Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tattoos and Racism

Wondering what the above have in common?  Well, nothing.  Except they are two things I encountered in the last 5 days that I consider life changing.

Let me explain.  I do not like tattoos.  I never have.  95% of my family have them and I have just never been interested.  My dad and I have been the hold outs.....stay classy dad.  But, a few weeks ago God really laid a word on my heart.  And the word was multiply.  I have been so convicted that we can do great things, work hard, be kind, but if we die and there is no one who carries on what we began....what is the point?  The multiplication principle is pretty simple.  J. O. and I can foster for years, but what is the point if that ministry dies with us?

So, I mentioned this word to my friend Kellie and told her I had a picture of it tattooed on my wrist.  Then, she shared with me her vision of a tattoo but she hadn't wanted to tell me because she knew I thought they were dumb.  Now, there is one thing you should know about me.  When I get something in my head I do it.  Like right then.  So once I agreed on doing this, I just needed the free afternoon and a tattoo parlor.  And I found both on Wednesday afternoon......right before Wednesday night church.....  I wouldn't recommend that, but hey.  I am still employed so I consider it a win.

I went to this tattoo parlor alone and got this word on my wrist.  And I find it no coincidence that the "t" in the word looks like a cross.  Even though that wasn't the design.  But, I love it and I may want more in the future.  So sorry J.O.

That brings me to the racism portion.  I went to Branson last weekend for a retreat with other foster and adoptive moms.  Now, I like a lot of things but this ranks pretty close to the top.  To get to stay at a super nice resort, with people who think a small family is 4 kids, is the best.  And one of the best things they do is build in down time.  We get 3 hours of nothing on Saturday afternoon.  Now for our friends that know Kellie and I, they know we typically watch slightly inappropriate movies during this time.  You know.....movies that aren't PG.  But this year, the place had removed this option from our room so we were forced to do something else.  So we shopped.  And the place we went was awesome.  It was a stand alone shop with amazing shoes.  Rows and rows of shoes.  We quickly found several pairs and headed to the check out.  We paid for those amazing shoes and were about to leave when the topic turned a bit awkward.

The owner began to tell us how big Branson had gotten.  We were surprised and he continued.  He told us that his daughters 5th grade class had 13 classes.  We were surprised again.  So then he started in on what a safe town it was.  We were glad.  Then he told us it was because the class as a whole had only "2 black people".  This feels dirty to even type.  Then he said they were also lucky because the Hispanics had moved in to open restaurants and work.

Man....they were a lucky group these 'whites'.

And I would love to tell you I had a great comeback.  Something like "well, between our Hispanic and African American kids maybe we can help diversify this town" or even something simple like "wow, just because we are white doesn't mean we think this way."  Now, Kellie did say, "man that's sad."  And I shook my head and looked appalled but ultimately I had no words.  We left and both couldn't believe it.  We were shocked, saddened, and disgusted.

So I guess the point of this rambling blog is this.  How dare you.  How dare you think because I am white I share your racist views.  How dare you think because I am shopping in your stores I want to hear your opinion.  How dare you think your view is okay.

Until we decide to break the stereotypes on races, ethnicities, genders, and dare I say tattoos......God help us all.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Put the toy in the box.......

Where do I begin with the youngest female in our house?  She's all things cute and whiny.  She would much rather cry than look at you, cry than talk, cry than figure out why she is actually crying, and so forth.

But when she came to us at 10 mths old, she never cried.  In fact she never made a sound.  She ate and slept and was of course classified as a "good" baby.  But as she got older I was very suspicious that she didn't hear well.  I couldn't really put my finger on why but I just knew it deep down.  We went to doctors and she always had fluid on her ears so after 2 sets of tubes they decided to test her hearing.  However, she was so young they couldn't get an accurate read but wanted to continue to follow up.  In March, she finally made it through the entire gamut of testing in the audiology booth at Childrens.  She wore the ear buds, showed responses to sounds, and sat still for 45 minutes of testing.  Which is no small feat at 4.  And it showed what I have always suspected.  That she has hearing loss at a certain decibel.  Thankfully at the speech level she hears what we say, but when she gets to high frequencys she can't hear in either ear.  This affects the "th" and "s" sound and random things like an airplane jet, birds, etc.  She is in speech and will have to learn certain words by tongue placement and watching people speak.  She will need preferential seating at school and so forth, but all in all it's not a big deal.  The hope is it will remain stable and not progress.

