Friday, July 24, 2015

missing

It's been two months since baby girl left.

We miss her.

Some days it's just a slight, dull ache behind most things we do.
I feel her missing presence, but don't voice it.

Other days, I want to wallow in self-pity and sadness. Lock the door and cry until I feel better. Call out to the Comforter of All to take away the missing piece of my heart and fill it up with something better instead.

Yesterday we were having a lunch-playdate with friends. There were a dozen kids running around. The host-mom has a one-year-old, too. As I watched the baby toddle across the floor and hold out those chubby little hands for Momma, my heart was ripped open again with longing and missing my baby girl. I was among friends. I should have been able to talk about what was going through my head and heart. But I didn't want to put voice to my thoughts and feelings. I didn't want to be so raw and vulnerable and depressing. I didn't want to drag someone else down with me.

But you know what? After I got home, I realized: I should have said it. "I miss her."
That wouldn't have been so hard, would it? 

So, next time you see me, ask about baby girl.
It makes me happy that other people remember her and think of her too.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Singing

When I went away on a women's retreat in April, I came to a decision:
I realized that God wanted me to join the choir and start singing at church again.

This was something I grew up doing. I love to sing. As a middle-schooler, I was the youngest person on my church's worship team (by far). In college, I made some great friends at chorus class. However, after we got married, and when I had babies and toddlers, it was impossible to go to late-night practices, which were usually at the kids bedtimes. It was also really difficult to find a reliable, affordable babysitter, especially when only for only an hour or two on a weeknight.

The other obstacle was that my MOPS group meets at the same time as choir practices. I knew I couldn't do both. And I wanted to be obedient. So, after some prayer and introspection, in May, I quit MOPS.

Now, my kids are finally at an age where they are fairly independent and self-sufficient, so if I bring them along and make them sit at church with me for an hour, they can handle it.

So I thought...

We'd already been at church for 12 hours yesterday, for an unrelated event. So they were tired. Really tired. Not only that, but we'd gotten up extra-early that morning, and spent the previous day traveling. This combination would make any four-year-old a little out of sorts. So my little guy was really acting up.

However, I got to sing with the worship team. On the stage. With my own microphone! At the beginning of practice, we did an a-capella version of "Amazing Grace", while they checked our mics and fine-tuned the acoustics with the church's new sound system. It sounded great!

The last time I tried to join a worship team, I did an audition with the lead singer, and he told me I couldn't sing with them. He said I wasn't good enough, my voice wasn't strong enough, and I wasn't what he was looking for. I was pretty crushed. This group enthusiastically welcomed me with no reservations. What a huge difference. I also like how in the group, they take turns leading, and they genuinely work together as a team.

When I got home, I was on a spiritual/emotional high. I was doing what God wanted me to do, and I was loving it! It took me awhile to fall asleep last night. I was just so excited, and confident that this is what I should be doing.

This morning I got a message about a possible foster placement. If I have 5 kids with me on Sunday morning, I have NO IDEA how I am going to manage singing on stage with 5 little people running up and down the aisles. But you know what? I'm going to let God take care of it. If He wants me to sing, He will help me find a way to make it happen.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Still in the game

I just want to say that our licensing social worker is awesome. There are only 2LSWs in our county, and they work so hard to make sure each foster parent has all the resources they need, and each child is placed into a loving home.

Today we completed the paperwork to renew our foster care license. (This means we've committed to keep our house open to placements for at least 2 more years.) I had gotten everything signed at the end of April, but was waiting for my CPR and first aid cards to come in the mail.

We had a nice discussion. She joked with the kids and asked about how we were dealing with the loss of baby girl. Im glad that I have counseling resources on hand, and even more glad that we havent needed to use them!

I think our LSW -really- didnt want to go back to her office, because she also spent 20 mins playing in the backyard with the kids. The best part was when she climbed into the treehouse and slid down the slide! I took a picture of her. Wish I could post it. Hilarious.

The little guy has been asking me when we will have another little boy come to stay with us. Soon, I hope. I had a message from God, that we will get another long term placement by the end of August. ok, that might sound a little crazy, but thats what I was told.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Our first post-placement visit

We got to see Baby Girl this afternoon.

I'd found some toys and clothes around the house that I wanted to pass along to her, and I'd made a scrapbook for her, so I sent a message to her relatives, asking if we could meet-up somewhere. At first I was thinking we'd meet in the same shopping center where we always did drop-off/pick-up visitation exchanges. I'd say hi, give them a bag of stuff, it'd take 2 minutes, and we would all go our separate ways.

