Every Chapter is Better.

Nothing has changed. Everything has changed.

The kids still have the same favorite stuffed animals. We have the same Toyota Minivan. My garage still needs to be cleaned out, and there are too many oranges in the kitchen. Oh, and Jack is still begging for a treehouse/fort — and building his own out of branches he scavenges until he gets it! Just to really drive this point home, we have had the kids in our home and a part of our family for over 3 years. Even while being Foster Parents, we were the only home they knew. They were with us every day, good and bad. They were safe, wild & loved.

Yet now that adoption has finally come, on glorious March 2nd, 2021 — everything has changed. This last week our sweet trio officially became Maloy’s. They forever have a family to protect them, teach them, grow them, nurture them, cherish them, love them and to forever call home. It’s the biggest deal in our little family’s world. Everything has changed. After 1117 days of waiting to breathe that sigh of relief and sink into the beautiful thing God is knitting together, we are officially in the eyes of the State, a forever family.

Our kids are mercifully little. The waiting, the unrest, the sleepless nights, the good days, the bad days, the scary phone calls, court dates we wished would stop, visits upon visits (thankfully with caseworkers we loved), the ups and downs of uncertainty in Foster Care — those things are over. And like I said, mercifully our kids are little. Jack was young when he came to our home, Arissa Mae was not even a year old, and Little Bear (Sean) spent 6.5 weeks in the NICU (where we got to visit him daily), and he came straight home to us. We are unbelievably blessed that they have known they were home WAY longer than they have officially & legally been home. In their simple way, the simple faith of kids, I have no doubt — they’ve known they are home. Why wouldn’t they?

All of a sudden nothing is different, but really everything has changed. The immediate moments afterward were a blur. We were all tired (still are) from the emotional roller roaster and release of excitement and relief. We sped back off to normal the next day, which in hindsight might have been a dumb choice. But as each slow moment, on the drive to school, getting ready for bed, chatting while doing dishes — something became more and more real. The kids are home. We are forever a family. It finally happened. We can make decisions about the future with a little more certainty. We can dream about fun adventures and plan great memories for the kids. If you ever read The Chronicles of Narnia, the last book, “The Last Battle”, there is a portion toward the close of the book where as the characters keep journeying into “the real country” and the colors, sights, senses are awoken, because everything they’ve longed for, that they didn’t know they were searching for is becoming more and more real as they head “further up and further in”.

Below is another little excerpt from “The Last Battle” that keeps coming to mind the last couple days. Because as “everything” is over — it’s only just begun.

β€œAnd as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” 

The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis

I long for this that kind of life for my kids. I am sure I fail daily to really do this Dad thing well. And then even as write it down, I remember… I can’t do this on my own. I can’t do it in my strength. I have to trust daily that God is as good as He has proven Himself to be through this long 3 years.

Over and over and over, God has proven Himself to be more good, more faithful and more loving that I have ever understood before. I pray I don’t forget it, and I pray I can surrender well — so when we slow down and look back — we will see how every chapter of our little family’s story is better than the one before. And when we do slow down enough to look back, I will thank God that He did this.

Remember.

Tomorrow is a big day. We’ve waited for over 1100 days (little more than 3 years) to officially adopt our children. After so many days, weeks, months, years of trying not to “get our hopes up”, it is almost difficult to take a deep breath and know the thing you’d longed for, has finally come. Yet tomorrow, March 2nd, 2021 — we can breath that sigh of relief.

There are so many thoughts I wish I could wrestle out of my mind, feelings that I wish I could describe, but I really can’t. Because tomorrow, unless I wake up and this was a dream, our kids will legally be little Maloy’s — in the eyes of the state, they are forever Home. I am a fan of hyperbole, but this truly is one of the biggest days for us, for our kids, for our family.

So Clara & I have been doing a Bible Study on the Book of Joshua — and a common theme, over and over again, is “remember”. The study is recounting the story of the Israelites coming into the Promised Land. A theme that’s hitting me more than in previous times I’ve read Joshua, God’s Faithfulness. Over and over again, there are calls to be “strong and courageous”, and there are commands to remember God’s faithfulness. Stories of old are reflected on, taught to their children and point to God’s faithfulness in the past to help them trust God now, and in the future. It sounds trite to say it’s awesome — but it really is. Remember — remember God’s faithfulness.