However, when we were in the booth last week (we are now there often for follow up screens), I was amazed at how loud the sound was she couldn't hear.  It is the high frequency so imagine a loud beeping noise in the room.  I kept sitting there and finally even reminded her to place the toy in the box when she heard the sound (I am sure the audiologist loves me).  I really wanted to say, "come on now Grace, surely you hear that."  But she didn't.  In fact, it's amazing because the lowest pitch sound that I would have to strain to hear, she picked up immediately.  It was the loud screeching noise that was obvious she couldn't hear.  I often wonder if she thinks my voice never sounds shrill.  I bet she wonders why my face sometimes is red but I am making no noise.  Kidding.  Kinda.

Anyway, when I got home and was explaining all of this to J.O., I couldn't help but imagine if this is how God must feel with us All. The. Time.  He must wonder why in the world we can't hear what He is saying.  Why do we sit there and look around confused when we hear Him.  Or refuse to move when we hear Him speak.  How often must He be thinking...."come on now Tamra, surely you hear that."

This summer has been crazy.  I will be honest, I was in a funk at the beginning of it.  I don't like things that are unstructured, I don't have kids that handle things that are unstructured.  I had an attitude and kept wondering what was so wrong.  It took me far longer than I want to admit that it was because the noise was so loud in my ear and I kept ignoring it.  Choosing not to hear it.  The voice that told me what was wrong.  That I was spending far too much time on myself and busyness and far too little time with Him.  I can't lie.  I hate getting up early.  I just do.  So for now, I carve out time while I am getting ready by listening to worship music and a John Piper Podcast.

For now, this has lessened the ringing in my ears that says "Why can't you hear me?  Why are you not listening?  I am here.  I am faithful.  I haven't moved."  Sometimes we just have to realize the toy has been sitting on the table for far too long.  It's time to pick it up and place it in the box.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Putting the baby in the basket...

I shared a post on Facebook earlier this week with this title.  All I could think of was some sweet friends of mine facing a hard situation with the foster child they mentor.  This kid is turning 18 and determined to walk away from all things DHS.  Sign himself out.  Be on his own.  Etc, etc.  Now, these friends are not naive.  They know what comes with that.  They have tried to set him up with a transitional program, been a sounding board for advice, and given tough parenting advice along the way.  But, alas, they can't make the decision for him.  And the reality is, he will sign himself out.  Have hard time after hard time and likely end up on the streets or living from place to place and never really settle.

As I read the article I thought of Anna's situation briefly....but nothing much.  This is how I function.  I am pretty self sufficient and just kind of keep things to myself.  It's why up until a week ago only about 3 people knew the date of Annalise's surgery.  I figured there is so much more going on in the world, and this is just something minor.  Check it off the list and move on.

And like with most things, I just kind of put it to the back of my mind until today.  We met with the child life specialist, anesthesiologist, gave blood, and toured the ICU and regular rooms.  It was there it started to hit me.  Not just that my daughter was having surgery, but that she was having a follow up surgery to something I was not a part of.  Something that I had no part of in the beginning.  They kept saying things like....."you will go down and give blood because she will likely need a transfusion...but she had that last time" or "this surgery is slightly less invasive than last time" or "we have the OR booked for 6 hours, but this one will likely take less time than last time" and all I could think of was....this is our first time!!  This is our first time touring an ICU room and hearing that siblings will need to meet with child life before they see Annalise because it will be scary.  This is the first time I have sent my child back to have their head cut open and things in various places fixed, filled in, and reshaped.  I am the mom who doesn't like it when their kids wake up from ear tubes.  And we have had 7 pairs of those between 3 kids.

This mama doesn't put babies in baskets.  This mama has a very hard time with the fact that she wasn't around for the first major surgery.  This mama ignores situations until they hit her in the face.  This mama accepts no help and always looks at the fact that there are things out there much worse than what she is facing right now.

But it doesn't change the fact that Monday I will put my baby in a basket and send her off.  She will be in the hands of a neurosurgeon and plastic surgeon and I have no doubt she will come out on the other side just fine.  But so many parents don't have that reassurance.  They put their babies in a basket and have no idea of what is waiting on the other side.  They pour into a teen who decides to walk away from it all.  They put their baby in a basket and send him floating down a river because it's the only thing they know to do.

