Instant Parenthood

I love that title, it’s borrowed from a dear friend in Oklahoma (with some Bonus Boys) — and ironically fit with a blog post festering in my mind lately.

Being a foster parent can be a lot to swallow at times.  Gosh, even really thinking of yourself as a parent is a challenge.  For folks who have babies, they have months to prep and ease into parenthood.  And it’s still overwhelming then too!  But sometimes I wrestle with acknowledging myself as a parent.  I fear others would receive me viewing myself as a Dad, without birth kids yet, as cheapening their parenthood.  So sometimes I shy away from really thinking of myself as a Dad.

But the reality is, that’s not true or fair (to myself or the kids).  When you are up several times a night, when the whole family gets sick one after another in a week, when the 1-year old is getting 3 teeth in one day (and hasn’t really learned how to soothe or be comforted), when you have baby gates everywhere, when everything is baby proofed, when you have changed 3 diapers (on one kid) before leaving the house at 7am, when you have to think 8 steps ahead to avoid unnecessary 2-year old meltdowns… you’re a Dad.

When your back hurts inexplicably (but you know why…), you’re a Dad.  When you get just as sick as the kids were & you have to power through, you’re a Dad.  When you worry about coughs & congestion, and spend an absurd amount of your money on medicine to help, you’re a Dad.  When you are gently hold your hand on your nearly asleep baby girl, praying that God will help her grow up strong, brave & true — you are a Father.  It doesn’t matter if you had 9 months (or years) of preparation for the baby — or if like us, you had 3-4 hours of warning before everything changed. 

I may not be my children’s birth father, but I am their father.   My kids may have been a Friday morning surprise in February, but that doesn’t change our love for them and our hope that they can remain forever.  God has entrusted us with these precious children (and difficult children, let’s be real…) — and we are called to love them completely and accept them fully, just as God loves us.  The expectation is no different from parents who have given birth to children.  God loves these kids SO much more than we possibly could — and we are just His hands and feet to protect them, love them, guide them, shepherd them, make them laugh & love them.

That afternoon when the kids came home, we became parents.  It’s not always easy to remember, sometimes it still feels like it’s a dream we had — but it’s true — we are parents.

Instant parenthood is still parenthood
and foster parents are indeed, parents — Moms & Dads.

In all the overwhelming and fast change we have had, and keep having — a few verses come to mind often during the chaos & quiet.  I suspect they come to mind as a prompt from the Spirit to listen and ponder — I should listen more.  This is one of the verses that comes to mind most often:

“Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for His mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness!”

— Lamentations 3:22-23 CSB

He Knows My Name

“Now this is what the Lord says — the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel — ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine.'” Isaiah 43:1

On Friday night we sat in a circle with several other foster families and soaked in the wisdom of those much further along and with many more miles in their journey in Foster Care. It was a sweet night of learning and feeling encouraged. Over and over we were told to find a sweet community of foster families — and I am so thankful for One Heart.

As we sat there and questions were asked…stories were told…I was caught up in this Truth. The Lord delights in me. He delights in every couple or single mom in that circle. He delights in each kiddo accounted for by these families whether they are together forever or for a bit. He knows us and He is kind.

Not only does He know us, but He is never changing, so when the system isn’t consistent, He is. He knows us and our needs in each moment. When the behaviors of our sweet kiddos catch us off guard, He knows us and He cares for that moment. When babies are crying and there is no apparent reason…He cares! I’m so grateful.

After these realizations, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

He knows the birth families, too. He cares for them, even when trauma or dark situations get in their way of caring for these children. He cares for them. In their darkest day, He cares. In our darkest day, He cares. We are no different. He delights in each of us.

“…God delights in every detail of [your] life.” Psalm 37:23 NLT

This morning I was convicted by something my husband said. We were on our way to church, incredibly late, after a sleepless night and a long morning of tears and general fussiness.

“I wonder sometimes, if our hard moments are God trying to speak to our hearts and remind us that we can’t do this on our own strength, and we are trying to.”

Those were true words. That’s exactly what I’d been trying to do.

A little background information for those who don’t know me:

I like order. My classroom is a better representation of that than my t-shirt drawer, but nevertheless. When there isn’t order in places I feel like I should have control, I become frazzled, and when I am frazzled, doubt creeps in.

We know where doubt comes from.

So this morning. I doubted. I was frazzled.

“Why are they crying? What am I doing wrong?”
“Why won’t she sleep? What am I doing wrong?”
“Why are we late? Why couldn’t I get us together faster?”

