September 18, 2018

The Promise

Once upon a time, many, many Sundays ago, I walked into the sanctuary just a few minutes before the service started, and sat down next to some friends of mine.  They started joking, No, no, this will never work.  We need to sit boy-girl-boy-girl.  You know, because that’s how mature we all were in our 20’s.  After a little bit of shuffling and rearranging, I ended up sitting next to the very guy that my friend had been wanting me to meet.  

All summer and autumn, my friend had been telling me, You need to meet my fiancé’s roommate. I think you would really like him!  My answer back to her was always the same:  I don’t want you to introduce us or set us up or plan a blind date.  If God wants me to meet him, we will meet.

And unbeknownst to me, my friend’s fiancé had been telling his roommate for months and months: You need to meet my fiancée’s friend.  I think you would really like her! His roommate’s answer was always the same:  I don’t want you to introduce us or set us up or plan a blind date.  If God wants me to meet her, we will meet.

Well, there we were that Sunday in November, sitting right next to each other in church.  Apparently, God did want us to meet!

He turned to me and introduced himself, shaking my hand, and then said probably the most original “pick-up line” that has ever been spoken:  So, I hear you want to be a missionary!  Yes, as a matter of fact, I did want to be a missionary.  He had heard correctly!  

That was my heart’s desire . . . to spend my life doing something amazing for God. To tell others about Jesus.  To love and serve and give all of myself, no matter what, no matter where.  And the thought of finding someone else who had the same passion in his heart?  My friend and her fiancé were right . . . this guy and I would really like each other!

And the rest, as they say, is history.  Only seven months later, on a warm day in the middle of June, I walked down the aisle, and that guy became my husband.  We promised to love each other in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or worse, until death parted us.  We were excited to see what the future held for us.  We were excited to see where God was going to ask us to go!

June 5, 2018

When You're Drowning

The enormous waves are crashing all around, first one, then the next, getting higher by the minute.  You feel yourself sinking fast, and panic fills your pores.  The howling wind pretty much drowns out your desperate cries.   Help!  Please, please help!  Save me!!

You had started out so brave.  Your faith had once been so strong.  What happened?  How did you end up here, drowning in this violent storm?

You have been following Jesus for a while now, and sure, you have experienced your share of hardships, but getting to know Jesus personally, learning from Him and walking side by side with Him.  You wouldn’t trade that for all the fish in the sea! 

During these past few years, you have seen first-hand the amazing, miraculous things that He can do.  The broken have been healed.  Hunger has been satisfied.  Prisoners have been set free.  You know, you just know that He is who He says He is!   You vow in your heart that whatever He asks you to do, wherever He asks you to go, you will say yes.

So when He calls you to Come, to step into the unknown, to walk by faith in a way that you never have before, you are thrilled!  This is the moment you have been waiting for!  The moment when you yourself get the great privilege of seeing your life go from ordinary to extraordinary,  Of being a part of the miraculous!

May 27, 2018

What Pure Means

The kids had just finished up their lunch, and if I was smart, I would have kept to our regular schedule and settled them into their beds for an afternoon nap.  But the gorgeous weather outside was calling to me, tempting me to enjoy the sunshine on my face, even if only for a few minutes.

After quickly tying my hair into a ponytail, I unfolded the double stroller and buckled the two little ones into it, and helped the older ones fasten their bike helmets into place.  The sun and fresh air that day felt just as glorious as I had hoped it would!

We hadn’t even reached the end of the block, however, before the delightful moment ended.  The baby started crying, and when I stopped to pick him up, he vomited all over me.  Meanwhile, the ones on their bikes were getting a little bit too far ahead for comfort, and I yelled out a reminder to them to Stop at the corner! 

My fashionable neighbor arrived home at that exact moment, and I’m sorry to say that inwardly I cringed a little bit.  She climbed out of her Cheerios-free car and walked towards me, her heels click-clacking on the sidewalk, a dazzling smile on her face.  I felt instantly ugly. 

While I struggled to clean up and comfort the baby, and look frantically down the street towards the diminishing figures of my children on their bikes, she stood right next to me trying to engage in conversation.  In her hand was a leather Bible and a cute little flowered notebook. 

