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When Bad Dreams are real. August 11, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — blessedarethosethatmourn @ 7:47 pm

All of my children have had nightmares, some have been more difficult than others, and all of them have met with the same answer: “It’s okay, baby. It was just a dream.” But, today, I had to give a different answer to my littlest.
Our Goose, with tear stained cheeks, came to me this morning to share her nightmare. She dreamed that we could not be her family anymore, and that she had to say goodbye to us. Of course, we are never going anywhere, and I covered her with hugs and kisses and told her of forever, BUT her nightmare comes from her reality.
Goosey was 8 months old when she moved in with us, and has no memories of life before us. We saw her first step, heard her first word, changed her diapers, held her when she was sick, comforted her through virtually every hurt. And, yet, what her mind has forgotten, her body remembers. Her first year of life was full of the trauma of loss. She had 9 months in her bio-mommy’s womb and a month in her arms, and the loss of her first mom will be a pain she will always feel. She lost 2 sweet foster mommies, too, who loved her well for the time they had her. They could only take care of her for a time, but they could not explain to her why they had to leave. She was too little, so she just felt the loss.
L is 4 now and just beginning to grasp the word “adopted”. Having a bigger sister who remembers everything, we talk. We have a photo album full of pictures of her first family, and we talk about “Mommy V” and “Daddy J” regularly. We learned early on that honesty and truth would be the best way to walk with our girls. We could not shield them from hurt through hiding the truth, so we chose to walk with them through their hurts. We encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. I’ve sat in a puddle of tears countless times with N, grieving with her over her loss.
Now I am beginning that lifelong walk with L. It won’t be easy. There will be many tears and probably some anger. I can’t soothe away her pain with a statement or two. She is living a nightmare of loss so big very few could understand. At 4, she is learning that sometimes kids lose their family. Now, it is my job to teach her that I will love her with a never ending, unstoppable love, but, even more than that it is my job to teach her that she has a Father in Heaven that has been with her from the moment she was conceived in her mother’s womb. His love makes my love appear shallow. God’s love will never fail her, and even in the years after I am gone, He will continue to be with her.
Will you pray with me that the wounds of my daughters’ hearts will be healed? Will you pray, also, for the children today in our own cities that are waking up in the middle of a living nightmare? For the children who have lost mother and father and grandparents and siblings and neighbors and all things familiar? Pray that they can know the love of a family, but, more than that, that they can know the love of a heavenly Father who does not leave.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

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But How Can Jealousy Be Good? March 4, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — blessedarethosethatmourn @ 7:45 pm

“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Exodus 34:14

When I met my oldest daughter, I thought we had an instant connection. She was quick to come to me, quick to say goodbye to her foster mother, quick to offer affection. I thought it was a sign, that it was God opening the door to her heart, so that we could bond quickly. I had no idea that it was actually a sign that her heart was broken or a hint at the months or years of hard work we had ahead of us. You see, my baby girl had spent 9 months in foster care and, including her birth parents, we were her 5th parents. I was the 5th woman she called mom, and, because of that, she did not know the meaning of the word “mom”.

One day in those early weeks, she and I were looking through a bag of her belongings, and I was asking her where she got each item. I wanted to know what things were important, what was a dollar store toy and what was something given by a beloved parent. I remember holding up one item and saying, “Where did you get this?” She looked at her hand and started counting on her fingers and then, pointing at her middle finger, she said, “It was this mommy.”My heart literally fell with that phrase. No three year old should ever be able to say those words.

Within the first couple of weeks after the girls moved in, my sister-in-law came for a visit. I was used to foster care, and, in the foster care world, you don’t stop when you get a new placement. You can’t. You learn to learn mid-stride with a child, because they usually came and went without notice. I did lock-ins during the bleary sleepless days with a newborn. I brought new moms meals while my world spun because of adding a new kid to my own house. I continued every scheduled event without missing a beat. I was good at it, and I didn’t know that this time (with my forever daughters) I should do things differently. So, when Aunt Bear came from Memphis to spend a weekend with us, I thought nothing of it. And, when N instantaneously fell in love with her, I thought she was just falling in step with the family. We all adore Bear.

