Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas! Thank you for all of the love and support. We are so thankful to share our story with you all.
 


Love, Julianna and the Crew

Friday, December 23, 2016

Treasuring.

I study his face wondering, what he will look like someday. I study his hands wondering, what he will do someday. I count his perfect little toes wondering, where he will go in this life. As I watch this tiny little human grow before my very eyes I am overwhelmed by the gift of life.

Each of us born with such purpose sown into the fabric of our very souls. Each of us created to achieve certain things during our time on Earth. As a mom, I desperately desire to raise, healthy, kind, loving children who believe in themselves and encourage others, I want my crew to know they can achieve anything if they put the work into and that the call on their life is great.

Bringing home a “borrowed baby” this time of year has, me thinking of the story of the manger, of Mary and the night of Christmas when Jesus was born. I say” borrowed” baby because though I am his mama, waking in the night for all of the feedings, changing the diapers, watching him grow these past two weeks, he is not mine. I love him as if he came from my womb, I celebrate him, cherish him, delight in him. However, this road of foster care has taught me that they don’t always get to stay forever, I love them well with an open hand, ready to send them on their way at a moment’s notice, this is still the hardest part.

Mary knew that this baby growing within her womb, was borrowed. This baby had a greater purpose than being her son, this baby had a job to do and so did Mary. She was to birth this confusing miracle within her, she was to raise him and she was to love him, all with open hands. Mary’s calling had a bit more weight to it, did she know her sweet boy would grow up to endure the brutal cross, to save the world?

She knew this was no ordinary baby, his name alone told her of his importance. As the story unfolds we see glimpses of Mary’s journey, we see that the angel comes to her and tells her that she will be pregnant. She asks a few questions as she processes what the angel is telling her, she responds with a simple yet brave, “Behold I am your servant of the Lord, let it be me according to your word.” Mary accepted that fact that she was being used for something much greater. In her world the price tag of her calling, could have been death, talk about a weighty calling.

I have not experienced the process of childbirth, but have journeyed through it with many loved ones. The act of giving birth is messy, hard and exhausting, giving life to another drains you, the physical toll of bringing a human into this world is great. I can only imagine what Mary must of felt that night she laid eyes on the perfect little baby she had carried all those months, knowing He was different, that He had a very big calling.

When I walked into the hospital room and laid eyes on my Sweet Boy, I was filled with such love and a sense to do anything to keep him safe. As I rock him to sleep, and hold him against my chest, I wonder what this Sweet Boy will do in his life.

One of the things that has always stuck out to me in this story is a simple line, “Mary treasured up these things and pondered them in her heart.” As parents we all do this, we collect, ponder and absorb the things our children say and do, accepting that all of it is part of a bigger picture.

I can only imagine the things Mary pondered and collected over the years. She knew and believed who Jesus was and the importance of his life, we see evidence of that in the story of Jesus’ first miracle. I often wonder what were the thoughts that went through her mind as she watched him grow? I can’t help but wonder, if her heart ached for what was to come, did she know? Did she struggle like I, to love well but with an open hand? Did she accept the fact that this baby, boy and man was borrowed?

I love the story of Mary being approached by the angel and being told what was happening within her. I love that she accepted the calling. I love that she raised and loved Jesus well, collecting all of the things that she saw.

This story shows us the power of obedience, love and purpose. It teaches us to say yes, when we don’t have it all figured out, shows us to love with all we’ve got, because it is worth it. The cost is great, as Mary rocked Jesus to sleep in the manger that first night I wonder she was overwhelmed by the love she felt for this little life, the weight of the calling placed on Him, or if she just soaked him in, loving him well.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Say Yes!

Sweet are the moments, where upon looking back we realize certain events changed the course of life. It isn’t until you get further down the path of life you realize the power that one choice made. As we look back, we are given a bit more perspective. Noticing that those moments of confusion are now crystal clear. Moments filled with regret, heartache or sorrow begin to look different and filled with purpose.

Our household changed drastically again, our family of 4 grew to 5. Our newest member has only graced this world with his life, but a week. Tuesday afternoon, I heard the need and knew he was the one we had been praying, hoping and asking Santa for.

I walked into the hospital empty handed, took the elevator to the maternity floor, walked into a room and laid eyes on the most beautiful little boy I have ever seen. As I left the hospital with him, I pulled him in close as we walked out into the cold winter night. His fuzzy little head still red from birth rested on my chest as I soaked him in. These are the moments where the weight of our lives being knit together really sinks in, the moment I become his voice, his advocate, and his mom, filling the void his birth mom has created because of her brokenness.

