Saturday, August 11, 2012

Headaches, stress, pride, and living grace

I had dinner last weekend with some good friends. In the midst of my telling the wife how terribly I am doing with diet, exercise, and self-discipline, she told me I needed to give myself some grace. Her words were something like, "You are a single mom with two kids under five and a full-time job. If you met someone doing that, you would be full of grace for them, why not for yourself?" I scoffed at that at the time, just knowing I could do better than I was doing. My house could be clean. I could workout a few times a week. I could eat better & drink less caffeine. I could. I should.

And, for a few days, I had myself fooled. Today, I can acknowledge how foolish it is to not have grace for myself. But first, a caveat. I am, by nature, ridiculously lazy. I enjoy sleeping. And eating ice cream. And bad TV. And talking to my friends. And word games. And reading. I love to read. Sigh....

I am sitting here, head pounding, shoulders hunched over with stress. This post was written on a Saturday. The one day of the week I do not have a schedule in the morning. We like to visit the farmer's market, but we're not required to be there at a particular time. Saturdays are also the only day I can have both of my morning cups of coffee at home. No slugging it down in the car on the way to somewhere else. What happened this Saturday morning? The same thing that happens the other six mornings of my week. Baby Batman coos happily from his crib around 6. And 4-year old Chickadee bounces into my room around the same time and says, "Mama, is it wake-up time?" That question is repeated, at different tempos & volumes, until I grumble something from under the pillow that sounds something like, "FINE. It can be wake-up time." But this morning, something happened. I'm not sure if it's the baby's ear infection, my headache, or the 4 year-old's desire for cereal before 6:15, but our morning was rough. So rough, in fact, that coffee was all I had until noon. (And we love our breakfast around here.) By the time lunch was ready, I'd already apologized twice for being so grouchy, and probably needed to double that number. When lunch was over, I was nearly in tears because I wanted a nap. Sure, the kids needed naps, but I think I was the only one who actively wanted one. Instead, I had to get this out first.

Single parents (including me), it is okay if you're not perfect. It is okay if your house is not sparkling clean. It is expected that you'll be a little tense some days. Don't feel guilty that you don't have time to juggle all the relationships you used to juggle. Ask for help when you need it. People who love you & your kids will help if they can.

Friends of single parents (including you, whether you're married or not), offer to help. Show up one evening just to drop off a rotisserie chicken (even if it's not for dinner that night, it will be eventually). Offer to take the kids somewhere on weekends, even for a couple of hours. Volunteer to babysit one night a month (or once a week, even) at the kids' house, so if mom/dad is out, they won't have to rush home for bedtime. Offer to mow the grass (or just do it one day your friends aren't home, in case your friends are prideful & refuse help). And, and, and. If you think it would minister to you, try it out with a single parent.

Those things would minister to me so much (and probably other single parents, too), that I feel less hunched over, just imagining that ONE of them could happen. I'm not saying everyone can do these things, or that married parents don't also need help somedays, but I want to say, loud and clear, I know I need help. I need God's grace, absolutely, but also the grace of my friends & family & neighbors so that my family can see God's grace in you, His hands & feet, right here. I can't speak for others, but I would love to be surprised by that grace.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I Am Third.

"My first choice would be to go live with my mom. My second choice would be to live somewhere with my younger siblings. My third choice would be to stay with you." Truer words could not have come from my 12 year old's mouth. As much as she enjoys living with me, I am definitely third. She told me this, in no uncertain terms, about 2 months ago, and at that point, I was comfortable being third. Third place Olympians still get a spot on the stand and a medal, right? I thought I was pretty comfortable being third. Not the top of the heap, but not last, either.

Fast forward to now. There are plans, actively in the works, to have this precious 12 year old move to another state to live with her grandparents and her siblings. In my head, I am sure this is the absolute BEST thing for her, and her family. But, my heart is breaking a little bit. I had been able to convince myself that this was a mere 90% possibility, but after the past week, I know the wheels are turning to have her moved. "My" precious Big Girl is going somewhere else. I won't be able to hear her laugh. She won't ask for pizza & ice cream every night for dinner. She won't ask to stay up "just 30 more minutes" or play a game on the computer. We won't read together any more. We won't laugh ourselves silly, or cry when we forgive each other for hurts. She won't snuggle up against me at night to pray, or ask me to scratch her back when she lays down. My heart aches, and we have about 10 days left together. I'm sitting here tonight, with the littles sleeping & big girl out with friends, wondering what to do. How do we transition? How do I know she'll be okay?

