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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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. 



Sunday, November 06, 2016

I Counted Up The Cost

We've done this song (below) two Sundays in a row at church. Each time, the same lines wreck me.

My wealth is in the cross
There’s nothing more I want
Than just to know His love
My heart is set on Christ

And I will count all else as loss

The greatest of my crowns
Mean nothing to me now
For I counted up the cost
And all my wealth is in the cross

If you know me personally at all you know that 2016 has been full of startling loss. But as much as I probably over share on social media, the majority of people have no idea just how much loss we've actually faced. It's been a brutal year people. And it just keeps on dealing blows. I've joked multiple times, ok not joked... I've been deadly serious at being ready to run away from this year. I'm ready for the clean slate. I'm ready to put this one away and deal with it in the rear view.

But today as I sang the words "I will count all else as loss" I couldn't help but pause.
Do I really mean that?
         If nothing else good happens...
     If more loss comes...
        If my hearts desire is now completely re-routed or destroyed..
  Is my heart set on Christ?
When I count up the cost, where is my wealth?

Doctor's can only do so much for us. Miracles may come. But they may not come in the way I had set out. I have planned. I have a box that I want God to check/fill.  This right here, God, this is what you must do for me. I've been like a stubborn toddler. This here and now God. This is what is acceptable.

But if my faith means anything, if God is the big God that I believe He is, He won't fit in my box.
And trying to force Him to is disastrous - for me. My plans break against loss. My plans cannot stand up to the whirlwind of life. My plans are fragile... fallible... selfish... s.m.a.l.l.

And I'm undone today. Because I have counted up the cost. Everything is loss.

There is NOTHING more I want. Then just to know His love.
Whatever else comes must come against the strength of that conviction.

Though He slay me,
            I will hope in Him.

And when I stand in glory
My crowns before the Lord
Let this be my confession
My wealth is in the cross

Friday, June 03, 2016

If We're Being Honest

I just realized, the last time I wrote here my brother was still alive. The last time I wrote here I just thought things were tough. I think I'm glad that I had no idea how much rougher things were going to get.
So far in 2016 I have seen a friend die. I have stood at the bedside of my big bear of a brother and said goodbye for now.
I have lost much to this year.
I decided the second half of 2016 needed to live up to its name and bring some redemption.
But so far, well its brought some realizations.

Fertility drugs make you crazy. Well they make you feel crazy. They amp you up emotionally so you manage to either be unhinged crying or unhinged angry.
This time around they are also making me seriously nauseated at everything around.
I am NOT a happy camper.
And I'm really only here for one reason - a simple reminder.

Out there in your world 1 out of every 8 couples is trying desperately to either get pregnant or stay pregnant.
Out there in your world there is a woman whose body has betrayed her over and over again. The one thing that is seems everyone else just "does" her body just doesn't.
Out there in your world there is a man who has no idea how to help his insane wife deal with the ups and downs of a process while he struggles through the process himself.

We are your 1 in 8.  But I bet you know more and you have no idea.

I wish with just about every part of me that I didn't know the freakin in and outs of fertility. I wish I didn't know about the medicines and the ultrasounds. I do not mean the great ones where you see a little body on a screen. I mean the ones where you see a blank canvas and hold your breath and pray you hear "Ok, we can do this." I wish I never, ever had to hear someone say "just relax," or "it'll happen when it happens" or "my cousin's neighbors sister had problems and they did x" or any. other, thing.

It seems weird to put this out into the world. But what seems weirder is to navigate this in silence. I'm a freakin mess right here. I can go from laughing hysterically to sobbing in about 2 seconds. And I literally walled myself off most of this week because I just could not deal with the headaches, the smells, the STUPIDITY (it's me... it's not you), or anything else the world had to toss at me.
All this for a chance, just a chance, at what 7/8 couples take for granted.

Right now, I'm sick and tired. I'm scared to hope for a different outcome. And I'm hoping with all my heart.
If you made it this far thanks for listening.  And please pray that this is our turn around month/