I found out quickly, though, that this wasn’t a “normal” love. N’s love was obsessive. We jokingly called it an addiction, but I didn’t think it was all that funny as I watched my new daughter actively reject my affections for Bear’s. She would stand outside of the bathroom waiting anxiously anytime B went inside. She would cling to her with smothery arms. She would cry if I insisted on doing something for her when Bear was near. I remember thinking “She’s looking for her next Mom”.

She didn’t just have an obsession with B, though. I began to notice that in every social setting that we entered, N would find my replacement. She had her favorites at church and in our neighborhood, but she, also, searched for love from strangers. I remember watching her walk up to a mother who was dropping off her son at one of my boys’ birthday parties with her arms raised to be held. Neither of us had ever laid eyes on her before, but N was instantly ready to snuggle up. I am very certain that she would have happily left with her. Most people saw this behavior and just thought she was friendly and sweet. They enjoyed her affections. Her tiny, adoring eyes could make you think you were the most special person in the whole world, but it broke MY heart every time she rejected me for someone else.

I didn’t know much back then about attachment issues. I had heard of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), but those words made me think of future serial killers. Those kids were violent and angry. N never struggled with anything that extreme, so it made it difficult to figure out what was going on. I knew she wanted attachment, but that attaching too deeply was scary. So, instead of bonding deeply with me, she filled her void by bonding quickly and shallowly with lots of people.

I learned from friends in the adoptive world, that my daughter was struggling with attachment. In fact, all adopted children have attachment issues. You cannot be removed from what should have been the most safe, most loving, and most nurturing relationship of your life without deep and heartbreaking wounds. I learned, too, that since she was wounded through relationship, the only healing she could receive would come through relationship-a deep, nurturing, safe, uncompromising relationship.

I was jealous for her love. As her mother, I wanted to hold her and love her and let her know she was safe. I knew that, in that love, she would find healing. I knew that with her daddy and I, she would be safe, but if I allowed her to continue seeking affection from all around her she faced the greatest threat of being truly destroyed. My jealousy, though it started as my own selfish longing for my girl, became holy as I learned to see her need to be loved as daughter, as I saw the importance of us putting our relationship above every other.

So, we made some big changes, hard changes. We made it a rule that the only people that could hold N was Mommy and Daddy. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, Sunday School teachers, family friends were all told that they were not to pick her up or hold her in their lap. N was taught to ask Josh and my permission before she asked someone for a hug. Mommy and Daddy were the only people allowed to meet her needs. Mommy will get you some water. Daddy will bring you your food. We asked Bear, who was N’s favorite obsession, to redirect her back to us, to not sit by her or let her hover. We began the process of teaching our  then 4 year old what most parents get to teach their newborns. We taught her that we would love her with a never ending, always and forever love. We made games of rocking her and gazing into her eyes. We stopped our world for months on end to show her that SHE was ours and that WE were hers. It was hard. I had a lot of days when I thought it would never work. It was exhausting, but so rewarding when little bits of her trust began to show up. I remember vividly the first time she came to wake me in the middle of the night, because she was afraid. Oh, we celebrated that night big time! We taught all the things that we had assumed she would just know: that she could ask us for help, that we were her biggest fans, that we were her safe place.

And, while we taught her, God taught me. I had never understood His jealousy for me. It had seemed like a selfish attribute, and I could not rationalize that thought with a good God. But, as an adoptive mom, I got a front line view of a different aspect of His goodness. You see, so often we run with arms raised towards the very things that will destroy us. We have a gaping hole in our hearts that we try to fill with relationships, with jobs, with fun, when the only thing that can truly fill that hole is God, Himself. He jealously longs for us to understand how deeply we need Him, how unconditionally He loves us, and, yet we run from Him. As a child looking for a new Mommy among strangers while her own Momma calls her name, we are continually looking away from the thing that can fulfill us while searching desperately for fulfillment. God’s jealousy IS His goodness. He could not be good if He did not actively seek to point us to Himself. He, who sent His own Son, so that we would not have to face the penalty of our own mistakes, our own brokenness, loves us and calls us His children. There is no love stronger, no joy more joyous, no pleasure more enjoyable than the ones we find in our Heavenly Father.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but your received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15-16

