Category Archives: struggles

Hard wait

I sorted clothes today at one of our local foster care closets. I helped a teen boy, 15-years-old, pick out some jeans and shirts. I had him laughing because I was teasing him that his favorite color must be gray. I offered him a sweater and told him he’d look like Mr. Rogers. Once I had made him smile, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to say, “Hey, I get that life really sucks today. But hang in there.” But I didn’t.

Driving home from volunteering there today I was overwhelmed with some really big feelings. Monday of this week, we got 3 calls for teens in less than an 8 hour time span. Tuesday and Wednesday of this week a teen that is very close to our family was texting me, sharing that she’s having a bad week. Then Thursday (today), I meet this young man at the closet.

He wasn’t in school today because he just came into care with his siblings.

So, yeah. Big feelings.

My own teenage son and his siblings aren’t in school today either. They’re not even doing schoolwork here because they are on a trip with their grandparents. Getting to swim, ride bikes, play laser tag. They are eating junk food and watching too many movies. They’re making memories and getting loved on.

They aren’t standing awkwardly with adults asking them what size they wear and handing them used clothing and shoes and a coat that’s a little too big. They aren’t wondering what tomorrow will hold. When they will see or talk to their parents? What will school be like now?

This is painful. This wait. I know now isn’t the time for us to take in teens from foster care.

And I know, logically, that because our family is big and that often times sibling groups come into care together, that getting a call for a single child isn’t going to happen as often. I get it.

But, friends, this is a hard wait. Knowing, meeting, seeing all the children that need care and feeling like we can’t just say, “yes, bring them here.” It’s heart-wrenching.

So I am continuing to lean on truth. And help where I can.

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When a parent quits

Having Pipsqueak in our home, our firstborn turning 13 recently and an ongoing family drama has made this a difficult and reflective season for me. I look at her tiny little face, her big blue eyes and sweet smile and repeatedly think, how? How does a parent just quit? I laugh with my son, his sense of humor becoming more mature – his take on life more adult-like than child-like and I am baffled again. How can any parent quit? At any age?

But parents do quit. They quit all the time.

Sometimes they really don’t have a choice. Their addiction overtakes them and they put that before the well being of any other person around them including their own children and families. Sometimes they become ill and lose their fight and leave their children through death.

But most of the time, they do choose. A woman who chooses abortion over adoption is a parent who quit. Who said, “You are not worth my effort.”

A father who walks out on his family and doesn’t fight for time with his children is quitting. He put his needs, wants and desires above that of his children and family.

Many kids who are in foster care have parents that are working hard to get them back, but there are some who’s parents do quit. They quit trying to go to the meetings, the visits, the court dates. They do not show up when things are hard and ugly.

So how do parents live with themselves? How can they just quit on their kids? And what affect does this have? Do kids really care? Do they know? We naively think that a baby won’t “know” if she’s been without her birth mother. That she won’t remember or realize.

We think older kids and teens will be fine if dad walks out. They’re almost grown, right?

Wrong. When Pipsqueak gets a little older, when she’s 10 or 12, she’s going to know. She’s going to feel that loss, she’s going to know there are unanswered questions and missing pieces of her puzzle. When that teenager is consumed with doubt and trust issues, he or she will realize, this is because dad walked out.

Even as an adult, the pain that hits you when your parent quits is a different kind of pain. It’s a rejection of who you are as a person, of your worth, your place in the world as “child”.

Last fall, my own dad decided that politics were more important than a relationship with me or my children. He decided that his right to be right was more important than love, commitment and family. It has been a hard pill to swallow.

In some of my darkest moments, God has spoken to me and He reminded me that one of the greatest times of pain and suffering for His own son came when Jesus was crying out in pain on the cross. That moment in time when he was separated from God and felt the rejection of his Father.

I do believe there is a deep cavern in all of us that can only be touched and filled by God’s spirit and love. It’s the first need.  We are made to be in harmony with our creator. Our spirits don’t rest until we find that with Him.

The second need is to be connected. We literally grow into humans inside of another human. That basic need of attachment does not leave us.

 

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
                                                                                                                  -Matthew 27:46

 

 

 

Pipsqueak arrives

We were on our way home from our family vacation when we received the call that a baby girl needed a home. We said yes. This is our first foster care placement and we’ve learned A LOT. Mostly the “newborn” thing is old hat for our family, this is our 6th time going through that (7th if you count the brief month with our newborn cousin last year). Chris and I become a little like drowning strangers, we are sleep deprived and on edge. I pray more in the first few months of my babies lives than I ever do because I constantly feel overjoyed and stressed to the max. I can’t share her story but I brought her home from the hospital and she’s been here since she was 12 days old. The kids fell in love with her immediately. September 2016 we went from a family of 7 to a family of 8 in the span of one phone call.

