I had nothing left

Four weeks and two days ago, I looked up to see the strongest man I will ever know, weak in his knees, filled with overwhelming pain and desperation. In that moment, I knew it was as bad as I had thought. We were drowning trying to save our son. Our other children were seeing their parents fading away in front of their eyes, lost deep somewhere in a broken, dirty, trauma filled trench, desperate to save their son. I didn’t know where to turn, or how to get help, I just knew we needed it. I had nothing left.

Four weeks and one day ago, I screamed out in desperation for help. I was sinking, losing and terrified. My breath was gone, my endurance had been pushed to a ability above anything I could ever have envisioned. I had nothing left, but an empty bed.

Earlier today, I sat at a table, each chair was filled with therapists, doctors, high needs caseworkers, behavior coaches and family support therapists. I felt okay until I pulled into the parking lot, a instant sadness and grief engulfed me. I somewhat pulled it together and walked into the meeting. After the hello’s and small talk, our high needs laid it all out in front of me. I am not exactly sure when it happened or how, but as she talked, the room felt more and more as if it had been emptied of all the air or maybe it felt like there was too much air and the room was going to explode, I can’t quite explain it but it felt very real. As the room filled with that overwhelming feeling of pressure, I sat trying to listen to each person talk about their client or their patient, but all I was thinking about were his eyes, his empty bed, his untouched clothes and toys, his dry dinosaur toothbrush. I was thinking about my son. I felt such sadness in that moment, I wanted to leave, I wanted to be anywhere but there. I laid my head down as tear flooded my face and in that instant the room went silent for a moment. In these folders were information on therapeutic homes and they wanted me, this little boy’s mom somehow to pick the best home for him to live in. “It’s our home that’s best for him to live in,” I silently screamed inside. Eventually his team and I narrowed the folders down to a few that met his safety level and location. Towards the end of the meeting someone asked me if I had any more questions for the families and all I could think to say was, “will she pray with him, when she tucks him into bed each night, will she pray with him?” A response was given, “we can ask, when we meet her.” I then signed the papers needed and I walked out to my car where I cried the hardest I have ever cried in my life. I eventually went home, where I just couldn’t, so I put on my very dusty running shoes and started to run. I ran until all the emotional hurt turned to physical hurt. I ran until my head hurt as bad as my heart, until my shirt was as wet from sweat, as my face was from tears. I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to feel this. This was not how my family was suppose to be. Love was going to fix him, my arms were the safest place and yet it didn’t and they weren’t. I had nothing left, so I ran.

A HTCT home is a family setting with high needs trauma training and safe guards put into place that the average family can’t or doesn’t have the ability to do. The goal of these places is for both families to work together in therapies and in personal life to help heal the child and his family, while also keeping everyone safe. It sounds good on paper, it’s not the hardest thing to admit that this is bigger than us and we need help. But choosing, sending and letting go, there are no words in any dictionary that can accurately describe the anguish and heartbreak that comes with those words. I had nothing left, but to choose.

Our son is so little and so innocent. He didn’t ask for this trauma or how he acquired it. He isn’t able to do any different right now and this is the safest place for him, we know that. Somewhere in this story there will be a chapter that leaves us all cheering and praising Jesus for the victory in little man’s life. I know our son’s story doesn’t end here, it just can’t. He is worth fighting for. This is our hope and we are clinging to it with all we have. So if you are skeptical or not emotional attached, please fake it in front of us, we need that hope and we need others to have that same hope. We need to set our hearts and eyes on the chapter that leaves us all breathless in a good way. Today we are sad and have nothing left but hope and somehow that’s okay.