Apparently, she had just arrived home from a weekly ladies’ Bible study.  The one that she led.  At the church where her husband was a pastor.  Great.  Now I felt instantly ugly and inferior.  I am certain that as she was standing there looking at me, she was thinking to herself, This lady needs Jesus!

Because the children who are always with me have varying sizes, shapes, and skin tones, I am pretty much a walking advertisement for orphan care.   When I confirmed that yes, these little ones with me were indeed my foster children, she blurted, Oh, that’s wonderful that you do that!  My husband and I have talked about getting involved in foster care, but we wouldn’t want to give up our date nights.

May 19, 2018

What They Hear

Our son was about 2 years old at the time.  He was just finishing up with his bedtime snack, when a “grown up” movie started on the television.  Wanting to protect his young eyes and ears, I said, Hey Buddy, let’s go in the other room.  This is a Papa movie, and it might be a little bit scary.  His eyes got big as he looked up at me and asked, Do you mean it has spiders in it?

Spiders?!  That was the scariest thing he could imagine!  I loved the innocence of it!  And really, isn’t that what parents want to do – to preserve their children’s sweet innocence as long as they can?  To protect them from the harsh realities of life?  The world can be full of danger and disappointments and brokenness, but do they really need to know about all of that just yet?

When we welcome foster kids into our home, we are doing the exact opposite of protecting our own children’s innocence.  We are exposing them, from a very young age, and most likely before they are mature enough to process it all, to the grim facts.  To the darkest, most awful, most shocking ways that people live.  We are showing them, firsthand, how people hurt one another.  How poor choices can lead to such devastating consequences.  How families can fracture and leave broken children in their wake.

Before our children are old enough to understand the meanings, they hear ugly words like domestic violence and restraining order.  They hear about addictions and mental illness.  How can a child who has only known a loving, stable, safe home possibly understand what child abuse means?  Really?  Parents hurt their children?  On purpose?!

May 14, 2018

Don't Waste This

It is such a beautiful spring morning, but the weather is completely hidden by the dim lights inside the church.  The rows of chairs are filled with friends and family, so many well-wishers who are gathered to surround this family with support and solidarity during their time of unspeakable loss. 

When the father, a foster parent friend of mine, steps up to the microphone and describes the moment last week when he placed his baby daughter into the doctor’s arms for the last time, and then used the pen to sign her death certificate, and then realized that he would never get to hold her again, there is not one dry eye in the room.  Heartbreak beyond explanation.

He is transparent in his grief.  He speaks of sobbing in the night, crying out to God, Please don’t waste this!  Meaning, please don’t let my baby girl have died in vain.  Please use her death for a greater purpose.  Please give meaning to our devastation.

It’s not fair!  Why would such a terrible thing happen to such a nice family?  A family who has stepped into this hard calling of foster care and has committed their life to serving the most weak and vulnerable?  After all they have done and given and served and sacrificed, shouldn’t good people like them be somehow exempt from tragedies like this?  Shouldn’t God be protecting them from suffering like this?

March 21, 2018

Our Rescue

The outburst at school is completely unexpected, and catches his teacher by surprise.  In the whole time that he has been in her class, she has never seen him act this way before.  She knows a little about his story – about his rocky start in life, about his birth mother who was incapable of caring for him, about some of the trauma and uncertainty and upheaval that he has experienced during his childhood, about his multiple disruptions and moves during his journey through the foster care system.

Still, it’s been more than a year that he has been with his current foster family, a family who is loving and involved and who want the very best for him, and he seems to have settled in nicely there.  Where could all these sudden strong emotions be coming from?

A brief conversation with his foster mother clears up the mystery.  Yes, he fits in well with their family.  Yes, they love him passionately.  But they recently found out that everything will soon be changing.  His birth parents’ rights are going to be terminated in court, and he will be free for adoption.   While this is what he ultimately needs – unconditional love and permanency and stability -  this also means yet another move from his current foster family to an unknown adoptive family somewhere.  This will mean yet another painful, difficult, frightening transition.

He had been brave when they first started talking about it, asking questions and trying to imagine what the future might look like for him.  But he realizes that the permanent loss of his biological parents means that any hope he might have been holding out for reunification is now over.   That door is forever closed. 

