Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dear Mr. Eyelashes,

This Thursday you will be 9 months old.

Yesterday marked 7 months that you have been with me.

I am so helplessly in love with you that sometimes it overwhelms my heart and I forget to breathe. You are the brightest, most beautiful, loving child that I have ever met and I see a spark in your eyes that I know nothing will ever be able to extinguish. When you're asleep in your bed, my arms itch to hold you. When you're not with me, I miss you so much that my heart aches for you by the end of the day. I crave hearing your little voice. My heart skips a beat every time you look at me and smile. 

The past 7 months have been like a dream. It's almost as if I've been living a page from someone else's life. In a way, I have. 

You see, precious one, when the time comes, I will have to pack your bags. You won't know what I'm doing. You'll sit and watch me with your bright little eyes, never doubting my presence or my devotion to you. And you shouldn't doubt those things, because they will never waver. No matter where you end up, I will only be a call away. And while my devotion to you will change shape, it will never ever dissipate. I will always and forever love you, support you, pray for you, smile when I think of you. 

When the time comes, I will hand you off to another. One you will call Mommy for the rest of your life. She will adore you, love you, raise you, pray for you. 

I don't know if you'll ever remember your time living with me. How we snuggled for hours and hours. How I sang a special song to you everyday. How we danced around the house, tripping over the dog the whole time. How I rubbed your left eyebrow when you were sleepy in my arms. How we read books and watched shows about Alaska together. How I told you I loved you at least 68,000 times a day. How you grew teeth, learned how to sit all by yourself, realized you did like baby food, made new sounds almost everyday, felt a doggy's love, patience, protection and devotion, learned that the cat is never to be trusted when all you want to do is pet him, began rolling over and scooting, and so so much more.

Chances are, you won't remember those things. But I do hope that you'll remember that you were loved unconditionally. Please don't ever doubt that. Saying goodbye to you will be the hardest thing that I've ever had to do. Letting go of you and putting you in another's arms will rock my world. But I'll be okay after a while, and so will you. I will move on with life, just as you will. We will both learn that loving someone so deeply, only to lose them, doesn't shatter and destroy your heart. It shatters it so that when God picks up the pieces and puts them back together, He does so in a way that leaves more room than we ever had before. He grows our capacity to love so that we can do more, serve more, be more, love more.

At this point, I don't know what your future will hold. I do know, though, that I get at least a few more months of watching you grow and learn. A few more months of your snuggles. A few more months of your laugh. A few more months of your eyes. A few more months to love you even more ferociously than before. 

Mr. Eyelashes, you are my bestest boy, my favorite love... For always.

Friday, February 14, 2014

In Honor of the Dumb Little Flying Baby Who Shoots People in the Butt with Darts

You can call him Cupid if you want to, but I like the other name better...

So I've been pondering some things as of late. In my pondering, I've realized that there are some things I know about myself, and some things I don't. Today, on a day dedicated to love, and in honor of Cupid, I'm going to make a list of these things, but all through the lense of being single.

Things I KNOW for sure and for certain about myself:
1. Sometimes I'm okay with being single, and sometimes I'm not. So maybe this should be on my Don't Know list, but at least I know I waver between the two.
2. I'm not an ogre. I used to subscribe to the belief that I was a hideous beast, but I think that's only because that's what society tells girls they should believe about themselves. I've dropped that subscription, though. Now, does that mean I'm a super model? No, I like to eat. I think that nutrients are important for my body so that means you'll probably never see me on a billboard for Gap. Other than that little detail, I'm pretty. I like the way I look. Will everyone agree with me on that? No, but that's okay... Just don't tell me if you don't, please. :)
3. I'm relatively healthy. I can at least fend for myself. And if things go as planned, I'll be even healthier once I actually start eating better. (That's a whole different blog post in itself.)
4. I can be kind of funny. Sometimes. Once you spend a good bit of time with me, I'm sure the laughing probably ceases, but I can at least crack some good ones every now and then.
5. I am moody. Maybe it's because I'm a woman. Maybe it's because I've lived alone for so long. Maybe it's just the way God made me. I can even attribute this to being right there on the line between extrovert and introvert, but I'm not sure if that's the reason or not. The why of this can go on my Don't Know list, but I can go from feeling great and sociable one day to being a weirdo-loner the next.
6. I HATE yard work. It is a bane to my existence and I would rather chop my leg off than do it.
7. I am in no way, shape or form, a good housekeeper. My house is usually messy (clean, but messy) and I don't always put things away (or never, whatever...), but maybe I'll grow up one day and get better at it. I'm not holding my breath though.
8. When I buy into something new, I will be gung-ho for two weeks, and then I tend to fall off the wagon and totally forget about it. At least I'm good for two weeks, right?

Things I DON'T KNOW about myself:
1. As mentioned before, I don't really know for sure if I'm okay with being single or not. 
2. I have no clue why I'm moody at times. My mom calls it "peculiar" and says I get it from my dad. Don't tell her, but I think she's probably right. 
3. Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with me in that I have not yet gotten married, nor am I anywhere close to it.

