Detoured But Not Deterred

I asked you not to sanctify me. I begged you not to sanctify me. When you do,  it makes telling you even harder, letting you down like this. It makes this feel more like failure than it already does. I’ve been reminded by my wisest advisors, my husband and best friend, that I’m not on the defense so I don’t have to explain the decision to anyone. Still, you’ve been walking with us, heck, practically wheel-barrowing us through this process at times so you deserve to know main pieces.

The kiddos were picked up by their social worker yesterday and driven back up to Riverside County. To a home without other small children. To a home where they can make  small mistakes and big mistakes safely. To a home where every ounce of attention is about them. We were prepared for tantrums and can get through those fairly well. Behaviors are only the flailing arms of the octopus. The need is at the core, the brain telling those arms to move. As weeks progressed into months and the behaviors increased and intensified it became evident that what we are able to provide these two did not meet their needs. You don’t know what you don’t know. We did become fairly attuned to their intricacies, so I am praying communicating that knowledge can help guide their future placements. I’m scared they are on the road to becoming statistics, but I am reminding myself that I believe in the One who can grow beauty in the midst of mess.

What do you do after you buckle the child you thought would be yours forever into the back of a social worker’s car on their way to destination unknown? I walked inside and started rearranging furniture. First things first, sort out the physical mess then I can deal with figuring out the emotions. Outside in, in this case. As I mentioned in the last post this hasn’t been a time for emotions because we’ve been living in crisis. Crisis is about action. It’s survival. So don’t ask me how I’m doing. Beyond the immediate layer of confusion and relief (can I say that without you hating me), I don’t know what I feel yet.

Next steps. Rest. There will be no steps forward until we simply rest well with sleep and family down time and outings filled with laughter. Heal. Mend the little chunks of our hearts that have been torn. Possibly provide some play therapy for the kids. Give. Once we feel rested we’d love to provide respite care for other families, taking their foster children for a few days to week at a time. Try Again. Stand up, square off, and start again. We are detoured but not deterred.

Borrowing the mantra from Glennon in this season: Next Right Step. The dream is the destination but haven’t found footing yet on the road and definitely can’t see the whole path. We just have to keep taking the next right step and pray we will make it eventually. I’ve never been one for being on time anyway.

Grasping For A Tether

So many of you are asking what keeps me sane in the midst of our crazy. Just so we are on the same page, by crazy we mean coaching our foster children through intense tantrums and defiant behaviors that make simple tasks of Get To School and Go To Bed daunting, Everest-looking feats.

How is it possible to remain grounded when life situations make you feel untethered?

1. Take emotion out of the equation. I am a heavily “feely” person so in the midst of cradling a child through a tantrum I can’t have emotion. My own emotion will quickly turn into anger and betray me. Calm, even voice. Slow movements. Out of body observation within the boundaries of my own personal frame. Those are my hands being calm. That is my voice remaining steady. Our bio children giving me sideways looks wondering who came and body-snatched their mother.

2. Know your THING that transcends you. Mine is music, that insta-touch portal to another mental realm. Yours might be the sky or a book or feet slapping pavement. For me, music. Specifically, our youtube is one click shy of explosion from overuse of Jeremy Jordan videos and Breaking Down the Riffs with Natalie Weiss segments. Not that I will ever sing these to you in full belting voice, it’s just fun to hear riffs puzzled apart and taught in a way that feels like you and I can actually tackle them. I tried to play it cool about my obsession with Jeremy Jordan’s voice but by now we all know I’m a total fangirl. Marriage counseling to commence soon, if not for what is turning out to be a very difficult foster/adopt scenario, for my fangirldom. Still love you most, Nate!

3. Being cared for. We are spending SO much mental, physical, and emotional energy caring for our family right now. There is nothing left. But you keep coming. You keep showing up on our doorstep with bags of Mickey nuggets and baskets of laundry detergent and packages of books and gift cards and essential oils and post-it notes. I tell you it’s been (another) hard morning/bad day/tantrumpalooza bedtime and you send me text messages that make me cackle and burst with love and friendship instead of tears. You rally around us so we rally around ours.

The unspoken and underscore of this is Holy Spirit all through and around and in. The other truth is that sometimes the concept of God with us still feels out there and far away and let’s face it, not very in the moment practical. The tangibles of hearing a song, reading a sarcastic text, and enjoying the bitter aftertaste of a first-sweet blackberry, those are what feel real. Those are what meet us immediately in the very visceral moment of what is untethering us and offer us a grounding rope back to earth, back to sanity. And yet, those simple tangibles are God with us.

Thank you everyone for encouraging us through. Special thanks to Jeremy and his voice.