The last few weeks, especially the last week, every time someone asks me about the pending Adoption and how excited and relieved we are, the theme of God’s faithfulness keeps coming out in my reflecting on the goodness of this whole season of our lives. Faithfulness has really been a theme of this 3 years. Faithfulness of our family, of our friends, our co-workers, our church, our schools (we’re both teachers), faithfulness of God through a lot of scary moments. Through everything — the really hard stuff, the scary stuff, the uncertainty, the anxious moments, the good moments, the joyous moments — we have been blessed.

Recently we have had a lot of lasts. Today was the last day I dropped my foster kids off at school. Tonight was the last night we put our foster kids to bed. Last week we had our last official visit with our caseworker and DJO, there were tears, because we truly love them. They are part of our families story. They are part of knitting us together, used by God to create something new from something broken. Honestly, we have tried so hard for so long to not get excited about the hope of adoption, that I never really realized we’d have a lot of lasts. But here is the beauty of all those lasts, they are really just the beginning of something “officially” new. They are the coming together of this new thing God has been weaving together for 3+ years. I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely never get tired of saying it — God is making things new.

God has been faithful to us, again and again. Like the story of the Israelites in Joshua, we are called to remember and proclaim God’s goodness and God’s faithfulness. Like I said, I am not really good at nailing down my thoughts tonight, they are racing and bouncing around all over — but I know in these moments, the eve of adoption, I want to remember God’s faithfulness.

I know I will have more thoughts soon, as I reflect on the events this week — and I will try hard to treasure them all, but for now thank you. Thank you for loving our family. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for showering us with support, encouragement & blessing us every day.

Restoring Brokenness

I could be foolishly optimistic, in fact, I am certain I have been accused of being a bit too much like “Buddy the Elf” at times (not kidding, literally today, in a meeting after school). But nevertheless, I could be too optimistic. That said, I truly believe that most people want to fix things that are broken. Sure, something may get in the way. It could be money, time, health, family, job, choices, etc., that get in the way. Still, in the quiet moments, the calm instances that stir our thoughts, ours hearts, even our souls — we want to make things right. We long for things to be redeemed, to be as they were. There is an overwhelming amount of brokenness in the world. It takes minuscule time on social media, TV, newspapers, you name it, to be overcome by the angst, sadness, devastation, and yes, brokenness.

If you’ll indulge me, at school (I teach High School Business Classes) we start off in the business introduction course looking at the world as it was. We look at Genesis (the beginning of the Bible) — we start there “In the Beginning”, and we try to get a grasp on “what was”. We look at Creation and see how things were — our relationship with God, our relationship with Others, our relationships with Ourselves (knowledge of self), and relationship with Creation. We dig into that story (Genesis 1-2) and try to chase after that beauty of what was. We catch a glimpse, if even momentary, of the thing we long for — things being right, as they were meant to be.

Unfortunately Genesis 3 happens — “the Fall”, and everything promptly unravels. We live after that moment. We live in a world full of unraveled brokenness. I can’t fix every problem in the world, gosh, none on my own I suppose. Yet here our family is, the midst of Foster Care, on the cusp of Adoption. You aren’t here on my couch, watching me clack away on my keyboard, but this isn’t easy to write. It isn’t easy to try and wrestle through thoughts, try to put words to things you know, think & feel, balance them with the truth and make sense of it all. Truthfully, I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t have the answers. But I know that I cannot, will not, see brokenness in the world — and do nothing. I know there are really big problems in the world, ones I don’t truly understand. But something I can do, is take steps. I can look into the darkness, into the brokenness and start chipping away.

Our kids, they are precious. They are wild ninja superhero preschoolers of course, but they are made in the image of God. They are fearfully and wonderfully made. And raising them up in The Lord, redeeming the brokenness in their lives (let’s be honest, I do NOT like to think about it, but there had to be profound brokenness, sadness, even devastation for them to end up in our home) — but starting to restore that brokenness is a small step toward making things right in the world. Even if it is just making things right in our corner of the world, our little cul-de-sac — it’s still pushing back on the darkness. It is still redeeming brokenness, one day, one nap time, one snack time, one meltdown, one lost fox stuffed animal, one matchbox car thrown at Dad’s head on accident.

