Sunday, May 19, 2013

Shout Out!

Layton has recently started going to All Stars!  It is an amazing social leadership program at United Through Hope.  The staff videos the kids each week and sends home a video autopsy to teach social skills.  They learn from watching themselves and their friends.   They use specific language to teach social skills and the kids really respond to it.  Layton is much more receptive to me when I use the language he has learned at all stars.  Another part of All Stars is the weekly show and tell.  This video is Layton doing his second one ever.  He made huge improvements from the first one.  We found out today when he dropped him off he got a special award for this show and tell.

He received an Awesome Shout Out Award for showing excellent leadership skills during his show and tell by standing up all by himself, speaking loudly and clearly, and needing little prompting from the staff!  Way to go Layton!

Continued to be Amazed by the Evidences of His Grace


     through the journey of raising a child with special needs

When I began this blog a couple of years ago, I could have never imagined the callings the Lord would have placed on our family which would inspire my entries.  Since my last blog (which was way too long ago), our family was placed with our second foster child which is our current foster child’s half sibling.  We had the opportunity to love on this sweet baby boy for 8 months during the first year of his life.  While his leaving was incredibly difficulty, I can now see the Lord’s sovereign hand at work and His protection.  Baby boy was reunified with his biological daddy and his wife.  His wife is a humble, sweet spirited lady who loves the Lord and baby J and together they provide a good home where J has thrived and learned of his culture.  Two years later and we are still fostering A and this process has lingered longer than we were hoping, but Lord willing we will soon be adopting her.  She is such a part of our family and I can’t even remember what life was like before she came into our home.  While on this fostering journey, we have also faced a new journey that a parent never anticipates or plans for: raising a child with special needs. Our sweet middle child, Layton, has many strong giftings that we have noticed even a young age.  It was evident as a toddler that the Lord wired him to be very energetic and persistent and passionate and imaginative.  We have seen these giftings evolve in a beautiful way and in a challenging way.  I vividly remember a day when he was 2 years old and in this inconsolable state and my husband looking at me and asking “can 2 year olds be depressed?”  Obviously, we knew it is normal for young toddlers to cry at times inconsolably, but his overall manner was concerning and noticeably different.  With time, behaviors have progressed as has our journey to his healing.  Within the past few months Layton has undergone extensive psychological testing, has been evaluated and under the care of a psychiatrist and a functional neurologist (two completely different worlds of treatment working together), went through educational testing and not to mention the social skills groups and new diets and exercises and electronic free diets and the continued therapies we already had in place.  We have been so blessed by the doors that have been open to us and the amazing specialists who have helped us begin this road to early intervention.   We know that these treatments and therapies are helping him now and will provide a foundation for lifelong tools, but at times it all can be exhausting.  There are days when Layton asks “why?”  Why do I have to go to therapy again?  Why can’t I watch TV?  Why do these doctors think they are in charge of me?  Likewise, there are days when I ask “why”?  Why Lord did you chose us to endure this road?  Why is it so difficult for our family just to get through dinner?  Why do strangers make comments such as “somebody is being a bad boy today” or staring at me in a manner as if I cannot control my out of control child? Why does my typically sweet and affectionate child go into these horrible rages and have such graphic pictures in his head?  Even in my darkest moments and in the midst of my questioning heart, I hear the Holy Spirit whisper and comfort.  I feel his protection even in acknowledging the possibility of lifelong struggles.  Layton may always have to fight against anxiety and depression and impulsive decisions and rapid mood swings and irrational thoughts and obsessive tendencies but we find great hope in knowing that the Lord can heal him from these things.  As a professional working with children with a wide range of disabilities, I find myself skeptical in my prayers of asking for healing.  I too often think what I have been trained to think – most disabilities of sort (physical, developmental, psychological) are lifelong and while they may respond to treatment there is no cure.  I fight my flesh in trusting that the Lord can heal.  And more so, trusting that even if Layton has a lifetime of struggles, our Father is sovereign over that and can work and move and save in a mighty way in his life.  Layton is a fighter and goes to extremes to protect those who are near to him.  As a parent, I feel that God has given him this fighter instinct to equip and prepare him for the battle ahead of him.   Not just the battle against these present struggles, but the battle against his sin and his flesh and the world and the demonic forces that he is sensitive to.   There are moments when all I want do is hold him and tell him, “don’t worry everything is going to be ok.”  And while I do this a lot, I also know the reality that I can’t always be there for him and can’t always protect him.  He has to learn to utilize the tools he’s learning even at this young age and even more so he has to learn to trust that God is always with him and is for his good, even when it’s hard to see.  That doesn’t mean he won’t suffer but as he grows and matures and becomes a Believer he will learn what it looks like to rejoice in his sufferings as he sees our Father’s redemptive work in his life. 

