Enough

I didn’t even realize how raw this day still makes me until my redemption ache started leaking out of the corner of my eyes.

I like to, you know, hide it under all the things.

Make breakfast.  Empty the dishwasher. Clean the kitchen. Pick up the groceries.  Fold the laundry. Go to church.

It’s only after I’ve settled the little one into his class (no tears– woot!) that it all starts to crash.

This morning I can text one baby’s birthmom a beautiful picture but not the other one.

This is so unfair.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

A chance encounter at the grocery store reminds me of a festering wound in my own birth family.  One I would rather ignore.

This is so unfair.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

I am tired of praying for God’s will to be done on earth.

This business of redemption takes too long sometimes.

And then the music starts and it’s the lullaby I’ve sung to my sweet (and feisty) little one from the first day we met.

The song that reminds me that God has held me in seasons of feeling torn, in seasons of crushing grief.

And he is holding me still.

He loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves.

It is what I need to hear today, when I don’t want to admit how raw I feel.

Maybe it’s what you need to hear too, friend.

You are loved.

Wildly, passionately, extravagantly loved.

It is enough.

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Joy

Scars and struggles on the way, but with joy our hearts can say…

You are faithful, God you are faithful.

I told a dear one this morning that as I light the joy candle this year,

I feel like I am on the “other side” of joy.

The side where I can pump my victory fist to this song.

My life isn’t perfect.

In fact, as I write this, I am weathering a bedtime meltdown—

How’s that for multi-tasking?

But it’s a meltdown that I’d never trade for the silence of three years ago.

That was the year that I lit the joy candle choking on my own breath,

Cursing the silence and the system and my own heart for loving too hard, for holding too closely.

That was the year that I lit the joy candle in defiance.

In response to a gift promised but not yet given.

Not the promise that Little One would be mine.

That’s not the foster parent’s promise.

But the promise of good news.  The promise of redemption.  The promise of God wrapped in flesh and then a Comforter, a Counselor, and Advocate.

Do not be afraid

The angels said

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people. (Luke 2:10)

Not just the ones who have seen the gift, the promise, delivered.

Not just the ones who can pump their victory fist.

But for the ones working their program and beating addiction day after hard-fought day.

For the ones still choking on their own breath, facing Christmas with giant, gaping soul-wounds.

For the ones lighting the joy candle in defiance.

This good news is for you too.

This great joy is for you too.

This is the promise.

And he is faithful.

Standing Stones

The one who calls you is faithful (1 Thess. 5:24)

I’m thinking about gratitude today.

It’s been one year since my home has been closed to foster care.

The five years before that were a tumultuous journey.

Years full of purpose and fire, full of a call that I couldn’t escape.

Years that brought, without a doubt, the most joy and the most heartache my soul has known this far.

Years that brought me my babies and also the hard realization that all the Little Ones are not mine.

This year has been quieter.

As the seasons have changed, I’ve been reminded of the faithfulness of the One who calls.

I want to raise an Ebenezer.

To mark these places.

Give me faith to trust what you say.

That you’re good and your love is great.

We sing these words this morning and my heart flashes back to sleep-deprived hours of singing them on repeat by the crib of a screaming Little One who had known too much chaos, too much transition already.

Tonight that Little One scurries around with a gaggle of other kids, dancing and running wild to Jesus-music.

Tonight as we snuggle he tells me to sing the Jesus-music louder.

So I do.

***

There were days when the waiting was excruciating.

Days when I yelled and pleaded to be done.

The promise is not that this story will end the way I hope,

I wrote on one of those hard days.

But that the Holy Spirit will come in power.

Friends, I watched him do that.

I watched the church show up to love me and my children well.

Walking with me into the halls where despair lost and love won.

Dragging me off the floor when I just couldn’t anymore.

Showing up and doing a thing.

Again.  And again.

***

As the air turns crisp again and the twinkle lights shine on the long winter nights,

I remember Little One’s first Christmas.

And the gaping hole in my heart not to be part of that day.  That story.

It was one of the darkest seasons of my life.

I know this is not how the story ends.

I wrote, undoubtedly choking on my own words.

I know joy comes.

In a very real way, I know Emmanuel.

Friends, it was not how the story ended.

Joy has come.

Joy is asleep in the other room.

Joy is the unruly tribe that foster care has brought me.

A motley crew we are—diverse in practically every way.

Sharing eyes and stories, bloodlines and passion.

We have walked through dark days together and celebrated wildly on happy ones.

My life is so full.

***

I’m thinking about gratitude today.

Grateful for a quieter year to remember.

To tell the stories.

To raise the standing stones.

Today I can tell you without a doubt that the One who calls you is faithful.

Faithful

Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you.

Through it all, through it all, it is well.

We sing the words again this morning and I remember.

Another day we sang this song, a day not too far in the past.

Today I can sing with gusto.

That day I could barely breathe.

That day I collapsed under the weight of what felt impossibly hard.

Making space for grace, making space for Love

During the home stretch in Little One’s case.

I was exhausted.

And I knew the days ahead would likely leave me more ragged and vulnerable than I already felt.

That day I knew that ultimately it would be well with my soul.

But it was the prayers of dear ones whispered in my ears when I couldn’t drag my needy self off the floor that breathed life.  That spoke it to be well.  Right then and there.  In the middle of the mess.

The words today feel like a victory chant.

Like a standing stone.

Because, friends, our God is faithful.

Not just because Little One is asleep in the other room right now, all arms and legs and outside voice and fiery personality.

But because in the days to come, I got to watch love win right in the court house.

Because I got to stand in the sacred space of speaking worth and value into hearts that others dismissed too easily.  And some days I still do.

Because when I didn’t have the strength to drag myself off the floor and singing it is well made me feel like a hypocrite, it left no question who made beauty start to uncurl from the broken places.