Image 3-15-17 at 11.27 AM

Be carful what you ask for…

Standing in God’s will looks different for each of us, depending on where He places us. Ben and I are in a season full of blessings and love, but also sleepless nights, crazy tantrums and a open house full of social workers and therapist. We feel so called and yet somedays so inadequate to withstand the calling placed within our hearts. As I am up so often every night comforting our baby that because of her start in this world, sleep has never been a big part of her life, another that is often up crying for reason that right now only God knows why, and an immune system that seems to have forgotten how to work, I question if I am enough for these children, if my body can keep this up. If others not walking this path would even understand if I talked to them about it. We are normal folks, we love sleep, lazy days, date nights and all those simple things, but this season is different for us, it’s hard at times and I find it can be a lonely road because, talking with most people I find myself wanting to explain so much in hopes that they will see a glimpse of the reality in which I am describing.
Last night after I tucked in one of our littles who is a sweet, bossy and very independent little person, I found God working on my heart to see her as He see her and to have the kind of patients for her as He has for me. This was a few hours before I walked into her room and found her not wanting to sleep but, instead wanting to play. “Funny God, I get it. I wanted more patience, so you gave me a beautiful opportunity at 1:30 in the morning to practice using this gift I asked for.” This was all while we were still up with a very fussy baby that didn’t want to sleep, which isn’t unusual at all but after the patience test, i had to laugh in order to not cry. Shortly later I found myself laying in bed with our beautiful 9 month old princess, who was breathing very heavy while squirming with what seemed like pain on my chest. I hummed softly in her ear and that’s when she did it, when she reminded me how crazy love is, she laid her arm across me and patted my chest until she finally feel asleep early this morning. Even though I was dead tired, I laid there in that exhausted moment and thanked God for this kind of love and humbleness in my life. I don’t always like the dirty parts, but I will never be caught saying, that I don’t love this season because, Ben and I, even though today are completely dead tired, have still caught moments of looking in each other’s eyes and both saying the same thing with a look, “we are so thankful for all of these children that are teaching us more about love and getting out of our own wants than any other thing has ever done. Oh, and that we should take turns getting a nap in today.” 😉
I was guiltily once upon a time of thinking people that were walking this path were just being to hard, to strict and that all they had to do was give a little more love. Love does win and it will cover a multitude of sins, but it isn’t all that is needed in putting very broken children back together. They are fragile, they have sharp pieces of glass that can cut and hurt us all over them. They are younger mentally then their age and yet know so much more then their tiny amount of years should know. I was wrong for thinking I got it, I was wrong for doing anything more then being a good friend with two open ears. I was wrong to say, love is all you need. We need patience, endurance, Jesus and a few good friend that even if they don’t get it, understand enough of what a phone call or text of encouragement will do for a very tired soul. Thank you to my few that some days are what God uses to carry us through. ❤

Stolen Voices

We have six children in our home, three of which are under three years of age, as you can guess, life can get crazy busy and hectic around here at times. Sometimes we feel as though we just don’t have enough time to follow through, to go the extra step or always be consistent, but we don’t have that option, at least not with some of our kiddos. Our two toddlers come from horrendous abuse, neglect and because of this, the results are, they don’t communicate well, they shut down, they hide, they run, they have melt downs for what seems like no reason at all, to the unknowing eyes. As the parent, we will ask a simple question, in which we get a blank stare that is often filled with fear. It goes something like this, “Hey sweet heart, do you have to use the restroom?” In which, we get two glossy eyes starring back at us and usually an accident to follow, because of the fear an adult talking to them will do. One of our littles is an amazing talker, she sings every word to every Frozen song there is, she talks and talks the ears off to our children, but the moment an adult, whether Ben or I or her preschool teachers speak to her directly, she shut down, instantly. It can be so frustrating to say the least, but not at the children as much as the horrible adults that caused these pains in these babies. I often wonder if these adults could see the day to day horrific pain they have caused, would they get it? Would they weep with remorse, would they give up the fight and let these babies go to a better home? The external scars on these babies have all healed up, but the day to day fight by us, of being constant, being present, working tirelessly to connect and restore has just begun. Everything isn’t better the day they are removed from the care of their abuser, to me, it seems that’s the day the pain really begins. These children are use to the chaos, neglect and abuse, so bring them into a home with rules, love, boundaries and little, to no chaos and they will fight it, they will crave it, they will demand it to return, so they can feel normal and at peace again. So what do we do? We resist, we love, we fight them and we stay constant, day after day and night after night, until one day it starts to click. We say, “I love you” several times a day to our children and one of our littles response is always the same, she turns her head, says, “no” and walks away, until last night, she looked at my daughter and said the words back to her. Maybe she has never heard those words before, maybe those words were always attached to pain, there are a million maybes of why they do what they do and maybe we will never know, but today my heart is frustrated, broken and determined to give these babies back their voice. I hate what they have gone through and I hate that so many abusers get so many chances at the cost of children, but right now, they are here and while they are, if all they ever receive from us is to know what love feels like and find their voice, I will know we have done our job. #lovewins

Do you do it for the money?

