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To my fellow foster families…

I am the emotional one. The one with my heart on my sleeve and a lump in my throat.

I see you wrestling with the innocence you just lost. Wrestling with the knowledge that moms and dads who love children might not have the tools, the opportunity to give up everything you would give to parent a child.

I hear your hopeful words. I see the longing in your hearts. Some wrestling with infertility and trying to shake the deep unfairness of the idea that some can birth babies with no regard for stewarding their life. It is unfair! Grieve that truth. Do it for you and for the future babies in your arms.

I watch you silently resolve to bring the best of what you can. The popular sitcom This is Us had a message in the first few opening shows…  there is no lemon too sour that you cannot make some type of lemonade.  I see this when I stand before you at class. I feel this as I stand before you leading class. My lemon is why I’m in the room too. And you, you are the sweetest lemonade born from the sourest punch.

I want to wrap you in my arms and share all of my lessons with you. I want to tell you to change the world and save safe place for the deep disappointments that will come. They will come. But you will overcome those too.

I am so proud of all of you. Finding your way, claiming your story, sharing your heart. You bring joy to my heart. You are an encouragement.

You are ready.

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Exile

Butterfly

“Por eso se llama exillo. That is why they call it exile. You belong everywhere and nowhere at all.” ~ I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin

If ever there was a word that describes this torment inside of my heart it is exile. Except there are so many reasons why this word should not be mine. Like the obvious. I am not nor have I been in exile.

Yet as I remove the literal definition of exile and allow my brain to toss it around I identify with it. My heart lives in the memories of Zach and my heart lives in the promise of today, of tomorrow. My heart fiercely protects Iowa as my home state yet I simultaneously feel like Iowa not my home at all. I look casually over my shoulder and see clearly that it is grief that is the event that removed me from my home and placed me in a new home.

Exile. Belonging everywhere and nowhere. Living here… loving here… knowing Heaven is forever home.

Exile. You are a child and removed from your home and placed in the home of another. You belong everywhere and nowhere.

Suddenly the fog has lifted.

I see.

My children share this confusion with me. Fiercely loving each other and yet wrestling with the longing of home. The longing is authentic and real. It is hard. They miss the before while loving the now.

Just when I think we have so little in common I see how tightly bound we are. I see how carefully God planned this journey. How Zach was the catalyst into foster care for all the right reasons. For God’s reasons.

I stand a little taller. My doubts are not as truthful as they seem.

People often encourage me to not change the system. They are right. I won’t change the system. System are business functions that we need to keep order and move forward. They exist to corral the average. There is dysfunction as much as there is great success in systems. All systems.

But I will impact lives. I will honor my heart’s path of exile and honor the exiles I know and love.

To my foster children now and in the future… you will always belong in my everywhere and nowhere. You have changed my life, you have made it better. You.

5 = 7 : God’s Math

It was over a year ago that I ran to the store to purchase two car seats and the basic necessities that I would need.  I love that God challenges me time and time again by cutting to the heart of the material things I own.  I gave away the car seats I had previously.  And then God set fire to my words… if we need them again, we are well enough off we can purchase them again. So yes, I did just that.  During the time I was frantically running through the store, I thought you were probably being fussed over at the local hospital. I was standing near the clothing rack when they told me they were coming down from up north.  Could I meet you at gas station about an hour or so north of town?

My little B came with me.  I enjoyed the car ride and conversations with him talking to me.  We arrived first at the gas station and settled in watching a movie and talking about the day. I was acutely aware of the fact that in moments, my baby B would no longer be the baby in our home. He is a strong child, ready and able (and, um, was four during this time). But the protective nature of a mother’s heart is fierce.  I must have prayed a hundred million times to God to protect my family, give me wisdom.

Both of you arrived.  Hot, sweaty, smelling.  Soaking wet diapers.  Smoke-filled lungs from before.  Little man immediately smiled at me and let me transfer him to the new car seat.  Little girl, you weren’t sure.  The worker gently pushed on your back to get you to walk to me.  You let me pick you up and talk to you.  Give you hugs and get you buckled in tight.  B was curious and both of you liked to figure him out too. It was a sweet innocent moment in the middle of extreme confusion.  I caught myself smiling.  God knew, He knew I needed time alone with my baby and you needed the comfort of a peer.

We talked about medical needs, ran through who is who, what is what, and that’s it.  Moved the two outfits and one blanket that accompanied you to the van.  And we were off.

My crew of 5, in that moment in the gas station parking lot, became 7.

My mind raced with questions, doubts, and fears.  Was it God or me?  Just a few hours ago we were sure it was God’s quiet steady voice.  I prayed the last 20 miles home.  God I need you.  We need you.  Protect my kids.  Heal these kids.  Help us love these people.  Give me thick skin for what people will say.  The stones they will cast.  Give me bravery to ask for help when we need it most.  Use me.  God, use me. Teach me to love as they need to be loved.

*   *   *

What an amazing plan God had for your lives. While we were adjusting, fretting, and working so hard at getting you two well, God was moving. A mom and a dad were being prepared. They were grieving and dreaming. Hoping.  And a wonderful woman was believing God gave her connections to share.  It wasn’t simple, but it was absolutely divine. Looking back, you taught us more about our limits and the nearness of God than anyone ever has. You wrecked our lives and our hearts. Through the privilege of being a stepping stone in your life, we learned how to say no and let go. We watch you thrive in your home with just the two of you. Being constantly celebrated and loved on. It is a beautiful thing to witness. It is humbling. It is perfect.

*   *   *

And my heart still aches for the family that lives in the shadow of this loss. I pray still, even now, that God is putting people in mom’s path that can be an advocate for her, that can help her mend and heal. Maybe the baby that is due any moment now will have a full, safe and healthy life and maybe, dare I even hope, maybe she has it with her mom. Maybe that’s His plan….  two fresh starts.

 

 

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