Life Unexpected

It is the stuff of nightmares.

A doctor with an apologetic face;

He’s offering a chair, taking a deep breath…

Brain tumour.

My heart clutches.

I look to my husband and I see his face cringe.

Our son snuggles closer between us when we cling and sob out sorrow.

I race home to collect a bag of things,

To hug my girls good-bye.

Their fear and innocence in contrast pushes me on.

I promise them and hold them tight.

Before I can breathe,

process,

hold this new reality in my hands…

We are being rushed toward the helicopter, my tiny son strapped to a stretcher and crying as we roll through the darkness.

I’m kissing my husband goodbye.

“I will be there as fast as I can.”

I want to scream,

To pull my baby in my arms and run far away from all this.

The men are large and strangely comforting in their neon jackets.

They are gentle and calm.

They strap us in and sit quietly in my stunned grief as we fly through the night sky.

My son settles into an exhausted sleep and I hold his hand and stare down at the lights below.

Steadfast love.

It comes to me and pulls together my anguished heart.

Over and over in the last 2 weeks I was drawn to the psalm, not sure why, and now the words bind up my wounds.

“Your steadfast love, O Lord; extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!”

“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

Steadfast.

Love.

I breathe and take refuge in the angels in neon across from me.

We are landing and they place him back in my arms.  I hold him close and wrap a blanket around his bare arms.  We’ve left without a jacket and the night air is cold.  I grip him to my heart and try to transfer myself to him.  I know he is afraid.

Steadfast love.

We follow strange corridors and crowd into an elevator.  The men in neon surround us and tower over us.  My son gazes wide eyed and scared.

We follow back outside to an ambulance and whisk away.

I breathe gratitude and feel tears well when they allow me to hold him instead of strap him to the stretcher.

We are sitting in a busy hallway on a stacking chair being admitted and still I hold him tight to my chest, the blanket securing him to me.

My eyes feel big and scared.  I feel small and unsure.

My heart flows gratitude when I see my big brother round the corner and come to us.

He stays with us even with his own son lying upstairs.

Steadfast love.

The hours blur as they insert IVs, put on lead lines and watch monitors.

My baby’s skin has always been so spotless and white.

I cringe as they pin him down and poke and press.

He is terrified.

My husband comes and we sit together in shock as our baby drifts to sleep on the cold white hospital bed.

Questions.

Answers?

My phone dies from the texting.

We spend the night in a crowded room trying to sleep in the upright hospital chairs.

We won’t leave him.

He falls into sleep and I am so thankful he can escape this nightmare as I try to get comfortable.

The next day there are tests.

More questions.

Information staggers my mind and makes me stare at my boy unbelieving.

So perfect.

So unblemished.

So innocent.

Brain surgery tomorrow.

9am.

They will cut his scalp open and drill a passage way through his brain.

I hold the words at arms length and turn my eyes so I won’t have to look too close, to let the terror seep in.

I focus on reassuring my toddler, learning new terms and piecing together brain anatomy.

I phone my girls and once again I put on my brave voice.  I am their string of hope and I won’t let them down.

My voice is strong and sure as I promise them and reach for words they can understand.

I give them just enough to ease their anxiety, but not too much.

We take our little boy, clad in hospital gown and pajama pants, to the play room.  For over an hour he plays and we watch him forget about the IV on his arm.  He babbles and laughs and points at the elevators moving up and down.

Steadfast love.

I wonder when he will play again.

That night I sleep on a couch near his room, comforted by knowing that I will be close by if he needs me.

Morning.

Surgery day.

Only now do I let myself Google it…preparing my heart for the fall.  The words I find give me footholds of reassurance and I claim them fiercely.

My husband carries him through the halls to the OR.

We look at books and try to hide our uncertain tears from his little face as we wait.

He likes the trucks and tractors in the book.

For a minute he goes very soft in my arms and snuggles up to my neck.  I squeeze him close and breathe him in.

Steadfast love.

When they take him and his bunny Flopsy away he cries and we force ourselves to turn and walk away.