I don’t have the answers, but I know this — God is doing something incredible and unexplainable in our home, in our family. He is writing a story that is beautiful, imperfect yet perfect, and sacred. And I can’t tell you how amazing it is, to be in the middle of God redeeming something so wonderful and simple — and to be able to sit here catching glimpses of it unfolding. It’s a gift.

965 Days.

Parenting is hard. Literally just saying those 3 words will get 95% of people (made up statistic, just in case) to shout a hardy, “yep” or “amen”. It is because it’s true. Parenting is hard.

That said, as a Foster Parent you are confronted with so many challenging scenarios that you tend to forget how tough being a “normal” parent can be. I will spare you the icky details. Nevertheless Foster Parenting confronts you with some realities that all parents face, yet they are often magnified by Foster Care.

An example — So little is truly certain for anyone in life. We aren’t promised tomorrow, we can’t be sure a loved one won’t fall ill, we cannot predict the outcome of jobs, education, etc. We strive in life to reduce risk to the best of our ability. But so little is truly certain. Foster Care magnifies this to a level I’d never previously experienced. I can get a text/email/call from a caseworker, court officer, etc., (even one I know and trust) and still my heart skips. Because you literally never know what new thing you may find out. Often it’s nothing, yet sometimes everything changes again. Then you’re faced with the only option, soldier on. Naturally this is not different than any parent, it’s just tremendous how much this is in. your. face. every. moment.

So before you assume all doom and gloom, there is light and beauty in this. It has forced surrender in my life. It has forced me to trust God more deeply. I have no other option. I have really been wrestling with this lately (my apologies if someone has caught me deep in thought lately and I seemed frazzled). And as I have wrestled with this I remembered something I prayed for, daily, for probably years. I (foolishly, kidding. sort of…) prayed that God would give me big faith. I prayed God would make me “steadfast”, unshakable, resolute, unhesitating. I wanted to be a man who would not be swayed easily. I wanted to trust God more completely. I wanted to surrender with absolute certainty, over and over each day. I wanted to really learn to “Abide in Christ”. I hope you are seeing where this is going. I am certainly a long way from where I’d hoped I’d be by now, but I see glimpses of this. I see moments where God has grown me deeply. This journey, the 965 days that my beautiful children have been in our home, has wrecked me. It has wrecked me repeatedly. And thank God it has. I still want to be “in control” and “over-prepared” too much. I need to be wrecked.

These 965 days have humbled me, daily humbled me. I remember I don’t have it all together. I can’t save as much money as I’d like. I don’t have the energy I wish I did. I can’t sit and rest 1/4 of as much as I’d like. I have obligations. I have responsibilities. I have dreams. I have hopes. And because these 965 days have broken me over and over — I can see more of the incredible story God is unfolding and how He is showing His grace, His mercy & His love. And thank God that He keeps destroying the parts of me that war against Truth, war against Beauty, and war against restoration.

A good friend, who since has moved away and I don’t get to catch up with him as often as I wish I could, told me something many years ago. We were in a deep discussion about some very difficult circumstances and somehow I brought up the idea of “fight or flight”. I told him that I wasn’t 100% sure, but I liked to think I was of the “fight” camp. He quietly asked why, I made my poorly thought out case, and he replied with, “no”. He told me he thought there was a third option. He believed there were those who neither ran (took flight), nor fought (fight), but a third group who was able to stand resolute, unwavering & steadfast in the midst of turmoil & trouble. He very kindly told me that he believed me to be one of those rare folks in the third category, who stood fast, no deep desire to fight or flee. In my foolish pride, I quickly dismissed his words as too kind, and didn’t really make much of it. But over the years, that conversation has come to mind a couple times. And tonight while sitting on the back porch praying about tomorrow and thinking back over the past 965 days, that conversation with my friend came to mind. And I realized the gravity of his compliment. I still don’t feel worthy of such an accolade, but I am coming to realize his wisdom. I am not someone who needlessly fights, and I am certainly not someone who flees from trouble. Foster Care has shown me the truth in what he said to me that night. Thank God that my friend saw that in me, and thank God that He blessed me with that trait. And thankfully God has reminded me of that conversation a few times when I needed to hear it again.

I suppose I shared that story with you about my good friend & his kind words somewhat out of “processing” it myself and realizing it more deeply tonight than before. And out of thankfulness that God saw fit to use Clara and I to love these kids. I am thankful God used us to stand steadfast for them.

