Thursday, July 27, 2017

MORE

We are finding ourselves in a season of growth it seems. Our family has expanded yet again, we have added a new Little Man to the crew, #11mos. I am juggling the feeling of twins these days, two babies who are mobile but not walking quite yet. I have found ALL of the weak spots in my home and everything is being sectioned off with gates. Also, my biceps are going to be ripped either because I get stronger or because I literally tear one of them! Haha! :)

What a beautiful energy our home has these days. In February when I bought our home that more than doubled our square footage I prayed a simple prayer, more room means more room. Declaring that day to use our new space for good. Making our home a place that is a sanctuary for others whether they come for the night or forever. Using our space intentionally, our home is an extension of us, we use our space to love well the world around us.

If you are a local friend you know how open our home is, hosting weekly brunches, dinners and wine nights on the porch. We hold the door open for all who need a bed, a meal or a couch to process on, taking the approach we will figure it out. Expanding our home just makes sense, this year as I have navigated the word THRIVE, I have discovered many things. This is where I thrive, in the chaos and beauty of opening our home and heart to others.

Tonight I have the honor of welcoming new friends and old friends into our space and the children count will be 16. It will be chaotic and crazy, even complicated. I can’t help but dream of the conversations that will happen over the meal we share. Sharing our hearts as we process and work through new seasons together. My walls are collecting some beautiful moments, friends who are healing, processing and dreaming. New friends and old. Friends who come just for one night and friends who stay forever. As the seats of our bus fill up and the beds get rearranged to incorporate another I find myself saying more not less.

More of what matters more snuggles, more time, more stories and less to dos, less have tos and less that won’t work. I am seeing the culture of our home change, I am raising little world changers who are doing more, dreaming big as they grow. It is such a gift to watch my crew becoming more kind, more loving and more open. I have realized for us more is healing.

Over this past week as we have adjusted to adding another we soak it in. Our rooms are full and our home is joyful. I am still trying to figure out the physical juggle of two babies who are not walking yet but each day we find our new rhythm. So we will continue to heal, grow and change. We will continue to have our posture open and say “more room.”

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Shred of Bitter.

Building your family through foster care and adoption is tough. In our stories there is always a shred of bitter in the mix of all the sweet. I love adoption, it is a beautiful picture of fierce love and redemption. Open adoption takes everything up a notch, you see redemption in a whole new way, not only in the lives of my children but our birth parents.

The Baby Mamas in our stories will all have different roles in the lives of my children. Baby will unlikely know his birth mom while my older crew sees ours almost weekly for just a moment as we pick up and drop off Little One. There is no “one size fits all” approach to this. It’s a juggle and a struggle, as we sift through the layers of life. Layers of feelings, emotions, fears and responses.

This past week we had a planned visit with our birth mom, we set it up about a month before. We made plans and as the day approached I began to feel uneasy and bothered. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, I had no real reason to feel that way. I started to feel territorial again, I felt out of control, I felt insecure and wanted to cancel the whole thing. I did a heart check about it all, was there a legitimate reason why I felt the way that I did? Two of my three older kiddos choose to attend these visits the other one gets to go do something else, they don’t feel they are ready to forgive quite yet. Birth mom has been honoring and respectful in the midst of name changes, role changes and reality changes. I had no real reason to feel what I did, yet I still did.

I went to the visit feeling all of the same feelings that I struggled with all week. I went feeling nervous, territorial and honestly feelings of inferiority. I will never have the joy of knowing the first few years of their life, hearing their first breath and knowing what their first words and favorite foods were. I will miss that but I do get to see what these years bring, I get to hear their dreams, hearts and learn about their crushes. Bitter and sweet, a moment for birth parents and a moment for me. A moment to grieve the reality of our situation and a moment to celebrate our situation. 

We show up to the visit and I decided to just take a step back and just watch for awhile. I did not see a woman encroaching on my territory, or a woman who was trying to win them over or a woman who was trying to win. I saw a woman who loves her children very much, a woman who is able to delight in them when she isn’t consumed by drugs. I saw a woman who I did not need to fear but a woman who I needed to thank. Who brought these babies into the world so that someday I could be their Mama. I saw a woman whose age is 25 on the outside yet is still a 10 year old little girl on the inside who just wants to be free.

I sat on the bench just watching as tears ran down my face, tears that showed my own insecurities. Tears that reflected my fear of being enough for my crew. Tears that show just how much I love our story yet feel the bitter side of it all. Tears that know open adoption is right for us, this time but tears that are very aware of our redemption story.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Guilt

I don’t do anything half hearted, I am an all in kind of a girl.