There are days when it is extremely difficult.  And there are days, like today, when I am grateful for the small things.  I rejoice in mealtimes without complete meltdowns and sweet moments when Layton recognizes his own small victories.  Recently, we were at a crowded outdoor public place (nightmare for him) and he was doing really well separating from us and playing with the other kids and he ran up to me with a big smile on his face and said, “I can’t believe it!  This is the first time that I was not afraid of getting lost!”  In that moment, I rejoiced.  I am not sure if I was more excited by the fact that he was enjoying himself and not glued to my side or by the fact that he recognized this milestone.  We are learning to take life one day (and some days one minute) at a time and to recognize and celebrate the small and the big victories.  It is when I am able to take a step back and open my eyes and less busy myself and hear the Holy Spirit,  I am then able to see God’s work and be moved by the many evidences of His grace and mercy and love that He so faithfully and undeservingly pours on us.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Our Fostering Story: Part 1

We are seven months into our first experience as a foster family.  Within two months the future of the sweet baby girl we have been entrusted to care for will be determined.  This process has been difficult for me emotionally but the Lord has shown us His hand in all of it and has reminded us of His steadfast love often.   My desire is to honestly share our experience throughout this process with others through my blog.  I haven’t exactly stayed on top of that, so I will make up for lost time (from the very start to now)…                                                                                                
I have always wanted to adopt.  This has been a desire the Lord has laid on my heart for as long as I can remember.  Jeremy and I knew that we would someday adopt but we were not sure what that process would look like.  Within the past few years of being in the field of pediatric home health I treated many children who were adopted from foster care.  I asked many questions and just learned more about the process.  As we learned more it became clear that to adopt, particularly younger children through CPS, you have to be willing to foster first.  We were not exactly sure what we were getting into and were scared by the statistics but nonetheless we started the process.  Months of training, preparing our home and preparing our boys we finally became a licensed foster home in March.  Five days later, we received our first call from our agency to be placed with an 8 month old baby girl.  I took the call and without hesitation said “yes!” (they train you in class to be prepared to give an answer on the spot.  “I need to pray about it” does not suffice since you have already spent months praying about it.  Jeremy and I were on the same page though as to what age range we would take, so I felt confident in the decision).  A few hours later, we were sitting around our kitchen table talking to many strangers while holding this beautiful baby girl who was sleep deprived and wearing a ragged blue onsie.   It was a numbing experience, one you really can’t describe.  I didn’t know what to do, but just love this baby the best I could.  I had so many questions, and yet there were not many answers.  Does she take a pacifier, can she hold her bottle, does she like to be held, does she sleep through the night, what are we doing???  God was gracious to allow all the pieces to fall in place and quickly reveal to us how to care for this baby.  He instantly knitted our family together.  The boys quickly took on new roles and new bonds were formed.  The Lord truly placed this love on our heart for baby A.  I know without a doubt that it is from Him because it is not “normal” to be able to instantly love a child that is one day handed to you as much as you love your biological children that you carried for nine months, birthed, nursed and attended to their every need.                           
Quickly in, A became a vital part of our family.  It was as if she had always been a part of it.  The boys became protective big brothers and Layton took on (and has fully embraced) a new role as a middle child.  We have been there for many milestones.  We have watched her learn to walk and talk and sing and dance and get teeth and eat new foods.  And we have watched her develop her personality and as she has become aggressive in defense to the frequent tackles and shoves but yet be tender and gentle as she is always the first to comfort and kiss the boy’s boo boos.   We love the sound of her loud shouts and belly laughs that fills our home.  As time has passed and love has grown, we acknowledge that the Lord has allowed all of this.  He has allowed us to love “all in” knowing that He is our creator and protector of our hearts.  That even if she is in our home for a short time and that we will one day soon mourn her loss, this time has been fruitful.                                                                                                                                      