Still, still love you most, Nate. But I’ll call our therapist for us…

 

Two Week Update on Foster/Adoption

Rough. We’re a little over two weeks in and you’re asking how we’re doing.The answer is rough. Adding any new baby into the family takes some adjustment time. Adding a six year old and three year old who have had their hearts, minds, & bodies torn? Let’s just say we’ve never been tired the way tired has met us right now as we teach all five of our children (“big 6″, “new 6″, 4, 3, & 2) what it means to live in a family where parents instruct & discipline from love and where we encourage each other.

Words. There are words, unkind words getting flung around our house as the children battle through some sibling rivalry and while we absorb anger from their grief. When I am being called names that shall not be named, it is easy to feel my own heart hardening. But I am a grown up. These words do not have power to define me. These are the same words that were yelled in anger to my fost/adopt kid when he was a tiny, malleable human.  They did define him & he took them in as his internal speech & replayed them so often that in moments of intense tantrum, they are the molten lava bursting from his core.

Why? Why on earth are we doing this? We ask ourselves daily. We know for a fact we are being obedient to what God is asking us to do. Not a general everyone kind of us, just us – me, Nate, and our family. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, we fret about our bio kids. Truthfully there have been nights when we go to bed thinking we’ve just ruined seven lives.

Resiliency. Do I truly believe God cannot redeem this or do I believe that our children (both bio & fost/adopted) are resilient enough to get past the hard and strong enough to allow their lives to be a day-by-day God-story?

Consistency. We do the three (or four) hour bedtime it requires, we fall exhausted to sleep, we worry, we pray, we tell God that this obedience doesn’t make sense, we promise to do our part of the hard work while demanding/begging the One Who Heals to do the healing. We trust healing comes through our consistency. So we sleep, wake up, and do it again.

Nuggets. We find the good nuggets in the day, cup them in our hands. We hold them up to ourselves to light our way out of the claustrophobic tunnel of “this feels hard”. We hold them up to the children to look in wonder upon. This children, THIS is what love/truth/justice/grace is about.

Weakness

“Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—
that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and falling. And I do.”
Mary Oliver, House of Light

“This lotion smells like a barn.”

For someone who loves words, I certainly have a hard time putting them together in real-time. By no means a compliment, I neither meant it as a criticism. Somehow smelling both earthy and synthetic, I was five years old again, twirling on hay in my uncle’s barn, watching him feed a splotched-skin calf with a botte Jack must have tossed down the beanstalk.

No cows. No barn. Just me, a massage table, and my neck in a vice-hold by the physical therapist. Did you know I’m going to physical therapy? I think you’re supposed to go for a legitimate reason like “post-car-accident” or “surgery-recovery” or something with the phrase “rehabilitation” in it.

I am there simply because I’m weak. I ignored and gagged my inner alarm and when it still wouldn’t shut up, I just disconnected the battery pack. You healthy, regulated people know how this ends. The only thing stronger than my stubbornness is my body’s primordial demand to be listened to.  Eventually, more draining than feeling perpetually weak and tired is continually trying to outrun that feeling.

Here I am at physical therapy, shoulders looped to a machine, having to face the reality of my weakness. It’s not pretty. I am a proud, proud person. My body has always been strong so when three (count them one, two, three, that’s it) pounds cause my back to spasm during an exercise I don’t recognize myself. When an excruciating neck-stretch is interrupted by an aid because it looks from afar as if I “wasn’t doing anything and just waiting” (yes, someone said that to me),  I have a mini existential crisis.

Weakness is the battle. Weakness can be defined as a lack of vigor, a feebleness, an inadequacy. My day feels bound by the deficits. Deficit of time. Deficit of energy. Deficit of vertebrae that don’t reverberate with numbness. When I feel feeble, inadequate, lacking, I find myself waiting. That’s my true enemy. I begin waiting for a better time to begin. A time when there will be more time. When I will feel better. When I can start pursuing these ever-shifting dreams. Why are we waiting for a time we know is not coming?

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness. (2Corinthians12:9)

I don’t understand these words. I just keep reading them because I trust it is true and at some point I will internalize this truth. For now, I have stopped running. I have turned and faced the looming wave of weakness. I am allowing it to crash cold and wet and powerful and shocking against me.  I’m ready to do the hard, disorienting work of building back my strength. I don’t want to outrun. I don’t want to wait.

I want to be dazzled. I want to stare into the mystery and yes, to maybe even float a little.

On The Reality of Having Feelings and Hope

You keep calling me brave and I keep receiving it with a confused look, because in my heart I know that there’s anxiety.

Approximately six months, one billion forms and documents and house projects and many hours of trainings and books later, we are near the final hoop of being certified for foster-to-adopt in California before being placed with kids. This is the good news. This is the obeying God’s call for our family news. This is the over a decade of dreaming news.

