Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Lewis Note has moved to a new space! Please come by and say HI!

HI friends!

It has been so long since I have written -- and you might be wondering,  "Hey! Where is Rachel?"

TO answer your question . . . I launched a NEW website that is more professional and more user friendly for YOU!


I would love to have you come over, grab a cup of coffee and get cozy. You can visit me at:


www.thelewisnote.com


Excited to see you again, friends, and can't wait to catch up!

Rachel

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The spaces in between

Yesterday I saw a photo.

If you know the story behind the photo, you know exactly how awful it is.

It's a little 3-year-old boy, curled up on his belly. On the sand. With the water lapping at his face.

Dead.

The photo makes him look as though he is merely asleep.... Not that he had drowned and had literally washed up on shore, with his (also dead) 5-year-old brother.

I have heard, "Syria this ... refugee that ... worst humanitarian crisis since WWII ..." but none of it clicked for me. 

Not until I saw that sweet boy, who reminded me of Z. 

Then everything changed. My heart ripped, my body wracked with silent sobs, and I begged God to let it end.

Let the senseless death, the hopelessness, the loss of precious life, please God, just bring it to an end.

And I thought about the mother of these boys, who also drowned when their boat capsized.

What kind of fear does it take to risk her children's lives in order to save them?





In the middle of the summer, we took a boat ride out on the Puget Sound. We were on a speed boat, and I was honestly afraid most of the way. Both kids had life jackets, but I kept I thinking of what could happen if the boat flipped, or my kids fell in.







My fears were really unfounded, as the risk of an accident happening was ridiculously low.


But then there's the refugee mom. Who had the odds completely stacked against her.

How afraid must she have been to put both of her children on an overcrowded raft, filled past the point of safety? To cross a sea without life jackets on her kids. To know that a giant wave or a shark or a malfunction of the raft could be the death of them. To know how often people have lost their lives making a trek across the sea like they did.


And yet she stepped onboard anyway.

What must have been running through her head when the raft sank, and her kids sank with it?
Did she have more kids than arms to reach them? What could it have been to experience the terror of drowning while knowing your children were drowning in the dark water somewhere next to you, but out of your reach?

 
And in that moment, was the risk still worth it? Was death still a better option than the terror of living under ISIS control?

As I slowly woke this morning, little Alyn was first on my heart. I wished someone could have held him. I wished he didn't have to die alone. I wished he hadn't died at all.

And the veins of entitlement, which has so subtly weaved itself into my character, became so apparent to me. 

Entitlement feeds my discontentment with ideas like, "my house should be bigger, cuter, more in-style. I should be cuter, and smarter and more in-style. My kids should be better behaved, and not so draining, and so needy." All while others would be thankful for a safe home with doors that lock, instead of living in a car, or a tent. They would be thankful for any children, no matter how demanding. My blood has run thick with entitlement, and it has poisoned my soul.

As I drove to church yesterday, the shame felt heavy and unavoidable. I asked God to forgive me for the years I have allowed discontentment to drain my gratitude and joy.


 
And still, even with the Syrian refugee family fresh on my mind, even with gratitude pouring from every part of me, I still struggled today with the hard of being a mom to three kids.

My kids were not screaming in terror of drowning, but they were screaming. About poop. Loudly. In the grocery store. For a long time.

And I thought to myself . . . This is hard.

I now go to church by myself. Ryan helps sometimes, but mostly, I do the church thing with 3 kids alone. And in the parking lot, my kids were running ahead of me, in spite of my admonition for them to stay close, and a blue van drives a little too quickly, a little too close for my comfort. And I scream "STOP!!! STOP!!! I reach out, but I have more kids than hands. (Z was safely in one arm, and my bags and phone in the other.)

As soon as my kids stopped and the van passed, we were out of danger. But the Syrian mom, when would she ever felt like they were out of danger if they had survived? Would she have ever been able to let her guard down? 

No, my fear was very much fleeting, unlike her gut level fear of staying in the same place, or chancing death in a risky move accross the ocean.

And still, I thought to myself, "This is hard."

I wasn't trying to contain my kids on a small raft, fleeing for our lives. Instead, I was trying to contain them in a shopping cart for an hour, trying my best to minimize bickering, squashed loaves of bread, and screaming about poo.

And in spite of our admittedly low discomfort in the grocery store ... And in spite of the fact that I was surrounded by food I could have easily bought and eaten ... "Still" ... I thought ... "This is hard."

And what do I do with these spaces in between what is hard for others and what is hard for me? How do I live each moment filled with gratitude, breathing in the beauty of the present, and offering myself grace in the moments that are not so beautiful. (My preschooler screaming about poop all the way from the checkout stands to the restroom for instance --- not a glorious moment.)

And yet no matter how hard my day is, there is someone else having a harder day and someone else having an easier day.

These are the spaces in between.

I hope to live in those spaces with grace, compassion, and respect for the hard of others AND the hard I know. While still creating space for gratitude.

And maybe the person in those spaces I need to show the most grace to is me. Because I know there will be days I will fail, days I have failed. Days I have compared the hards of others, maybe to make myself feel better. And days I have ignored the hard of others, because I was too content keeping my own little world safe and happy.

We all live in the spaces in between. I guess the question is, how can we do it well?




Saturday, September 5, 2015

my 7 secrets to doing it all

 
 
 
There are two things I am told by at least one person every week. The first is "It takes a special kind of person to do foster care." I'll be writing my thoughts on that here soon, but today, I'm going to share about #2:

"I don't know how you do it." 

This could be in relation to foster care, surviving multiple pregnancy losses, writing a blog, working on a book, joining a play, or running a business. Or doing all of it. Plus a house to keep up.

So today, I want to share with you how I do it.

Here are my 7 secrets to doing it all.





 

With a lot of prayer and leaning on God.


Today, my schedule is so packed, I had to increment my time in 15-minute blocks to ensure I get it all of one and stay on track. My day started at 6:30, and will probably not "end" till 10 or 10:30. On days that are super busy, I have to break it down.

As we got home from school drop off for Maddy, Leyla, and a trip to the grocery store, I paused in the car and prayed out loud.

"Thanks God for our home, our food, our health, our opportunities. Help me to keep it together today. Help me to move forward in business, in my family, and take care of everyone's needs with love and patience."


I also start every most mornings with a short prayer, (let's be real here),  asking for God's help to accomplish what I need, with the right attitude. I find myself praying often on short bursts throughout the day, realizing I depend on God for everything. And as long as my babies will let me, I read for a few minutes from the Bible in the morning to start my day off right.

 
With lots of grace.
 

This morning, I needed to fix breakfast for 3 kids, eat, take a shower, get 2 kids ready for school, pack a lunch, and be out of the house by 8 am.

We got out at 8:10.

And Leyla threw a fit about getting shoes on, so I walked the rest of the kids to the car, and told her to join us when she was done.

Should have been a good idea, except that now that we were late, I was in a rush. 

