Monday, August 24, 2015

Humble Pie

When my mom was in her forties, I thought life must be really easy for her.  After all, she only had two slightly grown children, a husband, a new job, was back in college, and was paying for private school with college bills looming.  Her hair was turning gray but surely that wasn’t from stress or anything.

Naturally, by the time I turned forty, I thought I too would have things figured out.  I would be settled into a career, my children would be through the rough stage, my house nearly paid for, my friends wouldn’t have drama and calm would reign.  What really happened was we moved to a different state, I got sick, our house didn’t sell, my kids started a new school (and went to college) and we became foster parents. I’ll tell you straight up that I don’t have the answers to life’s problems.

What I do have is a heaping slice of humble-pie.

John Wesley said in his “Circumcision of the Heart” sermon that humility “cleanses the mind from those high conceits of our own perfection, from that undue opinion of our own abilities and attainments…” At this point, I have no illusion of my own perfection (no matter how much I’ve tried), but that’s not a bad thing.  I think maybe it took me getting to this stage where I could say, life is challenging.  It’s hard and I don’t get it, but it’s my privilege to live it.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out, my mom’s life wasn’t easy and stress-free in her forties.  She was scared and overwhelmed and had moments where she questioned everything, just like I do.  She didn’t have all the answers, I just thought she did.

I don’t really have any answers either.  I do however have this delicious humble pie that I’m happy to share.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

In Over My Head

When I was younger, I wasn’t afraid of the deep end.

I’ve always loved the ocean.  I loved the wildness of it, riding the power of the waves into the shore, feeling them batter my body.  I loved diving into the wave instead of riding the crest of it.  Feeling my toes drag the sand, at the edge of my control over standing, swimming, or going under.

My mom loves to tell this story about how once I was floating on a raft in the Gulf when she noticed that I was getting too far out.  She claims that while she was frantically trying to wave me in, I drifted all the way out to the oil rigs and they thought they were going to have to call the Coast Guard to save me.  First of all, they’re natural gas rigs.  And second, that never happened.  

But there are a few things that I think about when I remember that story.  One, from the safety of the shore, where my mom was, the water looked deep and dangerous.

Two, I wasn’t aware of how deep I had gotten when I was enjoying the ride.

Three, sometimes when you are in way over your head, you gain a new perspective.  From the shore, the natural gas wells look like sparkly little cupcakes dotting the ocean.  Up close, from a boat (or a raft, but really, that never happened), the wells are enormous, the posts that hold them up larger than my arms could reach around.

The thing is, as I’ve gotten older, I don’t like swimming in the ocean any more.  Where I used to revel in the mystery of it all, I now like swimming where I can see my feet, where I can be in control.  I understand there are risks (people drown in the ocean! there are sharks!) and the reward of feeling the power of the waves pounding isn’t enough anymore.

The problem is the fear.  We aren’t just aware that theoretically there are dangers in the ocean, we’ve experienced them.  Getting swamped by a wave and coming up gasping for air just in time to be slapped in the face by a bigger one--that doesn’t sound so fun.

Yet, I think it's what Jesus calls us to.

It’s kind of a theme, stepping out in faith on purpose, trusting God in the rush and pound of life in the deep end.  Sometimes there are people on the shore who are waving you in, but there’s something inexplicably joyous about going farther than you’ve ever been before, trusting God that His plan is better, that HIs grace will be enough.  And being upheld by God’s hand is way better than any floatie raft.

Your ocean looks different than mine.  But the question is the same:  Whose voice are we going to listen to?  The One calling us deeper into trust or the voices on the shore calling us to safety?

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Foster Family is a Real Family.

4200 diapers.
2190 bottles.
700 bedtime prayers.
1304 naps.
Countless kisses.
Thousands of I love yous.
Hundreds of books.
Two Christmases.
Two Easters.
Three family vacations.
Big sister graduated from high school.
Big brother celebrated his 21st birthday.
Grandma and grandpa had their 49th wedding anniversary.
Great-grandma turned 93.
One cousin went to war, one went to middle school, one lost her first tooth.

