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my life in my words


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Love Me Tender

May I suggest a starting place as truth receivers? It is okay for someone else to struggle. Furthermore, it is okay to not fix it/solve it/answer it/discredit it. Another believer can experience tension, say something true that makes people uncomfortable, and God will not fall off His throne. It is not our responsibility to fix every mess. If someone steps onto the scary ledge of truth, it is enough to acknowledge her courage and make this promise: I am here with you as your friend, not your Savior. We are not good gods over one another; we are better humans beside each other. 

— Jen Hatmaker, For The Love

It’s taken me longer than I anticipated to write this #AMOdoption update. Mostly because every time I share the hard truth or even glimpses of the story behind it, I end up brokenhearted in tears, reliving it all over again. Still, I want to do my best to keep you engaged in the journey and answer some questions I’m sure you have. The first question I imagine you would have as I continue on this fostering journey is, “Why haven’t you posted about your Kiddo in so long?” And this is where the tender truth comes out. I haven’t posted about her in so long because she hasn’t been with me in so long. A little over a month ago, she was removed from my home by the State due to circumstances out of my control.

Anyone who has been near a foster parent knows that parenting kids from hard places is HARD. Even on the hard days, I felt honored to spend quality time with an incredible teen girl who has no idea of the amazing potential she has as a worthwhile human being. Still, this sweet, smart girl who finds it hard to believe that she’s worth loving was once again bombarded with an overarching fear of love because of the traumatic things she’s had to live through. Because of that, both her heart + mind would not allow her to live on a level where she could land in the middle of connection, community, and unconditional love. She did everything she could to push boundaries, to behave adversely, to battle daily so that I would give up on her, regret her, kick her out, but I refused to do that. So she let her trauma win the battle and forced others to remove her because she knew I never would. She found what she thought was her only way out and she blazed a trail out the door, unable to let herself stay in a safe and loving family. And while it’s easy to be angered by her actions, I only feel pain and sorrow that she felt this was her only option, and that she’ll lean on it to be her only option for a long time. I still don’t regret opening my heart & home to her. She is forever a part of my world and my world is better because she’s part of it.

It was HARD to see her go. It was HARD to be left hurt and hurting. It was HARD to sift through every emotion and answer questions I had no definite answer for. It was HARD to feel like a failure, while at the same time knowing I did the absolute best I could. It was even HARDER to come to the realization that I may not have been the best option for her—that I can’t provide her with what she needs. It was devastatingly HARD to watch a prayer be answered . . . but not be able to stay. There are so many circumstances at play in the midst of it and I can only hope and pray that I was able to give her a glimpse of hope, love, and care—of what could be some day.

It has taken me the past month to wade through the HARD moments—one step at time—and answer difficult questions. I’m grateful for the loving support of my close family of friends, church family, other foster parents, and my Community Group who have held me through the HARD and hurt. It is encouraging to know that they still see the best in both of us and are praying, loving, supporting a bright future ahead for each of us. With that in mind, things are still tender in my world so if you ask me all the questions, you may get none of the answers. What you need to know is that I forever love her and champion healing and hope in her life in any way I can. I will always protect her and her story, my story, our story.

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A note from a fellow foster parent in my Refresh Conference Community. It really is the little things that help you get through the big things. ❤

Still, there are some questions that have been asked of me along the way that I will gladly answer (as I have a few times now to people in person) below to close out this post. I hope they enlighten and inspire you as you continue on this journey with me:

Didn’t you realize what you were getting into, fostering an older kid? Yeah I did, and I wasn’t afraid of it. I’m still not. I also don’t regret saying YES to her. However, even knowing the things I know about fostering teens doesn’t make the loss any less painful. This didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but I don’t regret my decision to care for her. She is a beautiful, strong, smart, worthwhile Kiddo and no amount of her leaving makes me think less of her. Nor will it make me walk away from caring for older foster kids in the future.

