Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Real Life Sunday Morning

Today started with such potential.

I woke up without an alarm before everyone else in the house (a minor miracle considering how much I like to sleep) and had a whole hour alone to sip coffee and finish the book that I've been lost in for days. Buoyed by the incredible, redemptive plot of Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series my heart was pondering how God really is in everything...how His Plan is often a slow unfurling...how we need to keep our perspective and not get sucked into circumstances.

As each child stumbled downstairs, the aroma of bacon mixed with coffee hung in the air. Like I said, the morning had such potential.

Then we realized we didn't have enough milk to make pancakes...or to fill cereal bowls...and the snowball of Sunday morning chaos was set into motion. I forgot something I needed for my Sunday School lesson. A boy's dress shoe was declared missing as we were hurrying to load--launching an all out family search throughout the house for almost 5 minutes--which made us late. I wish I had handled it like Mary Poppins, with creativity and joy. But back here in real life, anxiety, more contagious than a stomach bug in our home, quickly spread. Its symptoms were blame, snappiness and tears.

At the stop light halfway to church my husband glanced down at my coffee cup precariously balancing on my cup holder and quipped, "You know that is going to spill this morning too, right. Have you prepared yourself?"

When we made it the short 4 minute drive to our church parking lot I realized I had not yet managed to put on my make up. My ADD child burst into tears because he had forgotten to take his medication--or to eat his breakfast (a bad combo for our already frazzled kiddo.) My husband and I did a quick tour around the Sunday School classes--surely we could round up a doughnut or a biscuit. But, alas, we are Presbyterian not Baptist ;) and there were no breakfast foods to be found. 

As the call to worship began I sent my husband and 4/5 of our brood to be settled into the service while I took P on a quick ride to a convenience store a few blocks away for peanut butter crackers and a breather. A minor skirmish occurred with another child on the way out. He didn't want to stay at church and laid out his case for why he should be allowed to come with us. He did not take my answer well and continued to plead. Through clenched teeth and with a threat of docking his allowance I sent him back into the service. As he turned to walk away I watched the look on a deacon's face a few feet away. At first I thought he was trying to see if I needed back up, but realized he may have been observing to see if my son did.  

As I cranked the car P said, "Can you turn on some Christian music, Mom? We need it."

I exhaled a slight smile and heeded his request, knocking over the coffee cup in the process, wondering why my flesh falls for this so often. My heart soaring on heavenly thoughts, eternal perspective, godly pursuits and then something as insignificant as a lost shoe becomes a pinprick to my hope & joy-filled balloon. I crash from the serenity and peace of a 50,000 foot view to being lost in the weeds over such silly things. A reminder of how fickle the human nature can be!

Real life means running out of milk, children losing shoes, and far more challenging, anxiety-producing circumstances. But faith means knowing THIS is not all there is. Yes, we must handle our business here, but I pray we remember to cling to our perspective in the process. 

We found the shoe. We were right on time for church. I rounded up what I needed for the Sunday School lesson. The hungry belly was fed and back in the service by the announcements. I bought two gallons of milk after lunch. 

In the grand scheme of life...these were all such little things. What mattered most was my heart response and, frankly, it needs some work.
My favorite part of our Western vacation this Summer was the views.

The world is breathtaking from the right perspective. Weeds, potholes, and other minor defects blur into a beautiful landscape, not in spite of but because of the texture and depth they add. And so it is with this life. What seems overwhelming up close is awe-inspiring with a little bit of distance. 
While I wish I could invent a drone type machine that would suck me back up from the muck and the mire to a perspective that is always serene--I know I have something more reliable: the availability of the Holy Spirit at a moment's notice through the mere whisper of His name.

Most of us gird ourselves for the big chapters of life--the devastating phone calls, the major losses and life changes. It's inspiring to watch people rise to the occasion and be champions of the faith. But may we not forget that we are called to be faithful in even the little things. 