And now the loss of his foster family too?  The loss of his friends and church and school and neighbors, everything that is familiar?  The fear and grief eventually came bubbling to the surface at the most inopportune time – in the middle of class! – and thus, the emotional outburst.  Everyone understands but, although they are sympathetic, there is nothing they can do to change this boy’s situation.

This child needs a family.   A family who will gently, patiently help him deal with his grief and loss.  A family who will love him as their own son, who will embrace his disability and provide him with opportunities to excel.  And now that he will soon be entering adolescence, he needs a family with a father who will walk alongside him as he navigates the tumultuous years into young adulthood.

For most of us, when we hear his story, there is a little stirring in our hearts, a spark of compassion for this boy.

March 13, 2018

We Do

Before the church service began, we could tell by the muted noises up front that it would be a special one.  Little ones dressed up in their best outfits, parents doing their best to shush them and keep them calm for just a few more minutes.  Little girls with pink bows in their hair. Baby boys with miniature suits. 

Several times a year, our church has a Child Dedication ceremony – an opportunity for parents to commit to raising their children in a godly, Bible-focused, Christ-centered home.  It’s a sweet, tender moment, a solemn vow that these parents are taking.  And for some of us, it’s a poignant reminder of our own children, and our own commitment not too long ago to raise them to know and love the Lord.

This brief ceremony is also for us, the Church Family.  The pastor asks us if we will commit to walking beside these moms and dads on their parenting journey.  If we will encourage them when the days get hard.  If we will mentor them and counsel them as they seek wisdom.  If we will pray for them and support them and partner with them along the way, doing everything within our power to help their children come to a personal relationship with Jesus.

Yes, we say, with enthusiastic agreement.  Yes, we commit to stand with these families and their beautiful young children in the days and years to come.  Yes, we promise to help them keep the vows that they have made today.  Yes, we do!

March 8, 2018


These hard plastic chairs in the hospital lobby were certainly not designed for comfort.  I sit here listening to a talk show host drone on the television that is mounted on the wall in the corner.  I watch the other patients coming and going and wonder idly what emergency would bring them to this place on a cold night like this.  I hold this little child on my lap, this child who is completely dependent on me to take care of his complex medical issues, and silently try to calculate how many hundreds or possibly thousands of hours I have spent just sitting.  Waiting.

Sometimes I imagine that I am a Warrior Mama, fighting for these children, protecting them, advocating for them at every opportunity.  And I am!  Quite often I am the one who speaks up for them, defending their best interests, pleading with the courts and social workers and whoever else will listen the importance of permanency.  Communicating how complex their needs, how delayed their development, how fragile their emotions.  Fiercely protecting them!

Sometimes I do need to Go.  To act and speak and do and move and fight.  But more often, if I’m honest with myself, this journey is mostly about doing exactly what I am doing at this very moment:  waiting.

February 20, 2018

Unexpected Gift

Sometimes, when you least expect it, the extraordinary happens.  You open your hands wide to receive the gift, and find that it is more amazing, more remarkable than you could ever have imagined.  You find that you are holding something beautiful, a priceless treasure wholly undeserved.

I know, because it happened to me.

I watch this little one running down my driveway, full steam ahead, hair streaming behind her like long brown ribbons.  Her strong legs pumping with energy and enthusiasm, her back strong with confidence.  And my heart overflows with love for her.   With gratitude for this immeasurable gift.  Moments like this almost take my breath away.  I look at her, amazed, and can hardly believe that this beautiful child is mine.
Three years ago, I had no idea that when I answered the phone one winter afternoon, that my life, and the lives of our entire family, would forever be changed.  I said yes to the woman on the other end of the line, asking if I would please come to the hospital as soon as possible, because there was a baby, a precious newborn there in the plastic bassinette, waiting for a family.

February 11, 2018


It’s an ordinary evening in every way.  I am standing in front of the stove cooking dinner for my family when my phone chimes, alerting me of an incoming message.  I glance at the screen, assuming for a second that it is most likely my husband, letting me know that he is on his way home from work.  But when I read the words on my screen, even before my mind fully processes them, my heart, always leading out in front, stops for a beat or two.   I have been expecting this news for a few days now, but here it is in black and white, a simple text that will forever alter the course of my foster son’s life.   It is confirmation that he will be leaving.