I am probably rambling and need to wrap it up… brevity is something I love, and fail at miserably. I have found myself telling the story of what God is unfolding before us more often lately in conversations. That in our kids lives, they have experienced brokenness and the effects of sin and evil that I wish never had to be part of their story. But for all the potential hurt, pain, sadness & brokenness in the world (and there is plenty more) — God is making something amazing, beautiful and sacred. God is redeeming the brokenness in their lives, giving them a home, a Mom & Dad who love them beyond measure, a family, a safe place to thrive and flourish, a place to belong. Their story, is a story of incredible beauty. Beauty that my words just don’t do justice.

It’s beautiful because it is the Gospel. It is the story of our brokenness too. And a tangible embodiment of the love God has for us. And how God is redeeming and restoring the lives of those who love Him.

There is so much brokenness in the world. There is so much to be in doubt of, fear of, frustration over, you name it. But there is even more hope. And thank God for that.

Trapped.

In light of the bizarre impact Coronavirus has had on the entire world. I have been reflecting about how trapped, frustrated & helpless so many people feel. In a weird way, it’s really not a foreign feeling for Foster Parents. It’s a daily reality, now it just has the added “joy” of a virus to make it more complex and widespread for everyone else.

Something I have become more and more convinced of the longer we’ve remained in the Foster Care system is this — the system sworn to protect and cherish children, that system itself causes trauma. It causes trauma for the children, the foster families, parents, everyone. Let me clarify, it is different trauma (likely) than what caused the move into Foster Care initially — but trauma nonetheless.

My initial reaction is to blame the system, condemn it & use it as the scapegoat for my frustrations when they arise. But the calmed down retrospective part of me knows that isn’t the answer. That said, the system is flawed, broken, slow, bogged down, bloated & wastes money. The system is not great. But on the other side, the system is a result of the brokenness in the world that it was created to handle. It (the system) is dealing with heartbreaking situations, problems & brokenness no one would ever want to wish upon their worst enemy. And as a result, because every situation, child, family & case is different — there is this unnecessary, yet unavoidable, tension between common sense and following every protocol.

So I guess the point in writing this is to ask myself a question. What is the Christlike response to feeling trapped, backed into a corner, helpless? If we Christians want to redeem & restore the brokenness in the world, as we are called to do, what does that look like in a messy & frustrating system (that we may or may not agree with)? What does it look like to not force our agenda, our will, our preferences — but to balance that with common sense and truly act in the BEST interest of others (including Foster Children)?

I keep asking myself this question because as a Foster Parent, I have never felt more powerless, hopeless and backed into a corner over the last few years. Now before you panic and question my faith in God’s sovereignty and faithfulness — remember, feelings aren’t always truth. Feelings can mislead, can be sinful & flawed. But regardless, we are emotional beings, and feelings are unavoidable. The trouble comes in how we react, how we process them and the actions we take. I want to react well in the face of feeling powerless, pushed around & trapped. I want to stand up with gracious boldness to face the uncertain, the unnecessary & the unfairness.

So, whether it’s questioning the brokenness of the system, or evaluating my response to the feeling of powerless waiting — what is the response that will help point to Christ, the response that can help restore brokenness, the response that minimizes the “trauma” of the Foster-world? What is the response that helps redeem the ugly broken world that our kids have no choice in floating through?

What does it look like to exist in and simultaneously seek to redeem a broken world? I pray about this a lot — and tonight while watching/singing songs with the kids, we listened to an old favorite, and it reminded me of an important place to rest in. Below is part of the Andrew Peterson’s song, “Dancing in the Minefields”:

“At the end of all my faith, till the end of my days
When I forget my name, remind me.
‘Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man,
So there’s nothing left to fear.
So I’ll walk with you in the shadowlands,
Till the shadows disappear.
‘Cause He promised not to leave us,
And his promises are true.”

It’s curious, but this too reminds me that in this world we will be uncertain of much, there is plenty to fear, we can always find something in which to be anxious about — but that’s ok. We bear the light of the Son of Man (Jesus), and we won’t have every answer, but we can keep walking and trusting — because the promises ARE true.

p.s. nothing horrible has happened, please don’t panic — just processing the realities of Foster Care and seeing the weird emotional similarities to COVID world. Even when life is beautiful, the kids are wonderful & life is full of blessing — Foster Care is hard & our goal in sharing our journey is to just share what families go through. So no need to worry or panic πŸ™‚