29 October 2014

for the children that need us to be brave

I only had a hand-full of minutes to run in to the foster care office yesterday.  I had another meeting during Mom's Morning Out but I wanted to drop off the new donations, knowing they were needed.  I didn't want another week to go by.  I texted my 10 am meeting and told her I might be late, depending on how long I had to wait to get the closet unlocked.

I didn't wait long, thankfully.

I dropped my bag of donations and went to work collecting the empty hangers from last week.  There were more than I expected.

As I re-hung a few items that had fallen, I heard a cheery voice behind me say, "Hey!"

I turned and saw a boy.  Likely older than my boys, but I can't be sure.  I wondered if a caseworker was going to come in behind him.

He was a bit of a ramshackle mess.  As a boymom, that is more delightful than pitiful to me.  He had a camo tank top on that was partially tucked-in his underwear -- this looked more like a haphazard accident than a fashion statement.  His pants were a little big around the waist so they hung a little low.

My boys have walked around our house like this more times than I can count.  "Get dressed" is accomplished as quickly as possible without a thought for checking to make sure waistbands aren't twisted and underwear aren't showing.

I smiled and said, "hi there!"  He turned and left. I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed.  Relieved because I had no idea if I had the right sizes of clothing for him.  Disappointed because it might have been fun to see him pick out clothes - if I did have the right sizes.

I don't know his story.  I know nothing about him, other than he is a boy that likely gets dressed like my boys.  And he's friendly.

Then later in the day, I read this article.  It's titled "The Child I Didn't Adopt" and it was written by a caseworker named Liz Curtis Faria.  Click here to read it all.

I couldn't get through it.  I was bent over on the floor, trying not to audibly sob.  For the boy in the article.  For the boys and girls like him.  For the caseworker that carries this weight.   For the families that have fostered children and couldn't keep them for always.  So many parts of it undid me.  Wrecked me all over again. This part in particular:
Nine-year old Stephen grips his report card in sweaty hands. We’re headed to an adoption event, where we will meet families who want to adopt an older child; families who do not automatically rule out a boy like Stephen with all of his long “history.” And he wants to impress them, these strangers. He wants to win them over, and so he brings his good report card along as tangible proof that he is a child worth loving.
A child should never have to prove they are worth loving.
This boy, called "Stephen" for the article, he is not an isolated case.  I briefly thought about the boy I had crossed paths with in the clothing closet.  The foster care crisis in America is a mess.   My part in all of it feels so small and inconsequential when I am weeping for the children without homes.

But I know the God that made my heart hurt this way for these kiddos of His.  I know He sees this sorrow and He - even in His goodness - has put it there.   This soft spot that refuses to grow hard.  It breaks open easily and often.  I pray it always will.  I do not want to grow numb to these hard truths.

I believe, I hope, I pray that these kinds of stories will be fewer because the Church will grow bolder.  That we will love in the hard places.  That we will pray circles around the families that are waiting to adopt.  That we will hold the hands of the children that need a person to call their own.  That we will stand with and walk alongside the ones that take the classes, and get fingerprints + background checks.  That we will comfort the foster families that have said good-bye and add our prayers to theirs that the reunification will lead to wholeness.    That we will make space in our hearts, our homes, our Sunday School classes for the hurting, the scared, the lonely, the left-behind.  That our bravery will lead us to love with abandon the children our God loves so dearly.  That we will see these children the way He does.

God help us.

Let our tears lead us to action.  Let our hope stubbornly follow where He leads, whether it makes sense or not. Believing every step of the way that the One who calls us is faithful.


28 October 2014

when it almost feels impossible

She sent me a text in the afternoon and asked me to pray.  I was at the commissary so I pulled the cart to the side and texted back a prayer.  When I got home I checked back in to see how she was doing.  Not good.  I asked her if she wanted me to come pray with her.  She said, "yes."

I had been to her house a few times the week before the funeral to drop off clothes for the kiddos.  I didn't go inside and I didn't see her either time, which was fine.  I just did an exchange in the driveway.

So, that afternoon, I knew where I was going, but I had no idea what I was doing.  I remember praying out loud almost all the way, mostly begging God for wisdom as to what to say.  I also asked him to help me be strong, because I was a full-on mess.

We were just weeks out from when Josh died.  It was all raw and horrific and impossible.  What do you even say to a young widow with six kiddos?

Nobody answered the door, unless you count the dogs.  I think one of the older kids told me she was on the couch.  I went to her and all I knew to say was, "Jesus."  So I held her hands and I said His name.  Over and over.  Through tears mingled together.  There was a clingy baby climbing up into the prayers and a three-year-old that didn't mind getting a little attention either.  A sister-in-law walked through and swept them up and we just sat and prayed some more.  Begging for His presence to be evident.  Pleading for protection from the enemy.