First time sleeping through the night.
First tooth.
First food.
First words.
First squeal.
First laugh.
First steps.
First slobbery kisses.
First day of preschool.
First tantrum.
First fever.
First boo-boo.
First lovie.
First haircut.
First time toes in the sand.

A dad, a mom, a sweet little guy.
Two siblings, two dogs.
Two years.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

West Wing, Serving, and Me

"I serve at the pleasure of the President."  What a life, right?  If you work for the President, you get to be a part of things bigger than yourself.  What you do every day makes a difference for other people.  You are close to the center of power, arguably for the world.

Like the characters in The West Wing in the "Let Bartlet be Bartlet" episode, my family has been dealing with some hard things lately.  I have not been full of grace.  And I've said on more than one occasion, "I will never do this again."

Saying yes isn't easy, especially if you know that you will face opposition and challenge.  Doing the right thing often comes at a price.  But is it up to me to decide I will never do "this" again?  Will I never step out where I don't know what lies ahead of me?  Will I never take a chance on so many blessings because I fear that the future may hold hardship?  Never again know the feeling of emptying myself so that with every breath I know that Jesus fills me?

Maybe I need a reminder:  I don't serve at the pleasure of the President, but I am a part of things bigger than myself.  What I do every day can make a difference for other people, if I choose wisely.  I am not close to the center of power for the world, I'm close to the center of power.

I don't want it to be up to me to decide if I ever do "this" or any other hard thing again.  I want to be called and challenged and given the honor to say wholeheartedly...

"I serve at the pleasure of the God of the Universe."

Monday, September 30, 2013

Being Broken Hearted

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger 
In the presence of my Savior.

My heart is broken that our sweet foster baby will be leaving us soon.  He's been a part of our family for nearly a year--laughs, hugs, wails, and all.  We have been enchanted by him.

It was such a natural thing to be his mom.  There was never a question whether he would be loved.  He has been cherished.  We've experienced all his firsts with him--first food, first tooth, first time pushing up, sitting, sleeping through the night.  We've made every decision with his best interest at heart.  We've soothed his tears when he didn't feel well.  And we have prayed over him, every day of his life.   

Everyone asks me how we could possibly let him go.  It's an understandable question because it's not natural for a mother to let go of her children.  No one in the world knows our children as well as we do.  Our every instinct is to hold them close, protect them.  How do you stop being a parent when you are one?

Letting go is hard.  Something I glibly admitted it would be before I knew what it would feel like to hand the child I've mothered for nearly a year into someone else's arms.  So yes, my heart is broken.

I am broken.

I know Jesus called me to this hard place and I asked for it-- in every prayer I prayed for God to use me.  In worship, when I sang Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, and meant it. When I told God that I wanted to be sold out, that I would do anything.

C.S. Lewis writes in his book A Grief Observed, "Your bid—for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity—will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high."

Fostering isn't about me.  It's about the children who come into my home--and the stakes could not be higher.

We will let this sweet baby go, because truly, he is not ours.  He belongs to God, just like the children we birthed into our family.   We were blessed to parent him for a while and  we will have the honor of praying for him for the rest of his life.   And He will have the Creator of the Universe on his side, looking out for him and leading him, relentlessly pursuing him.  

We will still be broken, but that's okay.  Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  Being near to the Lord, in the presence of my Savior, is where I long to be.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

If Not Me, Then Who--Thoughts on the Foster Crisis in America

Someone quoted this to me last night:  "The orphan crisis in America was so much easier to bear before I knew their names."  For some reason, that statement stunned me.  I knew that there were 400,000, give or take, children in foster care in the U.S. on any given day, but for some reason the idea that we have an "orphan crisis" going on here never crossed my mind.  But think about this:  research shows that foster children are more likely to experience homelessness, poverty, compromised health, unemployment and incarceration after they leave the foster care system.  Only about half get a high school diploma, 2 out of 100 get a bachelors or higher, and 84% have their own children too young, therefore continuing the cycle of poverty and, too often, neglect. (

There is a cycle of abandonment, neglect and abuse rampant in our society, and I believe that it comes down to this:  We are not respecting other people as humans.   Otherwise, how could there be 18(19?) murders in a town the size of Montgomery, Alabama in a three month period of 2013?  How can 1 in 5 children be the victim of bullying?  We don't value each other.  We don't stop long enough to think this is a person before judging them for disagreeing with us, wearing the wrong clothes, having the wrong skin color, or the wrong family background.

