I am Plan B.

They are my Plan A.

I always wanted them. Never for a second did I have to hesitate, to wonder if they were the wrong ones for me.

In that moment, I chose to give them my love and never ever take it back. When I received that call from the social worker requesting a placement, I chose yes. I chose them. In that moment, I had the privilege of choice and I am so glad I could choose to make them my Plan A. In that moment, I would do it all over again.

In that moment, they were never given that choice. They didn’t get to choose the house they live in. They didn’t get to choose who would fill that role as mom and dad. In that moment, they didn’t get to choose what their future would be like. And in that moment, they would never have chosen me. I was their Plan B. And I’m ok with that because they didn’t have the chance to chose, didn’t have the wisdom to choose, didn’t have the years to know if they even needed to choose. They didn’t get to choose at all.

They didn’t get to choose to leave the only home they ever knew.  They didn’t get to choose to leave the only people they ever though of as Mom and Dad. They didn’t get to choose to stay with sights and sounds and smells that were familiar. They didn’t get to keep their bed or their sofa or their favorite chair. They weren’t given choice at all. But they wouldn’t have chosen me, a stranger, unfamiliar, different. They didn’t choose Plan B. They would have chosen their Plan A, but they didn’t get to choose.

And so they grieve. In that moment, their grief is strong and hard and they do not have the words to tell it. They grieve the things they cannot understand, they grieve for missing lovies, and lost dollies, and left-behind toys and they grieve the world they left behind. They grieve for familiarity and family and foods and friends; they grieve their pets and their people, they grieve for things that maybe weren’t so good for them but they were the only things they may have had. Their grief is real and there really is no way to get around it. You cannot placate grief with lollipops or lessen pain with popsicles. You cannot make it ever go away, as each new stage and each new age brings new understanding of loss and gain and grief. And so they grieve on and on, in different ways on different days.

But time goes on, and we practice sharing the light and love and grace of Jesus and we practice giving hope and help and most of all we practice Love. And unfamiliarity gives way to comfortable and comfortable unfolds gently, softly, sweetly, into love. And Plan A and Plan B come together, somehow, someway, sometime, and make something so new and beautiful and shared and I am so grateful for it all. And every bit of laughter, every lasting hug, or late night talk; every meal and moment shared, every booboo kissed and every homework assignment completed together, and every holiday and every bit of help and hope lead to healing and healing leads to joy that is immeasurable. And the heavy weight of grief begins to lighten as we learn how to carry that load, together.


11 Life lessons as a foster parent


11 things I’ve learned as a foster parent…

Don’t worry about the things that are out of your control. Like hair cuts. Because those are still controlled by birth parents. And if anything can possibly go wrong, it will happen in the five minutes before the social worker knocks on your door.

Don’t worry about what other people think. As a foster mom, I’ve been accused of a lot. Like that time when the perfect stranger  was convinced I had an affair and asked me. In front of my husband. Or the random church member who called me a bad parent for reasons I am totally unaware of. Or the acquaintance who was pretty sure I was getting a substantial and undeserved payload for these children. And I had to learn to let it go, let it go, and stop worrying about what others think. Except your social worker. You should probably always worry about what she thinks.

Ride the rails.  It didn’t take long to learn what an emotional roller coaster the foster care journey is. And while training helps you prepare for the worst and the best, there really is nothing quite like going through it for real. So you learn to ride the rails, hang on tight, scream a little bit here and there when you get scared, and laugh when it’s fun, and dig your very fingernails into the arms of the person next to you as you cling to them for your ever loving life, but just know that no matter what happens in the ups and downs, it’s not over until it’s over and anything can happen at anytime.

Take it one day at a time.  As a foster parent, you become acutely aware that you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. So you take it just one day at a time, one hour at a time, or a minute at a time if need be. Enjoy each moment while you can because you just don’t know what’s coming next. And sometimes, that’s a good thing.