At Leyla's school, I realized my mistake. First, I didn't grab her book bag which was right by the door. Second, I didn't lock the door, or for that matter, close it at all. (Gasp!)

And so after drop-off, I rushed home to close and lock the door that was clearly wide-open for all the world to see (and break in and enter.)

 
And that's where grace enters. See, I make lots of mistakes. A lot. I forget to close doors, lose keys, forget lunches and coats and backpacks, keep my kids up too late, and don't always get them home for nap time.

Just recently, I took Maddy to school, one minute late. (Literally. One minute). My hair was dripping because I tried to sneak a shower in the few free minutes I had. (That was not-so-awesome time management.) My mascara from yesterday was still pooled under my lids. I carried both Z and Leyla (shoeless, of course) as I tried to rush Maddy to out of the car.

All while the principal was watching, and hollering at me to "try my best to get my kids to school on time." Granted, it WAS the third day of school and a little early in the year to already be late. But still. After encouraging me to be on time, he acquiesced: "Well, I'm sure it's hard to get three out of the house. I never had to raise three. Actually, I probably couldn't do it. But still, try to be on time."

And I've learned to be Ok with that. Sure, I won't win any parent-of-the-year award, especially not from any teachers (and certainly not from the principal) ... And there is almost nothing in my home Pinterest-worthy .... But doing OK has become good enough for me. At least for most things.

 
Sometimes, I let things go.
 

Before Ryan became an avid helper in the home, I had to learn that some things had to be let go. In order to write, I'd ignore the laundry. In order to get dinner on, sometimes it would be the exact same easy meal as last week: baked chicken, peas and a side-salad. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.

I find that the days I'm most productive, it's because I have a priority list of up to 6 items that need to be done each day. Bonus points if I make it the night before. If I can't get to all 6, the items get bumped to the top of the next day's list.

I don't always do my list, but I'm trying to make it a new habit. And the things that don't make it to the list -- well, I just serenade those with the Frozen theme song.

My perfectionist self is coming to terms with the idea of "good enough."





With lots of support.
 
 
 

My husband is pretty amazing. He has begun helping with laundry, does dishes every night, puts all the kids to bed at least twice a week, and does chores on the weekend.  

My parents and in-laws are close by. And while we don't use their support every week, it's nice to know we have it when we need some last-minute babysitting, or a night 1-, 2-, or 3- kids free.

In the past, I have hired a mommy-helper, giving me 3 full hours each week of focused time.

In short -- I don't do it alone. I'm not parenting alone, I'm not cleaning alone (although I have in the past), and my kids have adjusted to doing things without me.



 
Downtime is double time.


And by downtime, I don't mean that hour I get to myself everyday. (Ha.) I mean, the time I use the bathroom. (Sorry, it's true. I'm human). I mean the time waiting in line. I mean the time I'm supervising Z's playgroup. It means the time I'm relaxing from my day, in bed, and I'm on my phone. The time when I'm snuggling Z and feeding him a bottle before nap time. (In fact, that's when I wrote the bulk of this post.)

I mean, those times.

Instead of just scrolling through Facebook (a habit I'm working very hard to break), I'm reading a book. In fact, many of my books are read by utilizing the few minutes I'm in the bathroom to myself, as well as when I sit down to eat lunch. I read. I carry a book with me when I can.

Also, another habit I'm working on is writing at night before I go to bed. I'm working on my first chapter of my book, so instead of reading about other people's lives at night, I'm writing down my own.

When I have downtime, I try to double it up as productive time. Yet still make it relaxing.



 
I'm intentional.
 


For so long, I waited. I waited to start something until it was perfect timing. I waited for Ryan to initiate a family day. I waited for my to-do list to whither away before spending quality time with my kids.

And in the end -- I just felt like life, and what I really wanted, was always on snooze.

It's taken me a while, but I've (finally) realized that life with a plan far outweighs life without one.

And so on the two weekends a month I set aside for family time -- we DO something together. We usually go on a hike. Or for a drive. Or a bike ride. Instead of wasting our day puttering around the house, we make it count. And some of our best memories come from those family days.

Getting connected in my church has become a priority for me. So instead of waiting for connection to just fall in my lap, I'm plugging in. I'm singing once a month at church, and helping in the Kindergarten room once a month. Maddy and I also just started the play together. (Which sounds overwhelming, but it's 6 hours a week, which can double as Maddy/Mommy time. If Maddy were in a sport, I'd probably be spending that time rushing her to games, etc. So this way, we're together AND it's an extracurricular activity. And I can read or write or work on the days Maddy doesn't need to be there, and I'm not on stage.)

I use nap time for work time. And if I don't get it done during naptime, then I'll let my kids watch a show while I finish up.

We have dinner together most every night, and that's our time to connect. Breakfast, however, is served alongside cartoons while I do yoga in the office and take a quick shower. If I don't get it done in the morning, chances are it will never happen!

While I drive for errands, or to pick up kids, I listen to trainings for personal development, leadership and business education. It has the added benefit of my kids hearing these trainings. Recently, Maddy told me, "I felt the fear mom. And I did it anyway." Since I've never said that to her, I know where she got that from. My university on wheels.

 
I don't do it for me.


Well, at least, not ALL for me.

The other day, Leyla was having a very rough day. This happens a lot. I think God must have given me this idea, because honestly, I was ready to just grit down and win the control war. Except I think He showed me that right then, she needed love and attention, not further discipline. So I stopped what I was doing, and just played. Like roll all over the floor, play and tickle, and throw her in the air, and try not to get smothered by a toddler and preschooler relishing in their mom on the floor with them.

We have dance parties in the kitchen, and sing-alongs in the car, and rummy matches late at night. I know I focus on getting things done, but at the same time, my kids and my hubby are my top priority. At times that means putting the phone or book down, and just snuggling. Or playing that extra game of cards. Or missing the conference call I know will be recorded because my kids are having a meltdown.

I mean, really, my family is so important to me. I might have to schedule it in . . . but I take time to NOT be busy in order to make them know I love them and get to know them.

I run my business because I want to give my family choices. I stay at home because I want to be present in their lives. I fix (mostly) homemade meals because I want them to know that healthy food matters. I foster Z because that's what a person does when someone else needs them. And Z needed us. (And now, of course, I love him. That took all of like, what? One day?)

I am so far from perfect, so please, no pedestals here. I'm messy at times, today I'm still in my pajamas from this morning, and there are days where I feel like the worst parent ever.

But I do all these things in hopes of being a good steward of what I have been given, and in hopes of making a difference in other people's lives. Starting with my own family's.





How do you do what you do? I'm not the only busy mama here -- so please share your tips and tricks for getting it done!





 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

z z z z z z z





First, this post is all about Z. If you hadn't guessed.

Second, this post is all about hitting the "snooze" button. Because basically, that's exactly what has happened with Z's case, as I found out at today's social worker visit.