Fatty, Fatty 2 by 4

*This post is a follow up to my Social Media Fast post, if you’d like to start there.

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I decided to move on to another area of my life that has been weighing me down (literally). My eating and my exercise habits (or lack thereof). I have approached these changes with a totally different attitude than I ever have. I am only drinking water and black coffee, no more sodas or tea, creamer or Frappuccinos (evil Starbucks). I was consuming a lot of sugar and crap through what I was drinking and I wanted to see if the same amount of self-discipline that allowed me to quit social media would also be there while I quit eating desserts, eating after 6:30pm and drinking sugar.

As with the social media fast, I quickly realized that this was going to be more of a psychological battle. The first challenge? Becoming obsessed with a number on the scale. So many experts out there will tell you not to worry about what the scale says. I don’t have a specific number in mind, but I do have a range I’d like to be in. And I have to make that my goal because I can’t see my own body for what it is.

When I look at myself it is all subjective. My number on the scale may be 50 pound less than the person next to me, but I still see and feel that I am too big. I know everyone may not have this problem, but I’d venture to say the majority of American women do. We are not usually pleased with our bodies, no matter what we say or project. There is a certain amount of my “give a damn” that broke when I turned 40. But I am human. I’d rather not be buying bigger sizes of clothes. I’d rather be comfortable in a swimsuit. I’d rather not look 6 months pregnant when my youngest child is about to turn 5.

So my motivation initially to make diet/exercise changes was to lose weight. But just like with the social media fast, I quickly realized with every day that passed that I was sleeping better, having fewer headaches and fewer mood swings. It’s funny how much and how long we justify our bad habits. I have had so many sweet friends over the years try to give me advice on how to better care for myself physically. Drink more water. Walk or run. Cut out most sugar. Don’t eat late. Eat more veggies. Don’t eat out.

And I appreciate every moment they took to try and help me. Unfortunately, what comes easier to some, comes very painfully to others. I DETEST exercise. I didn’t say that so plainly for many years, but it’s the truth. I didn’t play sports as a kid, the opportunities weren’t afforded me to even try. By college, my roommate was a runner and exercise science major. At that point I was about 120 pounds and thought exercise was a) BORING b) quite uncomfortable (with all that sweating) c) pointless. Then my mid-20’s hit and along with it came 5 babies in a less than 8 year span. And I grew all those babies. Like I gained all the weight and have all the stretch marks (making me regret the belly button ring I had in college).

Along with the eating changes, I do want to start walking. The three oldest kids will be running cross country this semester. I’m hoping to walk while they are practicing three times a week, IF Parker and Jonah will cooperate and walk with me.

Here’s to hoping I can continue to establish good habits, feel healthier and lose a few pounds. Without having to eat a skinny person.

Wishes and Obstacles

I turned 40 years old in April.

I am probably about halfway there, if I live until I’m 80.

A little backstory to my wish. When I was 8 years old my cousin, who was 6 years old, spent time with us pretty often. Things were rough at her house. My aunt had made another bad man choice and I’d say odds are pretty good that my little cousin was being abused. She was definitely being neglected. I grew up on the good side of town. But my cousin, she was on the poor side of town. The times I went to her side of town and stayed are burned in my memory. The games we played in the trailer park where we dug for treasures in the dumpster. The times we stayed outside as long as possible to stay away from her “step-dad” and all the smoking and drinking. Her mom and step-dad fought a lot. They screamed and threw things. Then as we got a little older, they had a baby. He was left next door with his grandmother for hours or days. They preferred the baby boy so my little cousin was treated even worse into her preteen years.

As I got older, my middle school, middle class attitude caused me to draw a line in the sand between myself and my cousin. She was over there with THEM. I was over here, where things were clean, quiet and comfortable.

When I left college to work in a group home filled with girls in state’s custody, I encountered more girls like my cousin. More children who had grown up not just in poverty, but were growing up with abuse, neglect and hopelessness. For every teenage girl that came through and stayed at the group home, there were a many younger siblings they had left behind. They were old enough to run away, or get in trouble so that they were removed from the home but their younger siblings were still there. Or had been scattered among foster homes.

At 23 years old, I knew that I would be a foster parent. What I really thought was that I would open my own group home. Then the state decided every child should be in a home, not an institution, so true long-term group homes have been all but eliminated. The vision, the dream, the desire I had then looked like this: A safe, stable, clean place that any child could find refuge in for as long as they needed it. This vision included meals together, chores and outings, hugs and encouragement, protection and spiritual guidance.