I can admit that prior to becoming a Foster parent myself, I always wondered why so many Foster folks had such large families. Was it the money or maybe they had a Mother Theresa complex, because it’s so rare to see a small foster family these days. Whenever you watch television they are great at sending a false message of what foster families look like and maybe I was a little guilty of believing things I knew nothing about. Why couldn’t I and others see these folks as having a heart for children, a heart to serve, a heart to help while stretching outside of themselves. Why are we so quick to pass judgment on people and their lives? I am part of a private Foster parents page and so many are sad or struggling with the loss or judgment from family and friends. So often they are not asked to participate in outings or events because many of the kiddos they are loving on have pains and issues that are hard to deal with, especially in public situations. I also hear many feeling isolated by family because, well, ‘they did it to themselves,’  because, really, they did. They didn’t have to help this child or add one more to the mix, they could of stopped and let someone else take care of this child. So when they are having a hard day, who do they vent with or ask advice from when the ones that should be their support are busy judging. What if they didn’t do it to themselves, what if they don’t do it for the money, what if Mother Theresa is a saint many would never try to even compare their lives to.

Lets start with how they did it to themselves. They did cause less sleep for their life, less alone time, less money to go around and less adult time, but, lets stop and think what they really did when they brought that last baby in to their home. They added life to a family, extended their hearts to love more, they chose love over comfort, they chose to take the bible and Gods command to love all orphans as literal and not just some old ancient words. If you are a parent of any number of children, by birth, adoption of fostering you know it can be hard and exhausting and every parent has their days where they need to vent. That need doesn’t change because they are not biologically there children. Be an ear, bring a meal or share a glass of wine with the Foster parent in your life. They just like before, have days where they still need YOU.

I love Mother Theresa, that lady will always hold rockstar status in my eyes, she didn’t own much of anything, spent her days in poverty, served others and only asked for Gods sustaining power to carry her through. She was one of a kind and not many folks are like her and not a single foster parent I have met is trying to be her. They all have things like; t.v’s, cars, homes, clothes, go on some kind of vacations, whether big or small. They are just regular folks that have seen the need and how desperately children in our own backyards need us all to help them. So they stepped up and did what they can, even if that looks different to you, don’t judge them, because trust me, what they are doing isn’t always easy and they don’t do it for the kudos, they do it for the love of the child. I know that a small portion of foster families are bad and have unclean motives, but don’t let that small one percent, cause your taste buds to turn sour over what your friends or family next to you are doing. Join them, invite them over for a BBQ, hear their stories and share in their passion. Encourage them it will mean the world to them.

They do it for the money I bet. I was someone that thought this notion prior to becoming a Foster parent myself, that money had to be at least a small motive, because how could anyone open their home and lives to multiple children that are not their own, if it’s not about the money, right? For the average foster child in Arizona it breaks down to a whopping 63 cents per hour that the Foster family gets. That is 63 cents an hour to be a full time taxi driver to multi doctor and therapy appointments and also pick up and drop off at visits each week with the child’s bio parents, where once you pick that child up, you quickly turn into a therapist to their broken and confused little hearts. Your ability to transition into a Dr. happened often also as you have to take care of immune issues, lice, abuse, fears of showers, cars, the darkness, bed wetting, tantrums and you quickly learn you could make double the money part time, at minim wage and have nights and weekends off and not spend your nights holding a crying child that is scared of God knows what. Then you feed them and my Lord do these kiddos eat, I mean eat. One of mine gained four pounds the first 10 days he was in our home. The real fear of starvation is a strong force so many of these kids have, which causes them to never want to go hungry again, so they eat, gorge, hoard and are always looking for their next meal. Oh yea, did I mention they also usually come to your home with just the dirty clothes on their backs, rarely with even shoes on their feet? So these families get a child and run out to a store to get the basics that day of what they will need. So yes, they do need the money, because I know for so many they couldn’t do it without that extra help, but it’s not what they do it for, because 63 cents an hour just doesn’t cover all they do. Next time you have a bag of hand-me-down kid clothes, maybe instead of Goodwill, you could bless a Foster family in your life with them, because they will be used and so greatly appreciated.Roll-of-money

I am sure Ben and I have people that we don’t know about casting judgment our way, but we have way more casting love our way. I am so blessed, our life is full of people that are supportive and encouraging, from church, to family and friends, but most Foster families do not feel this way. Lets change that. The next time you catch your self wanting to judge or roll your eyes at the momma with many kids in tow, don’t, instead, lend a hand, a meal, encouragement, love and just watch and see just how far that love will go. #lovewins

You are worth it

Loving a child through their pain and brokenness can be hard. You don’t always get to see the end result, the reward of your hard work. Sometimes you are just a stepping stone in their journey, a small but mighty ripple in their ocean. So often what people are doing to help broken children is an invisible act of love not seen by others but remember it’s always felt by the child.