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you probably saw that my mom recently had to say good-bye to Z . . . as she wasn't sure she would get to see him again before he had to return home. This was emotional and hard for all of us -- except Z. He's still pretty clueless, cute little baby.

Mom and Z saying good-bye


Well, today, I was happy to tell my mom there's a chance she might get to see him again.

Z's case has sort of been put on a pause.

Obviously, the clock is still moving. But instead of having a big "green" light toward him returning home at the end of summer, early fall . . . it now looks like a "yellow" light. Proceed with caution. It looks like he'll be with us through the fall, and maybe longer. (Nothing is final until it's final -- so even this is just a guesstimate. As my friend Bethany says, foster care teaches you to take it one day at a time.)

While I'm not a fan of delaying permanency, as we are QUITE attached and keep getting more attached as the days go on . . . I do agree with caution and being realistic. If he is going to return home, I want it to be stable and safe. And I'd rather us all go forward with eyes open, than to get a call after he returns home that someone got hurt or worse.

Maddy loving on her brother


After last week, I was dreading seeing our social workers. I assumed that I would actually be getting a date today. Or at least a certain month that he would return home. And I also was embarrassed about the fall at the allergist's office and the possible CPS investigation.

Apparently, our social worker and guardian ad litem didn't even know that CPS was considering investigating me. They knew about the ER visit, and that I had to self-report -- but they hadn't heard that CPS had called me back and was considering a full investigation.

They totally didn't understand why I told them it all stressed me out . . . until I explained that a similar situation had happened to a friend, and her baby did get taken away. (Though I want you to know that it was a ridiculous call, and they were found clear of any wrongdoing.) Our social worker was totally annoyed that CPS considered investigating, and said that he had just lost some respect for his own department. He said he has a full year of health & safety reports on me that he would have been happy to submit proving that I'm a capable and safe parent. He also told me he was prone to accidents as a child, and knows that "this stuff happens."

It was honestly so reassuring.



We have court next week for Z's case. It's not a permanency hearing, but just a review. As usual, I'll have to fill out a court report. Z has a lot of medical testing to do in the next few months, so I know there is a lot to update the court on.

Goofy boy wants to do the splits


Between his appointments, Maddy's appointments and tummy issues, and both girls starting school this fall -- there certainly is a lot going on around here.

As almost every person in the grocery store comments as I pass by with my entourage, "it looks like I have my hands full."

And I do. But in spite of all the challenges of having kids in the way I have them -- I'm really grateful to have them each here with me. They are a handful of blessing.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

The day I was reported to CPS




Tonight I want to write about the hard things in foster care. And not the big hard things. The not-so-big ones. Or maybe, the not-so-big, but could turn really-really-big, but you don't know for sure so it's crazy stressful.

Yeah, that one.

Z fell Wednesday afternoon at the allergists' office. 

He doesn't like doctor's appointments, and we seem to have a lot of them. He is tired of being held or strapped in a stroller or car seat. He wants to climb and jump and roll and grab everything and get into every drawer and cupboard.

Books, toys? Totally not interested.

So yesterday, by the time our doctor was ready to start the exam and questions, Z was already over it. He was squirming to try to get out of my arms. I didn't want him going all over the floor, trying to open cupboards and climb up the table, so I sat him in the chair, with me right behind him, hands inches away in case he tried to fall.

Well, as you know, trying to answer a lot of questions from the doctor and keeping your 1-year-old calm and quiet can be a challenge. You don't really feel present with either person. Just half there for both of them. In the end, the doctor asked a question, I looked up to answer, and Z slipped through my outstretched hands onto the floor.

Well, mostly onto the floor. I caught his legs before his body hit the ground. But his head did hit.

Now most of you moms will say, this stuff happens. And you are right. It does.

But when you are a foster parent, this stuff is huge. It's the not-so-big-of-a-deal to you that could potentially be a mega-huge-deal to foster parents.

Z acted ok the rest of the visit. I knew I would have to fill out an incident report, but I didn't expect what happened later

The next day, while bathing Z, I saw this on his ear.


At first, I thought it had happened at his visit. But since there were no notes on the report saying there was an accident, I decided that it probably happened when he hit his head the day before.

I called our caseworker, filled out the form, and was instructed to go to the ER if we found a bump.

You guessed it ... We found a bump, and off to the ER we went.

The Dr. was not concerned at all by his bump and bruise. Thankfully she did not call CPS to report is.

But we still got reported.

By me. 


 I had to according to Washington State law. 

So here I am, already feeling like a crappy parent, beating myself up in guilt (like most moms do), and now I need to tell CPS of all people that yes, I screwed up this parenting gig and an accident happened. And it was my fault.

Again, you might be thinking, accidents happen. Surely they know this, and it's not a big deal right?

Except it can be a very big deal. A friend of ours had her own foster son taken away, without any chance of a good-bye, had her own children pulled from school, and questioned, and had their licensed pulled for a time while the investigation was complete for -- of all things -- a fall at the doctor's office.

This was the not the first report CPS has gotten on us.

If you all remember, Leyla had to go the ER three times for a fall, and once had to have a CT scan done. CPS was reported each of those times. 


And each time, we were told it was a formality and never heard anything about it again.

But today was different.

Today I got a call from CPS. They were going to get more info on this accident, call the doctor's who were involved (the allergist and the ER doctor) and also needed me to send his discharge paperwork from the hospital.

They would either just keep the referral on our license, or they would do a complete investigation.

We would know by the end of today.


Well, you can probably imagine my ball of nerves today.

There was a possibility that they could take Z from our home today. There was a possibility that I would not get the good-bye I planned for, that my family and friends would not get to say good-bye that they hoped for. 

They could take my other two children in for questioning. They could get very personal, very quickly, and we wouldn't be able to do anything about it.

All because of that one stupid mistake I made.

You can be an awesome parent 99% of the time, but man, that 1% is killer. That one time you don't pay enough attention. That one time you are distracted. That one time your in-control parenting falls apart. 


It just takes once.


And so today I rushed around, filling out more paperwork, trying to get the image of CPS taking Z away out of my head. Trying to keep tears at bay, and not let me stress affect my other two kids.

And then finally we got the call.

They will NOT be investigating. 


The report will be on our license, my mistake forever on record. But at least right now, we have Z for another day, and things will move along as planned.

Some of you guys tell me you couldn't do foster care. And as much as I advocate for you to be foster parents, on the one hand, I totally get it.

I hate being front and center when it comes to CPS. 

I have nothing to hide. But you know, no one wants to go through that. No one.

As you guys continue to pray for us, pray that we can stay clear of accidents throughout the rest of Z's stay.

Just this morning, I prayed that God would help me walk by faith and not fear.

And then CPS called. And I was afraid.

I just might have already failed my prayer today. But as we continue down this road, I hope and pray God can continue to help me trust in him when the scary stuff comes.

That I can trust he's already in control. Even as we learn to let go along the way.





