Monday, March 04, 2019

What's On My Heart

I've shared a lot of our journey with little man with the world. I've kept big chunks of it to ourselves, and I always will. I try to mostly share the emotions... the things that are common to almost every journey of foster parents and children.
Some months ago I wrote a blog to little man's bio parents.
Tonight I read it again and wept.
With all my heart when a little, or not so little, heart passes into our lives I root for their biological family. That is the role that we signed on for when we went into this process.
I want that to work in a way that I know I cannot explain to anyone.
And sometimes, I feel like I need to tell people why.
So, here is the cold hard fact spelled out for ya.
All of us are a few bad decisions from life going completely upside down.
I promise you, zero parents hold that tiny baby's live in their bodies and then arms... and plot on how they are going to lose them.
But it happens.  The statistics are there by the hundreds, over 500 just here in our two counties of NWA.  That's a lot of little lives tossed into the balance. And it's for so many different reasons.
What's best for them? Healthy, happy, healed, and whole families.
The system, flawed as it may be, does everything it can to make that a reality with the family of origin for that child. But it is not always possible.
Enter one of us... one of my people... the foster families.
I know there are good and bad foster parents. I'm not naive.. but here in the trenches I have not met one.I have met dozens who wear themselves out, mentally, physically, and spiritually for the little humans placed in their paths.
What else do they have in common.  They are also hoping, against hope sometimes, for a sweet reunion. And I know this, because I have seen the other side of those reunions.
I think I'm rambling a bit.
So what's on my heart tonight?
The hundreds of biological parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc... who have kids sleeping in a foster home or shelter tonight.
Please pay for them.
Pray that they chose the hard path for their children
Pray for their health and paths to wellness.
Pray for those who are facing the ultimate loss of a child that they desperately love but cannot take care of right now.

That mother or father - they may have talked to you on the phone today.They may have taken your order at a restaurant. They may be next door to you.

What else can you do?  There are organizations just about everywhere that stand in the gap to support biological families toward reunification. They need support. They need prayers. They may need you.

Do what you can, with what you can, for as long as you can...


Thursday, January 03, 2019

When It's Confirmed!

Just after I posted my last blog, catch-up here if you missed it... a dear friend of mine messaged me with a verse that God had given her.
Y'all it rocked me.  Because it definitely follows what I believe God has in store for this year.

Isaiah 54:  1-3  
Sing, barren woman,
    you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
    you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
    than of her who has a husband,”
says the Lord.
 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
    stretch your tent curtains wide,
    do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
    strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
    your descendants will dispossess nations
    and settle in their desolate cities.

But here is why it rocked me?! One of the conversations God and I have had off and on for the past 6 years is how all of the stories I have seen in scripture about women who weren't able to have children.. ALL ended with them giving physical birth to a child.  ALL of them that I could find had the same miracle ending.
Why were there no words to someone who wasn't going to get that gift?  I like a happy ending as much as the next gal.  But clearly that is not every woman's destiny.

Oh, but there were words for that... in Isaiah.  Beautiful promises of descendants like an Abrahamic promise.

I had to share it... because maybe you are there to?!  Maybe you can't have children. Maybe you've had a child, but have been unable to have a second.
You are not forgotten.
Families come in all shapes and sizes.  

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

One Word - 2019

As I start this blog, the first in a long while, it’s barely Christmas Eve – 2018. I love Christmas usually. It’s been a top holiday for my entire life. But this year, is a real struggle.
I’m adding a nice disclosure at the top here, because dudes… you may not want to delve in to this.
And ladies – if you have any infertility triggers this may not be the blog for you.

Ready – here we go…
This year caps off a 6 year fertility journey. I say that because it truly was a story with twists and turns with some highs… and some crushing lows.
I say ‘was’ because that journey came to its official end on 12/13/18. I went in for an exploratory surgery to remove a cyst on an ovary and left completely barren.
I knew that a hysterectomy was a distinct possibility. I knew from all of the scans and studies of all things chick related, that it was quite possibly a big old mess down there.  I mean, two little lives had started a journey there and checked out well ahead of their expected stay. The ultrasound and CT scans from the ER both showed unmistakable issues.
The doctor prepped Al and me before anesthesia to make double sure that I was ready.  I laughingly told him that my uterus wasn’t doing the job I’d hired it on for, so it might as well go.
It’s easier to be all giggles about that in an abstract sense for sure. It was the right decision for me. Out of my 28 day cycle – regular as clockwork – I had 3 days of horrific pain cause by the cyst every other month or so. Then every single month for the past 3 years I had close to a week of debilitating pain as the fibroids that took over my uterus tortured me into submission.
Womanhood is not for the faint of heart.