I studied him, his ten little toes, his crooked pinkies and his tiny nose. While my body has no memory of him being in it, my heart knows him. As my body adjusts to the lack of sleep, I am tuning in to his needs, signals and sounds. He is learning my smell, my voice and my feel. The womb he called home for 9 months was not mine. The hands that first held him were not mine. The voice he first heard was not mine. God has been preparing my heart for this very moment, God has been preparing our family for him.

I heard this beautiful phrase last week, “make my heart soft and keep my head strong.” Those words perfectly sum up my journey these past years. While I must keep my head strong and practical at times, I must keep that balanced with reckless abandonment of safety. Allowing my heart to be pressed, that it may remain soft and pliable.

The truth is, I am scared. I am afraid to say goodbye again, that reality knocks the air right out of me. I am afraid of all of the time and questions. I am scared of the needs of a newborn and the strain it will have. Then he opens his eyes and I see him and I am flooded with all the reasons I do this. I cherish that his body has not be marked by neglect or abuse, his brain is not rewired by trauma, nor is his soul heavy with secrets. May I never turn away when it feels hard, scary or overwhelming but instead may I simply say, “yes” and press in.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

When the Call Comes...

The phone rings and you recognize the number. You see it and you know that the message about to be left is one of great need and weight. Each time it calls you feel a mixture of excitement and fear. Those calls leave me with a sense of great heaviness that reminds you that this world is hurting.

The message is left giving you a few details to help you make a quick yes or no, gender and age is given. You call back prepared to answer, you learn not to explain yourself. You learn to know what your families needs are and what fits best, learning to decipher quickly how to answer and what to say, knowing what behaviors you can “deal” with.

If at first pass, the information you have collected seems like a good fit, you ask for more. Receiving the next level of information, you decide if you can handle the terms. Deciding if this is a good fit for you family. You decide in a matter of moments a decision can and will forever change the course of your life. Usually at some point you have a flicker of a thought where you ask yourself can I do this? In all reality are any of us ever ready? Sometimes the best thing you can do is say yes and see what happens.

The worker quickly goes through a list of behaviors and gives you an overview of their story. It is there in that moment you begin to imagine just what these little eyes have seen and ears have heard. Your broken heart breaks a bit more.

A yes means, room rearrangements, clothing hunts, changes, new behaviors and needs. A no leaves you heartbroken and wondering if you made the right decision, recognizing no child deserves that. I have said yes several times and the kiddos never make it into our home, they are picked up by a relative or someone else who called the matching agency back 1 minute sooner than you.

Days go by and you don’t get a call. Sometimes you get three calls in one day. Sometimes it’s the age of the children, the needs of a child or sometimes in your gut it just doesn’t feel settled. Sometimes your heart longs for the call and breaks when the age isn’t the right fit. Sometimes you get two calls for the same group of kiddos week after week, knowing they are being bounced around.

The thing that is surprising to me is how much weight the no’s have. You never quite shake the desire and want to help them all. Stepping into this world shows you things you only had heard about in the news, the victims of those new stories suddenly begin sleeping in your home. Caring about one suddenly starts to the slippery slope of caring for them all. A large burden at times to carry, you never quite get over them.

There is joy in the yeses, ache in the silence and heft in the noes. Each one makes you long for the next, ache for the need and question your choices. I have learned after 2 yeses and 13 noes that I must wait for the right fit.

Then comes the call, when you get it you know it’s right. You barely hesitate and you think today is the day that everything changes. You get off of the phone and begin working out the plans.

You figure out how to continue doing life just now with another little human. Business as usual, you host dinners and attend Christmas parties. You keep going, one day at a time. Suddenly you realize the little stranger in your home is a part of you and you wonder what was life like before them.




Friday, December 9, 2016

Remember My Story - ReMoved Part 2



Last week I shared part one of this story. As I receive calls, hear statistics I am realizing more and more how great this need is. Their little faces are the faces of victims. Victims of the broken system, their parent's choices and a world who looks at them as though they are a burden. May we all take a deep look and realize we can do something for them. Not just as a parent, you can advocate for them by being a part of the CASA program. You can donate items to a local foster care shelter. You can become a mentor through Big Brother or Big Sister. You can go through the classes and be certified for respite care and provide 
temporary homes for the kids. 

The options are endless and the needs are great. 


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Growing Pains: Teeth

Last Friday at snack time we made a discovery, a loose tooth. One’s natural response is sheer fear and sobbing, gut wrenching weeping and grief. This child was so sad at the discovery of a loose tooth that nothing would calm. After a few moments and some troubleshooting, the root of all the emotion was discovered, it was fear.

Actual quote uttered through sobs, “it is super super super super super wiggly.” Followed by a series of irrational fear based questions.
“Is it going to fall out?”
“I can’t eat, I will eat it?”
“Will it fall back?”
“Will it come back?”
“What happens when it falls out?”
“Will it hurt?”
“Why does it have to come out?”