I turn off the stove – because even in my shock, I am perpetually responsible – lower myself to the floor in a near-fetal position, and bawl my eyes out.  This year-long season of pouring out and loving and serving and becoming exhausted and sacrificing everything for this child’s well-being.  This season is over.  

This is not how I wanted it to end.  I wanted to be the rescuer.  To remove him from his brokenness and be a part of his healing process.  I had hoped that there would be a happily ever after.  I had prayed, countless times, begging God over and over again to please, please do a miracle.  A miracle that never came.

January 19, 2018

Walking in the Rain

The first hint of worry about the impending storm surfaced in my heart, but I ignored it, convinced that I could weather it just fine.  After all, I was confident and capable.  It would take more than a little rain cloud to quench my faith.

The rain began, innocently enough, with tiny droplets of water, only a light mist of disappointments.  Not all that concerning.  But then the rain began in earnest, quickly drenching me completely.  A foster child so traumatized and damaged, that my very best efforts were utterly unable to help him heal.  A dreaded medical diagnosis that taught me what it means to truly fear.  A grown child who has chosen a different path, leaving me shocked and devastated, sobbing into my pillow at night, wondering what went wrong.   It wasn’t long before the light sprinkles became a steady downpour, a deluge of wind and driving rain, and I could no longer pretend that my faith was strong.

God, if You are even listening at all, why have You led me to this dark and lonely place?  My faith is so weak!  And if I’m deeply honest, I’m pretty sure I might be losing my faith altogether.  You promise that You will work all things together for good, but how can this, this downpour, be for my good?   I have cried out to You again and again to please help me be strong, and yet day after day, year after year, You remain silent.

This journey has indeed tested my faith almost to the breaking point.  I have been discouraged so many times, disappointed in myself that the trials of this journey have proven – to me and to everyone who knows me - that my faith is not very strong at all!

But what option do I have?  Give up?  Hide?  Do nothing?  Let the darkness win?  If I did that, what would I say?  Sorry, I can’t serve you today; it’s raining.  Sorry, I can see that you are drowning, but I can’t help you into the lifeboat; I’m too discouraged.  Of course not!  I think of King David who described his "downcast" soul and the tears that soaked his pillow.  Clearly he walked in the rain, and yet God called him - and equipped him - to rule an entire nation!

But how?  How can I keep loving the children the Lord has brought into our family?  How can I keep ministering to the least of these?  How can I keep serving and giving and doing?  How can I keep walking in the rain?  

January 12, 2018

Poster Child

One day you sit back and take a good look at your life, and you are overcome with gratitude.  You suddenly realize that everything is almost picture-perfect.   Your home is orderly and organized, the clutter under control.  Your children are well-behaved and happy, not perfect of course, but generally manageable.  You are happy.  You have a predictable routine, wonderful friends, enjoyable hobbies, big dreams.  You are the poster child for a comfortable, cozy life.

And so you ask yourself, innocently enough, why not?  Why not share this beautiful life with a child in need?  There are so many forgotten children who do not have a family to call their own, why not share yours?  After all, you reason, you have a lot of love in your heart.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to make a difference in someone else’s life?  To give someone else an opportunity to thrive?  To give someone else hope for the future?

It is not an easy decision.  You know, in the corners of your heart, that it will be difficult.  Life-changing, even.  Of course there will be an adjustment period.  Some getting used to.  But, you tell yourself, you are a fairly intelligent, competent, confident person.  How hard could it really be? 

And secretly you think, maybe you can become the poster child for this brave new thing.  If you can do it, maybe other people - your friends, others in your church, your contacts on social media – maybe they will follow your example and be inspired to do it too!

October 17, 2017

A Different Story

Because she is unable to adequately care for the needs of her child, the little one has been taken into protective custody, and placed in the safety of my home.  That makes her the villain and me the hero.  She’s the bad mother and I’m the good one.  Right?

How did we get here, exactly?  Her story is so different from mine!