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”  1 John 3:1

 

The Day My Box was Crushed October 12, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — blessedarethosethatmourn @ 3:21 am

In February of 2010, I was in a happy and contented place. I was a foster momma, and content to work towards the reunification of the children in my home. I had 2 beautiful little boys that I loved deeply. I had a confidence that I would complete my family through adoption, and a contented spirit ready to wait for God’s timing. I felt certain that we would not have any more biological children, and I was completely comfortable with that thought. I was, also, quite confident in my Savior. I knew 3 very important things, things that I hung my hat on and rested in: 1.) God is good. 2.) He is in control. 3.) I could trust His plan for my life. And, then, one day I realized I was pregnant. It made me nervous. It was not my plan, but because Joshua and I having never actually planned a pregnancy, I continued to remain confident in my 3 truths. I vividly remember saying “God’s ways are better than my ways. His plans are better than my plans, so I will trust Him in this pregnancy”. I remember thinking that I could probably still foster and later adopt. I would take a short break while I got adjusted to life with a baby, and then I would add another little one into the mix. It would be fun. It would be an adventure. God is good. He is in control, and I can trust Him.

We scheduled our first OBGYN visit with a family friend, a doctor who attended our church. He joked with us in his office about us having twins (the worship pastor at our church was having twins a few months before our due date). We laughed. We had no risk factors for twins, not one single set of twins on either side of our family. I had never even dreamed of having twins. I preferred to have babies one at a time. He sent us back for a sonogram, and unbeknownst to us, he had talked to the sonogram technician about continuing the twins joke as she showed us our baby.

Well, we all had a little joke waiting for us. We were having twins, not the joke kind, the real ones. We couldn’t help but laugh. We had no plans of having one more baby, and here we were making plans for TWO more. I was terrified. Josh was calm, but at the end of the day I knew 3 things: God is good, He is in control, and I could trust His plans for my life. Maybe our foster care journey was ending before we had planned. Maybe adoption was a farther off dream than I had originally thought, but God’s plans are better than my plans. It would be fun. It would be an adventure.

We called our families, laughing and crying together. We announced the ridiculously wonderful good news of our babies. We worked to wrap our brains around what had seemed impossible just a few weeks before. I got excited. I began to long for the thing that I had never before wanted, expectantly waiting for the day I would know my precious babies.

And then, twelve very short weeks into my pregnancy, I began to bleed. For the first few days, the doctors told me not to worry. It wasn’t abnormal to have a small amount of spotting in pregnancy, but on Sunday morning, as I sat through church things began to change. I KNEW something was wrong. I wanted help immediately, but I knew that my pastor husband could not be reached until the end of the service. My nervousness grew as the minutes passed. I grabbed a dear friend and asked her to take my children home with her. She hugged me and asked if I was okay. I shook my head “no”. I was terrified, but I reminded myself that God is good, He is in control, and I could trust His plan for my life.

Joshua drove me to the hospital. Our kind OBGYN friend was on call that day. What a precious blessing that was. We sat in our room waiting, passing the time. I laughed that day. I talked about inconsequential things to keep my nerves at bay. I hoped. I prayed. I trusted in my Good, Good Father who was in control. They sent me to have a sonogram. The jovial technician became oddly quiet. I continued to hope and trust until my doctor came to give me the news I never wanted to receive. I had lost both babies. Our kind doctor cried with us and prayed over us. I made Joshua call and text our families. I couldn’t even put words to my loss for fear of shattering into a thousand pieces. My parents offered to come that night, to drive 5 hours to be with me. I told them not to. I would be okay. They did not listen. I’m glad they didn’t listen. I needed their presence, their gentle care, and their love as I walked through those first hours of grief.

The first 24 hours I felt an overwhelming, aching numbness. I laid motionless and without words, unable to sleep, unable to process the road I was supposed to walk, and then the tears came. Deep guttural tears. I spent months crying constantly. I wondered if I would ever have another day free from tears. I ached for what I would never have. I cried over the lost kicks and wiggles in my womb, over the pleasure of knowing whether I was having boys or girls or one of each, I felt the depth of loss in not knowing their hair color or eye color or the sound of their cries, to never get to hold them next to my chest and soak in the smell of their heads. I would have given anything for one kick, one day, one moment with those little loves.