Yes, our children learn about having a real personal relationship with God from sermons, music and Sunday School--but they get to examine its authenticity in OUR lives through things like lost shoes and anxiety-riddled mornings.  Lord, I pray, you will meet me there and pull me out, bearing YOUR fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. 

Tomorrow is a new day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

On Making Plans

"If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans." Woody Allen

I have spent the last two decades striving to build a drama free, protected life. My husband and I have a family mission statement, a financial plan, all matters of insurance and an estate plan. Our kids have educational savings plans. We are constantly dreaming of travel plans, ministry plans, retirement plans.

This makes it especially ironic that here in our 40s we are realizing how very little we know of what the future may bring. Since the arrival of two little foster daughters 105 days ago, our desire to plan is stymied. We do not know how long they will be here or where they will go next. We don't know if we will have them for the holidays or whether to include them in early Spring travel plans.  I can't even pretend to know how this whole thing is going to end. I don't even have enough information to speculate at this point.

I have been forced to live life on much more of a day-to-day basis. While I would like to know if I should be building their Christmas lists, with all the moods we now have in our home, most days I just want to make it through homework time with limited tears. We live at the bottom of a bureaucratic funnel and a complex social situation that doesn't fit neatly into our responsible, mapped out life...and, frankly, their little hearts trump our need to 'plan.'

Never have the words of Psalm 27:1 resonated more: "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring."

Despite framed art in my home that reminds me to "live simply," life has gotten undeniably complicated. Not just because of our little girls...but because we are middle aged and this world is broken. Sin, illness, complex relationships...I look around and laugh that I ever thought much of anything fit into neat little packages.

And a funny thing has happened...rather than finding the absolute uncertainty frightening or frustrating, I have crested the dreaded waterfall of lack of control and found myself plunging into the cool rushing waters of this unpredictable life story feeling remarkably free.

The more complicated life has become, the simpler it seems. Pretending I have much control seems absurd. In letting go and letting God, I am realizing the words, "I don't know" are not only true but liberating.

I wish I could claim maturity, but it was really humility and weakness that led me to this place. It took the overwhelm of five children and the foster care system to shine an undeniable light on what has always been true: None of us really know what tomorrow will bring or understand the ways in which our Lord works out his plans in this world.

I am no longer a child trying to prove to the world how much I know. I am a middle aged woman who has lived long enough to realize how little I really know/control AND that it is OK.

I have long equated wisdom with planning--and I do feel that we are wise to steward well what we have been entrusted. But I pray that we also leave plenty of room for faith that there is One who is writing our stories--for they are generally full of twists and blind turns.

We have to stop listening to the deceptive voice of fear and instead tune into the still small voice that urges us to trust. We must loosen our grip on the reigns of the comfortable safe life and allow our God to take us on a ride we couldn't even imagine for ourselves. We will no doubt be breathless in many places along the way...sometimes from exhaustion and other times from awe and wonder...

The reality is that we are all buckled in on this roller coaster of life. We can't steer it, but we do have a choice in how we ride...terrified or full of wonder. I pray the Lord will make me the girl on the roller coaster with my hands in the air, shouting in exhilaration rather than the terrified one clutching the bar with eyes clenched shut. The loop de loops are coming either way.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Together & Alone


Although yesterday was my little girls' 12th day of school, it was the first day of 5th grade for my trio. We were up by 6:10 and working our way through the two-schools-in-separate-parts-of-town-but-with-same-start-time routine. I made major headway on my To Do list--including some quiet time to read and write. I didn't quite get to my grand plans for meal planning, exercise, reorganization and Bible Study...but it is only Tuesday :)

I confess that I find this season of raising tweens to be a lonely part of motherhood. Between my three we've ditched braces and glasses, gotten a first zit, are dealing with changing bodies, ear piercings, razors, insecurities and mood swings. My children are growing into young adults, and because of my desire to honor and protect them, I don't feel free to talk about it at all.