My mother in law’s arms give me a second to collapse and I feel tears rush in.  She holds my pain for a minute before letting go and it feels good to share a bit.

It is 6 long hours.

I am nervous…but I also feel held.

I am humbled as I realize all the people praying in this moment.

I believe.

Steadfast love.

The surgeon is there.  I anxiously rise to the inevitable and scan his face for hope.

He is so pleased.

Gratitude overwhelms as he describes what we hardly dared hope for.

It is gone.  They’ve gotten every piece they could find.

Steadfast love.

We go in to see him and I could weep with relief.  His chubby cheeks relax in peaceful sleep.  Flopsy is still there with him and we tuck him up by his arm.

Steadfast love.

The uncertainties lurk but we hold onto the hope and embrace it.

Its been a few days now and I sit by my baby’s bedside in the ICU.

The adrenaline rush is collapsing and the truth feels cold and hard beneath my tumbling heart.  I am scared and uncertain in this new reality but still…

Steadfast love.

I reach for the hearts that I know will hold me, us, in all our pain.

He is seizing beneath my trembling hands and his eyes stare dull and lifeless.

They are rushing in, grabbing masks, calling code.

I am being pushed back from his bedside and I cling to my husband’s trembling chest.  More and more…they just keep coming, calling out orders and stats.

I am terrified and the sobs push out of my lips.

I stumble out into the hallway into the waiting arms of my sister in law, who came rushing when she heard the code.

She holds me and says “I’m sorry” as I fall apart.

I know she knows this feeling and I am so grateful for her presence in this moment.

He knew that I would need her tonight and her son is surprisingly, blessedly, fast asleep down one floor in his room.

Steadfast love.

We return to the ICU and I am so grateful.  The carefully monitored room feels familiar and safe after the last 24 hours.

Answers come and we nod in understanding as they explain.

Knowledge gives grip to confidence and I advocate for my son, feeling strong and sure in the normalcy of knowing what is best for him.

Steadfast love.

It’s painful to watch him grasp for strength and my heart staggers under the weight of discouragement.

She knows me well and despite my efforts her arms bring the tears flowing.  It feels better than I thought to let the fear out and fall apart.

Steadfast love.

He meets us on the street corner with the kindest and gentlest of words.

“Don’t worry,” he tells my husband, and we see he really means it.  He gives generously and my eyes fill once again with gratitude for this man who has continually blessed our family again and again and again.

I am humbled and so grateful.

Steadfast love.

The waited on words are offered casually and its anticlimactic as we cautiously grasp hope.

No cancer.

No further treatments needed.

“I see no reason he should not have a full recovery.”

Really?!

Steadfast love.

A weight falls off our shoulders and breath comes easier.

For the first time in days I see light.

I wake up to the video and I smile the biggest smile.  It’s my little boy grinning his crooked little smile and high fiving Daddy with his right hand!  The side that’s been weakened since surgery.

Steadfast love.

So much joy with one small milestone!

They keep coming and coming.

First kick,

first reach,

first grasp of my finger,

first step,

first bite.

So many reasons to be grateful.

Steadfast love.

I talk to them on the phone and they are bubbling over with happiness and news.

“I miss you, Mommy.”

“I miss you, too.”

And then she goes on with what Nana said, what Papa did, what happened at school…

I smile the biggest smile as I listen to her happy voice.

They are safe and happy, even though they are so far from me.

They have found their people and they know who they belong with right now.

How do we deserve to be loved so unconditionally and fully?

Steadfast love.

It’s our first weekend home!

We get a pass!

I am ecstatic and my heart actually skips a beat as we drive into our small town.

It’s so beautiful and green everywhere!

We’ve been gone a month and so much has changed.

Life everywhere.

I drink in the green trees, the breeze on my face as it blows off the bay, the sight of my children all playing together in the back yard.

Steadfast love.

Life has changed, and I miss the way it used to be.

But in it all, I am so grateful.

And I know…

In the journey there is beauty,

growth,

redemption,

and always…

Steadfast love.