And it sure as anything wasn’t me.

And so, today, I sing with gusto.  Knowing that there will be other days when I collapse under the weight of what feels impossibly hard.

But still it is true.  Still it is well.

Because, friends, our God is faithful.

An Adoption By the Numbers

Months in care: 30 (I cannot count the days… it hurts my heart too much)

Number of CASAs: 2 (one fantastic, one not-at-all fantastic)

Number of days lost from work because of sudden arrivals/removals from my home: about 8 (not including the FMLA leave I chose to take during the first two months)

Number of days lost from work because of court hearings that didn’t happen when/where I was informed they would: 3

Number of court hearings and other official meetings that I “accidentally” didn’t get notification about: 3

Child’s social workers: 5

Number of times I dropped the f bomb on child’s social worker (without children present): 1

Number of times dropping the f bomb on social worker got me what I wanted: 1

Supervisors: 2

Number of times I pestered supervisors because I didn’t like social workers’ answers: too many to count

Big Bosses: 2

Number of times I called in the big boss because I didn’t like supervisors’ answers: 2

Number of times calling in the big boss got me what I wanted: 1

Number of times the big boss told me emphatically to wait in the lobby and not come upstairs to his office: 1

Number of times I threatened to appeal a decision that actually had to do with me (most decisions in foster care don’t): 1

Number of times that threatening to appeal got me what I wanted: 0.5 (they met me halfway on this one)

Number of times I was late arriving for a required visit: 1

Number of times a professional was late or didn’t show for a required visit: 50? 100? These are actual estimates.

Number of times I would do it again: all of them.  Because Little One is worth it.  All of the little ones are worth it.

(To be fair, not all adoptions are like this.  My daughter’s adoption involved only one social worker and no f bombs.)

The Call That Changed My Life

Three years ago today, I got the second call that changed my life.

The first one was giddily anticipated… the call about the Little One who would grow into my big girl.  The one that proved the naysayers wrong.

This one was different.

I had just had my annual foster care reconsideration visit a few days earlier.

I had jumped through the hoops to stay licensed for another year even though I really, really wanted to be done.

I told my social worker that I didn’t know what kind of placement I wanted.  But that parenting my big girl had made me brave, and she could call me about anything.  And that I would probably say no.

It was Friday afternoon and I was just leaving work.

And there was a baby.

A tiny one ready to be released from the hospital on Monday.

I had no plans for childcare (not to mention that the baby was too young to be in daycare even if I did).  I had no baby stuff.  I had never even held a person this tiny before, much less walked into a hospital and taken one home.

It was crazy.

And I knew by the pounding in my chest that the answer was yes.

And so I took a few months off from work (yep, with a weekend’s notice!).  I filled my sister’s minivan with stuff I thought I might need.  And I walked into the hospital with my mama pretending that I knew what the heck I was doing.

As she told me all about specially mixed formula and follow up appointments, the nurse said she could tell I had done this before.

I told her that I was a good faker.

And I strapped this tiny Little One into a borrowed car seat and drove him right on home.

It’s true, he had me at one look into those deep brown eyes.

He was an infant, after all.  How can you not bond with an infant?

But I didn’t know what the future would hold.

It would be years before that Little One would share my last name.

Years of uncertainty and stress and jumping through one thousand more hoops.

Years of navigating a relationship with a birth family that loves him too.

Years of monthly visits by social workers and CASAs (some great, some meh).

One whole year, in fact, of hellos and good-byes that ripped my heart to shreds.

This Little One immersed in potty humor and obsessed with basketball was worth it all.

To know him, even for a short time, would have been enough.

To hold him still, to ruffle his perfectly messy curls makes my heart explode.

Friends, sometimes the answer is no.

But sometimes the answer is yes.  Even when it seems crazy.

Sometimes the call that changes your life comes when you’re least expecting it.

That Time Jesus Paid for my Lawyer

Sometimes I hear people say “you know, foster adoption is free.”

It always makes me cringe a little.

Because the reality is that it doesn’t take much money to adopt from foster care (although you do have to prove that you are financially able to take care of a child).  But it is hardly “free.”’

You pay in blood, sweat and tears.

You pay in sleepless nights and desperate pleas and time taken off work for appointments that all have to happen during business hours.

In any case, you get financially reimbursed for most things along the way.

Including a lawyer.

My big girl’s adoption was easy-peasie.  Or at least as simple and straightforward as such a thing can be.

I called a lawyer, went over a few things on the phone and met him for the first (and only) time on adoption day.

I never paid him a penny.  The money went straight from the agency to him.  Easy-peasie.

As I’ve mentioned before, everything about Little One’s case was different.

Nothing came easy (except falling hopelessly in love with an infant… oh. dear. goodness)

When it came time to finally get a lawyer, I wanted the best.

So I researched.  And I called.  And I used my brain and my mama-intuition to make a good choice.

Because everything about this case was different, I used my lawyer for some adoption-related things before finalization.  It ended up that I paid her just about exactly one thousand dollars more than I would be reimbursed by my agency.

I didn’t care a bit.  I am not poor (just cheap!) and the peace of mind was worth every single penny to me.

Until a sweet friend slipped an envelope into my hand one evening.

Inside was a card full of encouraging words and cash money.  This friend had received a windfall and wanted me to use this money to help pay for an adoption lawyer.

Eyes wide, my big girl and I counted the bills.  So many bills.

Bills totaling exactly one thousand dollars.

There is no way this friend could have known how much I paid.  Or how much my agency would repay.

But the God who counts hairs on our heads also counts pennies.

The Jesus who takes care of sparrows also takes care of solidly middle-class mamas.

Breath catches in my throat to think of it still.

That time Jesus paid for my lawyer.