I don't know. I pray. I have a glass of wine. I wonder about what it will be like when I am not first for the little ones either. I pray some more. I trust God to heal my shattered heart, and to mend their broken ones. I pray for the right words. I pray to only cry a little bit more. I hope the right words come when I tell the 3 year old where her "sister" is going. I hope she doesn't think brothers & sisters aren't forever. I remember that I signed up for this hurt, so that she would hurt less. I grieve.

But not yet. I hope I'm strong enough to love her well in her remaining days. I don't want to withdraw to avoid getting hurt. I want to send her to her family with the happiest of memories, not feeling like she escaped just in time. I want there to be that bittersweet mix of joy & sadness when she leaves, not just relief. But, like my 12 year old, what I REALLY want is home. I want to be in heaven, where there aren't hurts, or foster care, or orphans, or sadness; only joyous praise.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hard. Good. Truth.

I have been thinking about writing for a long time, but I have struggled to put my thoughts into words. Every once in a while (usually while driving or taking a shower) I will think of a really eloquent way to say a part of what's on my heart, but the busy-ness of life with three kids & 1 mom takes over and whatever that thought was escapes.

But, I am here now, so I am going to try to put some words down, to flex my writer's muscle once again. H, my 12 year old, is roller skating with a friend. Roller skating! I wasn't even sure kids did that any more. I am thankful for the family who invited her along. I had no idea a 12 year old would be so HARD. I mean, I was a terror at 12, but I thought I was the exception. Apparently not. H is not a terror, she's just hard. **EDIT I don't think she's particularly hard, I think any 12 year old, with hormones blossoming, and peer pressure, and moodiness, would be hard. I guess I just thought I'd be better at being her parent. The mom who took her roller skating texted me a bit ago with this: "She is a good kid. Very polite. You're doing a great job. Don't know if you hear it enough. Thank God for people like you." **I try to remember, often several times a day, that her being hard is not her fault. She has lived with me just under 4 months, and that is not nearly enough time to re-do the, shall we say, lackadaisical supervision she had with her biological family. I see so much of myself in H. When I was her age, I made up lies to my mom, just to see if I could get away with it. I think H makes up lies because they're less painful than the truth. I really don't even think I know all of her truth yet. Although I refer to her as my Big Girl, I think on the inside she is more like a scared six year old. She looks around at me, at the little ones in the house, and although she says she wants us to be her family, I think she really misses her mom & her siblings. Who wouldn't? Just today, when we were talking about school and consequences she said, "Why do you have to take things away from me? Haven't I lost everything already? I already don't get to see my mom and my sister." I tried not to react defensively, but instead to hear her pleading--why me? Heartbreaking. With her, and soon with the others, I know there are NO GOOD ANSWERS. I can tell her I am sad with her. I can console her & pray with her. But I can't tell her she hasn't had much taken away. How do I help her cope with being broken-hearted? I don't know.

With L, my Little Miss, days are getting better--mostly. With me, and with her baby brother, she is usually super-sweet. Don't get me wrong, she is still 3, but she's sweet. She is smart & funny. Just tonight, at dinner, she got to laughing so hard (at absolutely nothing) that she started spitting water & drenched the front of her shirt. But, with the Big Girl, my Little Miss is mean. She uses what we call mean words. They are not usually terrible or untrue things, but the tone of voice she uses is reserved exclusively for H. I used to ignore it & think, "Well, she's 12, she's not affected by a 3 year old's words." Wrong again, mama. When she told me that she thinks I love L and not her, it shattered my heart. I had to start paying attention! So now, at least 4 times a day, I sit with L and have her try again. How did you say that? Say that again. Ask for forgiveness. Hug. Move on. It is time-consuming, but worth it. Recently, at the park, L was playing & singing a song. I listened to it & cracked up. "What do you say? Sor-ry. When do you say it? Now." (Imagine it as a protester's chant. There. You've got it.) My words, her song. This is my life.