-AF

 

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

 

 

 

If You Can’t Adopt…

So many people are in situations or circumstances that make it impossible or difficult for them to pursue adoption.  While I campaign and advocate openly for MORE FAMILIES TO ADOPT I certainly realize some families are not able to pursue adoption for a variety of reasons…and shouldn’t.

So what can you do if you are not able to adopt?

How can you obey the biblical command to care for the orphan? (Psalm 82:3, James 1:27, Isaiah 58:6-10)

1. PRAY

Old, young, middle aged…even children can get involved in this way!  Through this season we’ve committed to praying with our children for waiting children needing families.  I’ve seen such a space open in their hearts just in a few short prayers as they connect with these children.  Prayer changes hearts and it changes lives!

  • Pray for the waiting children, waiting families, newly adoptive families, and tired adoptive families in the trenches.
  • Pray for more families!
  • Pray for wisdom and perseverance for families wading through the trauma adoption brings.
  • Pray for courage for families facing difficult adoption realities.
  • Pray for healing for the children.
  • Pray that through the next month the church would rise up and meet the challenge of thousands of children needing homes!

2. BECOME A RESPITE HOME.

To become a respite home you will go through the typical foster care training and assessment, but as a respite home you will only commit to the time you have available.  It may be one weekend a month, every weekend, one day a week or one weekend a year!  Whatever time you have can benefit a foster child and family.

Children in care are dealing with big emotions and big life changes which often shows itself through big actions!  It can be a huge relief to have a weekend off for a foster family to regroup, catch up on sleep, visit family or just relax and rejuvenate for the work God has called them to.

Likewise, respite homes are encouraged to act more like a ‘grandparent’ in the child’s life.  Relax a bit on the structure of the child’s life and just have fun.  My girls have very fond memories of some respite homes they spent time in on weekends during their years in foster care.  These people, though only in their lives for brief periods of time, built fond memories with them and helped them to feel like they had a larger, extended family outside of their foster families.  They still talk about them today.  One couple in particular advocated strongly for our girls to be placed together instead of separately for adoption when they cared for them on weekends.  We are very grateful to them!

This role is perfect for an older couple who may not be prepared to take on a child full time anymore, a family busy raising their own children or a single person who may not have the resources or time to commit to full time parenting.  Also, if you’re considering foster care and would like to ‘ease in’ a bit…this will give you a taste and some experience before forging ahead full time.  Many times the agency will set you up with the same child or children so that you can form a relationship and become a safe haven in the child’s life.  Most children in care look forward to these sleepovers.

3. SUPPORT A FOSTER OR ADOPTIVE FAMILY IN YOUR CHURCH OR COMMUNITY.

There are so many ways you can bless a foster or adoptive family in your church or community.  Take a look at the time, skills and resources you have to offer and then just ask the question, “How can I use these to support a family on the front lines of this ministry?”  We are so grateful for our extended family, friends and church community who have supported, loved and prayed for us through our adoption journey.  It is so important to feel like you have a village behind you!  These are some of the ways that people have blessed us:

  • Hand me down clothes, toys, etc.
  • Babysitting – so thankful for people who have volunteered to babysit…even when our children were not easy to care for – so that we could have a date night!  When we were foster parents this meant our babysitters also needed Criminal Record Checks.  It meant a lot to us when people would do this for us so we could leave the children for an hour or two!
  • Meals – freezer meals, leftovers, take out or gift cards…we were thankful for them all! 🙂
  • Gifts – When our daughters first joined our family one couple blessed us by giving us Canadian Tire gift cards specifically to buy the girls each a new bike and helmet.  Not only did it mean the world to us it was special for the girls to realize so many people they’d never even met cared for them and wanted to bless them.
  • Accompaniment travelling to appointments.  In those first months we had to travel over 3 hours just to see the girls’paediatrician.  It was a huge blessing to have a friend come with me so that Kirby wouldn’t need to take off work.  6 hours on the road, 2 very active girls and a stuffy doctor’s office were a less than appealing prospect until my friend added in her company, some fun toys and snacks.
  • Taking an interest in the children’s lives.  Like any other parent, we want our children to have a broader world than just us.  It’s a huge blessing to know someone else is investing in our children’s lives alongside us.  It’s also really important for the child to build as many healthy relationships as possible.
  • Ask how it’s going.  Acknowledge the extra layer in their family dynamics and give space for them to talk about that.  You might be surprised at what their normal looks like.
  • Point out the progress or positive things you notice in the child’s life.  It is so reassuring and comforting as the parent to hear something good about your child.  It can help affirm progress, encourage during a difficult season or just remind you that you are not alone in this when others notice your child growing and maturing.
  • If none of these ideas fit…just ask!  Ask how you can help, and observe their family to see if you can spot a need.  They may feel vulnerable at first accepting your help but if you prove to be a safe and nonjudgmental support they will gladly welcome your assistance!