I struggled with guilt. Maybe I had done something wrong, eaten the wrong thing, exercised the wrong way, not taken good enough care. Maybe it was me. My womb was broken. I had not protected them, because I could not protect them. I felt guilt for feeling so much pain for children I had never known. It was silly to hurt that much. I felt guilt when I laughed, because maybe that meant I didn’t care enough. Guilt became my constant companion.

The hardest pain, though, came as the box I had put God in, the one I thought was based on truth, was crushed around me. I was hurt. The God I thought I understood had broken my heart. Why would He give me something I never wanted, cause me to long desperately for that thing that I was content without, only to take it away? I trusted Him. I was comfortable with changing my plans to fit His. I was willing to walk wherever He asked me to walk, but why THIS road? I began to wonder if God was truly good. THIS did not feel good.

And, yet, through it all, on those darkest of days, I heard the gentle whispers of my Father telling me of His love for me. I continually asked Him WHY. I wanted something tangible. He wanted to change me, make me more like Him. I cried out for answers. He softened my heart. I wanted something to fill my aching arms, and He knew it was my heart that needed fixed. He let me cry out in hurt. He let me voice my distrust, and all the while He worked to heal the wounds that I had never knew I had. He used my grief to make my faith grow.

I used to be the girl that never cried. I prided myself on the ability to control my emotions, hide them from everyone. Through those hard days, I sat in church and felt the reality of heaven in ways I never could have imagined. I quietly cried through praise songs, knowing perhaps for the first time how true the words really were. I grew in compassion for those around me, able to enter into other people’s pain in a way I never had been able to do before. I learned that I would never truly understand God, because He was infinitely more good and more holy and more real and more sovereign and more MORE than I could ever grasp. I realized that my twins were safer in the arms of their Maker then they ever could have been with me, and I was reminded constantly that one day we would meet and all that I had lost would be found. I have never come to a definitive answer to my WHYS, but somehow these small changes in me are enough now. I wouldn’t want to go back to who I was before.

Tomorrow will be the 6th anniversary of my due date. I think about them often. I wonder what life would have been like with 2 sweet 6 year olds learning to read, bringing us laughter and tears, talking constantly, fighting with one another, snuggling in between us. I would have loved every second of being their momma. We named them Allie (Baby A, a shortened form of Allman after my parents) and Dorothy (tiny Baby B, named after her tiny Great Granny Ledbetter). I laugh sometimes about getting to Heaven and finding out that they were boys. I will never stop longing to hold them and know them. The twelve weeks of being their mom brought me great joy and forever made me better.

I love you, Allie and Dorothy.

 

 

“Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name”

 

Motherless May 9, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — blessedarethosethatmourn @ 2:39 am

Today is a joyful day to most of us. It is a day to celebrate, a day to be celebrated, but there are so many today that Mother’s Day causes a great deal of sadness. Many mothers are mourning the loss of a beloved child, many women are longing to become what is beyond their reach. Mothers are aching for children far from home, and daughters and sons are aching for mothers gone from this world. And, today, there are many children going to bed tonight that have been forcibly removed from their mothers. In Arkansas alone, 4,800 children woke up this morning in foster care, 600 of them have been removed from their families for good.

My own daughter has memories of her bio family (She came to us at 3 years and 9 months old). We talk about bio mom and dad on a weekly basis. She has a photo album of pictures of her with her first family. She has a teddy bear that she snuggles every night that came from her first daddy. Though I only saw her bio-parents one time, though I’ve never once had a conversation with them, they are a part of our daily lives. I love them, because they are a part of our girls. A few months ago, Natalie came to me and asked “When do I get to see my bio-mom (We do call her by name, but for privacy sake, I will leave her name out)  again? I had to look at my daughter and tell her that a judge has ordered us not to allow her to have contact with her mother. It broke my heart. I love my daughter, and though, I do not agree with the choices that took her mother to the point of losing her girls, I ACHE for their mother. I think regularly about the pain she must be feeling on days like today. I think of all the things she has missed and all the things she will miss. I ache, too, for my girls, who have lost more in their short lives than most adults could fathom. I have started the conversation with Natalie about why her birth mom can’t be here, but I know that Lucy, Natalie and I have a lifetime of conversations to come. It will take a lifetime to heal from the scars the loss of this precious woman has caused, and I am so thankful that I get to walk with my girls through that pain and loss. I am thankful that I have the privilege to cry with them, ache with them, and heal with them. I am thankful that I can be there when their heart is broken for the woman who should have been their everything.