G, my Little Man, is awesome. He eats well. Sleeps like a dream--still. At nearly 4 months old, he's sleeping 11-12 hours a night & growing like a weed. When I see him trying so hard to roll over or hold his head up, and when he cracks up at his sisters' kisses & tickles (they say, "Mama/Amy, did you hear him giggle?") I cannot imagine a life without him. He is red-headed, still, with big blue eyes and a smile that almost never leaves his face. He especially loves H (most babies are just drawn to her), and his whole face smiles when he sees her. Someone commented the other day that he looks like a rooster w/his little red mohawk. I'm alright with that! He has lots of nicknames--GG, Bear, Brother Bear. With every one, I hear love.

Here is the dilemma most foster parents face, and I face it every day: They are not mine. I am not promised to be their mom. My job, my calling, is to be the best mom to them that I can for today, however many todays that may be. We are progressing toward adoption with L, and I am optimistic that will be completed. The other two loves are still question marks. What will happen? How long? Will they remember me? Will they remember how much God loves them? What's next? And more & more questions. More than I can bear some days. Then I remember that even in answered questions, there is heartache. The only reason they are with me is because they have experienced trauma. Piled on top of that trauma was losing the only families they've ever known. Even if none of them ever goes back with their biological families, there are still hurts to come. More hurts as they understand more about their history. Grief. Pain. Loss. Separation. Not knowing. Why?

Fortunately, God, my adopted daddy, bears me up. He promises he loves me, and them--more than I do or can even imagine. I am thankful for that. I pray I can somehow shine a little light into their lives--enough for them to see that God is SO good, even in their heartache & sadness. I pray-every day-that God would save them, save their birth families, heal their heartache, show them truth. I don't know how those prayers will be answered, but I trust in the God of truth to have it be for our good & His glory. That is a truth I am sure of & never question.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

One year

One year ago today, my life was changed completely.

One year ago today, a precious, beautiful girl walked into my life, and yesterday I learned that I'll be able to adopt her. We are forever family. Forever.

Yesterday my Little Miss got a baby brother. We're praying fervently for him to come home so we can share and celebrate our life with him.

I am so thankful it is Advent, and we have been talking about waiting. Waiting for a Savior. Waiting for God to fulfill his promises. It has been good training for my heart as I wait for Little Man to come home. I haven't even met him and I miss him already.

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Open Letter

I wrote this heartfelt letter to the judge who was supposed to hear our case yesterday. I had several drafts. I really wanted to summarize how Little Miss has grown & changed over the almost year she's been with me. I wanted him to see how we've become family. Here is (most) of that letter:

Dear Judge,
I am writing, hoping you'll see fit to allow me to start adoption proceedings for Little Miss, who has been my foster daughter since December 2010.

When Little Miss came to live with me, she was very polite, but seemed hollow somehow. Although she knew the names of every television character, she would not look me, or anyone, in the eyes. She was very scared. She didn't like going to bed, brushing her teeth, or taking a bath. She was particularly frightened of men, and would cling to me when there were men in her presence. Little Miss's speech was understandable, but her vocabulary was limited, and she usually only used two-word phrases like "Help, please" or "Mama, up."

In the eleven months Little Miss has been with me, she has blossomed in many, many ways. Just last week, she asked me to read a book to her, with a 7-word sentence. Seven beautiful, clear, precious words! What a joy!

Little Miss has grown in more ways than just her speech. She identifies many letters, colors, and shapes. She has memorized several books and loves to "read" them to me when she pretends to be the mama.

Instead of living in an inward, hollow way, she now lights up every room she enters. She is silly and funny. She loves to dance and sing. Little Miss notices when friends at day care or church are sad or scared, and stands by, ready to hug or help.

I am one of 13 children, and Little Miss and I have had several opportunities to interact with my family. On a trip to Colorado in June, Little Miss got to fly in an airplane, ride on a bus, and take a train up to Pike's Peak with an assortment of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Amazingly, Little Miss retained most of their names from June to October, when we visited family in Missouri. When I tell you Little Miss is my family, I mean it in every way. If I am allowed to adopt her, she will also be adopted by dozens and dozens of extended family. In our minds and our hearts, Little Miss is already a Drake.