Honoring budding little people's sense of privacy and self is important. I don't want to embarrass anybody or hear/share TMI...but I do want to get all the other 5th grade Moms in a room and say, "Hey, you are NOT alone!" I considered having a back to school gathering just for other Moms in these Middle Years, so I could look people in the eye and remind them we are in this together, but even getting on everyone's calendar seemed impossible.

We are not the same women who sat on playground benches together 7-8 years ago grateful for any adult conversation. In those days, play dates were for Mommies. We discussed potty training, reflux, tantrums, worrisome personality traits and preschool choices. No subject seemed off limits. We were tired, but motivated and fully engulfed in our motherhood roles.

Time has changed us. As our children have grown and stretched their wings, so have we. I look across the group I started out with and barely recognize who we were. There have been so many life altering headlines: divorce, pursuit of advanced degrees, remarriage, additional children, return to the workplace, cancer, aging parents, addictions, troubled children... There are a lot more concerns on our plates now than whether or not to try baby sign language.

I find evidence of how we have drifted apart and individualized even in the simple things: We drop off now instead of walking in...carline, birthday parties, sports practices, even church. It comes naturally as our children grow more independent.

It is normal and healthy that we no longer hover on the fringes of the kids' activities. But, honestly, I miss the camaraderie. In its absence I fear competition creeps in. I confess that I find myself defaulting to the somewhat isolated place of "dropping and running." I have noticed the lonelier or more insecure I feel, the more likely I am to stay in my Suburban reading with the windows rolled up or hunker down at home and unplug from engaging with my community. Where our mutual overwhelm with early motherhood once drew us together, our coping strategies and circumstances now seem to have built walls that keep us apart.

I've been rolling all of this around in my brain this week--feeling somewhat insecure myself about the return to school and mom circles where I can't always find my fit. Revelling in the freetime school schedules now allow, I have indulged in a newfound interest of reading books I somehow missed as a child. This morning, in an old classic, a quote struck me that seemed to offer perspective:

“You see, though we travel together, we travel alone."  Madeleine L'EngleA Wrinkle in Time

Ahh, there it is. Though we travel together, we travel alone... In this marathon of motherhood and life, even when we have the same goals we find ourselves with a different pace (often dictated by the other hearts in our home) and taking alternate paths based on gifts, challenges and circumstances.

Even those of us who are travelling together with the commonality of mothering in these middle years also find ourselves travelling alone because we each have a unique race to run. 

I am not a runner, but I have participated in a half dozen 5ks through the years. In doing so I have found there are different types of racers: There are those who don headphones, sunglasses and seem to be in their own space oblivious to the world and there are others who are so busy socializing as they walk that you wonder if they will ever make it to the finish line at all. Between those two extremes are a whole host of others who are running their race and encouraging others as they go... a little eye contact, maybe a little conversation, head nods of acknowledgement, a word or two when they can tell you are ready to quit... This is the kind of participant I pray to be.

We each have to answer to our Maker when we cross the finish line. God assigned our roles and our courses. I want to do well with the little hearts I have been entrusted while honoring my covenant to my husband. (That's a lot of hearts to hold on this race!) But I also pray I will be brave enough to engage the other runners around me--even when I am winded and it may seem easier to shut out the world--to take the focus off myself, suck up my insecurity and step out of the comfort zone to spur others on.

The Christian life is so full of both/ands: Grace and truth. In but not of. Salt and light. Truth in love. I think it is this balance of give and take...loving and allowing ourselves to be loved...that we will find community the way God intended and the great comfort that we travel both together and alone.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Learning Loss

My Grandmama has been a constant thread through my whole life--my early childcare provider and next door neighbor from age 2-17. I've spent 40 Christmases in her living room. She led me to the Lord. She has always been my Steel Magnolia.

We returned from vacation last week to news that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. At 90, the decision has been made to not pursue treatment.