Saturday, August 15, 2015

Big feelings



Big feelings


Did you know that I used to think those two words, when put together, meant that there was something wrong with me?

A Facebook friend who is so positive all the time -- praying for everyone and being a light -- felt God calling her to admit her secret: her health was majorly messed up, and she was in excruciating pain all day long.

For the last few days, I have wondered why she wasn't up front about her pain. Certainly, she didn't have to share. That was all her rightful call to make. 

But why are we so scared to admit we are going through big things that give us big feelings?


If you had told me "I can give you a magic wand, and you can change one thing about yourself," I likely would think that you were nuts ... But then seriously consider changing the extent to which I feel my feelings.

When I think of my emotions, I think of a roller coaster. Things just FEEL bigger. The highs are high and the lows are low. I am the opposite of what you might call an even-keeled person. 

And this bothers me.

When I think of roller-coaster emotions, I think of someone who is unstable. Someone you don't want to do business with. Someone who's a little multi-personality. Or Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-esque. 

When I think of even-keeled emotions, I think of slow and steady. You know exactly what you're getting, every time. Attractive in business, in life and in relationship. This is the person you want to be around. This is the person you want to be.


Except the problem with this is that some of the circumstances I am going through are naturally not meant for even-keeled feelings. In fact, if you felt even-keeled about them, you might just not have a heart. (Or a heartbeat.)

My grandpa is not doing well. He's in his mid-nineties, and all the sudden couldn't walk. (He is normally very active, takes care of himself, and even maintains a huge vegetable garden.) And this week, he was admitted to the hospital, and now he's home requiring 24-hour care.

My grandmas from both sides died quickly, with no warning really. Just died. And I got those calls that make no sense at the time that the person you love more than anything is now gone.

And now that my grandpa is not well, every time I see my mom or dad call, my heart hits the floor and I just wait for the news that he too is gone.

Ryan and I have been searching plane tickets for me to go visit my grandpa. But just today I found out he doesn't want any company.

I want to see my grandpa before he dies. And we were working on a plan to get me there. But now I don't know if I'll ever see him alive again, and it's tearing me up. 

These are big feelings.

As I snuggled Maddy in bed tonight, all the big feelings I had came dripping from my eyes. Maddy hugged me, and told me "everything will be ok mama." She even went to get me a tissue.

And I held her as I cried, and yet again thought of how close I came to not knowing her. And of course I thought of all the other babies that didn't make it.

"Hey Maddy," I said. "thanks for making it out of my belly ok. The other babies didn't make it ... But you did. And mom is glad you made it."

More big feelings y'all. 


And this also happened today:




While things are still moving slowly, they are most decidedly moving in the direction of reunification. The other children in care have stepped up the plan. Things are moving.

And I find that during the day, I hug baby Z so tight and kiss him so much because I just want to hold on forever.


But I can't. 

Roller-coaster big feelings.

In spite of the fact that normal people, even even-keeled people, might have similar emotions, I fight the lie that I need to pretend to have it all put together.

Because I don't want people to look at me and think, "oh my, there goes that girl with big feelings again. Stay clear of her ... She'll emote all over the place."

Instead I want you guys to see me as I am -- well, mostly am -- a chill girl that loves to meet new people, learn about what makes them tick. I love coffee and connection, and it's even better when they are together. Some of my favorite people are my parents, siblings and in-laws. I love being with our families.

I'm highly motivated, and have a dream burning in my gut to make a difference. I have such a strong desire to change the world. I feel a connection to people who mourn, and want to support them in loss. 

I think too heavy sometimes, but I'm constantly thinking, challenging my beliefs of the world and my role in it.

One of my favorite things to do is launch a new person in my business, and help them get started on their dreams. I love to sing, be silly with my kids, have dance parties in the kitchen and play tickle monster on the floor.

When I love, I love hard and deep. When I am sad, it cuts to the core. When I am happy, life feels carefree and full of joy. And when one of my children make me angry, I have to be super careful not to lose my temper. (And sometimes J still do.)


I guess my fear is that when I share my big feelings with you, you think that is all I'm made of. That the other parts to me, or even the happy big feelings, get lost in translation. 

So that's why I sometimes hide my big feelings. Why do you hide yours?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

To Sam & Nia: On miscarrying and grieving in the public eye from someone who knows




Photo Credit: Sam & Nia/YouTube

Dear Nia and Sam,

When your first video went viral, I couldn't watch it. I didn't want to watch it. I thought it was sweet, and maybe interesting (how did he get your pee??), but something held me back.

You see, I've had 4 miscarriages. (Well, one was ectopic. But you know, an early loss). So pregnancy announcements aren't really my thing.

It wasn't until I saw your miscarriage announcement that I watched your pregnancy announcement video.

I had to know your joy before I could truly feel your pain.

I could relate to your joy. I could tell how it took all of two seconds after seeing the positive test before you were already envisioning not just a baby in your arms, but a baby right there at the breakfast table, enjoying mashed bananas and rice cereal. How in mere moments, your youngest, your "baby", suddenly became big brother.

The world watched as your entire life and mindset shifted. You were thinking of how to announce, and tell family and friends. How big your belly will get, and what kind of vlogs you'll do to track your pregnancy. You probably found out your due date right away, and envisioned that season with a newborn in it. Perhaps you thought about the nursery, and who you were going to move where to make it all work. Maybe you started setting up appointments, and skip your morning coffee, and find your mind wandering a million times to the joyful blessing growing inside you. Suddenly, your family of 4 became a growing family of 5.

And in just one split second, you knew life would never be the same again.




And your pain? I can relate. I know that empty feeling you spoke of. After the clots and tissue come out, you just feel better. And you hate your body for feeling better. Feeling your body cramp, watching the blood pour out  -- it is helpless and gut-wrenching. You can never really understand the pain of a miscarriage until you've been through one.

The loss of this baby will be something that is with you forever. There are no easy band-aid fixes for the loss of a child at any age or gestation.



As I have been watching the news of your loss spread (maybe not with the same intensity as your pregnancy announcement), I have also been watching the comments.

I kind of hope you aren't seeing them.

In case you are, I want to share with you just a little bit of my heart -- from someone who's been there. From someone whose blog has gone viral. Who has both been applauded and scorned for sharing the intimate details of early pregnancy and loss.

First -- and you already know this I'm sure -- there will be haters. But only for a time.

I wish there were no haters to bereaved families -- but even in a miscarriage that is relatively silent, there are still people who say the wrong things. Since your loss was so public, there will be more haters. There will be more people who don't hate but don't care. And more people who care and still say all the wrong things anyway. In this social media culture, too many would rather be right than be supportive.

So the haters are there -- but they will only be there for just a little bit. Their words sting, they hurt, but like mosquitoes, their effect will not last. They will rise up, accuse you of false hope, naivety or even worse, but then they will go away. Because they don't care enough to stick around. They only care enough to "prove" that they were right.

Like you would a pesky mosquito, wave that hater good-bye.