My belief system is anchored in the belief that God has a plan. He knew my childhood, He knew my early working years, He knows my marriage and family now. He is in control.

What I also believe is that I have to move forward with my wish. So that He can show me how the obstacles can be removed. I cannot stop moving forward because of what other people may think, because of discomfort or inconvenience. I will not stop moving forward. If God wanted me to have a different dream, He would have given me one.

My inspiration for this post came from this TED talk.

in-between

Doesn’t it feel good to purge the stuff in your life? I’ve always gotten a thrill out of cleaning out and getting boxes and bags of stuff ready to donate.

Yesterday Chris and I spent a couple of hours going through our closet. He needed to get rid of things that didn’t fit anymore (because he’s lost so much weight) and things that he had been wearing for the past 10 years.

I needed to get rid of the things that didn’t fit anymore (not because I’ve lost weight) and things I wore mostly when I was nursing a baby or were given to me and just aren’t my style.

This part of the process wasn’t very painful.  It was a little depressing realizing I couldn’t keep a skirt or two because I couldn’t get them zipped up around my muffin top but all in all not such a bad experience.

It was the shopping later in the day that was horrid.

I have realized that I am in some strange “in-between” stage of life.

I went to the Juniors section, loving all the cute tops and dresses there. I picked up a dress. I got a large, after all, I’m no junior and knew I should be realistic.

Then I traveled around the endless path of women’s fashion and came to a skirt I really liked. It was in the Women’s section so I got a medium, I found a dress and picked up a large.

At this point, I was getting a little stressed. I could tell I was headed down a bad road because everything I saw seemed like it was something an old lady would wear.

I couldn’t exactly go back to the Junior’s section and try to pull off $90 skinny jeans that had been pre-ripped, faded and torn, either.

I finally had enough to warrant the dreaded trip to the dressing room.

My sweet husband had been following me the whole time, holding a sports bra and nightgown and handful of undies. He finally got a cart so he could troll behind me with my purse and list.

From time to time he had to dodge over-perfumed, white haired women who were on a mission to make the most of this one-day sale.

I went into the dressing room, promising Chris I would show him my selections once I got them on, knowing the poor man didn’t realize what he was asking.

I put on the junior dress, size large and was immediately sickened by the sight of a middle aged mom of 5 trying to look like she was 17. Yikes, it was ugly.

But I kept my word and slinked to the hall of the dressing room where Chris was standing right outside the door. I’m not sure what he said, my self deprecating thoughts drowning it all out.

I returned to the dressing room and had a brief moment of panic as I realized I might not be able to get this stupid dress off without ripping off the sleeves.

This continued with the women’s large which was too big and the dress that showed my 5 kids in 7 years belly.

I was in tears as I came out of the dressing room. I took the hug and encouragement offered by Chris. I tried not to lash out at him and just said “I need to get out of this place.”

And we did, we left the evil world of women’s clothing where a 37 year old gets stuck in the in-between of not young enough, not old enough, not thin enough and not fashionable enough.

We left and went back into our world, where my husband thinks I’m beautiful and my kids adore my squishiness and God reminds me that I am His no matter what I’m wearing.

you can’t go home again…

The kids and I made a trip to my hometown today to visit with my Mamaw and my Aunt Diane. 

I grew up there from the time I was in 2nd grade until I graduated from high school.  It’s officially my hometown.  I have heard many people over the years talking of their hometowns, the ones they spent their childhoods in, the ones they love to visit, to reflect and share memories. 

We live in my husband’s hometown.  He’s been telling me stories of his growing up years since we were dating.  We’ll be driving down the road with the kids and he’ll start telling them how he remembers wrecking his bike on that steep hill or be able to point out an old friend’s house. 

I didn’t leave my hometown on good terms.  I had a stormy, dramatic senior year that ended in loss of friendships that had grown since we were 8 years old.  Familiar faces, homes and families became distant and silent before I packed the first box to move away to college. I think that is one reason I decided to just shut it out. If someone asked me where I was from my outward reaction was evasive and brief, but my inward reaction was a curling of my lip and a cringing of my soul.  I had been wounded deeply by that town.

It turns out, though, that no matter what town you are in, there is going to be hurt and disappointment along with joy and success. 

I decided today that I wanted to show my kids where I grew up. My house and neighborhood, the state park where I played and swam and hiked.

Seeing it through their eyes, hearing their excitement and questions, was a healing for my heart.  As I drove around the neighborhood, past the seven tall oak trees and the neighborhood pool, I said to them “I was a very blessed little girl. I got to explore these woods, swim in that pool, ride my bike to my friends’ houses.  I had the best neighborhood”.

For the first time, in a very long time, it really did feel like my hometown.

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