Today, on Mother’s Day, I cannot help but grieve for those children who are aching for their mothers but have no one to hold them and cry with them on this “happy” day. The innocent victims of abuse and neglect and abandonment did not deserve to wake up today as dependents of the state of Arkansas. They NEED mothers and fathers to stand in the gap for them. They NEED the church to rise up and say “We CARE. We are HERE.” We hear the numbers, and we become overwhelmed. It is easy to give up hope for these sweet little ones, but the math is really and truly in our favor. Today there are 4,800 children in Arkansas in foster care, but there are 6,000 CHURCHES in our state. Can you just imagine what it would be like if one family from every church in our state fostered or adopted? We would have waiting FOSTER families, but NO waiting CHILDREN! We are in a crisis, but that crisis is easily conquerable.

Would you, on this Mother’s Day, consider being a foster or adoptive family? Would you consider turning a spare bedroom into a home for a children who has no home? Have you always longed for a child? There are so many that are today longing for a mom and dad. Are you an empty nester wondering what to do with your retirement years? There are children who would love to bring laughter and life back into your quiet halls.

My life is so much richer because of my wonderful girls. I am overwhelmed with the gift of being their mother. Will you join me in my joy?IMG_8826.jpg

 

Psalm 68:6 “God sets the lonely in families…”

 

He called me Mama April 28, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — blessedarethosethatmourn @ 3:20 am

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We got our first placement on March 31, 2009. When they called, they didn’t even know his name. All we knew was that he was a one year old. No idea how one he was, I bought bottles and baby food only to later return them for sippy cups and goldfish when I found out he was 18 months old. It was 2 weeks before we learned that he was from a Spanish speaking only home. He hadn’t understood anything we’d said in all that time. It was amazing watching a friend speak to little Paf in Spanish and watching his sweet face light up. His ears finally felt at home. We learned quickly that foster care was a lot about starting mid-stride, figuring out sleep patterns and food patterns as you tried to help a tiny one feel comfortable during intense trauma and change, all the while keeping up with the regularity of life.

Soon after R came to live with us, we learned that DHS was planning to place him with his out of state grandparents. Unfortunately, since they lived outside of Arkansas, the process to get him moved to their home was long and arduous. I was able to meet his grandparents when they came to town to visit Paf, and, after meeting them, I knew that he belonged with them. I decided that I would fight alongside them to get through the mounds of papers and red tape that would allow P to be with them. I called case workers, emailed lawyers, and did my best to be a squeaky wheel to get Paf home to his family.

And, as I fought for him to be moved from my home, I fell in love with a boy that was not mine. I never doubted he would leave, never dreamed that he would be mine. I wanted him to be with his family, and, yet, this boy moved into the inner reaches of my heart, a permanent resident therein. Christie Erwin in her book The Middle Mom writes that a sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice unless it cost you something. In foster care, yes, you give your home and your time and your resources, but the biggest sacrifice that God calls foster parents to give is their heart. I worked hard to achieve a goal that I knew would break my heart.

He called me mama, and for 6 months, I was his mama. I was the one who came to him when he cried out at night. I was the one who kissed his booboos. I was the one who held him when he was scared, and the one who watched him grow and change from baby to toddler. I loved him. Even though he wasn’t mine, for 6 months, I was the only mama he knew.