Now, both of those lists could be much longer, but in the interest of saving you some time, and me some dignity, I stopped at that.

The rest of this post will be focused on #3 on the Don't Know list...
3. Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with me in that I have not yet gotten married, nor am I anywhere close to it.

Growing up, there was one friend that had a "list" that was longer than everyone else's put together. If you're a woman, you know exactly which "list" I'm referring to. If you're a man, well, I don't know. You may have one, you may not... I've never been a man, so I don't really know... I digress... This one girl, though, hers was long and detailed. Like, ridiculously long and detailed. We always kind of thought that her list was so long that she never marry because no guy would ever make the cut. Well, she's married now. I have no clue if her husband meets all of those requirements or if she decided against some of the pickier things on it, but I'm glad it all worked out for her, either way.

As for my list, I never wrote it out (that I can remember), but I do know that it was much longer back then than it is now. You may be wondering about what in the world would be on a 31 year old single gal's list... I'm glad you asked, because I'm about to tell you, so ready yourself...

1. He must be a Christian.
2. He has to either have all of his teeth or be willing to wear his teeth while out in public. (Really kind of hoping for the first option there, but hey... I don't discriminate.)
3. He must be open to foster care.

So when I think about it, it's encouraging that I only have 3 things on my list... That's amazing, right? Wrong. The kicker, it seems, is #3. 

I never imagined that I would have found my ministry before being married. I never imagined that I would be 31 and single. Ha! I was so sure that I would get married shortly after graduating college. I mean, depending on your definition of shortly, maybe I'm still within that time frame, but I'm thinking probably not. But the truth is, I know what God has called me to do. 

I am a foster parent. 

It's hard, frustrating, and can get very gritty and grimy in these trenches, but it's part of who I am. It's part of how I now define myself. And this, my friends, I am not willing to give up... Even if he has the most beautiful teeth I've ever laid eyes on...

I know that compromising on this matter will set me up for a lifetime of disappointment and knowing that I'm not operating in God's calling on my life. It's just not worth it.

So in conclusion, if you have recently had a conversation with your amazingly strong Christian neighbor/nephew/cousin/coworker/dentist/doctor/friend/son/brother/mailman who, with his full set of teeth, told you that he feels that foster care is his ministry and that he can't wait to be a foster dad... Send him my way. Otherwise, Cupid can keep his distance.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

We. Need. You.

She has so many reasons to lose it, to let go and give herself over to her emotions... Grief, anxiety, fear, exhaustion, despair, and anger.

But yet, she has so many more reasons to stay strong. Love, hope, responsibilities, commitment, persistence, her kids... Her calling.

She walks into the room with her face showing the obvious signs of tears, a cascade of them. This is not a weak woman. This is a woman who spends more time on her knees for her children, both bio and foster, than anyone else I know. This is a woman who speaks the name and healing power of Jesus to the kids in her care. This is a woman to whom most of us in the foster care community look to for guidance, help, and encouragement. This is a woman after God's own heart. 

It's hard for me to see the tears, but it's not hard for me to imagine why she's crying.

Foster care is not for the feint of heart. It is hard. It is frustrating. It is scary. It is grief. It's children who have been hurt in ways that makes you want to throttle the person who did it to them. It's children who have never been loved and therefore don't know how to accept your love, no matter how hard you try. It's children who do not trust adults because they have been betrayed too many times before. It's families who are broken and hurting, angry, needy, desperate. 

Living in the realm of foster care is living in a state of perpetual brokenness. The fear of what might happen at their next visit. The agony of listening to a child weep for their mommy in your arms, while knowing they may never be with mommy again. The knot in the pit of your stomach as you wait in the family court waiting room to see what the judge has decided about the fate of the child that you love. The intensity of behaviors that happen when a child has been damaged and broken, and is looking for solace and comfort the only way they know how. The day that is fast approaching, in which you will send them off to a new home while praying that they continue to heal, are safe, and seek after God.

So as I listen to her cry on the row behind me, as I listen to her pray for the One to heal the little one that is so broken, I know where she is. I've been there and I'll be there again in the future. It's certainly not a question of if we get there, it's a question of when. The moment when all we can do is cry out to the Father, hoping for a miracle. 

No, foster care is not a ministry for the weak. It's not a ministry for just the few who have been called. It's a ministry for ALL of us. Foster parents need your support. We need your prayers. We need your hugs and encouragement. We need a community to help us raise this broken child, so that they are pointed to Jesus every step of the way. We need you.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Paradigm Shift: Switching out the Preposition

A few weeks ago, I posted this on Facebook...

It was much to my surprise that someone I grew up playing ball with told me that she wanted to get it for me. To be honest, it made me a little uncomfortable because I definitely had not actually expected anyone to actually get it for me. I have been learning the very humbling lesson of how to accept gifts, though, so I gave her my address and that was that.