This season always struck me as so full of hope. In each of our years since marriage I was sure that we were closing in on our miracle. My “word of the year” often reflected that – hope – joy – journey – renewal.

This year that specific hope, the hope for biological children, is gone.
On the bright-side, I don’t have people telling me they are sure I’ll get pregnant as soon as we adopt.
Gone will be the hopeful – all in God’s timing pep talks.
I never have to smile through a “well at least you’re having fun trying…” K (just don’t… y’all).

I’m half tempted to make that my 2019 word.
It seems so final. It’s tinged with a grief I could not have fully expected.
And entering into a holiday that begins with a miraculous birth, the finality of the ending to this journey seems bitter… barren.

I waited a week to start this back up again. It wasn’t intentional. I think I just needed to sit with these ‘feels’ a bit.  I got nice and sick over that time. A cold took me fully down to my bed for hours out of every day. I’ve spent a lot of time praying. I’ve spent a lot of time crying. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking.
------Lest you think me super devoted, I’ve also binged an entire series of baking shows on Netflix-----

Every year for the last probably 15 (I need to check my journal to be sure), I have chosen to pick a word for the upcoming year. Resolutions are generally pointless.
In the past, I have found focus in a word, just one word usually, that gave me something to push into.

When I started this, I jokingly said that maybe “barren” should be my word. Ok, maybe not entirely joking. It’s that dark and sarcastic humor that has become a pretty steady coping mechanism.

But barren is definitely not my word.
So what is?


As I am awake again tonight going over so much in my heart, Psalm 126 keeps rolling around.
I was going to just pick a piece of it here – but it all applies.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.


2016 – 2017 – 2018 I sowed with tears. I lost things that almost no one knows about. I grieved hard. But I sowed. No to be all “own horn tooter…” I got the privilege to share about my faith multiple times. I got the joy of leading a whole group of people in a verse by verse study of Revelation – start to finish – every line. I got to continue to help lead worship at church.
I chose to sow. I wanted to give up. I wanted to give up a whole bunch of times. I had to lay low a few of those times because of how dark some of them got.
My actual conversations on the way into surgery were about God's calling on us into foster care. The last thing I remember, was telling the nurse about the faithfulness of God in that journey.
I chose to sow.

2019 – It’s harvest time.  I feel it within the depths of myself. I don’t believe that a calendar flipping over defines a fresh start.  What I do believe, is that it is a good place to plant a memory stone (see Joshua 4).

I’ll keep sowing too, because some of these things still need planting (hello long lost book writing) and tending to (hello old daily devotional).

Harvest – 2019 – It’s that year!


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Dare Not Trust the Sweetest Frame

I love old Hymns. I love how a song written 150 years ago can still strike a chord in my soul and bring something totally new out.
Today, it was this one... interspersed with a song called Cornerstone.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

The oddest thing hit me while singing it today. What does it mean to "trust the sweetest frame?
So I did what everyone does in 2018 and searched the web for it.
But there is really not a definitive answer. What does that let me do?
It lets me search a bit deeper for why I was so undone by these lyrics today.

Once again, for the hundredth time in the foster journey, we are faced with uncertainty.
Things can turn so quickly. And you can go from 1 child to 2 (or 3).... or none.

What is the frame that my heart/spirit is compelled to trust?
Today - slamming into me like a ton of hymnals - I realized it was my own planning.

See, I have the frame for our family all set out. I have the future set in a picture on the wall.
"This is what I want God... work within that frame ok?"

But I dare not trust even the sweetest frame.

My plans rarely work out like I think they are going to. 

I caught my reflection today in the car door as little man laughed and giggled as we drove home from church.  I am happy in this frame. I would be content to let my family stay this way exactly.
But that is most likely not the path we are walking on.

The sweetest frame.

This is the life I wanted. It's the life I begged God for many times. There are laughs I never could have scripted. There are lows I would have chosen to avoid. But there is joy, so much joy.

Sweetest frame.

My carefully laid out plans - that frame - can fall apart in one instant.

If my trust is in the plan, instead of the Author of all plans, I am set up for great pain.
Frames and plans will be broken. He, will not.
I will be broken. He will not.

So I dare not trust my own sweet frame... but wholly lean on Jesus name.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Other Mother

There is an aspect of foster parenting that many people never consider - Biological Parents.
It is super easy to be on the outside of this broken system and judge people who you know nothing about. "I would never" sounds good in theory. But real life is just not that black and white.
It is way less easy to look in the eyes of parents whose world has been stripped and judge them.
In our lives, we are all one dumb decision away from our world crumbling.

