Thursday, July 26, 2012

An Anchor for the Soul

'...we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.' 

And this hope we have is not in ourselves or anything that we could possibly do or say, no matter how noble or insightful. It's not in our efforts to please men or God. It's not in how others might view us or what they may say about us or to us. It's not in anything in this passing vapor of a life. Our hope is in the eternal, Sovereign Creator God. He alone is mighty. He alone is mighty. He alone rules the nations. And one day He's coming back for us in all power and splendor. This is our hope. He is our hope. And this hope truly does spring eternal. 

*another definition*
CASA ~ Court Appointed Special Advocate

We have a meeting with Princess Petunia's CASA, Nikki, this evening. She's coming to the house to meet and talk with Jared & me and Princess Petunia. After she has a chance to meet with all the children and foster parents, she'll set up a meeting with Mom and I'm assuming will prepare some kind of report. 

From what I can gather, CASA was appointed by the judge in PP's case, as in most cases,  for a '2nd opinion' and to make sure that PP and her brothers don't fall through the cracks. Nikki is only assigned to PP and her brothers; that is the sum of her caseload, as opposed to our SW who, like most SWs, has a crazy over-loaded caseload. Nikki will also see this case through to the end and will be, as her supervisor put it, the one constant person that PP will work with. Never mind that Princess Petunia has been in care for over 8 weeks now...Nikki has a lot of catching up to do. :) 

Anyway, so we'll see what, if anything, we can learn about our situation through this meeting. Nikki's supervisor mentioned that one thing they were concerned about in our particular case was the lack of time that PP spends with her brothers. She sees them every other week at the visits with Mom, but I guess CASA feels they should spend more time together. Not sure exactly how or if that will play out, especially with school starting back soon. 

~Prayer request update~
PRAISE! Princess Petunia is telling us the truth! Most of the time, anyway. :) 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Leaky Dishwashers and Surprise Gift Baskets

'He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.'

Jared and I were talking tonight about how hard parenting Princess Petunia is right now. He described it well; it is a marathon just like parenting our own biological children, except that in this marathon, we more than likely won't see the finish line. Perhaps a better track and field analogy (I'm SO ready for the Olympics!) would be the relay. We're just running this leg of the race for PP's mom. And odds are, she'll be the one finishing the race. We're toiling during this season, and she'll be the one to see the fruit. 

I felt so convicted earlier this evening during church. God revealed to my heart that one big reason why I'm finding parenting Princess Petunia so hard just might be because it is exposing the sin in my own heart: selfishness, idolatrous desire for comfort, discontentment. And who enjoys that, right? It's not any fun to realize that your life just might not be about you. ;)  It's not any fun to remember that we're not called to be comfortable or (gasp!) happy, but to be holy and Christ-like. 

Our afternoon was a little snapshot of what our fostering journey has been thus far. The girls were having a tea party, and I told them that I would join them as soon as I finished the dishes. I loaded the dishwasher, started it, and sent a couple of texts. As I put the phone down and began heading out of the kitchen, I heard what sounded like water dripping onto the tile floor. After an inward groan (which soon became an audible shriek), I turned around and sure enough, there was water dripping from the bottom of our two-month-old dishwasher. I yelled for the girls to bring towels, and the three of us started frantically trying to maintain the leak while I called Jared who thankfully was only a few minutes from the house. He told me how to shut the water off to the house as that seemed to be the only way to stop the dishwasher from trying to fill itself and the entire kitchen with water. When he came home, he walked in the front door holding a basket filled with random toys and stuffed animals that he said he found sitting on our front porch. I just had to smile. 

So much of our lives look just like this afternoon. Some crazy, dramatic frustration or complication occurs out of nowhere. We all frantically work together to try and stop the madness, and then sometimes, we find a seemingly random blessing waiting for us when we least expect it. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

This is tough...

'to him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. amen'

There's just no other way to describe it. Foster parenting is tough. I feel as though we are on a continuous roller coaster, lots of ups and downs with very few straightaways. Just yesterday, we went from Princess Petunia pushing Noah off the swing because 'he was in her way' to her suggesting that we take cups of cold water to the policemen that were having to work in the hot sun in a matter of an hour. My mommy heart can barely keep up with the crazy range of emotions that each new day brings. Right now, I'm struggling with the call to discipline/teach Princess Petunia the way we do our own children. I find my 'momma bear' fighting to come out whenever she intentionally does something to frustrate or antagonize Noah (or Isaac, but mainly Noah). I find myself on my knees pleading for the same grace and mercy and patience that come (more) easily when Noah does the same things. I have to ask myself, now if the roles were reversed, how would I discipline my own child? That's not easy. 

I told a friend of mine that I feel overwhelmed pretty much all the time with something new and/or different to feel overwhelmed by every day. Yes, this is tough....BUT PRAISE GOD  we are not drowning.

   'we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.'

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to not waste the waiting

'that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light'

There is a lot of waiting involved in this fostering process, a LOT. We waited through our classes, which were very necessary and helpful by the way (Love to Tara!). We waited through the approval process. We waited through the switch from adoption to fostering. During this waiting, things were out of our control. We were waiting on other people to further our fostering journey. This was and still is very hard for me, very, very hard. I remember writing a journal entry a few months ago....

'so we [Jared & I] joked that we've been given another month of waiting (in DHR time.) I don't want to waste it. I feel like we have a treasure trove of wisdom and experience [all around us] and I want to tap into it.'