In relationships I am all in from the first hello. Stranger says kind words, I give them my heart on a silver platter. I went from one to 10 tattoos in two years, two half sleeves cover my once barren arms. I went from zero to six kids in three years, upgrading our home and vehicle this year to have #roomformore. I wake each day with the posture of come as you are. Our dinner parties get out of control, Saturday morning brunches become a mesh of chaos and beauty. This spring we jumped our creature count adding to our two dogs of ten years, a fish, a rabbit and 6 chickens. We do life and we do it full.

Maybe that is an unhealthy reflection of some deep aching need inside me or maybe it’s just who I am. I have spent the last several years balancing the thin line between those two realities. I have been so intentional this season of life, embracing who I am and where I thrive, while checking my motives. Embracing the moments to say yes and walk towards something even if it seems hard or difficult. However allowing myself the grace to say no after assessing the risk and finding it too costly.

Foster parents are really good at pressing into hard things. They are really good at opening their homes to all or many. Often foster parents have longed for children for quite some time that reality makes for us to easily feel guilt. I often check myself asking, “do I need to hit my kid goal of 6-12 all in the first three years of being a parent.” I find that I long to take them all in, I long that no child should go unloved or unsafe. Every child that I say yes to will costs me something and our home dynamics will change.

Building your family through foster care comes with the harsh reality that it will not be easy, actually it is freaking messy. Parenting is never easy but parenting trauma kids comes with a whole new level of needed skills. We are navigating endless court hearings, cruel bio families and the inconvenience of workers, visits and rules in our homes. All the while struggling with our own guilt when we don’t bond to a child right away. The struggle when one child’s needs takes a lot of our time and focus leaving the rest of our crew depleted. The guilt that comes when we won’t adopt a child who has already been in our home. After endless attempts to fix the behaviors we must give notice to have a child removed from our home, guilt shows up. Then we have the cases where we want the child to stay forever and we fall in love instantly only to months later say goodbye to them, returning them to situations that are less than ideal. The reality is, it all hurts.

How do we love well in the risk of loss? How do we move on and heal when the goodbyes happen? How do we choose when to say no, feeling the weight of the world in guilt? There is no golden ticket answer that fits it all. When it comes to the reality of foster care we must choose to put the kiddos first, we do this for them not us. They do not complete us, there is too much pressure in that we instead see, petition and fight for them. These kiddos have not had enough people do that for them, they are victims. We will heal after they leave because we can, it takes time and I can say the ache never fully goes away but each day ache seems less overwhelming. We remember that our no is somebody’s prayer for a yes, we need to remember that sometimes when it doesn’t feel right it’s not because they aren’t ours.

I have said “no” to 30 or so kids, I have learned to say no. I have learned that there are times as a family we can’t take more. I have learned that certain behaviors or needs we just can’t accommodate. I have learned that in times of healing we say yes for that helps us process. At times loving well means saying no, to more children, social engagements and even just no to my children. Other times saying yes seems to be the way to grow, yes to more, yes to having people over for dinner and yes to doing.

Most often as foster parents we air on the side of yes, and we figure it out. The world of foster care has kept us flexible and ready to go at a moment’s notice. We want to love them all and heal them all which can leave us empty. We must learn to find the balance in the times to say yes and the times to say no. Allowing ourselves the grace to make either decision. So when it feels the world questions our decisions we must find ourselves in a place where we love well and that includes ourselves.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Can You Hear Me?

The never ending struggle of parenting for me is listening well without losing my mind. There are times when I need to take a deep breath and check out of the intense noise pollution, *cue scene adorable 7 month old screaming in the car. Other times it is best that I check out momentarily to the continuous noise that consumes my world for the safety of my children protecting them from the volcano inside. As a millennial I am used to the draw of noise and technology, rarely do I sit in silence.

I am in the season of parenting that is consuming me with questions. My days are spent answering questions about how to spell words, my views on social issues and why? A few months ago I posted this post on questions and how I want to view questions differently. 

Little Man has been with us two months and he is blossoming! The most noticeable thing is his speech, he struggles. In the last couple of weeks he has begun speaking as if nothing is holding him back. The back seat is filled with his constant chatter as he points out things. It started with every cop car, then every train, now every stop sign. He declares so proudly that he sees the things outside of the car. Then this week he took it up a notch when he hears something he pulls his ears out and he concentrates on the noise he hears.

I love this innocent act of observing, he is creating neural pathways that are setting the foundations for the rest of his life. Watching him do this is challenging me in how well I am listen. Do I wake up each day listening for the sound of the train whistle? When I hear it’s faint clanking in the distance do I actually take a moment to stop and listen? I have slipped into autopilot mode most days in order to survive.