Another instrumental part of our fostering experience has been the weekly visits with the biological mother which started shortly after she was placed in our home.  The first time A went for a visit she was transported by the CPS caseworker.  This was difficult for me to hand my baby off to a complete stranger to go visit her mother.  This was really when I began to understand my role as foster mom.  This is when the Lord graciously reminded me that she isn’t mine, the she belongs to Him and that I must approach the situation with open hands.  The next week I took A to the visit and this was my first time to meet her mother.  I was very anxious about meeting her but deep down inside I was grateful for this opportunity.  Early on in the process as I learned about mom’s story my heart was deeply burdened for her.  Mom was also a product of foster care and I could only imagine the experiences she had had.  What if they were not great and that is all she knows and thinks that her baby is having similar experiences.   Weeks passed and every visit we had the opportunity to talk to mom and get to know her and encourage her.  As A’s first birthday approached, her mom and I were able to plan a party for her at a nearby park.  Two families from completely different cultures and backgrounds came together to celebrate the life of this baby.  The Lord gave us not only the opportunity to love on and celebrate with mom but her entire family.   We entered this process praying for the opportunity to minister to the biological family, but had no idea the doors that God would open (and we are praying will continue to open!).                                                                                                                                                                     
This process has been a whirlwind and I am anxious to see how this story plays out.  We are a foster to adopt home meaning that if the opportunity for adoption arises we will become a “forever family” for that child.  Although this is the desire for our family, the Lord has allowed us to understand our role as foster parents and with that our part in working towards the end goal of reunification.  Every since A has been in our home, I have not been able to pray specifically for adoption.  This is something we want but at the same time we are aware of the cost.  It is difficult for me to ask for adoption knowing that it only comes when the goal is not obtained.  We understand the reality that there will be great loss on either end.                                                                                                                                                                 
The Lord sustains us each day and we are resting in His sovereignty (some days better than others).  We know that He has all the days of A’s life perfectly planned out.  And even if those days do not consist of her being in our home and even if He is calling her to a difficult life, He has ordained these days she has been in our home and can use them for His glory.  He has heard our cries and pleads for her salvation and generational sin to be broken in her lifetime.  As the end is near and I have no idea how this all will play out and have absolutely no control or say in any of it.   We can only trust in Him.  As I rock her and pray and sing to her each night, I become overwhelmed and grateful for that day.   His mercies are new each day and have been felt, especially in the midst of paralyzing fear and sleepless nights.  We pray and covet prayers of perseverance and trust and protection. We pray that we would love her well even as we prepare our family for her return home.  We are grateful for those who have walked with us through this process.  For the wise counsel and sweet friends who have shed tears alongside us.  Regardless of how our future plays out, we will be forever grateful for the time the Lord has given us with this beautiful little girl and all that we have learned through this process.  

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Waiting with Open Hands: Our prayer as a foster family

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope;My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Isreal, hope in the Lord!'
 For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption. 
 And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.  Psalm 130:5-8

