Sunday, October 29, 2017

Making Room

This past year our family has grown, one year ago my days were spent parenting my three older children, we were settling into new names and forever family life. Today as I write this my much larger home is bursting with life at all the stages. In our home we are potty training, cloth diapering, bottle drinking, learning to walk, learning to read, learning our colors, doing division homework, and working on our 5x facts. My path to parenting has shaped and changed me, I have learned to be versatile in a moments notice. My memory is trashed and I am often late but give me a Little Soul in need of some love and nurture and we are in business.

Being a foster parent means each day you wake up with the reality that each day you could add a new member to your family. I have learned to always be a little ready, with clothes of all sizes and car seats tucked away in our closets. In under 3 hours I have gotten a call and picked up babies from shelters, courtrooms, hospitals and previous foster homes.

It seems each little one that has come no matter how long they stay, we manage to have room. Each day our hearts are being prepared for them and we don’t even know it. Sometimes that has been actual physical space, in the foster care world not every call answered “yes” means that a child will actually make it to my home. I have had plenty of times I said yes, got things ready, only to have the placement plan changed. Those let downs can be disappointing however those moments have caused us to make space and prepare for someone else.

One month before our Baby Boy was born we had a little guy, Baby Z. His stay was short but we made space for him and once he was placed with relatives we had an empty crib and baby gear that was ready. Right before Christmas our sweet Baby Boy joined the family, filling the void we had.

Two weeks before Little One entered our life again, I was matched with a 2 year old girl. I got the bed ready, dresser set up, clothes put out. The day before I planned to pick her up, I was told they placed her with a relative. I was disappointed for we were excited and ready to expand our family but that season of disappointment was short lived. The space we made was filled by our Little One, coming home for the third time.

This spring I got the call for a teen mom and her baby girl. That week we upgraded vehicles and prepped our spare room. We made a space for them, they ended up not needing a home so we waited 2 weeks later I got the call for our Little Man and 2 months after that the call for Bear Cub came. We were ready, we had the space.

I used to be so sad when those moments would happen, like we missed out on something. A few years and some hindsight under my belt has taught me that all along God has been strategically building my family. Allowing me to find the courage to say yes, make room and then send me exactly who I needed.

It is so easy to look at those moments with the perspective of loss but in all reality they are pivotal moments that place us on the path we need to be on. Each call I get I carefully ponder and pray over. I check the facts and imagine the needs of the child. I assess our strengths as a family and pair it with the age, gender and behaviors of the child. I make my decision in a matter of minutes listening to my gut.

Once it seems like a fit, we get to work pulling out beds, rearranging furniture, making space we prepare for the unknown. I have learned to look at the things of life that don’t go my way as opportunity. A chance to see what God will do and how He will work. A lesson for me on how to be flexible and the honor of seeing something greater unfold.

Creating space has become a favorite daily practice, I am watching to see where I can create more spaces. Whether it is physical space in a room and around our table, or emotional space for one more story heard and heart connected. It is a practice that keeps me looking for opportunity, aware of the world around me.

So in this season of Thanksgiving, I look at the faces of the seven who call me Mama. The little souls I am so thankful I made space for, on days when I was tired, sad or just overwhelmed. The ones who stories connected with my heart, the ones we made space for. We will continue to be a family that sees others and makes room.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Ache of Trauma

One of the hardest thing as a parent is the reality that my children will make the wrong choice at some point in their life, my heart is heavy watching them walk that season of heartache. The brutal reality that our kids need to make their own mistakes, process their own brokenness and walk through the consequences is harsh. Choices made from the traumatized places of their little souls are even harder.

My Mama Heart breaks in those moments, when their trauma causes them to respond or initiate something, far beyond their years in knowledge or out of character. The process of healing souls and rewiring pathways will take years and layers.