If the haters don't stay long, who will?

Supporters. People who love you, people who will wrap their arms around you, people who will pray for you more than you ever even knew. These are the people holding tight, checking your feed for any updates, praying without stopping and crying over your baby.

These people are gold.

Before my post went viral, I received some really heavy criticism of my view point. I was so heavily scorned, I contemplated taking the post down -- just so I didn't have to read people say things like "You have offended me AND offended all of my babies in heaven."

But I didn't take it down. And God used it. I mean, he used it bigger and better than I ever could have imagined.

And out of that, people I never would have met have come forward. They remember my baby's due dates. They have created art work for me. They have prayed and prayed and prayed for our family. They have celebrated with each child who has come into our home, and they have cried for each baby that goes to heaven too soon.

Your support is here. We are waiting to love on you. As much as you can, ignore the hurtful remarks. And cling to the blessing of support.


Your baby didn't live long. But through you, her life may reach more for Him than you could ever imagine.

After my post went viral -- affirming life and the value of miscarried babies -- I wrote a letter to the first baby I lost. I named her Olivia. I started my blog as a way to heal -- but also as a way to help someone else heal through their loss. I wondered if I could just reach one other person.

She has reached over a million people.

7 weeks of life. And a million people reached.

I know you wanted your baby here. And let's be real -- for a long time, it won't matter how many people your baby's life will change. You will want her here, with your other two kids. You would give anything to still have her in your belly. To be counting down till the due date. To pack your hospital bag and have baby showers. To watch her crawl for the first time. To feed her her first foods. To send her off to kindergarten. To watch her graduate. To walk her down the aisle. To be in the room as she gives birth to her own baby.

I get it. You would give it all to have that back.

The pain of your loss cannot be measured. But it will make a difference, I promise. A love like yours can't not make a difference. Your baby's life was not in vain. God will use it, He will use you, and someone's life will be forever changed because your baby lived for little time she was here.



Grieving by yourself can be hard. Grieving in the public eye can be harder in some ways. Don't let others complicate your grief by telling you how you should feel, what you should do, and when you should move forward.

I can't tell you how long you will be in deep grief. Everyone grieves differently. I can't tell you when you will wake up, and your first thought will not be your baby. I can't tell you when you will laugh again lightheartedly. I can't tell you when other people's pregnancy announcements will stop hurting. Or when you won't have triggers all day long remind you of who you are missing.

I can't tell you when your grief will lighten. But it will. Slowly.

You might feel guilty to think of not grieving as much as you are now. I was there too. I didn't WANT life to keep going, the world to keep spinning, for people to flit to and fro while my child was gone. I didn't want to be OK.

You don't have to hurry to get through it. You take whatever time you need. Don't let anyone rush you to feel better. They just want to see you happy again. They just care, and it hurts to see you hurt.

You can't rush grief. It demands it's own timeline, and no one can tell you what that is.

Just know that there is life here on the other side of it. You'll make it through. And in the meantime, grieve however is right for you. 


You are doing a good thing. Right now, our culture does it's very best to minimize the humanness of an unborn child. The sanctity of a new life. The value in a pregnancy ... Not in the dreams we have for our kids, but in the actual bodies and souls of our babies. 

You sharing your grief is one big testimony that loss matters. That each baby matters. That they are worthy to be mourned. 

When you celebrated your baby, the world was right there ready to celebrate with you. And now that you are mourning, they want to say things like "it was just early," or "you didn't ever see your baby," or "you can just try again."

For some reason, people struggle to admit that an early loss really is the loss of a child ... Even as they will totally celebrate that a positive pregnancy test means a baby is on its way.

As you grieve, other hurting women will feel not so alone. You will help them see that their feelings are normal as you share your own feelings. They will watch you walk through miscarriage, the bad, the ugly, and yes some of the good, and realize that if you could make it through, they could too.



In these days that seem impossibly hard ... Know that there's a whole community of grieving moms and dads here ready to lift you up in support and prayer,


Rachel

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

my friend's baby died yesterday.... Please pray

My friend Kristina reached out to me several months ago. I had posted a video on Facebook about a couple as the endured the death of their Trisomy 13 baby. She messaged me to let me know her baby was recently diagnosed with Trisomy 13 in utero, and would not be expected to live.

Through the last few months, we've kept in touch,  shared tears and and prayed together.

Today was the day's she was scheduled to be induced ... But her baby boy made his entrance into the workd yesterday. He lived a few minutes before leaving for Jesus' arms.

Many of you are bereaved moms. You know this pain ... Even in ways I don't.

Please be lifting up my friend, her husband, and their two children up to God as the endure the loss and grief.

Here is a bit about her baby Ezekiel:


"But for now I want to tell you a little bit about our boy, that "did not go gentle into that good night." He held on so strong and for so long. He was a fighter. He grew and survived with a broken body for a miraculous 36 weeks inside my womb, with almost no amniotic fluid, or space to move or grow. He managed to hold on longer still, through the stress of labor. And against all odds, and a body not made for taking a breath, he lived long enough for us to meet him and marvel at his miracle, love on him, and give our goodbye. I am so very proud of him for holding on and giving us that gift. 

Ezekiel was a little over 2 1/2 lbs. He had a head full of dark hair, the sweetest lips, and the tiniest, perfect little fingernails and toenails. Adoration and Asa were able to meet him after he had passed. We had to cover some of Ezekiel's face, but they saw him and touched Ezekiel's little feet and toes and told him they loved him. I'm so thankful for those moments. "

If you would like to know more of her story, here is her Caring Bridge site. 

Thanks for lifting up Kristina and her family with me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

On your should-have-been birthday



Hey there baby Olivia.

You're not so baby anymore, you know that?

You were due to arrive safely in my arms three years ago today. Well, at least that was the plan. You know how plans go. And you definitely know how this plan went.

Looking back, I can't believe how much I've changed in the last 3 years. I look older.  I hope I don't look QUITE the 32 I am -- but I can see how much grief has aged me. It's kinda ridiculous actually.

You know the "hope deferred makes the heart sick" thing? Well, apparently it causes wrinkles too.

I'm stronger now. And weaker. Sometimes I think I break more easily now. Other times, I think I had no idea what I was actually capable of handling. (With God of course. Never on my own.)

In those 3 years, I've learned that everyone has a story. I used to think "us" and "them." Those who have experienced pregnancy loss -- and those who haven't. While all pain is pain, some pain has a different flavor. I've learned not to expect other people to understand who haven't walked in my shoes. Afterall, I know nothing of the pain of an affair, or infidelity, or the loss of child you got to hold. These are things I can't understand -- but even if I don't get the right flavor of pain . . . pain is still pain. And there are a lot of us here on earth going through it.

If 3 years ago you would have told me that I would go on to lose 3 more babies in early pregnancy, I would have probably lost so much more of my will to keep going. Losing you was enough. It has always been enough. If you had told me that I would likely never go on to have a successful pregnancy . . . If someone had said, "By the way, welcome to infertility . . ." I might have just given up hope.