Autopilot in the car, the kitchen and in routine ensures that things get done. I am wondering what exactly am I missing out on, how many trains have come and gone unnoticed? I catch myself often giving answers to questions without knowing the content. In our home my undivided attention is sought after and fought over, that is the one of the very clear limitations I have found as a single parent to a large family.

A few months ago I started setting a clock for 10 minutes where I would sit in silence, the goal was to quiet my soul. It seems these days my life is noisy and the chatter is non stop, I have discovered in the movement of it all I hardly slow down. I am striving to be intentional with silence. Forcing myself to slow down, for time is short and I want to be present so I don’t miss the trains coming. May my ears be open that I may hear and pause and watch for the train is coming.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Blossom Wildly!

I have a kitchen towel that has beautiful watercolor flowers spread across it and in the middle of the flowers is a list, “how to be a gardener.” After something despicable destroyed the towel that had been hanging on the oven door, I took out this towel and for a moment I pondered the words. As I compared how much gardening is like parenting, I am raising these tiny little sprouts into strong oak trees. Hoping they root enough to endure the storms of this life. Praying they may flourish and grow, giving the world a sweet fragrance and beautiful fruit. Hoping that they leave the world a little more bright and with more love.

I purchased a home in February so this spring I decided to put a large chunk of money into our yard. We dug, mulched, cut, planted, rebuilt, cleaned up and weeded. Creating and changing each part into a place of beauty. A place where new life springs and color explodes, a place we can enjoy like never before, spaces that are thriving and shout vibrancy. As someone who does not have a green thumb I am happy to report that I have managed to keep everything alive and it seems to be flourishing.

There are a lot of similarities between gardening and parenting. The balance in both, is hope in what you don’t see and the amount of work it takes daily to get there. The potential and opportunity that dwells in the unseen, the reality that each seed planted will bear fruit. For several years before I became a mom, I spent my summers helping out with an organic farm. Those long hot days taught me so much about life.

Lean Toward the sunshine-at the beginning of this mom journey I took on the hash tag #simplejoy that is the goal of our journey together. Each day in the chaos of a family of seven, with diverse needs and deep wounds, we find the simple joy. Joy is our sunshine, we try to dwell there and we long to rest there. It is simple joy that makes our days sweet and our perspectives fresh, keeping me grounded and hopeful for what is to come.

Dig down deep- parenting is no easy job, it is not pretty or clean, the dampness, boogers and poop aspect really takes this to a whole new level. Parenting t takes something from us and it is costly, I currently feel like I have smashed my heart up and left it in the sticky hands of so many little ones. As parents we have to dig deep, we have to press in, we have to dig deep. We desire to shape, grow and change these little ones and that takes getting our hands dirty. Before you is the raw potential of things to come and you really have no guarantee how it will turn out, you just have to trust and get to work.

Make peace with chaos- in the midst of spilled milk, crying babies and poopy diapers I desire to find the peace. There are the days that get started too early and last too long. The days where I can’t stand to hear “mom” one more time. The days where it seems nothing goes right and comparison becomes the very weeds trying to choke me out. The mess and chaos of the weeds around me remind me just how beautiful the flowers are. It is all in the perspective shift.

Rain dance, Rake leaves and jump in & Hum along with the bees- These are the moments that are fun, where we laugh and let loose. Somewhere over the last three years I have gotten way too serious. In a lot of ways I have forgotten to have fun, to laugh, to enjoy and to savor the spontaneous. Our days are scheduled for survival and we are always coming and going to different appointments. This is one area of parenting I strive to change, the moments where we let go and just enjoy, I want to dance and dwell in the beauty of the world around me.

Ache, sweat and yearn- these words sum up parenting. The physical toll it has on your body is only the beginning. As our little ones grow and change we as parents long and ache for them. Parenting is a full time, forever job.

Cultivate patience- The summers I spent out on the organic farm taught me this. There is something so beautiful about slowing down and working the land. I experience the same feeling when I pause and watch my children explore. Watching them experience life through first experiences makes me fall in love with the world all over again. They help me to slow down, they know no agenda, time schedule and appointment book.

Stay rooted, Blossom wildly & Mend fences- Being a parent is the balancing act of teaching, instructing, correcting, education and encouraging. Our job description fluctuates between nurse, teacher and life coach. We become our children’s haven as we also call forward into the things they dream about, helping them heal along the way.

Share the harvest- it takes a village. My first year of parenting I felt I had something I had to prove so I was resistant to letting others in. Thank God that was quickly broken in me, in this season I realize what a gift it is to share my children with others. We all get to celebrate the wins and enjoy the harvest. It has been my greatest joy to share my family with the world, for together we all get to see this story unfold.

As a parent I am resting in the hope of the things coming. I long to see what they will become and where they will go. Desiring to see them become strong, vibrant, rooted beacons of hope to the world around them.