All I know is this....today I spent some time wallowing.  I wallowed over the fact that I can't compare this surgery to the first one.  I don't know how invasive that one was.  I wasn't there to comfort her when it was over.  And so much more.  But....I am ready.  And willing.  To put my baby in a basket. Because if there is one thing I know for sure, it's that this child is primed to do great things.  She may not lead people out of Egypt one day, but she will move for God in a mighty way.  That I am sure.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Baby Girl A....

J. O. and I are a great team.  We really are.  We have been an open foster family for almost 5 years now and we know the age that works great with our family.  The age that is slightly younger than Grace, but older than teeny, tiny, baby.  That age.  We never really settled on the exact age, but we both have it in our heads.

In these 5 years, we have probably had around 4 infants and 10 or 11 toddlers.  The youngest infant was 4 weeks old (if you will remember, we had him for 7 months and I was awake the entire time) and the oldest infant was Grace at 10 months.  We would probably call this age range our "sweet spot."  Anything from the 6-9 month range.  These babies typically sleep through the night, they take bottles on a schedule, they are old enough for child care, they smile, laugh, and are beginning to move, they are just more fun.  They have graduated from the "oh my goodness is the baby breathing" stage, to the " oh wow...that's a real smile and not just gas pains" stage.  They are fun.  If you are lucky, you can even teach these infants token words like "mama" "dada" "ball" "dog" and so much more.

But unfortunately, we have only had a handful of these.  We get mostly toddlers.  You know these kids.....they are ages 1-3.  They are opinionated.  They can't really talk.  They are learning to walk so they are dangerous.  They are trying to decide if everything they see is food.  They are basically a literal, walking, time bomb.  One minute they are happy, one minute they are sad, one minute they are ready to punch you in the face.  Toddlerville.  This is where we have lived for 4 1/2 years of our fostering.  I have changed more diapers that should've resulted in a toilet being flushed than I care to think about.  You know these diapers.  The ones that are on the cusp of potty training, but they don't quite care.

Then, last night I got THE call.  The call for a newborn being discharged from the hospital.  They had a foster family lined up for today, but they needed a stand in.  So I did it.  I knew what this call meant.  It meant I would be up all night.  I knew it meant a baby who might spit up all over me and my bed.  I knew it meant a baby who would be more shriveled than cute.  But I was excited.  Addison and I started mentally pumping each other up and we started the waiting game.  DHS pulled in around 8:30 and Addison and I started chest bumping, high fiving, and running out to meet the car.  We could do this.  And then little baby girl Adams was dropped off.  She was tiny.  She was So. Brand. New.

And I got something I have never gotten before.  The hospital discharge papers.  And it told every little thing.  It told about how many times mom had given birth before.  It told about the strongholds that were gripping mom by way of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.  It told a story that was so very different than any discharge papers I had ever seen before.  And I slowly felt my love of sleep roll out the window.  I settled in for a night of holding, feeding, rocking, cuddling.  But....I wasn't expecting the other emotions that would accompany this baby.  Around midnight I turned off my alarm that I had set to wake the baby to eat.  I knew it wouldn't be necessary.  I got her out of the pack-n-play that she was in and laid her on my chest.  She started moving closer to my chin, and I let her settle in and I prayed for her, and her mom, for the next umpteen hours.  Between feedings, diaper changes, and her grunting, I just prayed.  I prayed that I would never get in my "sweet spot" and quit seeing the hurt.  I prayed that I would never become so complacent that I didn't think this was hard anymore.  I prayed that as we enter our 5th year of fostering it would be my most memorable yet.  Not because we add more kids in and out.  Not because more people see what we do.  But because we bring kids in from circumstances that we can't imagine and we put them under our chin and we physically hurt too.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Struggling.......

I am in an odd place.  You have probably all been here before.  Maybe, it's with your work or maybe it's with your kids or spouse, or maybe it's just feeling stuck in the same old stay at home mom routine. Whatever it is, we have all felt this way before.

