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.

 

Your fish tank is decorated in little stickers that come off of bananas, oranges, imageand apples.

Your ability to hurdle baby gates has reached Olympic Gold Status.

You can’t find your refrigerator under all those handmade pictures.

You find unidentifiable science experiments growing under your sofa. You’re not sure, but one might be an old hotdog.

You are keenly aware that epic destruction can occur in less than a minute, about the time it takes to change the baby’s diaper or take your own bathroom break.

You live for naptime, bedtime, and gynecological appointments because you finally get a break from the screeching, screaming, and Barney songs.

You’re thinking about buying a coffee farm in Brazil. Because that much coffee is critical to your – and your toddlers’- survival.

imageYour backyard looks like a combination parking lot- playground- junk yard.

You can’t remember the last time their wasn’t a pile of laundry the size of Mt. Vesuvius with a stench like something you’ve never smelled before and hope to never smell again.

Your windows have a pretty, stained glass effect. At least that’s what you tell yourself when you don’t have time to wash off the ketchup, chocolate, and pudding smears that have been accumulating for weeks.

Your poor kitty is always running out of food and water because her bowls are easily accessible and most frequently used for dumping, pouring, and scattering.

Your essential oil diffuser lives on the kitchen counter to counteract that diaper smell.

You have as many sippy cups as coffee mugs.

You have a secret stash of chocolate.

You have a backup supply of coffee.IMG_1785

You keep a special, secret stash of wine for those days which are extra hard – you know, all of the ones that end with the letters d.a.y.

You buy baby wipes by the case.

You change clothes more frequently than a toddler because, well, there is ketchup. And spit-up. And fingerpainting. And, well, diapers. And that’s all before 9am.

You decide that keeping them in diapers a little longer is much easier and better for your sanity than attempting potty training. It’s ok, the kindergarten teacher can handle it.

Your mini-van has a special smell all its own.

You’re not sure if there is a floor under all those toys in the playroom.

Your bathroom only gets cleaned on bath night, and only with the shampoo and water that was supposed to stay in the tub.

image1 (2)Your idea of date night is to get in bed with a glass of wine and play dice on your cell phone while your other half watches ridiculously dumb Youtube videos but you don’t really care because you just want everyone to stop touching your body parts.

You can’t remember the last time you read a book with more than 35 words.

You daydream about what it’s like to go to the bathroom all by yourself.

You’re completely relieved when the tamper tantrum happening at the grocery store isn’t from one of yours.

You wouldn’t change it for the world.

 

 

IMG_8904I like to have a plan. And I like it when my plan goes as planned. When everything fits into a neat little box and the day goes just as I wanted it to and I finish everything that I listed on my “To Do” list and no one is late and nothing goes wrong and everything happens just as I thought it would. And I like the next day and the next and the next to go as planned, too, with no bumps in the road and no falling short of the plan and no interruptions or changes or anything other than the plan and the future going just as I planned. I don’t what surprises in my future or bumps in my road or anything that isn’t supposed to be in the plan. Unless it is surprises of chocolate or coffee or flowers or chickens, I just want my future to go forward as planned.

And I don’t really like that so much of my future is already in my past and so many of the days earmarked for me have already passed me by and I haven’t accomplished nearly what I though I would or what I think I should by this many years. And I had plans from the time I was just tiny and small and had most of my days ahead of me and I just thought life would go as planned, and don’t we all think that? That when we are small and life seems so possible and the future so big and so long and so far away so we dive into our plans until one day we realized nothing went as we had planned because the future brought us so many bumps in our roadway and surprises that weren’t really chocolate or coffee but surprises that brought us ups and downs and good and bad and a lot of growth that got in the way of all of our plans.

But there is a goodness that comes from having so many years behind instead of in front because you learned from all of those surprises that God’s just not done, no matter how many breaths you’ve taken and how many more you have left God hasn’t stopped working and He’s just not done with you yet. And you learn that when surprises come and you have to put a pause on those glorious, hard sought plans that sometimes, new plans, better plans, than you ever thought possible come about. And when you’ve had so many years that have had a bunch of bad days, you see that no matter how bad those days were you kinda made it through somehow, someway, and if you did it before you can do it again. So now you’ve got this big bump in your road and it looks like a mountain and you think it has stopped all of the plans you had dreamed about and lived for and focused on and now you wonder if you will ever be able to make plans again. You can look back on all of those years and all of those breaths and all of those times you thought you wouldn’t get to make a plan or walk that path and you remind yourself that God is just not done and if there are more breaths to take then there are more plans to make. And God will take those broken plans and fashion and form and grow you and suit you to a new and a bigger and a better plan.