Even before I took my first breath, my story was relatively smooth and straightforward.  While she was born into a fractured and flawed family that sort of limped along, each one managing the best way they knew how, my parents were committed to staying married and raising their children together.  They taught me the meaning of “family,” setting for me an example of faithfulness, love, patience, and enduring hope.  They taught me about healthy relationships and the importance of making responsible decisions. 

October 6, 2017

Small Stones

It is just sitting here, this plain glass jar in my bathroom.  The jar is clear and simple, and inside the jar are smooth colored stones, all shiny and perfect.  The centuries that these stones spent tossed in the relentless waves and sand of the Atlantic Ocean have perfectly smoothed away all the rough edges, leaving them sleek and glossy, almost as if an unseen hand has deliberately polished them.  Oh, how I love these serene and beautiful stones that have been sitting here on my porcelain counter for so many years.

Sitting here for so many years, that is, until my two-year old daughter stands beside me.  It takes one curious little hand just one moment to reach for the jar, and in one horrifying crash, the floor is covered with small stones and shattered glass.  Utterly wrecked.  Beyond repair.

In an instant, before I even know what is happening, I am screaming at my daughter, What did you do?  Look what you did?  Look at this mess?  Why do you have to touch my stuff?  Why do you have to break everything?  Do you understand how furious I am right now?  The blistering words spew out of my mouth like an active volcano, sizzling and scorching the innocent little one in front of me, melting her into a puddle of tears.

Whoa!  What just happened?  I am shocked and alarmed at my sudden outburst.  Where did this outrage come from?  What made me lose control like this?  Why would such a minor incident cause me to respond with such a vicious tirade?

September 30, 2017

Connect: How Professionals Can Promote Stability

I just want to quit!!   Even if those exact words have never escaped our lips, many foster parents have certainly thought them!  And even if we haven’t thought about giving up our foster license altogether, we have certainly thought about giving up on a certain foster child in our home.

Of course we know that children need the love and nurture of our families.  Their health and development and very future depends on the stability of their placement with us.  We’ve read the statistics and seen the study results, confirming that moving children multiple times throughout their foster care journey can have serious long-term impact on their future success. (1)

We hate disruptions. (2)  It’s tragic when children are uprooted.  Forced to transition to new communities.  Adapt to new schools.  They lose touch with relatives, and tragically, are separated from siblings.  They learn that it’s normal to say goodbye.

But what can we do when we want to quit?  When our endurance is depleted and we don’t feel like we can take another step?

Or more specifically, the question might be asked, what can Child Welfare Professionals do? (3)  This is the question asked at countless staff meetings and during federally-funded research projects and through state-wide initiatives. You have devoted your careers to serving these children, and it’s heartbreaking when their placements are disrupted again and again and again.  How can you improve placement security for these precious foster children you serve?  How can you turn multiple disruptions into long-term stability?

August 26, 2017

Before You Say Yes

Here it is!  The Call you have been waiting for!  Months and months ago, you finally made the courageous decision to open your home to a foster child, and now the plans are becoming a reality.  You attended the required training classes, completed the dozens of documents, answered all the questionnaires, proven that you do not have a criminal background, and have shown that your home is safe.  You are ready to say yes!

The “yes” part is easy.  And exciting!  And, oh so tempting after all the preparations and dreaming of what it will be like to care for a child who needs you.

However . . before you are too quick to agree to open your doors and your heart to this one who will undoubtedly change your life in ways you cannot imagine, here are some questions you might want to consider asking . . .

July 30, 2017

Love Never Fails

She’s not that sweet baby girl you once knew.  Somehow, when you weren’t looking, she grew up.  And in spite of 18 years of your very best parenting and your most fervent prayers and your consistent love and nurture and training, somewhere along the way she chose a different path.  A dangerous path that has left you frightened and anxious about her future.

When you look at her piercings (27 at last count), black eye make-up, and dyed hair that covers most of her face, you barely recognize her.  Who is this person sitting on your front porch sharing a cigarette with her tattooed boyfriend?  How can this young lady with the slumped shoulders and bony ribs possibly be the same girl you once tenderly rocked to sleep?