Why didn’t you ask the social worker about ____________? You’re cute. While I’m disappointed that you might think I walked into this blindly and without asking important questions that would help me parent to the best of my ability, I’m happy to surprise you. I did. I asked a million and one questions. At every meeting, I brought up more and more questions. Even when the answers were guarded and shrouded in soft blankets, I pressed in. The truth is, not everyone in the foster system gives you the answers you want, when you want, how you want, and part of it is based in the fact that they legally can’t. The other part of it is that they don’t want to blow an opportunity for a hard-to-place child to be placed. Another part is that they are hopeful that the next placement will be the game changer.

Everything seemed to be going well. What did you do to her make her leave? I loved her—deeply, unconditionally, honestly. I offered connections, solutions, strategies toward healing and comfort. I let her ask big questions and make informed decisions. I tucked her in at night, held her when she cried, and massaged her feet when she was stressed out. I gave her second, third, fourth, fiftieth chances. I championed family times, friendship development, and taught her life skills. But it was just too much too soon and she chose to put herself back in the corner that she was all too familiar with . . . the one where she didn’t need someone else . . . the one where hope and love didn’t have control, but rather she had control.

Where is she at now? Will she come back to you? She is in a safe place, getting the care she needs. At this point, there are no guarantees as to whether or not she will be coming back. The truth is, I can’t give her what she needs to succeed right now. I can say that regardless of what happens going forward, I’m never going to stop caring about her, investing in her life where I can, and I’m certainly going to continue opening my heart and home to kids in need.

Why didn’t you tell me/us what you were going through? It is HARD. Hard to face, hard to tell, hard to process everything that’s happened. I’m not even being overdramatic . . . just real. I’ve battled all the fear, doubt, shame, anxiety, despair, and confusion along the way and it’s left me pretty empty. So when I did finally start sharing bits of the story outside of those who are in my immediate tribe of trusted friends, people responded differently than I anticipated—with suggestions for how I could have done better; with offers for them to go talk to her and make her see what she’s done; with stories about how difficult it is to parent their own kids but that their kids always come around in the end. It just became too difficult to trust the story to fall on fertile soil and not get choked up in the thorns. I didn’t tell more people because it hurt too much at the time. I still have really tender moments even a month later. I am sure that you would have listened and you would have cared better than most. You still might, even knowing this much of the story. But I will give you fair warning, the words expressed by Jen Hatmaker in the quote at the beginning of this post is exactly where I’m at right now. The situation sucks and while I’m sure many people feel they have all the answers, all I really need is a hug.

What can I do to help? When everything went sideways, I got this question almost daily from people in my close community. The majority of the time, I didn’t have an answer . . . for like, anything. Mostly because I was so lost in everything. I didn’t know what I needed because I didn’t know myself at the time. I got lost in the middle of the mess. I didn’t know where I was, what time or space was, or how to function under the weight of such a heavy emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual toll. Now that I’ve had time to come to grips and resurface, picking up bits and pieces of myself along the way, I’ve found a few ways you can help: Pray for me. Love me. Care about me. Hug me. Have coffee with me. Remind me that it’s okay to laugh, to feel, to enjoy things. Encourage me. Sit and listen without offering solutions. Remind me that God sees, hears, and knows me. Let me cry next to you or in your arms and remind me that it doesn’t make me weak—only human. Invite yourself into my world and invite me into yours.

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A note from another foster parent in my Refresh Conference Community. I’m grateful for all those who have fostered and have leaned in to remind me that this kind of thing does happen often and I’m not alone in it. It has been a comfort to read and hear healing reminders over coffee + lunch dates that this is not out of God’s hands or sight.

Thank you for walking through this with me . . . and for taking the time to read this novel. If you made it this far, treat yourself to an extra cup of coffee/tea today. You’ve earned it! Know that there is much more of this journey ahead and that I am honored to have you by my side.

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Open Hands

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The sight of beautiful things on the horizon! These are the things I’m reviewing as we move towards #ItsJoTime moving in. The Parenting Toolbox includes articles, parenting tips, foster care tips, and notes taken from classes on the road so far.