I met them today. It's our first case where we've had such direct involvement with the family. I was prepared to sit and cry with frustration. I was prepared to sit across from her unmoved.

I was wrong.

I was not expecting to introduce myself and be greeted with a tight hug and a tearful thank you.

I was not expecting to hear their progress and realize that my whole heart - even the part of it stolen by this beautiful baby - longs for their reunion.

These families are not stats on a sheet. They are real people. They face obstacles that honestly make me long to smooth things over for them.

Reality - You don't just foster a kid. You foster a family.

Reality - I've never rooted so hard for someone to shatter my heart to mend theirs.

The journey is hard all the way around because of the broken, broken world we live in.

But there is hope. Rough days are ahead for our sweet boy's mom and dad. I sure would appreciate my praying people to keep them in your hearts and prayers as well.

If we all work together, the future will have our precious boy tucked safely in a room down the hall from people who radically changed the course of their future. They will have done the hard work... for him.
Please God, make it so.

To the Other Mother:
This mother has your back. You can do the hard stuff. You can make the hard choices that this will require.
We are behind you.

-Momma Gina

Saturday, August 18, 2018

To The Little Boy, With a Big Piece of My Heart

Sweet Boy,

Goodness you have rocked our world. We thought we were prepared. We always think we know what we are saying "yes" to at that phone call. We never do. Each set of little feet, with their suitcase or garbage bag packed with their lives, comes with baggage that you cannot see as well.
And this week, it almost broke me.   Because I cannot stand the thought sometimes, of what your life will be like somewhere else.

With my brain, I want you to be with parents that are healthy and whole. I root for you parents enthusiastically! It's something that is a paradox for sure. Because I also would love those parents to be us. But I hope that they can pull this out... that they can do the gut-wrenching work that is ahead of them. My heart falters sometimes but longs to see you happy in the path that God has for you.

Precious little man. Holding your hand is a doorway to a life that I have dreamed of for so many years. I truly love you with every bit of me.
My prayer for you tonight is the same as every night for the past few months.
God protect his heart.
God raise him up to follow you.
God help him heal. Help him feel safe, even when the world changes.
When I can no longer hold that hand, or softly stroke your hair, or whisper words of comfort; somehow, I pray that you will remember in your heart that we gave you everything we had.

Dear sweet boy we will love you forever.

-Mommy Gina

Thursday, June 14, 2018

You Can Protect Yourself, But Not From Everything

One of the things that comes up a lot in conversations with people about foster care is loss.
I suppose it's inevitable to think about.
I share my adorable kid story with you. I tell you about the cutest thing he learned to do.
Someone always says "that's just it... I don't think I could have that, and then lose it."
I've walked over these past few years with people who have had unimaginable losses in their life.
I've seen grief of so many stripes. Heck... I've lived it.
Great love sets you up for loss in some way every, single time.
It's morbid to think about, but so true.  Death is so inevitable in our lives. Loss is always a threat.
Life is precious. But we would not really ever have a sense of how precious if everyone... every thing... we loved lived on forever.
Life is precious.

Great love is worth that risk.  It's worth even the scariest of risks.
Loving any child inherently sets you up for pain. The child you grew from scratch will say things that will devastate you. They will chose bad things sometimes that will hurt you. They will cause you tears and grief. Some of you grew a child from scratch that has already left you ahead of the time you were ready.
But we are never ready for grief.

Was the love worth it?
Knowing what you know now, would you still risk the love?
I would... I would chose love that ended in pain every time over no love at all.
Because man, love, that is life.

So how can I love that adorable bundle finally sleeping down the hall, knowing that tomorrow isn't guaranteed? How can I love each adorable big and little bundle knowing that most of those journeys end in tears?

How can I not?
I get to kiss endless boo-boos. I get to calm angry tears. I get to laugh. Oh... do I get to laugh. I get to walk through their journeys. I get so see first steps. I get to hear first words. I get rage thrown at me. I get tears.  There are broken hearts, scraped knees, and broken furniture.
There is always love.

And some day - in the much too soon for us future - I may hug this little neck too and send him to be with someone else who loves him.

Is it hard?  Yes.

But I would break my heart into a thousand pieces if it protects his for this time. And I feel the same for the two that came before him... who I still cry over in many ways if I'm being perfectly honest.
That's not "oh how special is Gina!"
To me, that is a living, breathing, pouring out of the love I have been given by both my earthly father (love you Daddy) and my heavenly Father.

... Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Maybe you are not called out to foster. Can you think of anything this world needs now more than love? What would this world be like if we simply loved our neighbor, as we loved ourselves?
Something to think about my friends.