    4. EDUCATE YOURSELF.

    I cannot stress this one enough!  So many adoptive parents and children who have been adopted have been hurt by the ignorant words of someone around them.  Words cut deep, and for many adoptive families every conversation about adoption is full of landmines.  As an adoptive parent, I know that sometimes we read into things too deeply, and we apologize for that.  We certainly want to understand when comments are made out of ignorance…however…you must understand that the stakes are often a lot higher than you think!  An off hand comment overheard by a child can plant deep seeds of fear, shame or inadequacy.  So be aware!  Listen to the adoptive families around you and follow their lead in how they discuss their child’s history and challenges related to adoption.  Don’t ask for more information than they are willing to give, as it may be sensitive, but at the same time take an interest in the child’s life.  If there are diagnoses or behavioral challenges, don’t jump to conclusions!  There is very likely a huge part of the story you are missing.  They need your encouragement, understanding and support…not your criticism.

    5. VOLUNTEER

    Similar to providing respite care, public child protection agencies are always in need of volunteers.  With thousands of children in care and not nearly enough foster homes to accommodate them all well, agencies are often scrambling to meet the needs of the children.  As a volunteer you will need to complete a short screening process and be approved.  There are many opportunities to serve.

  • Driving to appointments, visits with birth family, school, etc.
  • Holding babies in the NICU who have been apprehended but not yet placed in a foster home.  After spending 2 days and 2 nights in the NICU with one tiny baby I know first hand how big a need this is!  Many of these babies are withdrawing from drugs they were exposed to in utero and in severe pain.  They desperately need the one to one care a nurse does not have time for.  They need eyes that will see the dirty onesies, hands to cream the raging diaper rashes, arms to hold them firm and walk the halls for hours as they cry and cry.  They need someone to go out and buy them sleepers.  They need someone to hold them and feed them and make sure they are getting enough nourishment.  Our particular little baby spent most of his hours at the nurse’s station as he had no one to care for him before we showed up.  No infant should be that alone in the world.
  • Completing paperwork for childcare workers
  • Organizing events

 

In the foster and adoptive community we often hear, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  This is very true.  While it may be possible to do it on your own, it is so much easier and so much better with support from your friends, family and community.  Ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to foster and adoptive families.  You will be richly rewarded for any time, money or resources you pour into this ministry!

Daddy’s Day

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Just when I thought I couldn’t love you any more than I already did…

You became a father.

Watching you love our children makes me

so proud

and so grateful.

I know it’s not a glamorous job, this fatherhood thing…

and I know you get tired.

Tired of little hands reaching up to you,

tired of little bodies…and bigger bodies

crawling all over you

begging to be tossed and turned;

snuggled and tickled and

loved.

Tired of my weary arms handing over babies

and diapers

and squirming toddlers

and dishes.

Tired of fixing the broken doors

and handles

and toys.

Tired of reading stories

and tucking in little girls

and rocking babies in the middle of the night.

Tired of holding us all together after a bad day,

of sorting through the squabbles

and tears

and dirty laundry.

You work so hard all day,

then come home to us and still..

still you love us

with your strong, weary arms.