This is perhaps the most difficult path that you have ever been asked to take.  It requires more faith than you think you have.  What are you supposed to do now?  Does she need “tough love,” where you lay down the law, keep the standard high, and accept nothing less?  Or does she need grace and acceptance and unconditional love?  Do you let her live with you while she struggles to find her way, or, since she has chosen such an immoral and self-destructive lifestyle, do you make her leave your home and find a new place to live?  There are no easy answers.  Or rather, so many possible answers!  How do you know which one is right?

July 22, 2017

Asking the Hard Questions

What should you make for dinner?  Should you enroll your child in piano classes, swim team, drama camp, or art lessons?  Or all of them?  What should be the theme of his next birthday party?

These are questions that mothers tend to think about.

There are other questions, however, that mothers should never have to ask themselves.  Hard questions.  Questions that quite possibly have no answers.  Questions that are almost too painful to ask.

If you have ever asked yourself these questions, if these thoughts have ever entered your mind, you just might be a mother of a child with a chronic life-threatening condition . . .

When every single day is a struggle to feel well, do you insist that he take care of his chores and responsibilities anyway, or do you give grace and let him sit back and take it easy?

When he feels dizzy and has constant headaches and his mental functioning is impaired – whether from his health condition or from the medications, it’s impossible to tell - or when he's admitted to the hospital for the 3rd time in 3 months, do you make him do his school work anyway?  If he has a shortened life expectancy, does it really matter if he knows his multiplication tables?  On the other hand, are you even allowed to make that decision?  Isn't school required?  Will you get into trouble with the law if he doesn't go?

When the super-nutritious, all-natural, grain-free diet doesn’t seem to be working any more, do you keep researching and trying and restricting every morsel that goes into his mouth, or do you just forget the whole thing and let him eat the darn Big Mac he’s been asking for?

When the tiniest germ will send his health into a tailspin, how much do you protect him?  Do you keep him in a safe bubble at home where he is painfully lonely, or do you let him be a kid for heaven’s sake, playing at the public playground, attending children’s events, participating in Vacation Bible School?   At what point do you just let it go and let him find a few minutes of joy, knowing that doing so will most likely land him in the hospital?  Is it better to live long, or is better to live well?

What about when you see that great sale at the mall?  Do you buy clothes for him to grow into, or do you wait and see if he will need them?  Should you buy them in faith, eternally hopeful?  Or is your optimism really just living in denial?  At what point do you become realistic?

How do you make plans for next month?  Or next year?  Do you go ahead and plan that family vacation, trying to give him a normal childhood with fun experiences while he is still healthy enough to enjoy them?  What about all the other times before when you had to cancel your plans at the last minute because he was too sick to travel?  How do you help your other kids (not to mention all the extended family members) deal with their deep disappointment when this one child’s health has the power to derail every family event?

When you feel like you are drowning in overwhelming fear and frequent medication changes and endless specialist appointments and debilitating insomnia (his, which means yours too!) and endless unanswerable questions, what do you do?  Do you take a break from him and his never-ending needs, or do you spend every precious minute that you can with him, making it all count?

What do you say when people ask, “How is he doing?”  When every day there is this huge question mark hanging over you and your family?  Today, this moment, he might be feeling just fine, but tomorrow he could be back in the hospital.

(These pictures were taken exactly 1 week apart.)

Do you tell him the details of his medical condition, or let him stay naïve and innocent as long as possible?   What do you say when he feels miserable 24/7 and he says to you, “I wish I would just die!”  How does a mother possibly respond to that?

What do you do with the sweet picture that he drew for you?  The picture of himself in heaven, with the words To Mom, God is always with you.  Do you hang it on the refrigerator as the precious, priceless artwork that it is?  What if it makes you cry every time you see it?

What do you pray for when healing might not be an option?  How long do you keep believing in miracles?

These are the questions that mothers should never have to ask themselves.  Hard questions, that quite possibly have no answers.  Questions that are almost too painful to ask.

But when you're the mother of a child with a chronic life-threatening condition . . . you find yourself asking the hard questions.

May 27, 2017

How the Impossible . . . Becomes Possible

Somehow, a single day can seem like a lifetime when a child is in the hospital.  When one day of admission turns into several days, and then into several weeks, it’s more like an eternity.  What day is it again?  Time seems to stop and the tears seem to never stop.  It is utterly exhausting, both physically and emotionally. 