It's a good thing we don't always get a heads up on the challenges coming our way.

You were the last baby I truly had hope for. The last due date where I actually expected that someone was going to be due. You were the last time I jumped into love the moment that second line appeared.

3 years ago today, I should have been either getting ready to give birth or have a new baby in my arms. Today, I should be celebrating a birthday, or planning a party for you. (Ok, let's be real. My parties take very little planning. You would have decorated cupcakes and we would have had family over for cake, coffee & ice cream. And then you would have gotten spoiled by all the people loving on you with gifts.)

You and me -- we have a lot of shoulds. Should haves, should have dones. should have beens . . .

But here on earth, the shoulds mean nothing. Well, they mean something to us. But in how life plays out, they mean nothing. They are empty, they are illusions, they are dreams never realized.

Our story is something I wouldn't have chosen. Not in a million years. In my story, I would have chosen you to be with me always. (Or at least until college, and then I would have settled for weekends. And summers. Until you got married, or moved out. But then you really would have needed to visit. Especially if you were bringing grandchildren with you!)

In spite of all the empty "should haves" between you and me -- God has still done a lot. He brought us your sister and your brother.  And sometimes I wonder, dear girl, if He has used your short 7 weeks you were with us to impact more people through our story than you could have in your own lifetime.

Heaven only knows.

It's time for me to get to bed. I think you would have probably given your mama a lot more rest than Z and Leyla do -- but they always wake up at 6 am, no matter how late they go to bed.

One last thing before I go -- Remember how I used to sing on worship team before you left us? And then I stopped because all I could do is cry during worship. And crying on stage doesn't really HELP anyone else worship. Well, today, I followed up on a calling I've felt for over a year now. I joined the worship team again. On the anniversary of the due date that never was -- I've restarted a passion of mine. Even as we're a spiritual world apart, we're praising our Father together. I love that this happened on your should-have-been-birthday.

Happy (almost) birthday my love.

Wish I could squeeze you tight.

Mommy


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Why keeping our own kids safe is simply not enough






Recently, I saw a news trend on my Facebook account. "Suicide bomber kills 16 people in Nigeria."

For whatever reason, I clicked on it. And it only took seconds for me to be absolutely appalled. You see, the headline just made it sound like a "typical" suicide bomber. I assumed a man, maybe in his thirties or forties, from a radical religious or political group. 

Holy cow, people, this was NOT who that was.


"A 10-year old girl killed 16 people in a suicide bombing in the northeastern Nigeria city of Damaturu on Sunday. The girl detonated her explosives next to a crowded market as shoppers were being screened by security services. According to the BBC, around 50 people were injured."

She was a 10-year-old little girl. 

10. 

My daughter is 6, but it is close enough to 10 to know that this is a child who deserved to be playing, skipping, hopping, riding bikes and going to school. 

NOT being strapped down with explosives, with so much fear instilled in her, that she pulled the trigger.

I need you to see something for me. So often, we hear statistics, and ages, and we just let the fog of their anonymity cloud our hearts to protect us.

Can we all just let the fog lift for a moment?

This is my daughter, Maddy. She is 6 and a half, and she is precious, and she deserves a life.

Can you please picture in your mind my daughter's face, picture her body strapped down with explosives? Can you imagine her terror?















Can you SEE with me that this 10-year-old is no less deserving of care, and protection, and LIFE than my own daughter is? 

Can you please just imagine the last moment's of this girl's life with me? Can you feel her racing heart, and her trembling, fumbling hands? Can you smell the aromas of food wafting around her in the market place? The people shuffling by, boys and girls close to her age. Men and women. Who will it be, she wonders? Who will die, and who will make it?

Or perhaps she doesn't even know. Does she understand what will happen when she pulls the trigger?

Was she kidnapped? Or had she grown up in this home, the one that filled her with a fear big enough she couldn't run to authorities, couldn't ask a grown-up for help, couldn't say "no."

Who was she? And truth be told, do we even care?


Also this week, a lion named Cecil was killed in Africa.

 And the world went up in arms. 

Admittedly, I didn't care about the lion. 

Maybe I would have cared more if days before I hadn't read about a no-named 10-year-old African girl who had been murdered, and was forced to kill others in her murder, and was labeled as a suicide bomber. As though 10-year-old girls CHOOSE to be suicide bombers.

There was no war cry for justice. No demands for the name or face of the murderer. 

Her life slipped from this world with a bang, and none of us paused long enough to notice.

Not a single person on my feed posted about the girl.

Not even me.





Last weekend, I watched a movie that changed me. It was The Woman in Gold.

It was a WWII movie ... But unlike many Holocaust movies, this showed nothing of death camps, and families stripped naked, shivering and starving.

The terror in this movie actually sits far too close to home.

I think when we see humans stripped of their dignity to such an extent as the Nazis did the Jews, and is often portrayed in movies (shaving heads, separating families, taking away clothes, starving of food, and killing at random), it is so far outside our context of the world today, that we almost just stand back emotionally and watch.

We detach. We can't relate.

It feels like that happened a million years ago.

But to watch The Woman in Gold is to see the Holocaust in a whole new light. To see the Holocaust as if it were happening to us, today. To our friends, our neighbors, our doctor, our lawyer.

I know that the Jews were targeted in the Holocaust. But until watching this movie, it never occurred to me to think about all the other non-Jews that neither contributed to the genocide, nor did they impede it.

THEY JUST SIMPLY STOOD BY AND WATCHED IT HAPPEN.


Maybe it was through propaganda, or political pressure, or the fear that something would happen to them and their own children.

But no matter what the excuse, their inaction really came down to "as long as it's not happening to me and my family, I'm going to turn a blind eye." 

There was one scene ... Just a blip really ... Where a well-off father, mother and daughter were taken from their home. The mom was sobbing, and you just knew what was going to happen to this family.

That could have been us, people. It could have been us, having police come into our homes, take our children from us, and ultimately murder us.  But by the grace of God, we were born decades later, or in a different part of the world.

Thank God this is not my reality. But at the end of the movie, I felt just like one of the non-Jews, burying my head in the sand. I know atrocities are around, and yet I am so insistent on keeping my own little world, my own little people safe, my own mental state happy and content that I willingly turn a blind eye. 

Because as long as my people are safe, I shouldn't let it affect me too much, right? 





Also this week, an 8-year-old girl named Maddy was sexually assaulted, raped and murdered by a 15-year-old boy. She was lured into his family apartment while she was riding along on her scooter. 

I have cried many tears this week for this girl I'll never know. 



And if there hasn't already been enough horrific violence just this week, videos have come out showing the gruesome remains of aborted babies. I have watched a video of a baby's severed hand laying on a Petri dish. And I want to say it was shocking, except it wasn't.

Deep down, I want to be shocked, I want to be angrier at this loss of life, I want to be nauseous inside that this is happening.