I love Little Miss. I love that she now is safe and secure. I love that she is learning about decisions and consequences. I love that Little Miss is learning about faith and community.

Our last eleven months have not always been easy--life rarely is. We have both shed tears. Through those tears, though, I see one thing clearly, Little Miss and I ARE a family.

I sit here today, trying to recover from not even having the opportunity to hand my letter to the judge. Our broken system requires another delay. Another month. I had counted on all the people involved in this case to have done everything they were supposed to do SO much, that when it hadn't happened, I just fell apart.

And my idol is exposed. I want to be her forever mom SO much, that I have discarded my true God, and replaced Him with this idol. Devastation. Despair. Wanting to be her forever mom is not a bad thing, but it is not an ultimate thing. The devastation and despair I've allowed into my life show what happens when we place our hope on the wrong things.

Oh, Lord, help me. Help me to remember that you are refining me in this fire. Help me to lift my eyes to YOU, the One who can satisfy. You are the one who knows what needs to be done here. And as much as I love Little Miss, YOU love her more. And you love me too much to let me wallow in this despair.

I lift my eyes to you. More than ever, now I need to see You, Your character. Your care, Your compassion. Let me not waste the days wondering WHY, instead remind me to rest in You. You are always good--both to me and for me. Even now.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Come as You Are

If we're coming as we are to our relationships, are we accepted? Are we acceptable? I'm not sure. I think I will be. Want to know the good news? No matter HOW we come to God, in sweats or formal wear, He sees us for who we really are...sinners in need of saving. So, take off the tuxedos and ballgowns (unless you're going to a formal event--then it's okay) and BE who you are. Know that God loves you (and me, and that guy over there) no matter what we are on the outside as long as we know WHOSE we are!

I know that's the kind of way I usually end my writing, so let me take a few steps back.

I was thinking today about an old Daisy Duck cartoon. In it, she is playing dress up, and one of her friends calls her and invites her to a "come as you are" party. She goes as she is, and her friends make her feel terrible for being so dressed up. She is ostracized for coming as she was. (I honestly went to youtube to try to find a clip to link for you, but I was unsuccessful.) Please don't overthink WHY this cartoon was in my head--I don't think I can afford the therapy for that! But, it did get me thinking about how we present ourselves to the world. Let me go back a step.

Our Sunday and Monday were pretty tough. Little Miss started our Sunday bedtime routine by dunking clean panties into the toilet and flinging the (blessedly) clean water all over our bathroom. She ended the bedtime routine by NOT EVER GOING TO BED. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but she was up about 6 times that night, once for 2 hours straight. It was like a horrible game of tag. She'd come to my bed, I'd put her back in her bed, certain she was asleep, then go to bed. Mere minutes later she was back in my bed. I even tried sleeping in the spare bed in her room to offer her some comfort, but then she was just trying to climb into that bed. I was exhausted. We somehow survived the day, only to have the bedtime game of tag start again. My exhaustion lost me the game, and at 330, I woke to her sweet voice saying, "Mama. Mama." I looked, and she was covered in what I thought was blood! Heavens, the panic! I got her out into the hallway, in the light, to see that, instead, she was covered in a mysterious black substance. When I asked her what it was, she told me it was marker. Now, being the mom, I know where the markers are kept, and I was fairly sure it WASN'T marker. I told her to show me which marker. She proceeded into the bathroom, opened a drawer, then opened....mascara. My almost-3-year old's face was covered in mascara. I switched from terror to anger in no time. I managed to get her cleaned up AND find the baby gate in the garage in under 10 minutes.

Needless to say, I couldn't take it any more. I needed a way to help her sleep better. I set up the gate, gave her very clear instructions "Do Not Touch The Gate" because all adults know that stinkin' thing won't hold up if she wants to get out of her room! And, God Bless Us Every One, she has slept through the night every night since then. This morning, with a bit of cloud cover, my angel slept until 7am! She read in bed until 8. I am a much happier mama with some sleep on board. Much. Happier.