But the relatives suggested something even better: They wanted to meet us at a fast-food restaurant, the kind with a small playground attached, so that we could actually visit together for an hour or two.
They have always been very grateful for the way we took care of Baby Girl when she needed to be in foster care. I am pleasantly surprised that they are willing to stay in contact and let us visit once in awhile. The primary caretaker told me "Just let us know when you want to see her. You're welcome to visit anytime."

It will be interesting to see how this relationship progresses. But for now, I am just grateful for this first visit. It's really nice to know that she is happy and being well cared for.

Baby Girl recognized us right away. She had a huge smile on her face. She came running to me, then to Hannah. She looks exactly the same as she did when we said goodbye a month ago (only, her hair was done better than I could've ever styled it. I need more practice!). My kids got to play with her for about an hour on the little playground, and I got to feed her a few bites of french fries and ice cream. She hadn't taken a nap yet, so towards the end of our visit, when she laid her head down on my shoulder and twisted my hair into her hands, I figured she was about done being pleasant and social.

That's when I knew it was time to say goodbye. I had to hand her back. She didn't fuss too much. My kids didn't make a big scene either (probably because they knew we were heading to another social engagement). They each gave her a big hug, and said goodbye. Then we all turned away, and together we walked to our vehicle, holding hands.

Baby Girl probably fell asleep in the car.

It was a good visit.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Judgement Day

Yesterday was judgement day - the day that a judge would make a final ruling about our foster child, and where they will spend the rest of their life.

We waited throughout the morning, but our case wasn't called. I prayed that we wouldn't be the last case of the day. Well, God answered my prayer, and He proved his ironic sense of humor yet again - we were the second to last case. Thanks.

It was really difficult to sit still in the courtroom. We heard some cases with happy endings - children being reunified with parents - and some cases with sad ones - one teenager was removed from their home because of the court's findings. It was also hard to sit still because of those hard wooden benches - think old-fashioned 100-year-old cracked, creaky church pew benches. My foot kept falling asleep, then I'd switch positions and the other foot would fall asleep. I couldn't get comfortable.

Finally, our case was called. The judged read reports and listened to arguments from 3 different lawyers, 2 public defense attorneys, a child advocate (called "GAL" in our state) and a social worker. The biological family sat on one side of a long, hard wooden bench and we (Mike and I) sat on the other. I was pretty certain what the verdict would be, but wasn't sure how it would come about. After about 15 minutes of testimony, the judge declared "I will adopt motion number 3." We didn't know what that meant. Us laypeople were confused. Judge continued with a few more details, giving us, the foster parents, a 2-week notice. That's when I understood it.

The final verdict: guardianship with relatives.
We've got less than 2 weeks until she's out of our house forever.

I am sad for us, because it will be a great loss for our family. However, I know without a doubt that this is what is meant to be for baby girl, to grow up and live with part of her biological family.

I couldn't speak face-to-face with the relatives. I was too emotional in that moment. We walked out of the courtroom and went our separate ways. However, after I got home, I sent a message saying I was happy for them, and that I know they'll raise her well.

I can only trust it to be true.

So now I am left with the task of telling my children, who think of her as their baby sister, that she'll be gone in a few days. How do you prepare for this? What do you do with this kind of grief? It's not quite anything we've had to go through before (unless you count when we said goodbye the first time, last May. But that wasn't so final.). We've known that we won't keep her forever, but the reality of that is much more harsh than the abstract idea. "Forever" is not a concept that my kids easily understand. Right now they can touch, hug, and play with her. Next week, they can't.

There are 3 things I'd like to ask of you, if you are reading this:
1. Pray for our family, and baby girl, during this time of transition. Give us the right words to say to our children, to help them understand. They will be hurting. They will be sad and grieving. Help us guide them through this difficult time.

2. Pray also for her relatives, who are overjoyed right now. Pray that they will raise her well and rise to the challenge of their new responsibilities.

3. Consider how you can be invested in someone else's life. Everyone goes through hard times at one point or another.  All it takes is one person to make a difference. We cannot all do everything, but everyone is called to do something. Whether that is being a respite provider for foster parents, helping hand-out groceries at a local food pantry, rescuing stray animals, doing yard work for a neighbor, lobbying for stronger laws regarding human trafficking, packing shoeboxes in November through Samaritan's Purse, or going on a mission trip to an orphanage in a third-world country... I don't know what it looks like for you, but you should find out.

(And if you're already doing whatever it is: Thank You. Keep it up.)

If you are able to pray for us during this time, please leave a message below to let me know that you are doing so. I am going to need all the encouragement I can get to make it through the coming days without collapsing into an unrecognizable mess.

Thanks.