Get help when you need it. It’s not always all roses, all the time being a foster parent, and sometimes, you just need help. Maybe you need to hire someone to help with the laundry or the cleaning. Or maybe your child needs some help from a therapist. You social worker is always there to assist and will point you in the right direction (and will make sure you get the court’s permission when you need it).

Laugh. “They” say that laughter is the best medicine. I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but experts do agree that laughter increases feel good endorphins and other hormones that help your children feel better, cope better, grow better. So get out those corny jokes, ridiculous charades, and pillow fights and tickle fests and just laugh long and hard.

Rest. When my oldest was born, everyone told me to sleep when the baby slept. The joke was on me because he barely slept! Take it from me, if you get an opportunity for a nap, take it! While you’re at it, eat right, exercise, spend time with your spouse, and do something fun for you. Go ahead. You’ll thank me.

Give grace. And give it freely. To your biological children. To your adopted children. To your children in care. To the birth parents. To your spouse. And especially, to yourself.

Let it go. Make it your mantra. When the potted plant gets dumped for the 3rd time in the last five minutes, let it go. When the window gets broken, let it go. When your child writes his name for the very first time on your favorite Bible in sharpie, just let it go. You’ll be happier for it. And if you need help remembering to let it go, just watch, “Frozen.” It doesn’t disappoint and you’ll never forget to Let it go again.

Pray hard. Prayer works. Prayer is powerful. Stop reading this and go do it.

Love hard. ‘Nough said.


16 things I’ve heard as a foster mom.

Most folks are well-intentioned, merely curious, really good , kind people who simply don’t know all of the foster care lingo that we, on the parenting side, have become quite comfortable with. And after being a foster mom for several years, I think I’ve heard it all from complete strangers, from very sweet, kind comments about my darling babies, to funny, witty, and sometimes even dirty looks and down-right rude remarks that secretly make my blood boil. Usually, though, I’m too busy tending to my bustling brood to actually care what other people think, but sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I had a snappy comeback to pass along with an impish grin and a sticky hug from a quite thoughtful child. So here’s a quick list of some of the funny things I’ve heard – and what I wish I had said in the moment. Enjoy!

  1. You’re a saint for taking in those children.  ME? A saint? You must have me confused with someone else, because I’m just a normal, boring, imageregular, non-perfect, plain old, run-of-mill human being with normal, boring, regular, non-perfect, plain, old, run-of-the-mill problems who happens to be a mom. I’m taking life one day at a time just like everybody else. I make messy mistakes, sneak chocolates when the kids aren’t looking, beg God to let me sleep a little longer each morning, and I long for the peace and quiet of bed time every night. I’d say those children are saints for not complaining when all of the yummy dark chocolate has completely disappeared from their Easter baskets after I accidentally ate it all.  Shhhh don’t tell them I told you…

2. Are you a daycare? Not since the last time I checked.IMG_3428

3. Which one is yours? All of them. They are all mine. Every single one. Some people collect shot glasses, I collect children. Hoard them, as a matter of fact. And no, I won’t trade, sell, or barter any of my precious collection, they are worth far too much, but I’ll gladly help you start your own collection of highly adorable, completely priceless miniature human beings.

4. Is the mom in jail?  Well, I’m the mom and I am definitely NOT in jail. But thanks for asking about how I’m doing… as a matter of fact, I do feel a little trapped by the all the laundry I have to do each week…. How about I bring over a couple of loads of wash for you to fold?

5. What’s wrong with that one? What’s wrong with you?IMG_1655

6. I could never love another person’s child. Wrong. Just wrong. If you’re saying that (out loud even), you’re just trying to convince yourself not to get involved. Here’s how I see it. Any child under my roof is MY CHILD. And I will love him or her for the rest of my life and well into the next. Because that child is lovable and worthy of love. Love is a choice, an action, and I double dog dare you to choose it. You haven’t learned what love can be until you hear that child call you “Mommy” and I promise it will make your little heart burst with joy.