My family and I are two months into this entirely new world of fostering and find ourselves in a season of waiting.  A type of waiting we have never experienced before.  Waiting on the phone call, waiting on court dates, waiting for updates, waiting for the next visitation, waiting to see progress or lack thereof, waiting to see what our future is going to look like months down the road.  In a very short amount of time I have waited in anguish and in fear and in hope and in peace.  I have waited in the flesh and I have waited in the very evident presence of the Holy Spirit.  In moments of weakness, I have waited with my hands closed tightly around this sweet baby girl wanting to tell her everything is ok and she will always be safe but angry that I cannot make that promise.  In moments of God’s grace, I have waited with my hands open before Him crying out “Your will, not mine.”  The Lord is allowing me to find comfort Him, not the circumstances.  Comfort in fact that only He can save and redeem and restore.  Regardless of how our future plays out, the Lord is faithful.  I have been reminded in a study that I am going through, of the faith Abraham had.  He did not know the details or the reasoning why he was called to the unimaginable task of sacrificing his son, but he was obedient and placed his faith in God, not his son.  I am praying for that kind of faith!  Faith that doesn’t desire knowing the details or is caught up in the pain of the current circumstances but rather is sustained by the hope of Christ.  Faith that understands and embraces the fact that we are not called to a life of ease and comfort, but rejoices in the fact that in the testing of our faith steadfastness is produced (James 1).  My desire is that as a family we wait well.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be tears or pain or hurting.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be moments when we are waiting in the flesh, with our hands closed tightly.  But in the end, I pray that we have waited and loved and have cared for the precious baby girl with open hands

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Sin of "Being Good"

Most of my adolescent and young adult life I worked hard at avoiding sin or at least covering it up.  Sin created much fear in my life.  Fear of being exposed and people seeing the “bad” in me.  Sin created a great deal of guilt and shame in my life.  What if they know who I really am or what I am really thinking or what I have really done?  The pressure I felt to be this “good girl” caused me to work hard at being good and work even harder at not letting the bad be exposed.

Looking back on my past, God has given me the ability to now see that I had a very distorted definition of sin. I viewed sin as outward behaviors and went a step further to neatly categorize it in a hierarchy system which created greater justification in my life.  After all, I was the “good girl” and never really did anything “too bad.”  I became self righteous in not doing bad things and working hard at the good things (being moral, going to church, using my manners, being polite, helping others, on and on).  This idea of “trying not to sin” and when I do covering it up with the good, religious things eventually became a vicious cycle leading to even greater fear, guilt and shame in my life.

It was not until I began to understand the extent of my depravity and very nature of my sin that my life completely changed.  It was not until the Lord allowed me to hear and to see and to begin to comprehend the fullness of His grace that I experienced freedom from my sin of being good.  It was not until I was able to proclaim that I am dirty and wicked and hopeless within, but despite me I get the sufficient grace of my Lord and Savior.  There is nothing I can do or not do to change this very fact.

My Heavenly Father has been gracious to show me this, but I still struggle with the sin of being good.  I still do “good things” out of pride or desire to be noticed or needed rather than from the overflow of my heart.  However, despite my sin, God’s grace is greater.  I receive much peace in knowing that by grace I have been saved despite the evil and darkness of my heart.  I am overwhelmed by grace.  It is a word that is used daily in my home.  It brings much joy to me to hear my two year old beg for grace when he is about to get a time out or spanking or for my four year old tell me that he wants grace even though he doesn’t deserve it.  May the Lord be gracious to continue to reveal to me of my sin of being good and continue to free me and give me a heart that desires good for His name sake. 
Below is an excerpt from Paul David Tripp’s book “a Shelter in the time Of Storm”

“Its effect [sin] is so pervasive and so comprehensive that it influences everything we do and everything we say.  It causes us to think, desire, choose, say and do things that are the polar opposite of the way we were created to function…And we don’t love God with our whole hearts.  No, we put creation in His place.  We’d rather have the temporary pleasure of physical things than the eternal satisfaction that can be found only in Him.  Sin causes us to place ourselves at the center of our universe.  Sin causes us to be obsessed with what we feel, what we want, and what we think we need.  

In light of the fact that sin brings all of us to the point that we exhale violence in some from at some time, it’s amazing how much peace and cooperation exist in our relationships.  What’s the explanation for this apparent contradiction?  It can be said in one word: grace.  There’s not a day where you and yours are not protected by the most powerful, protective, and beneficial force in the universe – the grace of God.  