We had a hiccup in our final walk-thru this week that’s pushed things back a bit and made it all a little more “scrambly”. I’m not good at backing off a pursuit or waiting with grace or pretending like I’m not disappointed when I actually am, so that anxiety made me a little emotional. Presenting itself in nausea. As in drinking a Coke at 6:30am instead of coffee to combat the nausea, nausea. I am, however, much more familiar with The Scramble and the keep-moving-forward-when-things-get-trickier tenacity that life requires from us.

So you call me brave and I know that the sleeve of Thin Mints I ate between the sheets suggests otherwise. There is no question or anxiety around adopting or the messiness that is sure to follow. It is seared on our heart. My fear is tangled in the fact that we don’t even HAVE kids in our home yet, just empty beds waiting, and I’m already a mess of emotions, feeling attached to children that aren’t even mine yet. Not caring is so much safer, isn’t it? Caring requires a certain amount of vulnerability of the most dangerous kind. They are all the layered, both/and feelings of happy and worried, elated and unsure, so I doubt myself and the doubts whisper lies wondering if I’m actually strong enough to do this if I’m already experiencing emotions. God says we were ordained to connect through emotions. Fear says emotions are dangerous and put-together people don’t have them. As we all know, fear is a liar.

What if, actually, bravery is holding space for sadness when we face a disappointment, the honesty to walk through it, the resiliency to continue to hold our heart open and tender.  Hope is always what that choke-weed fear is trying to wrap around. Hope. That faith of things hoped for and the assurance of things unseen (hebrews 11:1)

When our kids (whoever they are) do come home with messy, wrecked hearts we will hold hands together down the long road of the healing process. We will ask them to face all their sadness and rage and uncertainty and we will hold space for it. We will walk through it. We will ask them to do the Big Scary of tenderizing their hearts again. We will whisper God’s love. And it will take every ounce of courage their tiny little bodies can muster to trust in this, in love, our love, God’s love.

So keep telling me I’m brave. Because I’m going to be telling them.

But, you know, drinking all the Cokes and eating all the cookies too!

Leboffe, Party of Seven

It’s a fresh year. While the rest of you were Instagramming vignettes of your 2015 planners and glitter pens and mini desktop succulents the past few weeks, I was actively avoiding even looking at the calendar app on my phone homepage, lest it told me the actual date signifying the end of free and carefree schedules. Two weeks! Of vacation. Of not normal life. Of jammies and board games on the floor. Of chasing sea and sky and mountain. Forget NYResolutions. Here’s the new goal. Become independently wealthy so we can just go on endless adventures with our kids. And without our kids. We’re still throwing ourselves a pity party over here about our re-entry to routine.

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I don’t have an inspirational word to sum up last year or to project forward. While more unscheduled time seems unattainable and unrealistic, we are hoping for moments. Little blitzes of time together that are unmistakably holy in their goodness. 2015 promises to be a big year for us. Nate and I will be putting a flag in our tenth year of marriage, and we are excited to share we’ll be expanding our family! No, I’m not pregnant so please don’t congratulate me on the baby bump you’ve secretly been tracking. (That’s just my post-babies-pillow). Our family is in the process of becoming certified for foster-to-adopt with the intention of adopting a child or sibling set. Leboffe, party of 7!IMG_8257Still pining for vacation days past and wishing and watching for those flash moments ahead for you and for me.

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But That’s Okay, Mama.

I am the girl with mascara gunk in the corner of her eye. I don’t want to be that girl, but I am. To be fair, I do have a tiny little dark freckle on the inside corner which I myself mistake for unruly makeup no less than four times a day. Then, again, annoyed/enraged/resigned that it is, in fact, permanent.

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Truthfully, I want to be so much more put together than I am at this moment. After producing a much thematically resplendent class snack for the letter C at Josiah’s preschool, he let me know (after it all went down), “ack-ch-ually, the letter of the week was B…but that’s okay, Mama.” Grace and Love from a four year old. I want to wrap up in it like a blanket and sleep in that goodness. In my days of trying and striving and cloying, I hold onto that. The gracious place rolled out by a four year old.

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As my six year old let me know today, “Mama, you’re the one stressing us all out right now.” Yes, I see that reality. Also, please, fortheloveofallthatisgoodandmyholysanity, Get. In. The. CAR. Everyone!

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You might understand trying really hard but still, somehow, totally missing it. Or you might understand not having the capacity to always be “on” as your best self in a group of people who don’t know you very well yet. Or, possibly, you have a little godforsakengunk in the corner of your eye that betrays your TOGERTHERNESS to the world!

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I’m looping a season of stressed and crazed and disoriented. But I hold onto the truth that God is holding me in it anyway.

For those of you who rocked out letter C when it was letter B, in the simple and profound and grace-inviting words of a four year old, …”but that’s okay“. Wrap up in that blanket of grace the four year olds and God provide us. Roll in it. Rest in it. Come up stronger, if not just again, for a new day. It’s okay.

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(all “good” pics photo cred goes to Mike Leboffe)