This is not my children's first experience with loss. A close family friend succumbed to cancer when they were in PreK and they lost their other Great Grandmother in 2nd grade. Regardless of previous experience, walking through this at 11 feels different. I am trying to be as compassionately forthright as possible with my bio kids--but mindful of shielding our foster daughters from any additional feelings of loss.

The triplets know she is terminal. My little girls only know she is 90 and feeling ill.

Despite her diagnosis, she still looks well. So, yesterday while our little girls were in school I took the trio on the 5 hour round trip down to visit her. I attempted to prepare K, R & P as best I could, but some parts of life are just hard regardless of your preparation.

Even though there were a couple of house calls from Hospice, our time with her was sweet--a little porch sitting, some Scrabble playing and lunch out at a pizza place.

Everything was smooth, normal even, until it was time to tell her goodbye. As we were all walking out together, my trio rushed back to give her big hugs. With their tan, skinny arms braided around her waist, tears welled up in her eyes. Releasing their grips, K, P & R scampered away. Grandmama took two more steps before she stopped shuffling halfway to the door and leaned against a chair.

Suddenly this woman who has always seemed strong--spiritually, emotionally & mentally looked weak and frail. She stood in the middle of Johnny's Pizza with her face crestfallen, eyes red, mouth trembling--and there was nothing I could do to ease her pain, fear or concern. My heart hurt--and I wanted to shield my children and fix her broken heart.

But I couldn't.

I scanned the room quickly to see what my children noticed. R was frozen in his tracks, analyzing the situation. When he saw me notice, he quickly glanced away. He will remember this.

All I could do was take steps towards Grandmama and grab her hand like she has done to me so many times before and squeeze. She is extremely hard of hearing and there was a great deal of background noise in the pizza place, making words a challenge. I leaned into her right ear and shouted, "This is not goodbye. We will come see you again soon." I led her out the side door where I squeezed her again as she exhaled and her shoulders dropped.

She is a believer on her way to a better place--but she has some business to attend to here first. My Grandmama has 5 living children (plus spouses), 13 grandchildren (plus spouses) and 17 great grandchildren--and she has to tell them all goodbye.

Life can be so brutal.

We cannot shield and shelter the people we love from the realities of love and loss. Everything living will pass away. For those of who believe we have great hope that this is not the end. But, today, I am feeling the weight of walking my children through the dying process and managing grief--while experiencing it authentically myself.

One step at a time.

I am not predisposed to worry, but I confess our emotional day, plus monthly hormones led my heart and mind into an anxious spiral. Suddenly it wasn't just about the loss of my Grandmama, but the eventual loss of the little girls we are fostering and even our 12 year old lab whose predicted lifespan is ticking to a close. (Our minds and hearts can haunt us so cruelly sometimes, can't they?)

As I asked the Lord for perspective and comfort the lyrics of a recent favorite Casting Crowns song came to mind:

"He's already there."

I don't know the day or the hour or the circumstances. I don't know how my children's hearts will process these events--I can worry, but I cannot know. The certainty I can cling to, though, is this...He does.

"From where I'm standing, Lord, it's so hard for me to see where this is going and where You're leading me.
I wish I knew how all my fears and all my questions are gonna play out in a world I can't control...

Oh, when I'm lost in the mystery, to You my future is a memory 'cause You're already there.
You're already there.
Standing at the end of my life, waiting on the other side and You're already there.
You're already there.

From where You're standing, Lord, You see a grand design that You imagined when You breathed me into life.
And all the chaos comes together in Your hands like a masterpiece of Your picture perfect plan.

One day I'll stand before You and look back on the life I've lived.
I can't wait to enjoy the view and see how all the pieces fit."
-Casting Crowns, Already There

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

He Provides (a two week recap)

As glorious as the first part of our beach week felt, the latter part was hard. Ryland returned to work on Monday which left me single parenting five kids away from home and out of our routine for the last three days. Because it was late July, stifling hot we spent 3-4 hours each afternoon indoors and on each others nerves.