To the teacher that brings in extra food for the child she knows hasn’t ate a meal in days, the neighbor that always invites the ‘troubled child’ over to hang with her family so often she feel like she has an extra child or the foster/adoptive parent that are in the trenches picking up the pieces to their child’s broken past. Thank you! You may not hear that from the child today or see your seeds of love growing in them just yet, but one day it will happen. The next time you’re having a hard time walking in love towards this child, grab them by the cheeks, look them in the eye and tell them they are worth it, because they are. Once upon a time I was worth it and I am forever grateful to all the people that looked me in the face as a broken child and said, “you are worth it, Nicole!”  Today, I completely agree with them, all their endless acts of love were worth it. So please don’t give up the fight even when it seems overwhelming. Broken children, have broken hearts, but when someone tells a child they are worth it, watch and see the broken become whole again.

This might just destroy me..and thats okay

All during our training classes we were asked a few times what the child we hoped to have placed with us would look like. I think they ask this question to see if we have realistic understandings of what is to come. Anyways, I can be passive with my words, so I rambled something like, “A young child who needs a place to feel safe and loved.” Because saying anything else would mean my heart was cold, right? But really, the child that I thought I wanted placed with us was a little African American boy. I don’t have a logical reason for that, he’s just who I saw. He is who showed up in my dreams, who my heart always pictured as part of our family’s journey. He’s who I believed would be the first child to walk through our doors through this process. Why, I haven’t a clue, but it was a face I saw over and over. But, honestly we would and did say yes to any child but that’s just who my heart saw. See that’s the funny thing God didn’t have those plans for us, at least not how I saw them, they were mine. He never saw a boy or an african american child for that matter, He saw two little girls, with a sad little past and giant beautiful hearts that would be the first children to steal our hearts and boy did they steal it. Eventually though this little guy that filled my dreams and other amazing beautiful kids would come into our life, just not exactly how I saw it….But is it ever?
At first, before and during the classes I thought I wanted to protect my heart. I wanted to take children into our home and from the beginning remember and live like it was temporary, because, it just might be. I didn’t want to get too attached. I wanted to love them all well and meet all their needs with love. But I wanted to protect my heart, because they may only be here for a moment. Over the past several months I’ve found my giant brick walls have crumbled away when I see these sweet kiddo’s smile or look at the beauty of their BIG gorgeous eyes or hear their giggles or comb some sweet, crazy hair, I see Jesus’ handy work starring back at me. Why would I want to build a wedge between me and them? These sweet babies are bringing me closer to my savior, causing me to fall harder to my knees in prayers. I said it several times before ‘what if a child comes in to our home and we fully become attached? And if I had to watch them leave….it would absolutely destroy me.’
I still agree, because it did and it will be that way always. How could it not be?
Yes, this is all of me. This is where my fears over power me. This is where my wants are obvious for all to see. This is where my plans for my life seem to be the answers to it all. This is where my time is precious. Where my mind wants to say, stop, because I can’t even think about the heart break if these babies have to leave. This is where the trauma from their pasts causes a giant land slide of emotions to come pouring down on our quite little lives. This is where I scream inside, “I freaking need a time out too!” Where I am tempted to say no, because saying yes will be all of me.
But I am so thankful this is not all of me. This is only where I have no more and where Jesus begin. This is where God’s voice whispers, “It’s not about you.” This is where He answers, “You got this”. This is where my bible isn’t just a good book end. This is where we become aware that our home was provided by Him and it’s not our own. This is where little children can learn the meaning of family. This is where we learn and try to love another family that caused the broken hearts in these babies. This is where our faith is needed and through it all, this is where we fall head over heels, completely, madly in love with children that are not our own.
To these Sweet babies who have captivated our hearts so fully. I’ll love you fully and completely. Even if only for a moment, because YOU are worth it.
If you feel led to love on a child for a moment in time or perhaps forever look into fostering, adopting or mentoring in your area. It will change you forever in the most beautiful ways. I promise!