Being five has some really hard realities, the unknown can be scary. As grown ups we tend to shy away from things that we haven’t experienced before, we have learned that there is fear in the questions. We get so worried about what is to come that we forget to enjoy things like snack time worried that we will eat our tooth. Fear can stop us in our tracks, when the questions are many we tend to slow down.

A few convincing pep talks later the crying stopped. We learned the beauty of losing teeth, we say goodbye to our tooth but hello to money. We go to sleep with our baby tooth nicely tucked into our special tooth box and something magical happens as we sleep, awaking the next morning to discover our tooth is gone and replaced with a shiny coin. Once we calmed down and realized the magic of losing teeth, the smile returned the truth came out, “Mommy, I am afraid to lose my tooth.”

Our aversions to the unknown are often based in a simple fear, powerful enough to stop us from experiencing what is on the other side. Losing teeth is part of growing up, we have all experienced it. We must let go of the old tooth so the new tooth can have life.

If the old teeth never came out then we would never get our big strong teeth. The process takes some time and can be kind of annoying and even a little painful at times. There is also a level of trust that even though we can’t see the new tooth, we must trust it is there and it will come.

Letting go is hard, it takes embracing the unknown, trusting that good will come. We have to let go of the things we have, the things we find our security in and the things that hinder growth. We must embrace the new, unknown trusting that they will help us achieve new stages of growth. What are the things that are your baby teeth, those things you aren’t quite ready to let go of?




Monday, December 5, 2016

The Long Road.

It was an ordinary day, December 3 last year, I took the kids to school and headed to the courthouse for a hearing on my crew. I figured I would leave with an update on their case and go on with my day. That morning went differently, while I did leave the courthouse with an update on our case, I also left with our beautiful, baby 11 month old baby girl. That morning I had no idea she was even on an option, for seven long months, we grieved, ached finding some sense of peace in time. Our life changed as we dug out baby gear, adjusted to having a little one in the house again and began to learn about each other all over. She was with us 7 months, she grew and healed and so did we.

This year on December 3 birth mom and I chatted, discussions of Thanksgiving transitioned to what kind of questions she should ask a potential day care, and it all came to a moment of encouragement. We talked about dreams and shared the power of vision casting. I was humbled, suddenly feeling an overwhelming sense of grace for this woman. This woman, who is living her own story of redemption, who birthed my babies into existence, the woman who holds in her hands the very Little One I grieve for, the woman who can receive redemption just as I.

Taking me a bit to process through, relationships with birth parents at first it can be unwanted, foreign and unnatural. We can make it “weird” and territorial, that is easy to do. Addiction and legal rights aside, we both desperately love the same four kiddos, loving them well, means loving her well. While I am still confident that my crew is not quite healed and ready for contact again with birth mom, I am. Walking in relationship with birth parents is tricky, surrendering our little ones back into to the hands that hurt them is gut wrenching, we hope that this time it rehab sticks, they have changed, praying safety over our babies. Whether it be for a few hours, a weekend visit or until the next slip up. It hurts saying goodbye and getting your head wrapped around can be a long road of surrender, find the ability to love with an open hand.

Last week my heart was heavy as I unpacked her stocking. The crew and I are a bit at a loss, our brains know this season and our hearts long for her. Redemption is messy, it’s hard and exhausting. I will admit there is a heaviness that comes with foster care, the weight of it all at times feels crushing. The call to this world comes with a certain heaviness, anyone who works with foster care knows that. The entire system exists because of brokenness, addiction and abuse, redemption is buying back those lives impacted.

I spoke this week for a group of beautiful diverse women. Sharing "my story" I realized that 6 months ago life was a nice package with a beautiful bow, it was perfect, clean and just as I hoped. Currently, all that was figured out and organized is now unraveled and tattered. No part of my life currently has the closure I desire, I am now on my own journey of redemption.

Forrest’s mom was right, life is like a box of chocolates, we are never confident in what exactly we will get. These days my life seems a bit more like a woven tapestry, I can only see the back side consumed by the chaos of tangled strings and twisted mess. I believe that my Master Crafter God is working it all together and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt it will be beautiful. He has the final image in His brain, He knows where all the strings of chaos lead. He does good work but He also understands the price tag of redemption, it cost Him His very life.




Thursday, December 1, 2016

ReMoved

I came across this video early on in my journey of foster care. I stayed up late one night watching it over and over again, heart breaking. It is one of the most beautiful, real pictures into what days are like for these little souls. I watch it often to remind myself there is always a wound behind the behavior. I remind myself there is always a story. Sometimes they know and have memory of that wound. Other times, their mind has forgotten but their body remembers. The need is great, I wish this video was an exaggeration, it is a very true picture of what they brave souls go through. Let them be heard, seen and loved.