By Tuesday evening I was a bit snippy. My three big kids were bossy. One of my foster daughters was sassy and one was regressing to a great deal of whininess. I have heard it said that a bad day at the beach is better than a good day elsewhere--but I missed the comforts of home.

A couple of times my sweet Kate hugged me out of the blue and said, "Mom, I don't know how you are doing this. It is HARD having five kids. "

As I put the kids to bed the guilt over my sour attitude kicked in and I found myself in that spiral many Moms know. Hard on myself, feeling frustrated and becoming less patient I went to bed praying. Nothing articulate, mind you, just a refrain of "Ugh, God, I am sorry. Help me. I need you."

I woke again at 3am, unable to sleep because the sassiness and my poor response were still gnawing at me. Again, I prayed. "I know this isn't Your way. Fill me with patience. Forgive me. Help me."

And at 6am I once again was staring at the ceiling...begging God for the equipping for a better day.

I wish I could say it was all sunshine and roses...but this is real life. It was still hot. The kids were still annoying each other...and one of my little girls had my number with her backtalk.

On a sunset walk back to our beach house her disrespectfulness reached a crescendo. My grace had worn quite thin. After 9 1/2 weeks together, I hoped I had the right to level with her. Kneeling down until we were eyeball to eyeball I spoke to her directly, "I don't understand. I care about you. I am doing my best to serve you and love you. Why are you speaking to me in such a sassy way? I want to be respectful to you but my feelings are hurt."

She said nothing and I felt terrible. When we got back to the house the other four kids went in the backdoor and she lagged behind. By this point it was quite dark. My 8 1/2 year old foster daughter grabbed my hand and said, "Mom?"
"Yes?"
"I know you love me and are trying to be so kind to me, but I really miss my family. I am being sassy but it is because I am sad."

I was blown away. This type of deep, mature emotional insight is not her norm. I wrapped her up in my arms in the dark and rocked her as we both cried.

I thanked her for being brave and honest. I apologized.

As we walked back inside bonded through this honest conversation, I knew this was the answer to my prayers. God knew my compassion needed rebooting--and hearing what I knew in my head to be true, articulated through the big, fat tears of a precious round faced third grader was just the ticket.

As I tucked her in that night she grinned ear to ear and said, "Mom, I feel so much happier since our talk." She has told me this several times since.

God knew what we needed--and it wasn't just an attitude adjustment for her, it was a heart/compassion adjustment for me too.

The message He keeps giving me over and over again through the sweet parts and the hard parts and the brutiful parts of this journey is this: HE is writing the story.

This journey has changed me, stretched my children, challenged these little girls and wreaked havoc on the lives of their biological families--but none of it is wasted.

I was reminded again this past week as we enjoyed 8 days of respite as a biological family of five. Our vacation to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone was planned months before we knew these sweet girls would be part of our family. Because they were starting school, we elected to accept the gift of time together--a break to regroup, reconnect and reflect.

The timing was absolutely perfect. We were allowed a 9 week progress report of sorts. A break from drinking from the firehose to be contemplative about what we are learning. Unrushed time to really let our kids be honest about the parts of this they are challenged by. An opportunity to make some intentional adjustments.

God knew what we needed and was faithful to provide.
He always does.

I think we get too prideful to ask.
Too unbelieving to think He really cares and will show up.
Too busy trying to solve our own quandaries.
Too tired to really seek Him.
Too distracted to notice how He provides.

In doing so we miss so much of His love and provision for us.

Lord, keep me humble and paying attention.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing

Friday we loaded up our crew and headed South for a few days at the beach. Seven people and a gear-loving Daddy resulted in Clampett-style packing of both of our SUVs. What should have been a 6 hour trek became 7 1/2 courtesy bladders that were not roadtrip ready. Five stops tested my patience. Of course, after a fair bit of ranting and lecturing during the 4th stop, the 5th and final one was due to my own middle aged bladder. I find humility around every turn these days.