And then the day that I had been both praying for and dreading for six months finally came. One week after he turned 2, I got the call that the judge had agreed to our appeals. P was going home. His grandfather, a pilot, was going to meet us at the airport to fly him home. I vividly remember the chit chat in the airport terminal. I remember walking him to the plane, and buckling him into his carseat as though it happened yesterday. I remember prying his hands from my arms, the vice grip with which he held me willing me to stay, and the fear in his eyes as he realized that his world was changing once again. My eyes still well with tears as I remember turning from him and walking away as he screamed for me, the tears finally unleashed from my eyes. I remember the hole in my heart and the fear that I would never feel whole again, and I remember the joy of hearing that he was happy and doing well and seeing pictures of him growing strong and beautiful through the last seven years. Those were hard days, but they were days when I learned how to love sacrificially, without wanting anything in return. They were days that I learned how to entrust a child I loved into the hands of my Father who loved Paf more than I could ever imagine.

In 3 days I will take part in the 4th annual Walk for the Waiting, and I cannot help remembering this little one 7 years later. Paf came to me scared and vulnerable, and I had a choice. I could house him and care for him and protect my heart, or I could pour out my heart and my soul on his behalf. Today there are approximately 4,850 children in foster care in Arkansas, and I wonder what it would be like if all of those children were loved with that same sacrificial love. What would happen if the 6,000 churches in Arkansas actually had pure and faultless religion? What would it be like if we cared for the foster child in his distress? My guess is that our state would change. How many more families would be restored? How many more children would have hope? What would the ripples be like for the generations to come? How many more kids would graduate from high school and college? How many less young adults would we see incarcerated or homeless or repeating the cycle of foster care?

Arkansas is at a crisis point. We NEED more foster and adoptive homes. We have children sleeping in shelters and group homes and DHS offices after experiencing the greatest trauma of their lives, and, if we continue to respond in the same way, we will have hopeless children that turn into hopeless adults. BUT, what if WE changed? What if instead of ignoring the problem, we all took part by fostering, adopting, mentoring, volunteering or giving? That is why I walk. I walk for the first little boy that came to me through foster care. I walk because, for 6 months, he called me momma. I walk because he is healthy and growing and happy today. I walk for the ones who don’t have that story, because I know that they can. Will you walk with me? Will you donate for these worthy little ones across our state? Will you consider other ways you can help?

www.walkforthewaiting.org/juliehurlburt

 

 

Bunnies Do Not Belong at McDonald’s February 1, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — blessedarethosethatmourn @ 3:00 am

Six years ago today was one of the most humiliating days of my life. Just a couple of weeks earlier, we had received a new foster placement. We got the call about a child suspected of having autism. As typical, in an effort to have a moment to think before saying yes or no, I asked the resource worker if I could call my husband to discuss the placement before I gave her an answer. I was confident that Joshua would say no. We had never had a special needs placement before, and I was not sure if we could handle it. Joshua, to my surprise, said yes. We can take him. So, I drove up to DHS to pick up little D.  As soon as I had him in my car, the fear I had before tripled. I was instantly confident that we had made the wrong decision.

I have often described D as a wild animal when he came to us. A very sweet and beautiful wild animal, perhaps comparable to a bunny, but if you were tasked with requiring a bunny to act like a boy, you would understand why this was daunting. D was 3 1/2 when he came to us, but he knew less than 5 words. Trapped in a never ending toddlerhood, a world where he knew what he wanted but did not have words to communicate, he, naturally, threw between 20 or 30 temper tantrums a day. These temper tantrums were not of the normal variety. They involved kicking and hitting and biting. There were many days that Joshua or I ended the day with large wounds on our arms and legs.

D had not been given many rules before he came to us. This was most evident when we walked out of the house. I learned very quickly to hold D as tightly as possible when we walked outside. There were many days that I chased him as he raced towards the street straight for cars. One day, I got him out of our van at a very busy intersection and literally had to tackle him just inches from death. I got to where as I held his hand with a vice grip impossible to break free from, I would look at his squirming body and say “D, you will NOT die today. Not today, buddy.” He was a very fast and wild bunny.