I promise there is a connection between this and Daisy Duck. I really do. Apparently, I've held onto this idea for a while, and here it is: It's that parents (Christians, families, neighbors...pick your favorite) just get it right every time. Instead, we do our best to play dress up when others are around and lay around in our sweats the rest of the time. I do TRY to be a good mama. I really do. So, when you ask me, "How are things going with Little Miss?" I'll tell you we're doing well. I'll tell you about how she bumped her chin and what a fun kid she is, but I'll leave off the parts where I lose my patience, or where time out lasts a few minutes longer than it should, or where I just couldn't give her a bath last night because we were too darn tired.

I will try, going forward, to not play dress up with you. I will let you know the good with the bad. Some weeks (okay, maybe not weeks--but days? or hours?) we may really be doing well. My prayers of having strength and skills equal to my tasks are being answered, so I expect some times I'll feel like Daisy Duck with the phone ringing. Some days, though, I'll tell you, "This is hard. Harder than I've ever imagined it would be. I'm exhausted and impatient. I'm short-tempered and not very nice." And then, as now, I'll ask you to pray for Little Miss and me, as we figure out how to be mama and daughter.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Recent Ramblings

I am feeling sort of numb, as if this week hasn't really happened. I am tired. Little girl is tired.

Big girl went home. Suddenly. On Tuesday. Everyone involved with the case seemed shocked that the judge decided she could go home. But he did, so off she went. I cried, and slept, and cried some more. And since about midday on Wednesday I have just felt numb, almost as if it's just too much effort to cry anymore.

Fortunately, God is still good. That doesn't necessarily make this time any easier, but truth is truth. From Psalm 38:9-11: "Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart throbs, my strength fails me; And the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me. My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague; And my kinsmen stand afar off." Most of my family and friends have experienced loss and grief. They have mourned. I know I'm not alone in the sadness. I just keep praying for the big girl & her mom...knowing the awful situation she came from and the abrupt "promise of change" from her mom do not make me confident that she will be safe, cared for, and loved like she deserves to be loved. I just keep asking God to pursue them, to be irresistible to them.

But then I doubt. I am such a broken vessel & a horrible teacher. Did I show her truly who God is? Did I fully show her the life-changing power of God's grace? I know I didn't. Thankfully, I am not alone. Lots of people stood in the gap of this precious girl's life to shine a small ray of His goodness and glory to her. I pray He continues His work in her life. All for our good and His glory.

Meanwhile, I'm contemplating the trip we planned to Colorado. Instead of a party of 3, it will just be the little one and me. Time with family, praise God. Time to witness and celebrate a wedding, time to introduce the precious child God has blessed me with (for however long) to the people who have shaped me most.

My caseworker visited last night and her hardest question was, "What are you doing to take care of you?" Honestly, I answered with "Nothing." I am possibly in the worst physical shape of my life. The only time I regularly see friends is at church. I just feel like I spend my life either at work or at home. As a mom, that shouldn't surprise me. How do I balance mom life with healthy life?

I am hunting for a new job. Praying about where I think God is calling me. Possibly starting a non-profit to offer support and encouragement to foster/adoptive families. Possibly starting a small foster group home with some other friends. Just praying, waiting, listening for God's voice in all of the insane plans I have--or that I want to have.

Little girl's plan is changing. Instead of currently planning for reunification, CPS's current plan is for non-relative adoption--meaning me. Though the idea of that is amazing, I am trying not to put all of my hope there because the roller coaster can be an ugly place some days. Who knows what can change at any moment? Also, little girl's mom is pregnant. Crazy thing is, if her parental rights are terminated on the little one I've got, then her parental rights will be terminated with any future children born to her. So, that means new baby could end up with me, too. It's a SUPER long shot, but how world-rocking would that be? To be 38 (almost 39) with a newborn and a 3 year old? I must officially be insane.

Writing is very cathartic for me, so I appreciate you reading through my ramblings. Most nights when I sit down w/my laptop, the warmth it sends into my body just puts me straight to sleep, so I'm glad I started this post earlier than normal.

I covet your prayers for my big girl & my little girl. I ask for prayers on how to prioritize & balance my life. Please pray for my job hunt. Please pray for peace & contentment in our roller-coastery situation.

Even though the world didn't end on May 21st, sometimes I crave that day. The day we no longer have to say, "Come, Lord Jesus, come make this world right again. Put an end to sin and suffering and death. Make all the broken things whole. Including me."