7. They’re lucky to have you.  I don’t believe in luck. I believe in Jesus.IMG_1628

8. Don’t you have enough kids? Nah. There’s always room for one more.

9. Are you going to adopt that one? Which one?

10. Doesn’t the mom want them?  Of course I want them!

11. Did the real mom do drugs? I’m the real mom.

12. You look great for just having a baby, I didn’t even know you were pregnant. Gee, thanks, at least someone thinks I look good!

13. Is the kid safe? Does he ‘have something?”  Well, the last time I checked, IMG_1528there were a couple of rocks in his pocket and he had just picked up a frog, but I’m pretty sure they don’t bite because frogs don’t have any teeth.

14. You must be in it for the money.  Hahahahahahaha.

15. Your husband must make a lot of money. Again. Hahahahahahaha.

16. Is that a drug baby? Nope. “That” is a child. A tiny soul, created by God, to grow and love and live and spend eternity worshipping Him. Why do you ask?

Don’t bash the baby-daddy.

Nobody wants to be a birth parent.

Nobody wants to have their child taken out of their arms and handed over to complete strangers. No one wants to go to court and face the judge and face the assigned lawyer and pay the fees for those alleged charges. No one wants to own up to the mistakes they can’t believe they made that may have hurt their children for the rest of their lives. Nobody wants to have a mental health issue, or a physical health issue, or any other kind of issue, that gets in the way of motherhood or fatherhood. Nobody wants to be seen as the worst of people in society. Nobody doesn’t love their baby. And I promise, nobody meant for this to happen.

But it did happen.

And, for lack of a better word, it sucks.

And somehow, normally kind, humble, God-loving, people-helping, puppy-rescuing, charity-giving, underdog-championing, cheer for the little leagues and peewee football kind of church-goers suddenly are overcome with a self-righteousness that knots up in my stomach and makes me wretch silently on the inside when they think it’s ok to judge viciously the very people that gave my babies life. Please, for all that is the love of God, don’t bash the baby-daddy.

No one wants to be a drug addict. But it happens.

No one wants to neglect their child. But it happens.

No one wants to get in legal trouble. But it happens.

No one wants to screw their life up this bad. But it happens.

It happens to normal, ordinary people who make 1 bad choice; 1 mistake, just 1 time, and they become forever addicted to something so heinous as heroin. Probably before their tender teenager years have even crossed the tiny line into a shaky adulthood their own hurt and pain drove them to one weak moment, one bad choice.

Or maybe it isn’t even heroin. Maybe it’s a prescription pain killer to help them overcome a bad back, or a work injury, or a broken heart. And somehow, that pain killer just isn’t strong enough to deaden the pain that came from the lost job or the lost spouse or the loss of dignity when they are suffering the devastation of a freak car accident. And maybe they just don’t know Jesus or they don’t have a family or a friend that they can count on to pull them up when they hit rock bottom or when they just need a shoulder to cry on. And suddenly, everything is spiraling out of control until they’ve lost everything they have ever loved and hoped for and worked at, including their precious, perfect, beautiful babies. I’m pretty sure, given 1 wrong choice, 1 bad situation, that could have been me. And I’m pretty sure, given 1 wrong choice, and just 1 bad situation, that could have been you, too.

Yes, the tummy mommies of this world have made bad choices. But I’m pretty sure that I’m not a perfect parent, because I’ve made a few bad choices too. And I’m pretty sure that you, you who look like you have it all together, you aren’t the perfect parent and you’ve made a few bad choices here and there, too.

So don’t you dare bash my baby’s bio-daddy for making 1 wrong choice that led to another wrong choice, and another. Because Jesus didn’t just die for you, with your nice job and your nice car and your nice house and your nice family and your nice church. Nope, sorry. You cannot corner the market on Jesus. (Jonah tried that and it didn’t work out so well for him or the vomitous whale). Oh, I felt that way, too, a little self-righteous, a little bit better than those other people, that is, until I met my babies. And then I became a little bit unglued.

I unraveled just a little bit at first, and then a lot, and then a whole lot more until I couldn’t stop the tears from coming all at once when Jesus tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “Don’t you see? I died for him, too.”