After many years of caring for medically-fragile children, children who spend thousands upon thousands of hours in the hospital, you would think I would get used to it.  Nope!  It never gets easier.  There are days – and usually interminable nights – when I cry into the darkness, I can’t do this!  This is impossible! 

Indeed, it is impossible, at least for one person.  There is no way I could continue caring for these precious children with their complicated medical needs if I had to do it alone.  I depend on my community, my “village,” those invaluable friends and neighbors and church family who are ready and willing to step in and offer support when things invariably get overwhelming and difficult.

During these seasons of long hospitalizations, the most common offer I am likely to hear is, If you need anything, please let me know.  I love the openness of that!  The generosity and kind-hearted intent.  The love that those words communicate! 

But honestly, when I am focused on the child in front of me - on the medical complications and the doctor’s prognosis and the long-term implications of this current health concern – and when I am completely drowning trying to balance the time at the hospital with the ongoing responsibilities at home, it becomes almost impossible to articulate what I need.  I search my over-burdened brains for the right words to ask, and come up empty.  All I can think to cry is, Help me!

What I need more than anything, what has encouraged me the most during these stressful days and weeks in the hospital, is a specific offer of help.  When someone is willing to take the initiative, and give or serve or love from the abundance of their heart.

I am so grateful and humbled to be the recipient of so much love!  I can barely begin to count the ways that thoughtfulness has inspired me to not give up on these frail children.  Ways that generosity has encouraged me to press on with this hard calling.  Ways that kindness has made the impossible . . . become possible.

April 29, 2017

The Magic of a Wish

What could possibly be more magical than a Ball?  The sequins on my royal blue gown catch the sparkle from the crystal chandeliers overhead, and it doesn’t seem real.  I feel like a common villager, trying to pass as a princess.  I can hardly believe that I am the same person who, just a few hours ago, was checking our son’s lab results, confirming the next appointment with his specialist, and measuring out his daily medications.  That was real life, messy and routine and sometimes exhausting.  But this opulent ballroom with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and the small ensemble in the corner playing beautiful classical music?  This is magical!

I can’t help staring at our son all decked out in his black suit and tie – the first one he has ever worn in his life – and admiring how dashing he looks.  The blue sash across his shoulder, the one with the words Wish Kid on it, make him seem almost royal.  He and the other Wish Kids like him, are the reason everyone is here.  We have been invited to this Wish Ball, an annual charity gala to celebrate the wishes that have been granted to children with life-threatening medical conditions.  If the cost of admission is having a child with a life-threatening medical condition, it is a steep one indeed!

March 11, 2017

When You Say Yes

Everyone you know is asleep at 2:00 in the morning, but not you.  In the stillness of the hospital at this hour, the noise of the irregular beeps and sporadic hisses and frequent alarms are jarringly loud, ensuring that sleep is impossible.  But because the annoying sounds are coming from the machines that are keeping your child alive, how can you complain?

As you reposition yourself on the blue plastic chair beside the bed, attempting every contortion possible to make yourself comfortable, you think to yourself, What in the world am I doing here?  How did I become the one who is responsible for the child in this room?  Is this really the life I had envisioned I would be living?

February 22, 2017

Worth It

The foster placement had been a hard one.  Really hard.  He had many complicated medical issues that required surgeries and procedures and appointments and specialists.  His development was significantly delayed, which was frustrating for us and for him, and which required countless therapy sessions.  He had very few social skills and he (literally!) pushed me away when I tried to get close to him or pick him up.  He was aggressive towards the other children in our home. 

And to top it off, his mother disliked me.  Almost daily she would find fault with the care her son was receiving, constantly complaining to the social worker about me.  It was disheartening, to say the least.

It was hard, and I wanted to quit.  In fact, I had asked to quit!  Several times I had requested that his social worker and case manager please, please find another home for him.  Surely there was someone else who could love him.  Someone who had more time, energy, patience, and resources to give that child the care and nurturing and attention that he so desperately needed.

And yet, he was still here.  Apparently there was no one else.  Apparently I needed a lesson in perseverance.  And faith.