Upon arrival we checked into our accommodations, inhaled a pizza and literally dashed down to the beach as sunset was creeping in. Witnessing our foster daughters' first ever experience with the vast ocean and white sandy beach was definitely my favorite moment so far of this 9 1/2 week journey.
"It's just so beautiful," the 7 year old said in a slow awestruck voice.
"I wish every kid who has never been to the beach could see this," her 8 year old sister announced, as if pronouncing an edict.
And then they played and guttural laughs emerged that I had not heard in 2 months of mothering them.

Getting here was not easy. There were days of packing. Scheduling time off for my husband was a hassle. Making boarding arrangements for our pets is costly. Holding mail & missing appointments will mean extra work when we return. It was expensive to rent a place big enough for all of us. And have I mentioned all the frustrating potty stops?

But standing on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico reminded me why.

The mighty ocean with all its simultaneous power and peace simply cannot be explained. It begs to be experienced first hand.
Body surfing, sand castle building, seashell collecting...
The girls had played in sandboxes, swam in salt water pools and seen photos and videos of the ocean...but nothing matched the moment when they felt the sand between their toes, heard the roar of ocean waves and felt the wind and sun across their faces.

There are ways to simulate, but there are no substitutes.

Vitamins supplement but they aren't the same thing as biting into a ripe, luscious piece of fruit.
Blog posts can encourage and inspire but they aren't the same as diving into the Word for ourselves.
Filling our lives with beautiful things can provide a surface level of happiness, but it is not deep and lasting joy.

We are surrounded by substitutes--but it is worth it to pursue "the real thing."

I was reminded of this yesterday when I pulled out my big SLR camera again. For several years this camera was an indispensable part of my days. I took great joy in capturing mundane moments through the lens that caught the most glorious light.

A couple of years ago as the iphone camera became more advanced and Instagram became a thing I slowly slipped away from use of my Nikon. The quality was not the same, but it was fine. And carrying an iphone was far easier than my big bulky camera.

I chose convenience and ease over quality.
At first it was only an occasional compromise, but then it crept into the realm of habit.
My "big camera" found a permanent spot in the cabinet. Each time I considered using it I would decide against it was too much trouble and my phone quality was good enough.
I settled because it was easier.

Saturday I started shooting with my 'real camera' again--and the experience reminded me what I had been missing.
Over time I forgot how good "the real thing" really was.


I thought beyond beach trips and cameras to the countless ways we settle similarly in daily life. It is our human propensity towards the path of least resistance. From dating to our diets...consistent parenting to financial choices...

There are times when it is right and good to choose sacrifice--but laziness and ease is another thing entirely. Shortcuts and status quo can rob us of the life God intended, the light he intended us to see, the perspective He offers.

Doing the right thing can feel cumbersome in the moment. The world tempts us to go with what is convenient or easy over what is good and worth it.
"It'll do" becomes our new normal.
And we forget.


 Lord, I want life the life you have promised.
Help me keep this perspective.
Remind me to pursue "life that is really life."
No cheap shortcuts.
I don't want a life marked by "this will do."
Easy is fine, but it is no substitute for good, real and true.
 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

It is Well

This week we celebrate the two month mark of fostering our little girls. I still do not have a neat, tidy answer for how it is going--and am beginning to accept I may never have one. I am truly in love with these girls, but tired mentally, physically & emotionally--but probably not much more than any other Mom of five in the Summer :-)

When the shine wears off and the hospitality phase begins to fade, real family life is what remains.
This means structure. 
Boring rainy afternoons.
Inside jokes. 
Nagging about things like unmade beds, shoes strewn about & table manners.
Squabbles over who sits where in the car and which child gets to use the ipad/bring in the mail/sit next to me at the table.
Disciplinary eyeball to eyeball talks in the aisles of the grocery store.