So, 6 years ago today, we went with good friends after church to eat together at McDonald’s. We figured it would be an opportunity for all of the children to play while we could enjoy conversation with each other. The McDonald’s playground was enclosed with tables for families inside the playground. Our table was in a back corner of the room, but the room was enclosed. What could go wrong? We came to learn over the next 11 months, that with D, quite a bit could go wrong in a very short amount of time.

D played very well for a while. His gorgeous and enchantingly deep, blue eyes laughed with delight at the treat. And, then an older boy walked over to the exit, D closely following behind. He opened the door wide with an invitation for D, and D walked through. I got up immediately, and crossed the room, packed with families escaping the cold January day, as quickly as was possible. I entered the main restaurant already shouting his name. “D!! STOP!!” He stopped. Looked at me. And then sprinted as fast his legs would take him through the restaurant, behind the counter, past the cashiers, and all the way to the fry machine before my screaming finally caused a McDonald’s worker to grab my wild boy and deliver him to me.

The entire restaurant stared. I was that mom. The one that everyone was talking about. The one who should have better control of her child. I wanted to scream that it wasn’t my fault. I had only had him for 2 weeks! But, I just hung my head in embarrassment and walked my boy to the nearest restraining device. Thankfully, he still could be buckled into a high chair! Bunnies do not belong at McDonald’s.

We found out soon after that day, that D did not have autism. He had Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD for short. FASD shed light on a lot of D’s issues. His severe speech delay was one of those issues, but the biggest issue for people with FASD is a lack of impulse control. He did not have that little switch in his brain that said “Stop”, and that led to many days full of tension and stress waiting for the next life threateningly dangerous thing for him to do. We had a one and done policy with D: one death defying stunt and we go home. There were many trips to the park that ended quickly for D as I caught him hanging on by finger tips at the top of play equipment. You will NOT die today, little bunny.

Another of D’s shining moments was at our neighborhood pool. Joshua and I had worked with D and taught him how to swim. He was actually very good at it, and the pool was a place we spent many hours. One day, D was jumping off the diving board. I sat on the side of the pool watching him jump. It was a busy day and the pool was full, so D was standing very nicely in line waiting his turn. I was proud. He had come a very long way, but as he stood in line behind an adult man, one we had never met before, D had an FASD moment. I watched in horror as D bit the strange man on the bottom. He bit a strange adult man on the butt. And, yes, I did what any self-respecting woman would do in my situation, I pretended like I didn’t see him or know him. As soon as I was confident no one was watching, we made a quick escape with our sweet, wild bunny.

Fostering D was one of the hardest things I’ve ever willingly signed up for. There were many days that I wanted to quit or Joshua wanted to quit, but, thankfully, we never wanted to quit at the same time. If we had quit, given up on our bunny-boy, we would have missed so very much. We were able to witness, first hand, the miraculous transformation of a boy we grew to adore. Yes, our other foster placements were easy in comparison. Yes, it took every bit of everything we had that year, but God. God took 2 pitiful adults ill-equipped to help a hurting boy, and He let us take part in D’s healing. And, while we watched D grow and mature, a funny thing happened to us. We grew, too.

First, D taught me how to fight. When D came to us, we were told that it wouldn’t be a month before he was in a special school. It took me fighting tooth and nail for 5 1/2 months to get him placed in a school that could help him. I learned to call lawyers and case workers and supervisors and doctors. I learned to never stop calling and to never give up. The day I walked my precious bunny-boy into his classroom and watch him be hugged and welcomed by his amazing teacher and therapists, I blinked back tears knowing that I no longer had to fight for D alone. He had a team of people fighting FOR HIM. I, also, had to fight to get his teeth repaired. The first days of him living with us, I had to almost sit on him, of course gently, in order to brush his teeth. Later we found out he had large holes in most of his teeth. He needed lots of dental work. He was terrified of the dentist, remember he was afraid to even let me brush his teeth. We had to fight to have Medicare pay to have him put under while he received 5 caps, 7 fillings and 2 root canals. We fought hard for our boy, and, let me tell you, I am thankful that this timid momma was forced to learn to fight for my kids. I still need that lesson today.