IMG_2590And we worry and fret and fear because we can’t see the future on the other side of that bump or that mountain that’s blocking our path but Jesus said don’t fear and Jesus said don’t worry and Jesus said He loves you so take another breath because you’re not running out of them right at this time and if there are more breaths to take there are more plans to make and when the future is uncertain and surprises and bumps come and go remind yourself, from all those years that God’s just not done and the future isn’t gone and you can climb that mountain or scale that cliff or jump that bump.  Hurdle that fear and hurdle that bump and hurdle the idea that you can’t make new plans and take that big breath and take the first step. God knows the future and God knows the plans and God knows the days and the breaths that we have left and when we’re surprised by it all God is not ever surprised or caught off guard.

And the future will pause and the plans will crumble or come to a halt, and maybe you’ll falter and maybe you’ll fall but God doesn’t fail and God won’t forget and God’s just not done yet.

 

IMG_7754Jesus is her Savior, she said. Her Lord, she said. And heaven was her eternal home. She had no doubt. She told me these things resolutely, she went to Christian school, after all, and she knew the truth for her whole life. But she didn’t pray, not all that much, not all that often, only when it was really really important, because God had much more important people to listen to, like the president, the Pope, Mother Teresa, perhaps. She just didn’t want to get in the way, she didn’t want to take up God’s time from people who were doing real work for the world that needed it so badly. It was ok that way, she’d make it through without wasting God’s time. She didn’t want to burden Him with her petty stuff.

And then life happened. And life choices were made. And there were bumps in her road, but she still believed, she said, and she’d make it through, she just knew. But she didn’t make it through and her life on earth was over and done way too fast and then she went to her eternal home long before I was ready for her to exit this one. But her words will never leave me and I wish that I had time to tell her one more time how she was never in God’s way. She knows now what I wish she could have known on this earth, that God designed her and me and you to be in His presence, to be together, to heap our burning desires, our deepest needs, our trivial thoughts, our fleeting ideas and longings and everything else, all on Him. She doesn’t have to think she’s a burden anymore; her identity is solved her problems completely resolved and she is wholly His and she is wholly loved.illusion

Perhaps our life choices would be so much more clear, our paths, our destiny, perhaps God’s perfect will would be more easily known if we knew the truth about who we really are, how we are never in the way, we can never burden God with any care or thought or pain or idea. Perhaps the bumps in the road would seem smaller, and wouldn’t slow us down quite so very much, if we realized our identity is not in who we are or what we do or where we go or who we hang with or just how we look. Perhaps if we could see ourselves that way that our Jesus sees us, we would be different people after all. Perhaps we would look different or talk different or speak different to ourselves and to those who dare to come near.  Perhaps it would be easier to find our true selves when our trueness is God’s truth about us, perhaps we could love ourselves, really truly love myself, as God loves me.

Then it would matter so much less what that Facebook says and I wouldn’t need to search for significance as I scroll through social media and what that Twitter tweets me would tell me so much less about my worth and perhaps it wouldn’t mean so much or hurt so hard when the job doesn’t last or the pants suddenly seem too small and the number on the scale is too big, or when the children talk back or the bills pile up and we can’t ever seem to dig our way out. Perhaps we could do so much more than just get through this thing called life and we could run our race with joy and that penetrating, paralyzing fear wouldn’t make us so afraid if we found our completeness in the One who took on our identity and made it His very own, who gave up both heaven and earth to draw us close.

IMG_7751Perhaps if we didn’t strive quite so hard at knowing or doing or being or finding peace or making our way but just rested our very selves, our very identity, in the love that comes from Jesus, perhaps if we were known as one who is loved by God, if we just knew ourselves as one that is wholly loved by Jesus, we would wholly love ourselves and we would wholly love others and isn’t that a whole lot better of a life when what makes you tick isn’t you finding your way but you, finding yourself completely loved by Him?

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?

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.