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.

-Gina

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

It's not what they told us it would be

Hi there!
I've been gone long enough that those of you who know me probably thought I had given up.
Nope. I'm still here. I've just not written, anything, in a long time.
I have journal-ed my life since I was 16. Pretty faithfully that entire time I wrote.
But the silence on here is mirrored there.
I have not written.
I'm not sure why.
I've had plenty to process... the failed fertility treatments.... the miscarriage... the hope and crashing down of hope.
The room we had set aside for children called to me - empty.  The empty room was such a waste. It called to me. It haunted me.
So ...We've charged fully from one season into the next.
And we started a new chapter in our family.
Fostering and hopefully someday adopting.

We were certified but the empty room stayed empty. From the first signature I walked past that room every night praying for every child that would fill it.
Still it stayed - empty.
We started with a teenager - totally green - complete newbs. We had no idea what we were in for. We learned a lot about a lot in those few months.
We learned sacred secrets. We listened to rage - to pain - to much more than our hearts could take.
And then he ran.
And our hearts broke. We wanted so much for him. We hoped to see things really work out for him - give him a good start to life.
And the empty room - once full of life, music, and laughter - was empty again.

Blessing number 2 came totally unexpectedly and on the exact day that we decided to not re-open the door to fertility treatments. She was to be with us a long time, but you never know. You are never guaranteed time.
For a week - the empty room was filled with pink clothes and pink toys. Little tiny socks. A firecracker wrapped inside a curly headed doll. And we breathed her in and fell in love.
She left suddenly and with no goodbye. Thankfully she went to her family. He safe place here was temporary.
And the empty room - once full of giggles, bedtime stories, hugs, and cries - was empty again.

The third blessing also came as a surprise. He was quick -not even a week after the adorableness of a little girl. And just like that - the empty room is all trucks and blue. Its torn up things, cause he is all boy. It's running and tackling. It's the most adorable kid I've ever laid eyes on. He's beautiful. He is young.
And we breathed him in and fell in love.
The future, is not known.  We've had all kinds of timelines and deadlines.  But the future remains a total mystery.
We want the absolute best for him. We root for his family to come together and make a stable home for him. We pray for them every night. Tonight I tucked him into bed with his cup and his rabbit. I prayed, in the no longer empty room, for this child. I prayed that God would protect his heart and keep it soft. I prayed that his future was bright. I prayed for us to love him with abandon.

You see what they don't tell you, what you could never really learn from anyone else, is how much of your heart you can give away. How many pieces can you break off and send back out into the world? I know for sure, it's more than 2.

I share what I share because I want people to know that we are not special. We are called... and some of you are called to. Some of you are sure that you could never bear loving a child and then letting them go. But, if you are called, you can. You will break and grieve and pick up to love again.

Some of you are not called but you can give in other ways. Date nights and meals. Mowing a foster family's yard. Find the foster momma that just took in a new baby, in addition to her other kids, who refuses to sleep - and keep her precious kiddos so she can take a NAP.
There are a thousand ways that you can help... and that thing that just popped into your head to do.
DO IT!

Foster families will thrive if the community at large and especially the community of faith join them.
If foster families thrive they can create an environment that helps kids and families alike.

It's not what they told us it would be.
It's so much harder. So much more challenging.
It's so very much more than we ever could have dreamed.

-Gina

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

You're Ok. Oh You're Not Ok? ... Ok...

Lately my mom and I do a lot of laughing when we first start a phone call. Maybe not so much laughter as wry chuckling.  Why?
"How are you?" or some similar question is a natural opening line in a phone conversation.
The problem is that lately the answer ranges from "meh" to almost tears.
Some seasons are just rough.
We have this mistaken image of people that if they aren't bleeding or bruised or bandaged up, they must be fine.
If they aren't crying or raging or whatever-ing as an outward show of emotion things must be a-ok.
Why is that?
Real grief... despair... hurt... anger... whatever-ing makes most of us uncomfortable!
Sometimes it has to be "ok" to not be "ok."
Back forever long ago in this season I started using the phrase "sit in the suck."
I used it for my friends/family who could really let me actually be the mess that I was at that time.
I will never forget standing in the back of church one Sunday and being asked if I was doing alright by one of these friends.
I, out of habit, said I was fine.
She looked straight at me and said "really?"
No. I was not fine.  Bless her for calling me on it.
We are quick to need people to move on when they are hurt.  This is a fast paced world where information gallops up and past us before we even really digest it. Actual grief and suffering is highly inconvenient.
It's why some celebrities who have been dead for 10 years constantly get re-dead on Facebook.  Poor Bob Denver... RIP - but yeah 2005.