I said in my last post that every baby deserves a family, to be loved and adored just because they are who they are.  But doesn't every child deserve a family?  I'm really wrestling with this as we are called about placements.  We love being foster parents, but it is hard.  Do I want to do this more, take on more, love more, hurt more?  And then I think about James (1:27):  Pure and genuine religion means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Which leads me to ask this question, "If not me, then who?"  Who will step in and stop the cycle?  Live and let live is not good enough.  We have to be willing to wade in where life is messy.  Jesus never turned away from a person who needed Him, never backed away from a challenge, never, throughout centuries, left us to fend for ourselves.  We must look at these needy ones through the eyes of love and have the nerve to say, "I will."  There is an orphan crisis in America and every one of the 400,000 of them is a person, with a name.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Five Things I've Learned as a Foster Mom

The baby with us now is the sixth that I've had a hand in raising.  I have two biological children, two babies that I was a nanny for, and two that I've been a foster mom to (so far). 

I've always been pretty good with babies, but being able to take someone's crying baby in the nursery and calm them doesn't always translate to home life 24/7.

Things I've learned from my babies:  

1.  If I'm calm, my baby is more likely to be calm.  Babies look to their mum for how they are supposed to react to things.  If I'm tense and upset, babies pick up on that tension and are fussier and harder to calm.  

2.  All babies are different.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but if you read some of the parenting or sleep books, you might get the idea that if you only did this schedule or that one that magically your baby will sleep all night and take two hour naps during the day.  It may work that way, but if it doesn't, your baby's not weird, just different.

3.  Babies cry.  Yep.  Sometimes you've fed them, changed them, given them a nap, checked to make sure nothing's scratching, poking, annoying them, and they still cry, and that's okay.  

4.  Every baby deserves parents who are fully devoted to them.  Whether we have a baby for a week, six months, only during the day, or for life, that baby deserves a parent who thinks he or she is the cutest, sweetest, most precious thing ever.  Yes, we have to let go of our foster babies, either to be reunified with their family or to go on to another forever family, but while they are with us, we are their real family.  

5.  Some days you just have to let go of your to-do list and hold the baby all day.  We are all busy. Between church and school and work, sometimes it seems like we only meet ourselves coming and going.   But there are days when the baby didn't sleep well or is teething or going through a growth spurt and on those days, the best thing I can do is just relax and snuggle.  Then we both feel better.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Natural, Homemade Baby Care

Well, once again the homemade products win out over the store-bought.  My wee one had a horrible diaper rash and we had tried everything.  Sensitive wipes, only water, different diapers, twenty-four different creams from the original (Desitin) to the expensive organic (California Baby).  This diaper rash refused to go away.  It was bad!  The doctor prescribed an anti-fungal, which knocked it back a bit, but within a day or two it came back with a vengeance.

At the latest checkup, I asked again about the diaper rash, only to be told that what we were doing was the treatment.  As I was thinking about that on the way home, I remembered radiation and how rough it was on my skin.  I used shea butter and often, the skin would be less red in the morning, which is really unusual for radiated skin.  So I swung by the health food grocery store and bought every product I could think of with anti-fungal, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.  I ended up with shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter and tamanu oil, plus a few other things like talc-free baby powder and a cream that cost fourteen dollars!  This is desperation.

I'm ecstatic to report that the diaper rash is gone.  I'm still using the cream I made as a protectant but I'm so happy with the results!

In addition to the diaper rash cream, I also made some diaper changing solution which I am using instead of wipes.  I cut up some old flannel to make cloth wipes and it's working like a charm. (I toss them in a pail of vinegar and water until I have enough for a load of wash).

