passionate heart beating inside of me for these little ones.  His is the vision of a future and hope.  His is the pouring out of all that I am.

It is because I was first loved by Him that I love.

AF