Those trauma leaks are heavy, on one hand you look at your child and think, “you are ---years old you should not know that or that should not be your coping mechanism.” Trauma is triggered without warning, your child spirals to a place of brokenness, claiming lots of collateral damage on the way. Some days you see behaviors pop up that have been gone months and then other times it is a completely new manifestation of trauma, a new behavior you hadn’t been expecting.

As a parent you feel helpless and honestly a little sick inside. It has been in those moments that I feel the most helpless as a parent. I have learned early on in my parenting journey to whisper to myself, “hide your emotions.” Knowing that in that moment of discovery, I do not get to feel anything.

Dealing with trauma response means, my feelings are set aside, they do not get to engage in this battle. Many nights, after they are tucked away safely sleeping, I have grieved the reality of trauma in our home, seeing the ripples it has. I have to be calm and ask my child the questions, in that moment petitioning for them. Stepping into their trauma and experiences fighting for them desiring to bring them back. Sometimes the rescue mission is mere minutes while other times it is hours of processing.

Our triggers show up as anger and aggression, as shutting down and disassociating or as explosions of tears over the wrong socks. My crew is no stranger to hurt, they are processing a lifetime of hurt with little to no coping skills, that equation means it will be messy. Some days the best thing I can do for them is sit in the mess with them. Climb into those beds as they cry, embrace them as they fight and sit and wait as they pull away. I have learned that my crew have all been conditioned to be left, they have all experienced that loss in their lives.

The ache of trauma is never gone. It seems just when we almost forget our past, when we are so far removed from those traumatic days, where we think we maybe have escaped trauma’s vicious clutch, it seems to come back reminding us of its bitter roots. Each day that goes by is filled with seeds of truth and freedom seems to make those visits from trauma less and less powerful. Each day is a chance to process another layer, rewire another pathway and take another step forward in the healing process. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

House "Rules"

Our home philosophy, “come as you are” is posted over the doorway of our entryway. I often get the opportunity to collect people’s stories, hearing hearts as we talk about the heavy places in our hearts. In our home we give a lot of space for processing, it seems someone is always needing that grace.

I am often asked, “how are the kids?” We are well, we are thriving, healing and falling in love a bit more each day. We spend our days, surrounded by hugs and kisses, loud dinners and hurried transitions. Our life is messy, grace filled and we must allow us all to come as you are. If you are mad, hurt, scared, sad, joyful, peaceful, insecure you are welcome, this Mama, needs that grace and space.

Early in my 20’s I learned the beautiful art of vulnerability, what a gift that was. The practice of vulnerability radically changed my world view. I have learned that when I show up with nothing to prove, humble hearted, as I am it is met with abandoned heart sharing.

This past week two of my kiddos engaged their insecurities and decided another was a target for that brokenness. I gathered information and the facts and called my two kiddos to the table where I explained how their actions were unkind and wrong. In a moment, I spoke and the tears started flowing, in front of them I grieved how unkind they had been to their sibling.

No physical harm came on my third child but it was emotional and it was unkind. I explained to them that our home is a safe place and that day they made it unsafe. There was grace, forgiveness, and good discussion and we all learned a lesson that day. I realized in that moment of emotion just how passionate I am about our space.

I want my Crew of Kindness Warriors to learn to see the world through a lens that is kind, compassionate, gracious and loving. I pray that I would lead them by example, that I would show them that love is the most powerful thing in the world, that pride is the enemy.

Reminding us that everyone has a story that has changed them. My kiddos have had some rough stuff happen to them all and sometimes that makes them behave in some unattractive ways. This past week one of my kiddos was processing and it was messy. Earlier in the week that same kiddo had shared a moment of trauma they remembered and suddenly in that moment I had more insight into the mess before me, I heard their story. I have felt the stares and glares as sometimes our processing sessions are public, where the collateral damage is great. Our home is safe but the world isn’t always.

Our home is the fortress we come to regroup, we have meals where someone is under the table weeping, bedtimes that blow up into a screaming circus act, cruel words and actions towards pets and others. We check out, disassociate and shut down when our memories triggered echo nightmares. We don’t always know what to say or how to explain how we feel.