The house is noisier & messier. There are more kids to hug, increased laundry and more sibling rivalry. My family room floor now has errant Barbie shoes and little flip flops mixed in with the wii remotes and Beyblades.

Really normal family stuff.

Taken before our date night a couple of weeks ago...an accurate representation of our new level of crazy :)

After a bumpy couple of weeks of reintegrating my big kids after their time away at camp, we are finding a new rhythm. Now there is bonding...the kind that extends beyond a long term house guest and into something deeper.

One calls us Mom & Dad. The other one does so sporadically but with increased regularity. When it happens in public places, I try to avoid the faces of adults who know us. Some tear up. Some wince. Some look shocked. Others just roll with it as if it were one of my bio kids. Depending on the moment, my heart matches each of those facial expressions.

Thinking about the end of this chapter together is the scariest part of being a foster parent. When will they leave? Where will they go? How much is that going to hurt?

Fear over this chapter is the reason so many people give for not fostering. I get it. I am not a heartless machine. I am not impervious to this fear. I just believe the risk of heartbreak for our family is worth providing for the needs of these children. People invite pets into their lives knowing they will bid them goodbye. The love and bonding and shared life in between carries the certainty of heartbreak, but they decide it is worth it.
 
Bonding is not to be feared-- for kids from broken, difficult and tumultuous, backgrounds, healthy relationships are, in fact, the point.

I am writing all this because in the last 24 hours, I have started to feel some overwhelm over the reality that these children who I feed, clothe, pray for, rock, hold & kiss goodnight, will ultimately leave. I am beginning to get flashes and pangs that foreshadow the emptiness they will leave behind in our home...and I am fighting to push it away.

The end date and circumstances remain unclear. And as a person who begins with the end in mind so often in life, I have learned I simply cannot operate this way with fostering. I must simply live and love TODAY--what do these little heart need NOW-- and let God worry about the rest. 

This means wrapping them up in my arms and showering them in kisses because they are little girls who long to be loved and accepted. It also means as I become more confident they understand the house 'rules,' I must consistently enforce them. I am not just "fostering," I am mother-ing. 

The initial phase of loving, welcoming, bonding and letting things go was more fun...but I am aware that if these girls are going to break the cycle that led them here they need Jesus and a lesson in consequences. So there is a lot more time on my knees at their eye level--reinforcing rules, explaining expectations, and emphasizing both my love for them and my desire to keep them safe. 

This phase of parenting was difficult when my bio kids were younger predominantly because of the pride & fear I had tied up in the outcomes. Of course I wanted to keep K,P & R safe--but I also wanted to be a "good mother." Mindful that (God willing) we are given almost 2 decades with them before they graduate and move on to more independent living I could pace myself.

With the girls I know I won't be the one to complete this process with them. I don't have the privilege of years to build and grow. We pick up pieces of the first 7-8 years of their lives, start from there, invest without knowing how long we have, whether we will ever see any fruit and/or to whom we will pass the baton of stewarding and loving these hearts. It may be weeks or months...but we just don't know. (Serious character work for a person like me!)

As a result, there are a lot of things I must let go in order to emphasize the most important things--life skills that will serve them well wherever they wind up...respectfulness, honesty, safety, education, nutrition. Giggles, adventures, bedtime routines and normal childhood activities sprinkled on top. 

There is no checklist or magic wand. It is just day-by-day seeking wisdom, patience and love from God to pass back into all five of the little hearts in this home...and seeking to stay united in mission with the big one to whom I said "I do."

I am trying to keep my heart marching to this simple beat:
Love.
Trust.
Repeat.

None of us know what tomorrow brings. We must simply do what God has put before us today.

My new favorite song to sing at church is from Bethel Music and has this refrain:

"Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see
And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well
So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name
It is well with my soul."

May it be so...