Secondly, I learned the true beauty of boundaries. The main thing we introduced into D’s life those first few months was limits. No, you can’t run from me. He learned to walk beside me without even holding my hand. No, you can’t hit and bite when you are scared or hurt or mad or confused. He learned to communicate. Yes, you have to follow my rules. He learned happiness. The biggest compliment I received during D’s time with us, before he had even started therapy, before he could even say his own name, was that D was happier. Happy. Because he felt safe.

Finally, I learned to trust my Heavenly Father’s love and presence in my life and in the life of my foster children. D changed. When he came to us he was a precious, beautiful, wild bunny, but he turned into a functioning and happy and enjoyable little boy. I watched him learn to speak. I can still hear his voice saying “shhpoon”. Letter blends had been so hard for him, and, yet, he learned to say spoon! My eyes fill with tears at the remembrance. He learned the alphabet and the sounds the letters made. He LOVED to learn.

The best memory, though, the one that warms my heart to this day, happened just a couple of months before he went home. I took the boys once again to McDonald’s. I was alone with my 3 boys and one of their friends, and I BROUGHT A BOOK. We ate. They played. He PLAYED. I was relaxed. I read my book for a few hours, and, as we left, I was overwhelmed at the difference.

Yes, D was without a doubt our hardest placement, but he may very well be one of my favorites. In him, I watched a miracle unfold. I watched God work in and through D and Joshua and me. I watched a wild animal who could not speak, who was constantly angry, who was trapped by his disability turn into a normal, thriving, happy and very SPECIAL boy. I learned to love, even when it was hard, even when it took everything I had, and in the end, I had the pleasure of seeing God transform a bunny into a boy.

 

Philippians 1:6 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”18671_327687501140_3304337_n

 

Her Name August 8, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — blessedarethosethatmourn @ 2:24 am

A dear foster momma friend is preparing to send home a precious daughter, and I know that feeling all to well. The dread. The sickening sorrow. The fear. It is an overwhelming pain. A pain that cannot be put into words. A heart wrenching experience that you know, as a foster mom, you will experience again and again.

The summer after we sent our precious baby girl away, I went with our youth group on a mission trip. One night, while there they gave us each a paint stirrer with the instructions to write a few words on it. Words that represented the thing that was keeping us from God. I thought they were going to have us keep it to remember, and I wasn’t really feeling far from God at the time. Instead, I chose to put one word on my stick. Her name.

Then they asked us to walk up and grab a piece of sandpaper, so that we could sand away that thing as a reminder that God can wash away all of our sin and anger and hurt. My heart dropped. I sat and watched as person after person walked up and sanded away their words. I could not do it. I could not give that girl back to God. I wanted her with all my heart, and I would have done ANYTHING in the whole wide world to keep her. Though it was a silly exercise that really meant nothing, I looked at that name with a tear streaked face and knew that I could not willingly sand away her name. Even though she was already gone, even though I had no option of keeping her, I could not choose to sand away her name.

And, then I realized. I didn’t have to choose it. For so many years, I have read about great heroes of the faith who when put to the greatest test acted with great faith. I have read about men and women who did the remarkable, and I wondered would I ever choose to do what is right when it was hard. But the reality is, I didn’t have to choose it. God chose that heartache ahead of time for me to walk through, so that I could learn to trust in Him. He knew that I needed to put my great love in His hands, He knew that I would have to learn to walk away so that I could KNOW that He was in charge. So that I could KNOW that He could take care of my girl with or without me. So that I could KNOW that in my sorrow, He was there. So that I could KNOW that in my brokenness I could become more whole than I had ever been before. He knew that I needed to KNOW that He would give me the faith I needed to walk through the things He had for me. I needed to KNOW that it was not by my works that saved me or my girl, but HIS WORK.

No, I would never, ever have chosen to give away my girl. I would have run away with her, if I thought that I could have, but He was so gracious to walk with me through that moment of faith. He held, not my hand, but me. Three years ago, God grew my heart, my faith and my hope in a way I could never have chosen, and He has been faithful to me and to my girl, and I KNOW that His faithfulness will continue forever.

Sweet friend whose heart is breaking, He will be faithful to you, as well.

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That paint stirrer has a permanent place in my Bible, so that I cannot forget that it is through Christ alone that I have done anything good.

Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”