I can think of nothing more brave or more beautiful than turning your face to Jesus in the middle of the unimaginable.  It did not feel particularly strong or powerful that afternoon on the couch.  We didn't end our prayer with a victorious fist bump.  The sorrow was heavy and the weight of grief was overwhelming.  I drove home with as many tears as I had before.  I continued to beg Him for wisdom.

Even so, the defiant act of seeking Him amid this horror is stubborn hope in action.  Whether it feels like it or not, just saying His name is enough to allow Hope's root to grow deeper and further.  I have seen it with my own eyes through tears.

27 October 2014

When your yes threatens to overwhelm you



You said, "yes."  You didn't feel quite prepared or ready or even necessarily like the just-right-candidate.  But you were willing.  And you felt a tug.  A call to your heart to say "yes," for this time.

But as time wears on, you wonder a bit, "did I hear correctly?"  "Is this what I was supposed to say 'yes' to?"  "Should it be this hard?"

I can't say for sure, but oftentimes the answer is another 'yes.'  You did hear correctly.  This IS what you were supposed to say 'yes' to.  It should be this hard.

God doesn't call us to walk the easy road - we can find that road on our own.  He asks us to follow Him to hard places.  He chooses us to say 'yes' to the things we can't quite handle on our own.  We walk well when we walk relying on Him.  We do this best when we are in a hard place, doing a thing we feel quite unprepared for.  When we find ourselves here, and we turn to His face.  We see Him provide.  We see Him lead.  We see Him hone our gifts and talents in ways we didn't think possible.  We glimpse His glory.

This takes stubborn hope -- to say 'yes' and then answer the subsequent doubting questions with more 'yeses.'  He gives us this hope in His word and through His Spirit.  We just need to listen, so carefully, to the the Truth.

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed" 2 Corinthians 9:8 NASB

26 October 2014

a baby girl + stubborn hope

I remember sitting at the computer.  Stunned.

My friend had just sent me a private message on FB, telling me she was pregnant.  That she had just found out that morning.

I didn't know how to reply.  I prayed.

She had lost two babies in as many years, at about the 20 week mark.  The most recent loss was fresh in my mind as it happened in a way that took days.  And we had prayed hard.  People all over the world, prayed.  But our prayers were answered in a way we didn't expect.

She didn't know how she felt.  And she was afraid to feel anything.

I prayed that she would feel OK with whatever she felt.  I prayed that if she felt excitement creep into her heart, that her mind wouldn't condemn her and chase it away.  I prayed that her hope would be stubborn.  That when she felt hopeful that she would lean in to trust the One that brought her here.  I prayed that she would take each day moment by moment.

And it almost felt like holding our breath for that 20 week mark.  Like all of heaven was leaning over to peek in on this momma that was letting hope grow in her heart as that baby grew in her body.

We kept praying on past that 21 week mark and 22 week mark.  Felt almost celebratory when the 30 week mark was reached.

At just the right time, that baby was born, a sweet baby girl.  She is healthy and loved and just nearly perfect.

Every new picture I see of this baby girl is a marker for my faith.  A reminder of those moments of sorrow mixed with excitement and hope and help-me-Jesus-prayers.  He is faithful.  I feel so privileged to have prayed with this momma for this baby.  We weren't promised that what we asked for would come about.  But we believed that if we asked Him with pure hearts He would not abandon us.  No matter what.  Stubborn hope draws near even when the answers are unknown.

"The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love." Psalm 147:11 {NIV}

25 October 2014

wasteland

"there's a crack in the door filled with light and its all that I need to get by" - Wasteland by NEEDTOBREATHE


 

 This line in this song, always inspires me. Seriously, just "the crack in the door filled with light" it is enough. Such a great lyrical image of stubborn hope!

22 October 2014

even when I'm judge-y

When I walked out of the DFCS office yesterday, my heart was carrying a heavy load.  As I neared the main entrance of the building, I tried to shake it off.  I saw an itty-bitty baby all squenched up in an umbrella stroller, nearly laying sideways on the seat.  I exclaimed a little too loudly and with too much delight, "awe! so tiny!"  The infant's mother glanced my way with an expression that stated quite plainly, "you have got to be kidding me lady." {I read glances better than I read lips.}

This is not an uncommon occurrence.  For one, small talk is not my thing.  For two, nobody in the government offices is looking for a friendly face while walking in and out.  Honestly, I think I am the only one that is attempting eye contact most days.  And this is only after being a regular in the building for over a year.

This is so far out of my comfort zone.

This encounter with this tiny-baby's-momma though, emphasized an ugly part of myself.  Its the judge-y part.  The part that notes, "I have never seen an infant in an umbrella stroller."  But then just after noting it, goes on to think, "I would never put an infant in an umbrella stroller."

And I hate that this part of me still lurks around. Because the truth is, its really hard to love your neighbor when you are judging her.  This is that kind of judgement we carry around with us and keep quiet.  It spills out in passing and we if we notice it, we brush it aside hastily.  It might be called bias, it might be called prejudice.  Whatever you call it, my tendency is to pretend like its not there.