You love us with your kisses and your smiles

and the words you say.

I say it over and over again:

how grateful I am for you,

how I couldn’t do this without you,

how I need you.

We need you.

You hold us all together with your strength,

your confidence,

your faithfulness.

You will never know what it means to us that you come home every night.

That the first thing you do is reach out to hold us.

You will never understand the great mountain you are in our eyes.

How we lean on your greatness;

so steady and sure.

You will never see the light and joy

that I see in our children’s eyes when they look at you.

Daddy.

How the belly laughs and joyous shrieks

and outstretched arms are

special for you.

You’ve captured their hearts.

You will never know how much we all adore you

and  how safe you make us feel.

 You are a really great Dad.

Thank you.

 

Gratitude

For months now I’ve been trying to find my way to words.

Words to share the feelings that have been pulsing through my veins and the journey that’s been reorienting my heart.

Try as I might I couldn’t find the clarity to scrawl it out.

Then this morning…

blonde ponytail flopping as she trotted along behind me,

it came.

And I hear it, clear as a bell.

We were cleaning, because we have a house showing at noon.  Oh and how that’s been woven through this story as well…our home, our little love nest, for sale.  Where we’ve laughed, where we’ve cried, where we’ve become a family.  Evidence of calloused hands’ careful work all around me.  Memories written…sometimes literally…on the bright, oh so bright, walls.

She’s singing as she tidies books, folds the big orange Daddy shirts, sucks up all the little rocks with the vacuum.

Show us, show us your glory, Lord!

I pause.

To breathe.

To take it in,

the sight of my Little busy with her helping hands to make Mommy smile while she warbles out the worship song she heard earlier.

Show us, show us your glory, Lord!

She sings it over and over again.

I hear her now, still, as she’s putting on her shoes and running out to play.

Show us, show us your glory, Lord!

And I realize…

He has.

He has shown me his glory.

He has come to this messy life of mine and shown me the glory that He wants me to see.  In Him, in this life, and yes, even in me.

Through the frustrating, disappointing real estate ventures.  The complete exhaustion of the dreary winter months as I tread water desperately to stay afloat.  Homeschooling, night feedings, dishes and laundry piles and always always the hands and hearts grasping for my time and attention.

Through the disillusionment, despair and drowning weight of sin.  Written all over my heart, my family, my home and my words.  Oh, my words.  Biting, begging, sharp as nails words that cut us all apart and leave the blood marks.

Through the silence, the unknown, the black hours of waiting and wondering and hoping.

Show us, show us your glory, Lord!

Begging, pleading I came to Him.  Show me your glory, Lord!

And He did.

He really did.

As we studied a book on gratitude at church with the women’s group,

as I picked up Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts

as I opened up my heart to vulnerability and trust and faith.

Faith.

The glory shone in.

And now, I’m seeing it and breathing it and smiling it each day.

Choosing gratitude as I follow Ann’s lead and start my list of 1000 Gifts.

Chubby baby cheeks, smooth and soft.  

Quiet Time – my sweet reprieve.

Bagels with cream cheese and butter melting on my tongue.

Early Spring tree buds – bright green and fresh

Birds singing before dawn

Rainy mornings

Clean, white sheets – peaceful and cool on my skin

A change of plans

A gentle finger, tucking stray hair behind my ear.  My girl made all of care.

A chance encounter

My husband’s smile – melting me to my soul

Fresh eggs

Lilacs in full bloom

Sleepy morning eyes coming down the stairs and shuffling slipper feet

Free education

New pajama pants

Worship music in the morning

Novels

An encouraging, fun home school group

Two becoming one flesh

A truly remarkable social worker

Sparkling eyes that brim joy contagious

Steady baby milestone achievements

Backyard BBQ’s

My sweet neighbour in her pajamas in the early morning dew

Suddenly, I can see.

And His glory is all around us.

And she’s still singing.

Show us, show us your glory, Lord!

I realize how great and vast He is and I have to bow and adore.