Come as you are.

We have a few house “rules” that help us keep this place safe.

Come as You Are
You are welcome, you may enter the space with how you feel but you may not be cruel or hurtful to those around you. You don’t have to laugh, smile or talk but you do have to keep our space safe and your limbs to yourself.

Lead with Grace
There are a lot of hurting people walking around out there, stories unshared and hearts aching. Assume good in people, when they are mean think to yourself what their story may be.

See People
Each person is an individual, we shouldn’t lump, group, pair or place people in categories where we think they fit. Our unique story as a family is teaching us that good things come in unexpected ways and places.

Be Kind
Such a simple but easily forgotten practice. One act of kindness can radically change someone’s day. I love taking my crew out in public cause my babies love the world well, smiling, talking with the sales clerk and them cute babies make just about anyone smile. We are a force and we don’t go unnoticed when we enter that space. We strive to leave it better than we found it. We don’t say hurtful things to each other or ourselves, if we do we have to speak 3 kind words over ourselves/others who were the subject of hurtful arrows, we take the weight of words very seriously.

Be Brave
We are feelers, we talk about them at the dinner table, bedtime snuggles and in the car. We talk about the world around us and the choices we all can make. We talk about our dreams and who we want to be. Beginning each day with power poses and goals. We press in, we shoot for, we dream big!

Our table has a space for you, the chair is open and the spot is set for you. There is no need to clean up, shut up or smile up, just come. We will sit together and process, unpack the suitcase of experiences you brought.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Mothering One...

These past five days I had the honor of getting one on one time with Baby Boy. It was the first time in his 10 months, I had just him. We snuggled, stayed up late, soaking it all in. I found myself at a bit of a loss. I realized that in the 3 ½ years of motherhood I had never had the chance to be the parent of one. I started with the crew of 3 and over the years had Little One off and on being Mama to 4 and one year ago I had just 3 kiddos, oh my how things have changed.

Baby Boy was the recipient of all my focus, energy, hugs and kisses and jokes. I had some much extra love in my heart, I think I nearly drowned him with all the love I poured on him. That kind of sums how I view life, my philosophy is more rooms, more room. We always have a bed, a seat and room for you to come as you are.

What a difference this past year has made. Baby Boy joined us just weeks before Christmas 2016, February brought Little One (each weekend), April Little Man joined us and this past July our Little Cub. How different my days are, how different our home is and how different this Mama is.

Building my family through foster care is a unique experience. You receive a call, within hour(s) you are the parent of one or more children. These children are strangers and you begin your journey of knowing them. Overtime you learn their fears, quirks and who they are. You begin falling in love with these little strangers, not knowing if you have months, years or forever with them.

I look at my current tribe and wonder what will next year bring? We know that Baby Boy will be forever ours, as we await a final date and the details of adoption. However what about the other three, I am often asked “will they be yours?” The hard reality of fostering is we don’t get to choose. More often than not I have come across families whose hearts are broken when they don’t get to keep those Littles they desperately love.

Being a foster parent is risky and painful. There is very little security in this world when it comes to love. Being a foster parent means you don’t get the 9 months of pregnancy to prepare, there is no maternity leave and you don’t get to soak in those first moments post birth. We often miss the first moments or years of our children’s lives. We get all of the hurt, fears and aches, we grieve with them, fight for them and let them go, when we don’t want to. We say goodbye more often than we want. We perfect the hello to strangers, opening our home to those hurting Littles.

This love is risky, this love has broken me, this love has changed me. My tribe of 7 is my daily reminder that the risk is worth it. The price tag is high but loving them well means my heart never finds that place of complete peace, no parent ever finds that place.

Being a foster parent is hard, the hardest thing I have ever done in fact. Being a foster parent is messy. Being a foster parent is chaotic. It is also, the most life giving, joy inducing, soul satisfying thing I have ever done. It is in the brokenness of it all I have found contentment, I have found joy, I have found grace and compassion, I have found more love when I thought there was none left to give.