January 7, 2017

When You Come

‘Twas a few nights after Christmas, when all through the house . . . the creatures are indeed stirring.  Every bed in the house overflows with relatives – aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents – who have traveled long distances to celebrate this holiday season.  But none of us can sleep on this not-so-silent night.  The little ones are tossing and turning and squirming fitfully in their beds, refusing to succumb to sleep.  Their wild footsteps echo off the hardwood floors in the hallways.  Their agitated cries ensure that none of us will be settling our brains for a long winter’s nap.  At least not anytime soon.

This is not exactly the image of my home and family I was hoping you would see when you come.  Just a few days earlier, we are all cleaning and sweeping and polishing in anticipation of your arrival.  We look out the window frequently, waiting for you to come.  The hour gets later, the clock ticking well past the usual bedtime.  Finally, you come!  And out in the driveway there arises such a clatter, the littles ones spring from their beds to see what is the matter.

Which is fine, just this once.  I want them to see you.  While you are here, I hope that you will get to know these precious children who are living in my home.  I want you to love them and treasure them as much as I do!  During your visit, I hope that the bonds between you and them will be formed and strengthened.  May they find in you, unconditional love and acceptance.  May they find, in your warmth and tenderness, a sense of belonging and connectedness.
The hallway soon fills with rolling suitcases and zippered jackets, excited laughter and lively conversation.  So wonderful to see you!  I’m glad you made it safely!  How was your trip?  Do you want anything to eat?  Understandably, it takes a while for everyone to settle in.

December 10, 2016

Black and White

It seemed so black and white when they asked if I could care for this little boy who had nowhere else to go.  I never thought to ask the color of his skin.  That question did not enter my mind.   All I knew was, he was a child in need of a mother, and here I was, a mother with a lot of love to give.  What else mattered?

And mostly, it hasn’t mattered.  Most days, I never give it a second thought. Occasionally, I will see a photo of the two of us together, or I will catch a glimpse of the two of us in a mirror, and it sort of takes me by surprise that we look so different – me with my milky complexion and he with his milk-chocolate brown one.  But then the moment passes, and we go back to the only thing that is truly important . . . the fact that I am his mother and he is my son.

Ever since he was a tiny baby, since the day I first met him lying in that hospital bed, I knew that I would need to care for this little boy a bit differently that I cared for my older son – my White son who is now grown.  I knew that I would need to take extra care to keep his skin well-moisturized and his black curly hair buzzed close.  But other than that, I barely noticed our differences.  I know how to love and nurture and train and teach him.  What else do I need to know?  

He is almost 8 years old now, and I am starting to realize that maybe it is not so black and white after all.  Or in truth, maybe it is more Black and White than I originally thought.  I can no longer be naïve and pretend that the color our skin, the differences in our looks, do not matter.

November 21, 2016

What We Knew

The class was required for our foster care license, which, if I’m honest, is possibly the only reason my husband and I went.  There were plenty of other places we would have preferred to be on that Tuesday evening.  We sat near the back of the stuffy room, far enough away from the front that we could pass notes or whisper to each other without drawing too much attention to ourselves, but not all the way in the back back.  After all, we didn’t want to be rude.

If I remember correctly, the instructor that night used a frozen candy bar as an illustration of an abused child’s “hardened” heart.  Heating it up too fast, with a blow-dryer for example, or warm water or in your hands, would cause it to melt on the outside and remain ice-cold on the inside. The answer, apparently, was to be patient and let it thaw on it’s own until it reached room temperature.  That, he promised, is how you “thaw” the heart of a traumatized child. 

I do confess that it took a lot of willpower that evening not to roll our eyes.  Good thing we weren’t sitting too close to the front.

Except for the licensing requirement, we didn’t really need to take this parenting class.  We already knew pretty much everything there was to know about raising children.  We both come from solid, in-tact families, with parents who had set good examples for us while we were growing up.  We both were well-educated young professionals who had successfully graduated from college.   We had one whole shelf in our home library devoted to popular parenting books.   And even without all of that, we had an abundance of competence and common sense.  I mean, how hard could it be?

But then . . . we had kids.  Or more specifically, we had foster kids.  And we very quickly found out that what we thought we knew about parenting was woefully inadequate.  In fact, to quote a good ol’ Southern boy we know, we have often said to each other over the years, I ain’t got nothin’!!