And so, I began to search for any books, podcasts, websites, etc that I could find that might encourage, inspire, inform us on the world of foster parenting.  This search is still ongoing but these are some of what I have found helpful so far:

One Hundred Children by Ms Judyth Y Foley
   Interesting read by a seasoned foster parent. She shares 'case studies' of every child that she welcomed into her home.

The Lost Boy...a foster child's search for the love of a family by Dave Pelzer

Loving Someone Else's Child by Angela Hunt

Growing up in the Care of Strangers by Waln K Brown & John R Seita
  'The experiences, insights, and recommendations of 11 former foster kids

There is an Urgency by Gregrhi Arawn Love
   *important note* This is a very powerful book, and one reason it is so powerful is because it is very raw. The author is brutally honest when describing his childhood. There is much language and at least one very intense, very graphic description of sexual abuse.  

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself
by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
   I just started this one but it comes very highly recommended! :)
  I love this podcast by a believing couple who foster children. Great insights and wise advice. And most episodes that I've listened to are less than 30 mins, perfect for listening while doing dishes or other such chores. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

A little breather...

"return, o my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you"

Jared got home from work early today, handed me his car keys, and said,'go be free.' It was a much needed break. Amazing how much just a couple of hours of quiet can refresh my soul.

We've had a good week. The girls went to a ballet camp in the mornings. We were able to go to their little recital this morning. It was so precious. Jared and I took pictures and video through tears. (well, I was crying anyway.) I was just so happy for Princess Petunia and Rachel. God used this ballet camp to hide a second psalm in PP's heart. I wish I could post the sweet video.

We also got Princess Petunia's vision checked and her glasses ordered. The folks at EyeCare Associates in CH are #1. They were so helpful and understanding of our situation and walked me through things step by step. The six of us spent over an hour there on Wednesday afternoon. The kids were so very patient. An elderly lady stopped by me on her way out and commented, "you have the most well-behaved children I have ever seen. I truly admire what you're doing." I was too overcome with tears to say what I wanted to say to her: Any good you may see in me or my family is not me. It is all God's grace.

God showed me again that afternoon that people are watching and His glory is being shown despite how wearied I may feel....even in waiting rooms.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

God's timing is always perfect....

"The light of the glory of Christ enables us to live with eternity in view as faithful servants who trust the Word, proclaim Christ, and evaluate our lives based on God's eternal glory and not man's earthly perspective."

The sermon this past Sunday was out of 2 Corinthians 4:1-18, and its sub-title was 'we do not lose heart...' It was one of those sermons that seemed as though it was written just for me at just the right time. Don't you love when God does that? I was, and really still am, weary. Not so much by taking care of Princess Petunia. I've said it many times and it reallly is true: Once you get to 4 children, seriously, whats one or two more? Besides, she continues to provide a sweet spark of energy and craziness to our family and continues to want to please and to want to be a part of our family. It's more all the 'extras' that come along with caring for PP. 

I'm wearied by working with 'the system.' I'm wearied by things like unreliable transportation to/from visits with mom. I'm wearied by all the miles of red tape associated with things that should be easy, such as making a doctor's appointment. I'm wearied by the requests/critiques/suggestions that mom sends through Princess Petunia after each visit or phone call. I'm wearied by just the thought of the big ISP meeting that is still looming out there in the (we hope) near future. And just on and on....

My weaknesses seem to almost be bubbling over every single day. BUT GOD is so gracious and merciful and faithful. He provides just what we need for each day. His power is sufficient to sustain us, just as His power is sufficient to save us. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Looking too long at the wind and waves...

'But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me.'

I've heard it said that people 'burn out' because they focus too much on themselves and their circumstances. They take their eyes off Christ. I feel as though I've fallen into that over the past several days. Instead of keeping my focus on our all-powerful, all-loving Lord, I've started looking around at where He has placed us and what He has asked us to do. I know it's not walking on water, but have you ever tried to love, 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love, five demanding little people, one of whom is not your own, all day long? I start thinking about how He's called me to be patient and kind and not irritable (seriously??). I start thinking about how He's called me to die to self and serve. I think about how He's called me to be content, even give thanks in everything. It's as though the wind gets louder and louder, and the waves get stronger and stronger. I find myself crying out, as Peter did, Lord save me! The beautiful thing about prayers like that....He always, always, always answers them. 

We had our first phone call with Princess Petunia's mom Monday evening. It went very, very well. I was able to speak with her for a little while after she said bye to PP. I shared with her some of what we do during the day. She was especially interested in our family worship time and church. PP got back on the phone really quick so she could recite Psalm 1 for her. Mom truly does love Princess Petunia and wants to be able to have her back home. She cried twice while we talked. She is not taking responsibility for her situation, however. She said that she "called DHR for help, and they took her children away." I'm not sure how well this victim mentality is going to serve her going forward. 

We've also had a second home visit with Sabrina. This went well too. We learned that Princess Petunia wears glasses. Who knew? She's been with us for almost 6 weeks, and this is the first we've heard about glasses. You'd think that would be one of the first things mom would share with the SWs. Oh well. I'm supposed to call around and find an optometrist nearby so we can have her prescription transferred. There always seems to be something new. :) 

*Continuing prayer requests*
~ Princess Petunia is still having trouble telling the truth. We're getting better here, but she still does struggle at times. Sabrina had a long talk with her during the visit and found that PP lies to us because she wants her mom. Sad! 
~Princess Petunia and Noah are still working at getting along. This too is getting better, but we do have some fussing and tattling going on. They currently have to sit by each other at every meal and also in the van. We're about to have to come up with additional incentives to adjust behavior. ;) Any creative ideas on this are more than welcome!