Except I feel somewhat numb.  As if it has already happened in my heart.


It is the thing that has happened to the Nazis and the non-Jewish people. The same thing that has happened to the men who strapped a 10-year-old child with explosives, forever labeling her a suicide bomber. The same thing that happened the 15-year-old boy that raped and murdered Maddy. The same thing that I see so much all around me, I've become numb to it.


The dehumanization of humans.

The belief that a person is nothing but an object, or a tool, for political propaganda. That women and men (and now girls and boys) have no rights to their own bodies ... But they are merely objects to satisfy others. 

The belief that humans are not really humans and deserving of all rights unless they are old enough, big enough, strong enough, the right color, the right gender, the right race, with the right abilities, and the right financial means in the right part of the world and on the right side of the  womb. (And we must know them, or have some sort of connection to them, or at least be able to relate to them, right?)


Friends, the last thing in the world that I want to do is bury my head in the sand when 10-year-old girls are being murdered as political trump cards and 15-year-olds boys believe rape and murder of a child is OK. I don't want to stand by numb. I don't want to be so afraid of afraid of offending people when I say killing humans inside the womb is wrong.

I don't want to look back on my life and say, "Oh my goodness. There was a holocaust happening. And I turned my eyes and refused to look."

I'm not relishing in the defunding of Planned Parenthood movement. But I just can't sit back and watch the dehumanization of people anymore. I can't watch as we teach our kids that life isn't life. That life is a choice. That someone else's life depends on your wants or needs.

And maybe it starts with Planned Parenthood, but it also has to be more.





I know that was the second prayer on my lips this week, after the prayer for God to open my eyes to the suffering I was ignoring. And now that I see it, I'm crying out and asking how I could possibly do anything to save these lives and affirm their humanity. All of humanity. Not just the pre-born ones, or the white ones, or the one that reside on my continent. But all of humanity.


It has to be the movies we choose not to watch. Are we filling our minds with images of women who are objectified as sex objects? Do we watch women being tortured or murdered for the sake of entertainment? Are we allowing ourselves to become numb to violence, abuse and death so that when it happens in the news or in real life, we can no longer feel the horror of it?

Do we have boundaries in our homes around the internet? Are we talking with our kids about porn, and it's effects? Are we discussing the ideas of consent?

When we see an injustice, are we turning our heads? Do we ignore current events because it is just too hard for us to read? What about for the people living it?

Are we making our homes available for children in need? Are we willing to give to moms who need support, or do we hoard what we are given?

We can't simply take one thing away and expect our society to be so much better.  You and me. We have to step up. We have to stop being the non-Jews in the midst of a Holocaust, burying our heads and just trying to keep our own families SAFE.


I don't know all the answers. I'm certainly not here to give any easy ones.

I can't even tell you where this all will lead me.

But I know that if I have any integrity left in my bones, it's going to lead to action.

I will not let my children say of me,

SHE JUST SIMPLY STOOD BY AND WATCHED IT HAPPEN.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

10 ways to help a foster child without being a foster parent




As I write this short blog on my phone, I'm cradling Baby Z --- our foster son of almost a year --- in my arms. 

He's fitfully sleeping. I just finished singing "You are my sunshine" ... always keenly aware that the words, "You'll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away..." ring much truer than I would like.

Many of you have told us that you respect our role as foster parents. Some of you have asked how we are going to do it ... you know ... the "giving back" part. (I usually tell you I have no idea how to give a baby back. We haven't done that yet.)

Most of you conclude by saying that you could never do what we do.


In case you still want to help ... but truly believe you can't be a foster parent yourself (yet) ... I want to give you some ideas on how to still help foster children. Because I know your heart (it's awesome), and I know there is still so much left you can do --- even if you can't take a child long-term into your home.


1. Provide meals for foster families when they receive a placement. (And by placement, I really mean a child.)

God made it so that most families have an average of 9 months to prepare physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually for a new baby to enter a family. That gives time to not only grow a human, but also to make freezer meals, hold baby showers, do registries, prepare nurseries, purchase appropriate clothing, and nest to your heart's content.

Foster families only get about 24 hours notice before taking a child (give or take 23 hours). And that's if they are lucky.

Foster care moves quickly ... Usually, it seems ONLY in this stage ... And as a parent, it is OVERWHELMING. 

I have gotten the call about a baby in the morning, and was told to be ready to pick her up, brand-spanking-new, at the hospital that afternoon. 

No matter how much you think you have the room ready, it's not quite enough. You don't know the gender or the age of the child that is going to be placed in your home, till you get the call. You don't know what they will come with --- in our case, only a week's worth of clothes for our foster son. (And we had 0 boy clothes on hand.)

Not only is it hard to prepare, but with a new child, a social worker has to come to the house within 24 hours. You have SO many appointments those first few weeks, it is crazy. There is paperwork, doctor's appointments, sometimes court to attend, day care to set up ... The list is long and crazy.

Plus you have a child that has changed living situations, is living now with strangers, and is likely stressed and possibly traumatized.

All that to say ... Preparing for a child in 24 hours is a lot of work, and stress, and chaos ... Even if the foster parents are happy to do it. A meal would be a ginormous, super amazing, mega huge thing to do for foster families. Like really. Huge like the Hulk. A REALLY BIG DEAL.

If you are far away, consider sending a gift card to a pizza place or take-out restaurant. Or volunteer to organize meals via Mealtrain.

Vow that if a foster family you know gets a new child, you'll let them know meals will be the last thing they have to worry about.

2. Give or lend clothes, age-appropriate toys and books.

After having two girls, all our clothes were decidedly pink, purple or princess. When Baby Z came along ... Well, he didn't have a chance. (And yes, for awhile, his pajamas were quite girly. Sometimes, they still are.) 

Our toys were equally girly. Sure, we had some blocks and Legos and a few other gender neutral toys, but our one and only dump truck was pink and purple. (No joke.)

I'll always remember when my friend Maria came by and dropped off a few bags of boy clothes, plus several boy books and toys. (FINALLY --- a proper boy truck for the boy!) 

I'll also be forever indebted to my girlfriend Alex, for lending me tons of hand-me-downs, helping me keep Z looking good for over 6 months.

A stranger on a local "buy for baby" Facebook group GAVE me her jumper she had originally posted for sale, just because we were foster parents.

These were all huge blessings!

Before you gather up all your unwanted baby items, send them to Goodwill, hold a garage sale, or post them on Craigslist or Facebook ... Call or message your foster friends to see if they need anything.

If you don't know any foster families personally, Google "foster care agencies" then give them a call. Ask if they need any donations of clothes or toys. 

If there are no agencies, call your local DSHS. They have to stock visitation rooms (rooms designated for bio families to visit the kids in a secure, supervised location) with toys, puzzles, books, and baby gear. Many times, they could use some new-to-them toys.

If you have clothes to donate, check in with your local foster care clothing closet.