The dream team...note the recycled jar :)

For anyone interested in the recipes, here they are:

Diaper Rash Cream

2 oz raw unrefined shea butter
1 oz cocoa butter
1 to 2 oz tamanu oil
2 oz coconut oil

Melt together over low heat.  Let cool.  Whip to the consistency of frosting (Add coconut oil as needed).  To use, make sure the diaper area is dry and the slather it on.  It melts when it makes contact with skin.

Diaper Changing Solution (adapted from this recipe at Wellness Mama)

1 3/4 cups chamomile "tea" steeped in boiled water
1 tbsp almond oil
2 tbsp Triple Wash (Dr. Bronner's baby castile soap would be a good alternative)
2 tbsp Witch Hazel

Add all ingredients into a glass jar.  Seal and shake.  Pour into spray bottle for diaper changes.

There is no question that this process is more labor intensive than popping the top on a box of wipes and using them, but it is so much kinder to the environment and to baby's tushie.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blessing and Honor

So, this little hand is going to be holding onto mine for a while.  Could there be a greater honor than to influence the life of a child?  We know our little baby won't remember us, but we will have impacted his life for good.  I am humbled by the task and find myself lifting this little life to the Lord so often.

Today, I'm in tears because of a chance encounter in the grocery store.  Someone stopped me to look at the baby and then, without stopping to think, placed his hand on the baby's foot and spoke a blessing.  You are good and strong and you will lead nations to Jesus.

It's part of our mission to speak blessing into these little lives that pass through ours, but I never expected that a perfect stranger would do the same.  How did he know how much I pray that our little one would know the love of Jesus and that Jesus will always be a friend?  How did he know that I pray daily that our baby will grow in the knowledge that God has a brilliant future planned already?  He couldn't know, this stranger in the grocery store.  I can only guess that he was moved by the Holy Spirit.  But what a treasure to hear those words spoken over this child I already love.

This baby isn't mine, any more than any of our loved ones are--they belong to God.  And we can rest assured that He will love them more than we can ask or imagine.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Purpose Driven Christmas Gifts

It's a busy season.  It's hard to manage everything we have to do, much less slow down and just enjoy each other.  The shopping is crazy!  The pressure of picking the perfect gift is extreme!

Over the last couple of years in our family, we've tried to scale back a little bit.  Think more, spend less.  Do things a little more intentionally.  If you're doing the same, here are a few ideas.

The Santa Hat from Krochet Kids, or any of a bunch of cute, cute hats and scarves crocheted by actual women in Africa or Peru.  (You can actually write the person who crocheted your hat).  You can read the company's mission here.  I'm not saying who, but someone in my family is getting a really awesome hat from KK this Christmas!

My daughter and I've been fans of Light Gives Heat for a few years now.  Each piece of jewelry is handmade by the Suubi women in Uganda.  They are beautiful!  You can read more about their mission here.

Feed Projects has a lot of bags and jewelry to choose from.  Each FEED item has an ulterior motive--to provide nutritious meals for people who are hungry.  This particular bag provides one month of AntiRetroViral treatment and 30 nutritious meals, providing one month of life-saving assistance.  Learn more about their mission here and check out their cute selection of holiday gifts here!

Drink Coffee. Do Good.  This is the slogan of Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee in Roswell, GA.  I first had their coffee at a conference in Atlanta.  Y'all know I'm a coffee connoisseur and I love this coffee.  It's rich and full of flavor.  If you have a coffee lover on your list, this is a great gift!  Check out their story here and their selection of coffees and merch here.

Theo Chocolate is delicious, but the Theo Congo Initiative is supporting a whole community by helping them learn to process cocoa beans and market them in the U.S.  If you buy one (or ten...good idea, right?) of these chocolate bars, a portion of the proceeds goes to TCI.  Learn more about their mission here (and shop, of course!).

I love the idea of giving gifts to my family that also have a positive impact on our world.  Share your gift ideas in the comments!