I was really tempted to name this entry: What To Expect When You’re Kind Of Expecting, but the words to the Laura Story/Mac Powell song, OPEN HANDS, seemed more appropriate a base line.

There are two things that I’ve been expecting for this new year:

  1. Stepping out of my ministry position as Youth Pastor at Westside Church. It’s been a transition in the making for months now. Last Fall, we brought on a great youth assistant who loves our church family and champions the same Orange strategy that I do and have used to help build our kids and youth ministries at Westside. For the past 7 years, I have served as volunteer Youth Pastor of 2Twelve Student Ministries and in the past 4 years, I have served in the paid position of Children’s Director for Westside Kids and Graphic Designer at Westside. As both of these family ministries have grown and are continuing to grow, and with the ever expanding demand for graphic supports, it’s becoming more than I am capable of managing. To continue to promote the growth and focus needed to help each of these areas I am stepping aside as Youth Pastor and bringing in our youth assistant to step into that role from here on. This past Sunday was my last day as Youth Pastor and it was truly bittersweet. I hope those students will continue to know how much they mean to me. I also hope they continue to understand how much potential they have to influence others around them toward brighter and more hopeful futures as they own their faith & embrace responsibility toward each other as human beings. As I take this step away, I will be able to focus even more time, attention and focus to our Westside Kids ministry’s growth and enhancement. In addition, it will free me up for focused time in parenting a teenager of my own!
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    It’s been an honor to love and lead this crew through my past 7 years as Youth Pastor at WestsideChurch. Today was my last day in this role and I’m so glad I got to share it with this beautiful crew! I’m looking forward to being able to continue pouring out that same passion and guidance into our WestsideKids ministry and to continue tackling graphic design projects for the church. It’s definitely bittersweet but I know these amazing 2Twelve students are in good hands (and hearts)!!

     

  2. Becoming a Foster Parent! The #AMOdoption journey continues as I move even closer to walking into the role of becoming the parent of a smart, strong, beautiful, lovable teenage girl! She fits so well in my heart, mind and family and I am looking forward to strengthening our relationship and helping her find her voice, space, and landing spot in my home. I’ve been able to spend some quality moments and begin bonding well with my Kiddo during some respite weekends and over Winter Break. I’ve gotten to meet her siblings and their adoptive parents and feel such great joy in expanding my family with them. At this point, I am a foster parent with the potential of adoption, but adoption is not on the discussion table right now—just foster care. At the end of January, I will be bringing my Kiddo home and our journey together will take another step in a promising direction!

Through this transition I am grateful for the love and support of my friends, family, faith, and work communities! My boss at the 9-to-5 job has offered me time off and lots of practical supports in anticipation of my Kiddo’s arrival. My friends and family have offered me lots of encouragement, prayer support and practical supports. My faith community has embraced me every step of this journey and continues to support me in prayer, practical supports, and provided such great opportunities for meaningful connections that have benefitted my girl in this transition and in the road ahead.

At this point, I am still wrapping my mind around everything—it’s been a whirlwind of meetings, processing forms, preparing for school enrollment the first week in February, and getting the house in order for her arrival. I would ask for anyone reading this to consider joining me in prayer for this matter. Things to pray for include:

  • My Kiddo seeing this move as a positive placement toward permanency and me being able to support her in all the best ways as we both move through our own grieving processes—me with ministry transition and her with losing strong connections developed through her current family placement.
  • That we are able to get all the appropriate State/practical supports needed to make it a successful experience for my Kiddo and I.
  • Once she is placed in my home, I will need to pay my agency another large chunk of change, which I knew and planned for in advance. The great thing is that there are many grants that I can (and have always planned to) apply for. Please pray that I’m able to get some (or all) of those grants that I apply for so that I can have some additional financial provision in this journey.
  • That the transition to a new school will go well and she’ll feel it’s a fresh start and a way to reinvent herself and widen the circle.