…You see, you only ever begin to really celebrate grace when you begin to understand how deep and pervasive the effects of sin are.  As Jesus said when that woman washes His feet with her hair, ‘The one who has been forgiven much, loves much.’

Take time to consider the ravages of sin on us all, because when you do, you’ll leave with a deeper appreciation of grace than you’ve ever had.  And that appreciation won’t only cause praise to come out of your mouth, but it will also change the way you live.”

Come Quickly

December 6, 2010

“Come quickly sweet Jesus” was the cry of many hearts tonight as we heard Matt plead before God in a very real and urgent way.  Leaving church tonight my heart was heavy and longing for the return of Jesus.  There is something about this Christmas season that is exciting and joyful, but at the same time for me it seems to be a season when the brokenness of this fallen world is very transparent.  God is so gracious to draw me near and comfort me with the Hope of the gospel when I become overwhelmed by the consequences of the sin in this world, but at the same time He is gracious to allow me to feel the weight of sin and to hurt alongside the suffering.  So as I long and cry for Jesus to come quickly, I wait and pray and petition for the hurting and suffering He has given me the privilege to know and has laid on my heart…
  • A single dad raising two boys who were both born with a rare syndrome, one of which has very noticeable and handicapping symptoms, sit in their apartment tonight wondering if the eviction notice will be on the door in the morning.   This is an all too familiar scene as it happens on a regular basis.  When it’s not rent it is food when it is not food it is gas when it is not gas it is phone calls explaining to the doctor that he didn’t have the gas money to make it to the appointment once again and dealing with the guilt and shame of setting your sons surgery back another six months. 
  •  Family after family living with a special needs a child.  An 8 year old who can’t talk or walk or dress himself but understands so much or a 16 year old who desires the normalcy of high school but is trapped inside this body that is so physically limiting.  Moms and dads who never get breaks from dressing and feeding  and toileting and never get to hear “I love yous” or watch their child take their first step or play soccer or go on their first date or off to college.  Day’s consisting of therapy sessions and doctors appointments and a constant struggle of trying to find the balance of caring for a completely dependent child and not missing out on the lives of their “normal” children.    
  •  A family so grateful that their 2 year old daughter is in remission.  That her brain cancer is gone but every day faced with the side effects of that surgery which saved their daughter’s life.  Their only child has a portion of her brain gone and now faced with the very real fact that it is going to take her a long time to walk or talk.   
  •    A single mom living in her one bed room apartment with bars around the outside and water dripping down from the above apartment and cracks in the windows.  Everyday facing the fact that she lives in condemned apartments but can do nothing about it.  If she makes any reports then the apartments are shut down and her family along with all the other residents are on the streets.   A Landlord who is aware of this predicament and uses it to his advantage.
  • Timothy, a 16 year old boy that is daily faced with the reality and the weight of knowing that he just has 2 more years.  2 more years and he turns 18 and ages out of the system.  2 more years to find his “forever parents” but the chances of that are not looking too promising.  Move after move and the only constant in his life is his wallet with a very outdated picture of his younger brother.  Just the time he settles into to a place, it is time to move again.  A lifetime of detachment, medication,  abuse, neglect, rejection, yet another diagnosis and new medication, rages, restraints, foster parents that lock you out of your house, residential treatment facilities, roommates, and on and on the list goes.  
  • A father-in-law who has left his family.  A father-in-law that feels as though what he has done is so “bad” that he can never be forgiven.   A father-in-law that is buried so deep in pride and guilt and shame that he has yet to meet his grandsons.  A father-in-law who has not tasted the love and grace of our Savior. 
As I process through the weightiness of this, I find comfort in knowing that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).  I find much hope in knowing that my powerful and mighty Savior is returning and redeeming this broken, fallen world to Himself!  I find much peace in knowing that one day there will not be a place for starvation or abuse or eviction notices or condemned apartments or communication devices or wheelchairs or feeding tubes or CPS or chemotherapy or adultery or pain or suffering or tears.  One day we will be with Jesus in all His glory.  Until then, we pray and struggle and persevere and do life well all the while crying out “come quickly sweet Jesus.”