Your unwanted, unnecessary items to YOU could be a huge blessing for a foster family, and lift a big financial burden from their shoulders. So start giving and start lending!

3. Throw a baby shower for your friends who are fostering.

If you have friends that have just announced they are fostering, or are hoping to adopt from foster care, offer to throw them a shower. While you will always want to check with the foster couple first, I think this is even more important if the family is fostering or adopting because they don't already have biological children. Why make them miss out on this really fun part of becoming a family?

I know this might seem a little untraditional, as foster children are often not permanent additions to the family. But if someone is getting licensed, throw them a shower anyway. They have lots of purchases they'll need to make in order to get their home foster ready. For instance, even though our crib was perfectly safe and in great shape, we had to purchase a brand-new crib because of a state law, just to get licensed. 

You can also help them get caught up on the basics. Do they have a double-stroller if they are intending to take a sibling set? Do they have gift cards for diapers, formula, wipes and clothes? Do they have bedding for the crib, and a smorgasbord of toys or books to keep on hand? 

If a foster child's parental rights have been terminated, and the foster family is moving forward with an adoption, now is the perfect time to offer to celebrate the joyful addition to their family. The focus at this point might not be so much on preparing for baby --- as in many cases, the child has already been living with the family. But this is an opportunity for you to celebrate with them, and let them know that you are just as much in support of their family growing as you would be if they were giving birth.

4. Take their picture.

Are you a photographer? Are you just really handy with a camera? Offer to give their new family, and especially their child, a portrait. While a family portrait is likely not something they'll want to do right away, it can be an amazing gift to parents when their foster child is about to return home. 

It is also a gift to the foster child. Most foster children don't have access to photos of themselves. Help give that child memories to take with them once they leave.


5. Volunteer. 

Our foster agency, West Sound Youth for Christ, holds quarterly trainings for us foster parents. You may not know this, but like physicians and nurses, we are required by state law to do continuing education. 

To help us meet our ongoing training requirements, our agency holds a dinner and training night for our family ... Complete with childcare. Volunteers help prepare and serve our dinner, and watch our kids.

You could be that volunteer! 


6. Organize an Angel Tree at your church for Christmas ... Or purchase gifts for a child featured on the tree.

Our agency partnered with our church this year to provide Christmas gifts to children in care.

Most states DO give a monthly stipend to foster parents who have taken in a child... But that stipend has to cover clothing, food, formula, diapers, wipes, activity expenses, school expenses, extracurricular activities and more. For homes who have taken in several children (or already have several children of their own), Christmas can be somewhat of a financial burden. 

This year, even though we did not request it, Z was placed on a tree, and received many clothes, books and toys. And when he moves back into his bio parent's house, he'll definitely be taking these along with him.

7. Pray.

Foster care is amazing ... And hard. Rewarding... And hard. Totally worth it ... And hard. 


Cover foster families in prayer. Pray for their marriages, and the other children in their home. Pray for healing of children's emotional and physical wounds.

Pray extra hard during transitions. Pray for God's protection on this family as Satan seriously does not like to see his work go undone. And pray for the bio families as well. 

I'm constantly amazed at the people who have told us they pray for our family. Seriously guys. One of the best things you can do. Loving a child like your own and then letting them go takes a super-human love and super-human strength. It is basically God in us. So pray for us. And pray hard.

8. Provide respite.

Did you know that is some states, you can babysit foster children, even overnight, without being licensed? 

In Washington state, trusted friends and families can care for a child for up to 48 hours without having to be licensed. This is JUST enough time for a couple to get away for a weekend, reconnect, and put some of the stress of foster care behind them ... At least for a while.

When Z was not sleeping (and by that, I mean he was waking up anywhere from every 20 minutes to 6 times a night), friends Jessica and Jamel took Z for a weekend ... So Ryan and I could get some much needed sleep. This was another really.big.deal. (Sleep and food are pretty much at the top of my priority list, can you tell?)

You can also get licensed JUST to provide respite. Respite is overnight, state-paid babysitting for foster kids. You don't have to take a child long-term, and you get to decide when, the ages, and how long you want to provide respite ... But this is a HUGE need that doesn't require a long-term commitment. 

Currently, because of vaccination laws, there is a shortage of homes for foster babies under age 2. And this means that finding respite through our agency is extremely difficult, as they have lost half of the homes that were available to these children. 

If you think you could love on some children for a weekend, or a week or two ... Contact an agency and find out how you can become licensed for respite.

9. Donate. 

Some foster parents have extra needs. Like this family here. Meet my friend Shellie. She is caring for 7 children, 2 of them medically-fragile foster kids, in spite of her chronic health issues and crazy busy schedule. In order for them to continue caring for these two children, they need to purchase a 12-passenger van, as Shellie can no longer drive at nights --- making their current system of taking two cars everywhere impossible. 

If you have been blessed with extra, consider giving to a foster family in need.

Or donate to a non-profit foster agency, like Youth for Christ. 

10. Become a foster parent.

Ok, ok. I said you didn't have to become a foster parent to help.  And clearly there are LOTS of ways to help without getting licensed yourself. But you can't SERIOUSLY expect me to write a post about helping foster kids without mentioning becoming a foster parent yourself, can you?

I just want to encourage you to mull it around for a while. Call an agency or DSHS and find out what's involved. Talk to your partner. Look at your house and see if there's room for two more little feet.

I'm not saying foster care is for everyone . . . but that's the point, right? It's not really FOR US.

It's for hurting, abused, neglected kids who need love, security, and a place to call H-O-M-E.

You don't have to have a lot of living space, be the perfect parent, be a stay-at-home parent, have tons of nice things or a huge income to be a foster parent. You need love, and patience, and the willingness to be inconvenienced for the sake of a child.

We all see horrible news stories every night of children that are taken from abusive situations, or have been neglected, sexually abused, and sometimes murdered. We have seen with our eyes ... Even if we didn't want to --- the plight of these hurting kids. 

Yes, they system is far from perfect, and yes, it's hard. (I think I mentioned that a time or three.) But it is worth it.

As part of our family's legacy, we can say that we have taken in a child who was starved for love and nutrition, helped him catch up completely, given him the tools to love and attach to others, and know what it means to have a family. And this legacy is one that our own children will grow up knowing. (Not to mention the fact that one of my own children would not be here of it weren't for us taking the plunge, and deciding to do foster care.)

How amazing would it be for this to be your legacy too? 

You can do respite, receiving care, adoption only, short-term or long-term care ... You can take babies from the hospital or college students who need a home to go to on weekends and holidays. You choose what you are comfortable saying "yes" to.

So before you just say, "I can't do it . . . " I want you to ask yourself, "What if I can?"

No matter which of the 10 ways you choose to help without becoming foster parent  (OK, OK, it's really 9 ways) . . . let's lock arms and start changing these kids' lives one meal, one toy, one outfit, one prayer, and one sleepless night at a time. 

Because THEY ARE WORTH IT.





















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