So much glory, in all the mundane.

So much beauty in all the sacrifice.

Gratitude.

AF

 

Anger & Grace

It was a classic moment.

I could feel my heart rate increase as I stared down at the defiant little eyes staring up at me; daring, taunting and luring me into the ring.  I felt my cheeks flush hot and my shoulders stiffen with anger.

A tiny voice in the back of my mind squeaked a warning, but my emotions screamed at me to just react!

I was the adult, after all!

How dare she talk to me this way?

Look at me this way?

Challenge me with a mere tilt of her head?

Out came the words, with the lash of sarcasm to make them powerful and biting.  I watched with satisfaction that quickly faded to shame as her spirit broke before me, in the worst of ways.  The angry, defiant eyes quickly covered in tears and her face crumpled at the tone in my voice.

I had done it.

I had cut to the bone.

Intentionally, I had hurt her.

Far surpassing my authority as a parent I had stooped to the level of a child giving slap for slap in a schoolyard tussle.

As she bent to my anger and my bidding, I felt only guilt and shame.  I had done it again.  In the very moment where she needed me to be the parent, in control of my emotions despite her behavior, I had fallen quickly and securely into the trap.  While she tested and resisted, scanning the boundary line for strength and safety, I had lunged in for the kill.

I knew I needed to apologize, but I had no idea where to even start and all I wanted to do was wallow in my anger, humiliation and frustration.

I have struggled with anger for as long as I can remember.

I have a temper that flares quickly and burns hot.  I’ve had to learn the hard way time and time again that giving it even a tiny dose of oxygen explodes into wildfires I regret deeply.

I need Jesus to deal with this ‘thorn in my flesh’ every day of my life.  Just when I think maybe I’ve kicked it once and for all, it comes out of nowhere and knocks me off my feet, leaving me bruised, humbled and broken before my God.

I need grace.

Grace for my own sinful heart and grace for my children’s sinful hearts.

I have read every verse I can find in the Bible about anger, for obvious reasons!  There is so much in there about anger, and how destructive and dangerous it can be.

“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity for the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

In the few years I’ve been parenting and caring for little people, I’ve found a few good strategies to help curb that anger when it rears its ugly head.  Today I am writing this post mostly to remind myself of what I know to be true!  I need this today.

1) Take a time out…for Mom!  Go lock yourself in your bedroom for a few minutes, go use the bathroom, do the laundry…anything that can get you a few quiet moments to recalibrate.

2) Be honest with your child about your feelings, but not in a reactive way.  “Mommy is feeling really frustrated right now and I just need a minute with Jesus to figure out what I need to do right now.”

3) Force your body to physically relax.  Loosen those shoulder muscles, stretch your neck and massage your cheeks.  Close your eyes, breathe and count to 10.  If you’ve chosen the bathroom or the bedroom as your escape room, force yourself to smile into the mirror before you head back down to face the music.  It really works!

4) Carve out time in your days for quiet time, prayer and simple things you enjoy.  This will help prevent the anger!  I know this is not easy for busy Mamas, and don’t kid yourself into thinking that through every season you’re going to find 30 minutes a day of God time or me time!  You might only get 15 minutes to talk to God in the shower, a few glances at a Bible open on your desk throughout the day or a verse taped to your mirror.  You probably won’t get a novel read but you might get in a walk to the park or a minute sitting in the sunshine while the kids bike outside.  When things are really crazy, take a look at your entertainment diet.  Make sure you’re spending your down time listening to worship music, inspirational podcasts, etc.  Take a few seconds to read that blog that pops up on facebook about an issue that you’re struggling with currently in your spiritual life.  Pop onto Youtube and find a women’s devotional for the day.  Be honest in your next conversation with your girlfriend when she asks how you’re doing.

5) Take a nap!  Again, I know this isn’t easy, but if it’s at all possible in your day, a quick nap or rest in the afternoon can prevent all kinds of explosions through the supper hour when everyone is low on energy, carbs and patience!