And then my eyes were opened to the grace that Jesus is, and the grace that Jesus gave, and the grace that Jesus gives us, and the grace that we need to give to those who made 1 single bad choice in a bad situation that led to a life shattering series of events.

And then I see those little eyes, wide open to things that they never should have seen, and now hearing things that they should never have to hear about the people who gave them life. No matter what mistakes a baby-daddy made, no matter what wrong choices a tummy mommy chose (and I won’t tell you the details of my family’s stories so don’t bother to ask), there are a set of listening ears who still cling to the hope that those broken people that gave them life have a love for them. Those tiny humans, born into a situation that was out of their control, had to leave behind the only home they ever lived in, the only love they ever knew, and the only parents that ever held them tight. And maybe it wasn’t a home or a love or a set of arms that we could possibly understand, but it was all they ever knew and they are fiercely dedicated to the hope that there is still love and goodness and kindness there. And each and every day these tiny humans try to reconcile their past life with their current life and try to come up with some kind of future life and they just cannot comprehend how any of this ever could have happened to them in the first place.

And oh, how it sucks.

And some day, they are going to have to face the choices that their birth parents made and they are going to have to choose for themselves a path that is hopefully better than what any of us have thus far chosen. But for now, for today, they deserve the dignity that any other child is born with. They deserve to cling to a hope that there was goodness, that there was love, and that the people who gave birth to them are better than the choices that they made.

Please, please, please, for all that is good and for all the love that is God, don’t bash the baby-daddy. Don’t barter for information that doesn’t belong to you, don’t insult the people who gave me my family whom I love with all of myself. Don’t despise the ones that Jesus loves. You don’t need to know the hows or the whys or the what happened. You don’t need to put on a show of condescension as a form of solidarity. You just need to know that Jesus died for them, too. Forget the brokenness of how this happened in the first place; just give grace.

Foster care: it’s not what you think

I didn’t set out to become a foster mom. It simply wasn’t on my radar for a very long time. It was only after our Chinese adoption agency closed mid-adoption and our biological son was born extremely premature that we considered Foster to adopt for our family. And we’ve never looked back. It was – and is- the right choice.

But Foster care is not what you think.

I’ve heard a lot of difficult comments and been asked a plethora of personal, uncomfortable questions, which tells me that most people don’t really understand what Foster care is all about. I’ve been stigmatized and judged. And so have my children and other children who were unlucky enough to find themselves in ‘the system.’ My children and others who are completely innocent of what their biological parents have or haven’t done. Children who deserve the same respect and love and fair chances that any other child receives. Children who deserve to have privacy about their situation because some day they will be an adult who has no option but to grapple with the choices that their birth parents made or didn’t make. Children whose health and hurts and abilities are not for public inspection, just like your own children. Children who are not bad because of where they come from. Children who are definitely not unwanted or unloved.

Foster care is NOT loving someone else’s child. Foster care is welcoming a child into your family and making them your own, for as little or as long as they are a part of your household. Foster care is not all runaways and shoplifting and lost kids and police reports and bad news from teachers. Foster care is offering a safe place to grow and learn through the day to day workings of a family who isn’t perfect. Foster care is being to willing to love no matter what the cost. It is being willing to accept the grief of a child who has lost their home, their belongings, their family, their parents, their everything they have ever known or loved. It is advocating for someone who can’t do it themselves, filling out a few papers, following a few rules, and giving a few reports. But that’s not all.

Foster care is joy and triumph over a tiny human learning how to love and trust and become everything they were meant to be. It is picking up the broken pieces and putting them back together again. It is offering grace and hope and kindness to birth parents who perhaps made bad choices and mistakes and who still love their child very very much. It is offering grace and hope and kindness to children who didn’t have everything they needed and don’t know any other way to act.

Foster care is being the hands and feet of Jesus in a very broken world. Foster care is showing the world just how much Jesus loves children, even the children that the world might see as less than, because God sees them as worth dying for.

Foster care is your responsibility and it is mine.

Foster care is changing the world. One child at a time.