I always struggle with what my next step should be.  Always.  It's most likely why I started my college career as a social work major, switched to psychology, switched to pre-law, switched to public relations, and decided on communications.  It's probably why I went back to school and received my teaching degree and am now taking classes in seminary.  I really wish I had time to be a lawyer, nurse, PR rep in NY, pastor (I know, I know), and still be a stay at home mom with a chef and nanny.  Too much??

I am reminded of how Scripture tells us, we can constantly be learning and searching without ever coming to the saving knowledge of the truth.  Sometimes, I feel like that's where I am.  I am looking for things and not because I don't know the truth, but because I don't want to land there.  It's easier to fill the uneasiness or void with things I am good at or enjoy.  For me, it's surfing on the internet and looking up interesting articles while holding Easter candy in one hand.  Nerdy?  Yes.  Interesting?  I think so.  Ultimately fulfilling?  No.

Most of you know before we started going to the church we attend now, we were happily settled at a different church in Little Rock.  We were involved, active, and loved it.  We had friends and settled into a routine nicely.  When we moved back to LR we really assumed we would head right back to that same church but God called us to where we are today.  And I didn't really want to go.  I wanted to be back with my friends....at a church where I already had a friend group.  It's a great church so surely God would allow us to go back.  But, no.  He wouldn't release either one of us so we settled in and got plugged in to our current church.

And we love it.  We know we are exactly where God wants us to be.  But, sometimes it's hard knowing you can't just blend in to the background.  I started working at the church 6 months ago (I think) on a very part time basis.  However, the more I do it, the more I know God is calling me (and our family) to a life of ministry.  And it kinda sucks.  Not because I don't love it.  I really do.  But because I have been here before.  I have been in the uneasy and it led to fostering.  Then, I was uneasy and we are now a family of 6.  Then, I was uneasy and I pressed forward with our orphan ministry at church.  And now, here I am again.

Today, I forced myself to come home and spend some time alone praying.  Not with my phone beside me, not on my computer, not doing school work, but just me and my floor.  After I got up, I was reminded that this is exactly how our foster story started.  With me falling to the floor in the kitchen and knowing God was calling me out of my comfort zone.

For lent, I have given up sleep.  Sound dramatic? Well, for me it feels that way.  I am getting up early to spend time alone with God before the house is awake.  And one thing I know is this....God is always faithful to show up when we ask.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lots of things happening....

Can you really start a post with how long it has been since your last post, if you haven't really consistently blogged in forever?  No?

Well, regardless of the rules....it has been a very long time since I blogged but rest assured I am still here.  A lot has happened since my last post.  I now work very part time at our church, I am taking some online classes at seminary, I still have 5 kids, I still try to run (some), for some reason people still expect to be clothed, fed, and cleaned but that's another post for another day.  So in short, once again I have added things to my plate without taking anything away.  Well, that is a complete lie.  My Christmas tree has 3 ornaments on it.  Certain things have gone by the wayside.

This morning I got up super early (for me) to start on a paper that is due Friday.  It's long and confusing and I still don't understand the concept.  Fortunately as a communication major in college that was not a problem.  I could add fancy words, make a 5 word sentence turn into 15 and get glowing remarks.  Seminary is not like this.  These people genuinely use words I have no clue what they mean, and they are serious about their writing.  So far my sentence of..."God's word is super, awesome, amazing, and I super duper love it..." is not thought of as highly as when I wrote in college.  Whatevs....

I say all of that to say this...I am learning a lot and I am not as smart as I thought.  There.  I said it.  Only, deep down I just secretly think these people live in all brown houses, with brown paint on their walls, brown bedspreads, all brown clothing, and no bright lipstick.  They are really dying for someone like me in their class who will bring a little fun to their otherwise super serious conversations.

Which somehow leads me to our sweet toddler C.  Some of you know the story of her, but for those who don't let me give you a little background.  Last December, the 22nd to be exact, I received a call from DHS asking me if we could take a 1, 3, or 4 YO.  They were sisters and they all needed a spot.  I said we would take the 3 YO and then instantly changed my mind.  I called back and said actually we would take the 1 YO and then I started scrambling for Christmas presents.  Christie Erwin showed up at my house within hours and dropped off tons of new clothes and presents and DHS pulled in shortly after.  They dropped off a scared little girl who screamed when I laid her down at night.  We spent the first month with a pack n play next to our bed and I "slept" with one arm in her bed so she could wake up and feel me.  This lasted for awhile until she gradually made it to her crib and only needed to come to our room in the middle of the night.  This lasted until she was comfortable enough to sleep all night in her crib and feel safe.