Only, that wasn't that. I kept thinking about it. Why in the world would she even give that post a second glance? What prompted her to do this... To go out of her way and buy something so trivial for someone she hasn't seen since high school? I haven't done anything for her... Oh my goodness, I need to think of a way to thank her. Why is it that she thought about doing this for me and is asking nothing in return? THIS IS SO WEIRD!!

These questions continued to plague me. Maybe they bothered me so badly because I just didn't understand the 'why' behind it. I didn't understand it because it wasn't a part of how I operated. Not that I have some hidden agenda behind every gift I give, or every act of kindness I do... But I can assure you that, for the most part, they are not expectation free. There's usually something in it for me. Even if it's just a hug, a kind word, or even being a little but more respected in their eyes... There's something.

So after a couple of weeks had passed, my mind wasn't quite so occupied with my previous dilemma. Not to mention, snowpocalypse came about and pretty much everything else besides getting myself and the baby home safely was driven far far away from my brain.

Then yesterday came and I got a lovely surprise visit from Brooke. As I sat talking with my precious friend, she told me something that completely shifted my way of thinking.

We shouldn't do things for others, but to them.

I remember staring at her with uncomprehending eyes for at least three seconds before understanding unfurled in front of me. Everything I knew about serving others just did a complete 180 in the moment that I understood what she was saying.

As she was telling me about her situation, the picture became more and more clear. This precious friend was telling me that she had been hoping to get love and acceptance by doing little acts of service for someone. When that person didn't react in the way that she expected, when she didn't feel loved or accepted, she was left feeling hurt and betrayed. After God began changing her heart and showing her what it meant to simply serve others with no agenda, she began questioning her motives behind her actions. As she was able to start doing those acts of service without any expectations or even desire for something in return, she began feeling at peace with the situation. 

When we do things for others, there is some expectation of repayment. We may not even realize it, but we expect something in return from that person. Even if it's simply to be treated with respect or to receive a compliment, there's an expectation.

On the other hand, when we do things to others, there's no expectation of anything in return. For so long, the word 'to' in this capacity meant that the action was negative. Think with me for a second at the wording that usually accompanies these two separate prepositions...

"Did you hear? She just did the nicest thing for him."
"Did you hear? She just did the meanest thing to him."

When you do something not quite so pleasant to someone, of course you don't want any payback! When I was younger and my brother and I would get into a fight, we wouldn't do something mean to the other hoping that they would pay us back in turn. That would be stupid.

The flip side indicates that when you do something nice for someone, you would like to at least get a "thank you," if not something more. Whatever the motive is behind it, it is still doing the deed for gain. 

As I have been pondering this over the past couple of days, I've asked myself how in the world I would even know if my motive behind doing something for someone was purely out of love or if I had my own expectations attached to it. By my reaction to their reaction, of course. How many times have I done something for someone, no matter how big or small, and been disappointed by that person's reaction? Umm, 1,673,249 times. Or at least close to it. 

Although touch is my primary love language (I'm sure that surprises you), acts of service and giving gifts are my secondary ways to show someone that I love them. If I'm completely honest, I have to admit that most of the time, if the person that I am giving something to or serving in some way doesn't react the way I think they should, my feelings will be hurt. Now, that doesn't mean that I walk around weeping about it or that I show my disappointment outwardly in any way. Eventually, though, these little moments of disappointment will chip away at the relationship until I walk away, leaving it to crumble. 

This, my friends, is SO NOT FAIR to the other person. I am essentially expecting them to read my mind and do things the way I think they should be done. So... Note to self, Erin; people are not mind readers. 

This habit of mine will be something very hard to conquer. It is ingrained in us from an early age that when someone gives you something, you promptly give a thank you note. When someone does something for you, you look for ways to "pay them back." This also works in the reverse.

This, thank God, is NOT the model that Jesus lived out for us to see. 

Jesus didn't die for us, He died to us. He doesn't expect repayment. In fact, there's nothing we could ever do to repay the debt. There's no amount of money that would be large enough, there's no amount of service hours that would be long enough, there's no amount of good deeds that would cover that debt. The debt is too large. But the good news is that it's technically not a debt. If Jesus did expect repayment, it would be. But because it was given to us freely, free and clear of any future payback or expectations to be met, it is a gift. The gift.

Therein lies my motivation to give freely and without any strings attached.


One of the funny things to me about God is His sense of irony. There is absolutely no way that the timing of this could have been due to anything but God...

As I walked up to my front door yesterday afternoon (after having had my hefty conversation with Brooke that left my mind reeling) lugging a giant school bag, purse, diaper bag, and car seat, I spotted a little box on my welcome mat. I honestly couldn't remember what I had ordered. Interest piqued, I opened it as soon as I got inside and found the object that had started the process of priming me to be ready to hear and take this new way of thinking to heart...

Ali, thank you for being a part of this... and coincidentally... I. LOVE. IT!!