But yesterday, my heavy heart collided with my judginess and the tears filled my eyes.  How long will I walk these halls before I just love?  How long will I look to make eye contact while chasing away my rush-to-judge-thoughts?

It isn't disapproval behind this prejudice, so much as ignorance.  I cannot relate, so I judge.  Every time we've been in need {or first-world-want} someone has met that need.  We had infant carriers and travel systems and boppies and bouncy chairs and high chairs and play mats and all the bells and whistles.  No one in our circle wanted us {or more accurately - our children} to be without.  What we couldn't afford, someone else gave to us. If it wasn't purchased new, it might have been thrifted or found from a friend whose child had outgrown it.

The idea of strapping an infant into an umbrella stroller is foreign to me because it was never an option for me. My grandmother or my mother or my mother-in-law or my aunt or my sister or my friend or my friend's mom or fill-in-the-blank -- any of these folks would have provided me with another option.  I am privileged to have a wide circle.   I didn't build this wide circle or carve it out or even seek it.  I inherited it. 

But I sense Him calling me more and more to walk the hallways where the inheritance isn't always the same.  The circles are small and the choices are fewer.  I know that is where He would be, for sure.  So that is where I want to be too.

I just wish it were easier.  And isn't that the kicker?  Even in following Him to harder places, I want it easy.  Gross.

But He keeps calling me, and He doesn't condemn me.  He quietly points it out through awkward encounters and He asks me not to brush it aside.  So I look up to Him and my hope grows because I know He is at work, even in my judge-y places.  He is so faithful to cultivate my heart to be more like His.  So I stubbornly follow, believing He will complete this work in me.  And one day the bias and prejudice will no longer clamor up to the surface and I will see with eyes that love His children like He does. 

"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6 NASB

21 October 2014

even in the lack

Its been a month since I last went to the emergency clothing closet.  I would prefer it to be every-other-week but with a move and fall break it turned into a month. It happens.

When I walked in to the space today, I was greeted by stacks of backpacks, and they were b-wap - a company Brad had contacted about being a community partner.  Of course, at the time they were not accepting new partnerships.  So it was doubly fun to see that the bags made their way to the children in our local community via another source.  A local church - The Road UMC - must have donated them, because there was a tag attached to each bag.  I didn't count them all, but I think 50 is a low estimate!


 Its always fun to walk in and see some new donations waiting to be sorted.  There wasn't really anywhere to move the bags to, so I got started on doing an inventory of the clothing items.  The fun-feeling faded quickly as I went through the little girls' clothing rack.  Its the time of year where it really matters if an outfit is too summery. There wasn't much left in the smallest sizes, and there were quite a few empty hangers -- an indication that a lot of kiddos have come in to care. 

The toddler boys' rack was more promising.  Although it fell apart as I pushed the clothes aside to do my inventory.  It took a hot minute to clean that mess up. 


It is always a little overwhelming to do the clothing inventory. I begin with the smallest sizes and work my way through to the biggest.  After that, I move on to shoes.  As I write down what is "in stock," I can't help but start a mental tally of what we lack.  By the time I get to the school age clothing, it feels staggering.  There is such a great need. 

Earlier, I had spoken with one caseworker in the hallway while I was waiting for the room to be unlocked {they don't want those donations walking off!}  She said there are about 380 kids in care right now.  That number blows me away. 

It is a battle to keep myself hopeful as I make my notes on the inventory.  As I finish up with the bigger sizes, things get a bit messy.  Truthfully, we could have kids that wear adult sizes come in to care.  I sort of stop tracking after kids' XL because it gets complicated.  I just look it over so I have an idea in my head of what is there.  Under one rack are boxes and bags of "excess items."  I remember last spring tucking away some Christmas shirts and pj's - I didn't have time to dig them out this morning.  I feel it press in a bit, this sense of lack.  That not only do we need a lot of stuff, but that this space needs help too - and more than I can give it.   You can see that the place is a bit of a shambles.




Before I leave, I bag up a few items that shouldn't have been donated and label the bag "trash" before setting it out in the hallway. 

This one part, this standing between the donated trash and the precious kiddos, this exhilarates me.  And reminds me, it is no mistake that I am in that closet on some Tuesday mornings.  God will provide in one way or another, and likely in a way that surprises me. So I do the best with the time I have there, then I tell you the story.  He takes my time + my words and somehow provides for these beloved kiddos. 

I know He will do it again.  Even when I feel like I am lacking.  It is this stubborn hope that keeps drawing me back to that closet. 

So here is the list of current needs:

We also need diapers, especially size 3 and up.  And pull-ups in all sizes. Underwear (including bras) and socks are also always welcome. 

I added a lot of pictures this time, mostly because I am hoping that someone sees it and thinks, "oh my word that place is a wreck, I wonder if I could help her use that space better!"  The answer is "yes, please!"