The truth is this. When I doubt….When I question myself….I am putting the spotlight on me. It’s not about me. It never was, I never want it to be….when I pause from the frazzle and think about that, I remember. My strongest desire is for this journey (all of it, not just the foster care part) to be about Jesus…for the kiddos with us to experience His love through me.

Here’s to extending myself grace. Frazzled or not. So that I won’t get in the way of Christ in us, our only Hope.

He Who Promised.

One minute you are folding tiny laundry…and the next minute the Lord impresses words on your heart and you have to share. Enjoy.

A week ago was our first time to go to court. First placement. First court. Nothing really prepares you for sitting in the room with a judge at the front reading through papers describing the tragedy that brought you into that room. As I sat there listening to the legal-ese that was spoken I found myself feeling overwhelmed. I think other foster parents would agree.

I can easily say that this was the most overwhelming day of our placement. The first day when we were handed these two babies was less overwhelming for me in a lot of ways.

As we sat in that courtroom we heard our babies story re-hashed without emotion….without attachment. That was hard. I tried to write this blogpost right after we got home and my words were empty. In the past week I have been able to process and spend time in quiet thinking about WHY it hit so hard.

As parents, it is so natural…so expected to become attached. As foster parents that is absolutely true, too, but the rate in which this has happened has been unreal.

Two months ago I didn’t know these 2 babies existed. Today they are two of my greatest treasures. It happens quickly. There isn’t a warning, but it is so sweet. It feels like these babies have been in our home for far longer.

And I think that is why it’s all so difficult. There is so much unknown. How much longer will they stay? How many more hugs? How many more early (so, so early) bottles? How many more loads of tiny laundry? No one can answer that question and that’s when I become overwhelmed.

But, I can’t. I can’t be overwhelmed. Instead this reality has hit. Embrace each second. It’s so sweet that the Lord keeps reminding me of His faithfulness throughout this season. He has sent meals…and people…and financial support. Sometimes I am surprised and then I slow down enough to remember that He promised to love me and care for me…and He who promised is always faithful.

I am so grateful for the giggles, the tickles, the early bottles and sweet snuggles. This story Jesus is faithfully writing for us is so sweet. I feel so unworthy…but He promised and He will be faithful to us. So, we trust as He writes each word of our story (all 4 of us and Beau the Border Collie).

Terrible In-Between

We are just slightly over a month into this new adventure.  It’s mind-boggling to consider all the changes in such a short amount of time.

  • There are baby gates everywhere in our home
  • Thanks to baby-proofing — no one, including adults, can open any drawers in the kitchen
  • All door knobs are harder to open with kid-safe handles
  • We sleep very lightly thinking every noise is a kiddo waking up!
  • Dad has gotten to be a master of getting two kids loaded and unloaded into the truck for school
  • Mom is master of being two steps ahead of any possible kiddo meltdowns
  • Cookies & kid snacks are hidden in all bags, coats, car, etc…
  • There really is no such thing as ‘free time’ anymore… or staying up late!
  • And SO many more…

And every one of those changes is totally worth it.  Because these kids are a gift, a treasure to take care of and love well.  For now, whether forever or not, we are their family, their Mom & Dad, their home.

I am convinced, even after a month, it is incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to really love kids the way they need to be loved without getting attached.  Kids need the reassurance & confidence of a home, family & unconditional love — and it’s difficult to give those things and keep the children at a safe distance where you (and the kids) don’t get attached.    You could give them a safe place, bed and food — but if they do not feel safe, supported, affirmed, loved & that they are home — it is lacking.  Kids need to know they are home.  But that means you AND the kids will get attached, because that is what home does to us — it draws us in & makes us safe — we want to abide & remain.

I say all of that (and it’s wordy…) because it is incredibly tough to live in the anguish & torment of a VERY unknown future.  Now of course we all know that nothing is guaranteed and each day is a gift — but rarely do we really live that way.  But with our kids future so full of uncertainty, we are faced with that terrible in-between every single day.  We don’t know if the kids will get to stay with us and we don’t know what their Mom’s future holds — but we do know they are a gift.  They are a gift from God, a treasure that we are to cherish & love as long as we can.  If that is for a short time (which is a painful thought) or if it is forever (hard for different reasons) — we promised to love those kids and raise them in the Lord for as long as the Lord had them in our home.  It is painful to consider the outcomes (for a lot of reasons), but we will lean on the Lord & trust His will — because we want to, and because honestly, we have no other choice.

There is a song, by Andrew Peterson, that you would do well to listen to — it’s called “You Can Always Come Home”.  It’s on one of the kids albums I have downloaded on my phone and it is excellent.  I can’t listen to the song & sing-along without tearing up.  Here’s a link to go listen (it’s a random video of someone’s kiddo, but the song is excellent:

You Can Always Come Home