Fast forward to April and we received word that the foster parents who had her other 2 siblings, had an opening to take C.  You may remember this blog post about me never crying, but that I bawled as I drove away from dropping her off.  Then fast forward to end of July and we received word that all 3 girls were being moved again.  We were at the beach and I got a message asking if we were willing to take her back.  I showed the phone to J. O. and I thought he was going to leave the beach right then to come get her.  Everyone was so excited to see her again and have her back in our home.  We fell right back in a routine and many people fell in love with C for the first time, or all over again.

I have often talked about how we have to be willing to let these babies go and that God entrusts them to us for a season, but to be honest this is our first case I am having to put my money where my mouth is.  C and her sisters are set to start their first all day visit on Thursday.  They will do this for a time period and then transition to weekends and eventually home.  I will be honest....only the mom and dad feel good about this.  Everyone else involved is very uneasy.  On the inside, I have wondered what I can do, who can I complain to, who can I yell at?

Don't get me wrong, I have documented and made my feelings known to the caseworker and ad lidem.  I have let it be known that I do not agree with this nor do I think it will be what's best.  But, at the end of the day, I am doing what God has called me to do.  Love C in this moment and pray for her family.  I am not going to stomp my feet, close my home, refuse to take another child, or so many other things I may want to do.  I am going to cry, hold my kids when they cry, pray for C and her siblings and parents, and re-iterate the message that this is hard.  We grieve when they leave, we hurt for their families, we disagree with Judges and the system a lot, but we don't throw a temper tantrum and refuse to try.  We remember these kids with pictures and videos and art they have made.  We talk about them.  We love them forever.  But we remember why we started doing this in the first place.  We hope that C will know how to love because of all the love that was shown her.

There are so many things we could quit, or never start, because it hurts too much.  I wouldn't take back that day in December or July for anything.  How selfish would it have been of me to miss out on C's love because of my own discomfort.  Hard things happen.  Things do not make sense.  However, I don't need a seminary class to teach me that God loves her more.  I most likely will not understand this side of Heaven the purpose behind this, but praise God I don't have to.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Such a Time as This.....

You don't have to spend much time around the little one we currently have to fall in love with her.  She's funny, smart, outgoing and just a "good" toddler.  If there is such a thing.  She has been with us before and now that she is back, we realize why we were so quick to say..."yes....send her back."  She is just a joy.  There is really no other way to put it.

And it has been decided that unless something drastically changes, she will start transitioning home in December.  She will start transitioning home to a mom that is scary.  And rough.  And just not nice.  Now, I do not say that lightly.  I am a reunification cheerleader.  I really am.  I know that regardless, these kids are looking at a home life that is not what I would choose.  I mean, most of us live a 'rose colored glasses life', and I understand that.  Even in the best of reunification we are still looking at tough times and even tougher kids.

But this mom.  And this dad.  They are just not very nice.  They really aren't.  They are rough, have very questionable character, and honestly just seem like they would rather hit people than talk to them.  But they are smart.  And they are working the system unlike anyone I have ever seen and they know how to do the basics to get their kids back.  And it is working.

The other day I was reading Esther and she was talking to Mordecai about being queen.  She was telling him all about how she was not sure and there were lots of unknowns and so forth.  And he made the statement that maybe she had become queen for "such a time as this."  And honestly, I thought of C.  It's a very hard way to think, but maybe she is going back to her family for such a time as this.  Maybe, just maybe, she is going home because she will rise up and bring the gospel to a lost family.

Our church staff went to see Insanity of God a few weeks ago, and one of the things I will never forget is the missionary talking about losing his son on the mission field and asking the question...."is God worth it?  Is He worth our family?  If the resurrection truly happened, then what now?"

It is a hard pill to swallow to see a child so smart, so bright, so cute, going home to a family so rough, so mean, and seemingly so undeserving of a second chance.  But, if we believe God is who He says He is, God can do what He says He can do, and the crucifixion and resurrection happened, then we have to say that He is worth it.  And our little Esther will go home....for such a time as this.....