6) Look at your failures as opportunities from God.  Then embrace His forgiveness and forgive yourself too!  You very well may deal with this your whole life long, but each time you can reach out and grasp the power that God longs to place in your hands, you are gaining ground!  Don’t give up or let yourself wallow in defeat and humiliation.  Buck up and own it!

7) Say sorry.  Just do it.  No excuses!  Those sticky, small arms around your neck are worth it.  Your apology speaks a thousand words of wisdom and offers tangible grace to your littles.

Every now and then I experience it.

Victory!

I stop and take a moment to curb the anger before it takes over.  I whisper a prayer, get down on my knees and suddenly see the hurt lurking behind her angry eyes.  I offer the hug instead of the biting retort.  I grasp the power, and oh is it sweet!  It is there!  With His help, I can have the victory, but I can’t do it alone.

So keep trying!

Keep surrendering your spirit to His will and some sweet day He will give you the Victory!

AF

Valentines & My Love

Yesterday was Valentines Day.

It also happens to be my husband’s birthday.

To me, that makes it the day I get to celebrate the two most important things in my life.

Him.

And our Love.

I don’t usually write about him here…because he’s not the kind of man to broadcast his life to the world.

But this one is for you, Kirby.

I want the world to know that I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Because I am…because of you.

How do you describe the kind of man who makes you feel like the Queen of his universe?

Who fights for me daily, loves my broken places and pieces my dreams together with his calloused hands.

Who gentles the wild in me and quiets the chaos,

all while celebrating my passion and spirit.

How do I begin to explain someone who has more of myself than I do locked in his heart?

Whose soul seems interchangeable with my own?

Who lights up every room when he walks in, just because his presence fills the empty places in me?

He is everything I love,

more than I need

and all I’ve ever wanted.

I adore him.

Without him, I wouldn’t be me.

He’s my best friend, my safe place; my Lover and my Home.

He has taught me to be brave, to be honest and to be free.

Every single day he makes the choice to love, and because of that he is the rock I know will never crumble beneath me.

His love does not depend on what life brings us or what I can offer in return.

It doesn’t ebb and flow with the tides of change that seem to be so constant in our lives.

It’s been a decade of Love.

Always together.

We’ve laughed together through our favourite movies and sang our favourite songs.

We’ve done marathon movie nights together, played sexy date night games together, ate too many gummy candies together and driven too many long hours together.

We’ve spent hours planning, waiting, dreaming and praying our daughters into our lives.

We’ve crawled on our rooftop and laid beneath the stars.

We’ve been stuck in Mexico together, listening to the huge waves crashing on the shore as we slept in our seaside palapa.

We’ve created a child together and you were the one by my side staring in awe and amazement as he entered the world, a beautiful testament of the two of us, forever entwined by this tiny one.

We’ve sat in comfortable silence together and screamed side by side down the dip of a huge roller coaster together.

We’ve stared in exhausted, shell shocked silence at each other at the end of a long day.

We’ve given away our hearts and cried together as we said goodbye to the first little child who made us parents.

We’ve slept crammed on a single size hospital bed and rotated through bleary night time feedings.

We’ve sat together by the bedside of a tiny little boy fighting for his life and took turns stroking his trembling body.

We’ve talked late into the night, tangled in each other’s arms and hearts.

We’ve knelt together in front of the toilet, you holding my hair as my body hurled every last ounce of strength from me.

All the best and probably worst moments of my life have been with you.

I love doing life with you, Babe.

You are an incredible man.

Thank you for all the times you give your heart, your space, your time and your love to me and our children.

Thank you for creating a home for us that is safe, fun and so full of love.

Thank you for working so hard to provide for us and for letting me stay home to be a mother to our children.

Thank you for loving me even when I am so unlovable and for being proud of me even when I fail.

Thank you for leading me and our children closer to Christ through your life and example and for guarding His presence in our home with courage and zeal.

Thank you for riding this crazy roller coaster we call life with me and for throwing your hands up alongside mine while we careen out of control!

I love you more than I can ever say!

~Yours