I would also appreciate any help with practical supports as you are able. Practical supports for now include gift cards for grocery stores (Fred Meyer & QFC preferred), clothing stores (Target, Old Navy, and WalMart), gas stations, as well as meals from local friends/eateries to help us eat well amid all of the introductory meetings with school and care team members, medical appointments, and settling into a home rhythm. If you are interested in helping with any of these practical supports, you can comment here and I’ll be in touch!

I am so excited to finally bring my girl home and surround her with love, care, and support for a successful future! You can keep up with our journey on social media via the #ItsJoTime hashtag and I’ll be sure to post updates here along the way of things I’m discovering as I continue to make this a year of SEEK AND FIND with my little love in tow!

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A lifetime of safety, warmth, and connection can be found in my Kiddo’s collection of stuffed animals. It’s an honor to join this same vein of support as I step into her world and point her in a positive, faith-filled, successful direction. I look forward to every opportunity to open my heart and hands to continually prove love over time!

 

 


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Good Together | Seek & Find in 2017

The PROMISES of 2017 helped me get through so much of the mess that came packed into the year. This past year has brought pain, sacrifice, the death of loved ones, job focus shifts, large financial undertakings, medial setbacks and political distress. Despite those things, it has also brought a deeper faith, a wider range of relationships and potential additions to my family. I’ve been able to walk into circumstances of struggle and see God provide time and time again. Being able to believe and see God’s faithfulness show up in my life this past year have helped me to choose this year’s word . . . s. Usually I just pick one, but this year after thinking and praying about it, I got a little bit more to go with.

My focus for this year is:

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A couple of nights ago, I felt a tug on my heart and heard the compelling voice of the Holy Spirit to go to my potential foster daughter’s bedroom and just pray for her while she was away at a youth group sleepover. I tried to reason it away because I was feeling sick and tired, but I couldn’t shake it. So I walked over to her room, knelt beside her bed and prayed that this home would be a refuge for her and that she would find space here to heal, learn, love, grow, and become the incredible young woman she was created to be. I prayed that peace, grace, and love would cover her to remind her that she’s valuable to me and others. As I headed back to bed, I knew that this next year would be one of seeking God for truth and wisdom even more.

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Today’s the big day!! It’s my first #RespiteWeekend ever and I’m so looking forward to it! Even though we only get 48hrs., I hope it’s just what she needs to relax and refresh before heading back to school next week! Prayers for a smooth weekend filled with fun & quality connections are appreciated.

Parenting in and of itself is one of the most demanding roles anyone will ever step into throughout life. Parenting a child from a hard place, while pastoring and holding a part time business position certainly adds its own plot points to the story. Still, I am up for this role of a lifetime and look forward to walking through it knowing I’m not alone on the journey. I realize that everyone will have an opinion on how I should parent or what will be the best thing for me and my Kiddo and I am/will be so grateful for every nugget of wisdom I acquire along the way. But ultimately I will need to rely on what God is revealing to me as I seek Him to build my faith, family, connections, and career. He knows me best, knows Kiddo best, and knows how we should build family life best. In my seeking, I know that if I seek all of those other outlets for truth while skipping or diminishing God in the equation, I will continually be stuck in struggle and disappointment. I don’t want my seeking after Him to be lukewarm or passive, but rather intentional and with expectancy. As I seek, I don’t want to just rely on what’s in my mind already. I want to ask questions and prioritize studying God’s word for truth and wisdom along the way.

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This is my foundational scripture for my year of seeking and finding.

I would love for you to Seek and Find with me as life unfolds in the valleys, mountaintops, and common hours all year long. I will do my best to share the things I find along the way either here on the blog, over coffee dates and phone calls, or on my social media outlets. I am looking forward to taking time to put more time and attention towards God in my everyday life and see where He leads me!

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Welcoming the New Year with dear friends and lots of laughs! Bonus move is New Year’s at the Needle!!