                I had a point, I swear.

Ah - we need to be the people who can help others move on by sitting in the suck for a while.
It is ok to be a total mess.  Don't stay there. But if you never let yourself actually go there, you also will never fully be ok again.
Talk to people and then really listen. Don't take "fine" at face value. We are way too busy when we never actually take time to hear what is behind that "fine."

We are in a big mess in this world. I really believe that a lot of it comes from the habit we all have of talking past people, talking at people, and scoring points at other's expense. We have talking points instead of relationships. We have stands instead of friends. We are right. You are wrong. Unfriend me if you don't like it...

We must be "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry," (James 1:19).

Stop. Sit with me here for a minute. Step away from your social media and go BE somewhere. Read a book to a senior adult who lives alone. Help someone with their groceries, just because you can. See that mother whose kid is pitching a fit for whatever reason.  Solidarity nod to her and hey, can you help?
Or just listen.  Ask someone how they are and really listen for their answer.

And that person - the one you can't stop thinking about right now - they NEED you to BE for them.  They need you to hear them and not be thrown by their hurt, or bad news, or anger.

We have each other.  We should always have each other's backs.  We are all in this together.
Please make it ok for someone to be a not ok mess today.

-G

Monday, January 23, 2017

One Year

It was a year ago today that my phone rang in the early morning hours.

"You need to get here sooner than we planned."
        "We have time. But you need to get here."
It was freezing cold outside. Al's car had flat, and we had left it in a parking lot.  But we needed to get it out of the weather and into the garage.

"You need to get here."
         "Everyone is coming... we want to wait for you to say goodbye."
We waited for a touch of daylight so we could change cars and head south.

It's an odd sensation. It was a week that had lows and medium lows. We knew by mid-week that things weren't great. But we thought we still had time.

"We will wait for you. But we will need to say goodbye."

The freezing cold. The quiet ride to my hometown. The cold walk from our car to a hospital room.

"Take all the time you need." "We can wait as long as you need."

The whispered words. The peaceful breathing sounds. The calm.  The hushed moments of trying to take in every second.  I needed to remember every moment, every sight.

In that last week, many of us couldn't be there with him. So we had made a sign to leave for - when - he woke up, with all of our pictures "You are not alone."

The beeping of machines and continued sounds of a hospital room echoed.

The moments that follow are sacred in my memory.  Shared stories. Laughter through tears.
And always the touching of hands, shoulders, heads... the patting.  Patting is our thing.

One year later - every sight and sound is etched on my heart. It's a record of a day that I still have playing on repeat.

I have said it before, probably because I read it somewhere, that great grief is the leftover from great love.  My brother, he loved well. So we grieve with intensity still. If you were his people, you knew you were loved. He was a fierce protector.  He was a big dude but he also had a big heart. He was a mess. But aren't we all? He had a wicked sense of humor.  In my mind I can easily hear him roaring with laughter as I did one crazy thing or another. He was my big brother. He was one of a kind. When you're little you think that your big brother hung the moon. When you get older, you realize they aren't perfect but there is still always something special about the person who paved the way for you in the family... in life.

"Take all the time you need."

Ok. I'm still here, taking my time.  Still loving you.  Waiting until I get to see you again.

Love you big brother.

-Froggy

Friday, January 20, 2017

New Year, Same You - My Word for 2017

I think this is the latest that I have ever done one of these posts. I usually have my "word" and start mulling it over in early December.
This year, I didn't even have a hint until New Year's Eve.
One last time I'll say, 2016 just stunk for me.  Around Christmas Al and I started to talk about the good things from the year.  That's only natural when you're fixin' to wrap up a year.
It was tough.  We really had to fight to start the list.
It was not a lack of blessing. There are about 1000 good things in any DAY that we are blessed with.  I am not unaware of that.
But it was a tough, tough year.

Ringing into 2017 sees the re-routing of our dream for a family. Good things are coming in other ways on that front. But so many of the things I had really fought for, really prayed for, and really worked for - not happening.

Ringing in 2017 brings the close of the first year without my oldest brother. It's a big gap in our lives.  Great love brings great grief.  And we have mourned.

Ringing in 2017 brings the new chapters of foster care into our lives.  We cannot even imagine what that means yet.

What word could possibly stand in for all that I hope for this year?

It's actually two interlocked words.

Live/Life

2016 was pretty much all about chaos and death. Some years are just like that. Some years you skate out of December with no emotion left.

2017 is about new life. It's about really living. It's about walking a little lighter with decisions finally set.  It's about letting go and thriving.

Live... Life

Breathe.
He's got this.

John 10:10
A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. 

Life.

-Gina