Category Archives: Foster parenting

Baptist Lizards and Farting Sinks

BasiliskBC, my foster son, moved to his new home nine days ago. Those nine days have been filled with a disorienting swirl of mixed emotions. This morning I’m enjoying a welcome pause in the swirl as I remember two of my favorite, funny moments with that delightful boy.

BC loved to search our backyard for lizards, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and butterflies. A book about lizards became a mainstay at bedtime for several weeks. One day, as I weeded a flower bed, BC called out from the porch, “I see one of those big black lizards!!!”

“A skink?” I asked.

“A skink! He stinks!” There was a short pause. “Is he a reptile?”

“Yes, he’s a reptile.”

“Is he…a Baptist?” BC had attended a Southern Baptist church with me for about five months at this point, and he also attended a Baptist preschool. I couldn’t really tell from whence this reptile theology question came, so I hid my smile and said, “No, Baptists are people.”

There was a longer pause.

“Is he a basilisk?”

Oh, one of those lizards that walks on water! No, skinks are not basilisks.” BC went right on enjoying his lizard hunt, and I went back to weeding the flower bed, thinking all kinds of funny thoughts about the implications of lizards being Baptists…or Baptists being lizards.

Around the same time, the water filter at my kitchen sink was due for its annual tune-up. One of the side effects of this maintenance is that the gasses used to make the filter work seem to be affected by the rest of the plumbing in the house. For a few months, a pretty loud, high-pitched flatulent sound bursts forth from the sink from time to time. BC thought it was great when I answered his questioning look the first time he heard it by saying, “It’s the gasses in that filter in the sink. It’s like the sink is farting. Who ever heard of a farting sink?!”

A short time later, a similar sound burst forth from BC as he worked on a craft at the kitchen table. I said, “I don’t think that was the sink.” Having been absorbed in his work, BC apparently hadn’t noticed what his own body was doing. He did, however, file away the comment. That night, getting out of the bath, the same thing happened, but I didn’t hear it. He looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, “I don’t think that was the sink!”

I can still see the twinkle in his eye as he said it, and hear our laughter together over a new shared joke. I miss BC’s sense of wonder and sense of humor; both brought joyful and free laughter to our home. How I miss that delightful boy!

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Hope

cross1Today is Easter.  I’m celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, believing that it actually happened and that it changes everything.  I’m also aware that sometimes it feels more like that Saturday, when every human being thought Jesus was dead, and nothing seemed certain.  It’s a strange mix for this glorious day.

Last year, Easter was exuberant and joyful, loud even, as my family rejoiced that a baby we thought had been lost was very much alive.  This year, a child I love is facing loss he hasn’t even imagined yet, and I’m desperately hoping for years of resurrection for his heart and mind.  This morning, I took B.C., my foster son, to be with part of his biological family for Easter.  He’ll have a great time, and we’ll have a great time later at one of my family’s celebrations.  Then we’ll come home and probably deal with what seems like the confusing transition between families for him.  Tomorrow we’ll head back into our normal routine of school and work, bath time and reading stories, and every strategy known to boy for avoiding brushing one’s teeth.

Even as we do our normal daily things, slow movement is happening with B.C.’s “case.”  Given the system, it could all turn out very differently than it appears now, but at least for now it looks like B.C. will end up with a new home with loving, safe, fun, stable family members, several hundred miles from here.  I already love his family members — if we were neighbors, I think we’d be great friends.  And yet…there’s always this “and yet”…I know that for B.C. to grow to be a part of that family, he will have to endure the shock of knowing he’s not going back to his old home.  In addition to that, he won’t be staying in this home, where he has seemed to come to feel safe and secure.  There will have to be these losses.  Death — of what he knows and thinks and experiences every day — will precede resurrection.

The hopeful part of all of this is that I believe, that I know, that death always does precede resurrection.  To wish away the loss for B.C. would be to wish away the coming good of life with two loving parents, and siblings, and dogs, plus an ongoing connection with his extended family, and…maybe…someday…the opportunity for healing reconnection with his biological parents.  The anguished part recoils from seeing someone I love so much suffer so much.  I’ve only been a parent for 6 months tomorrow, but this week I’ve wondered, how did Mary stand there and watch her Son hang there and suffer and die?  How did God the Father watch His Son hang there and suffer and die?  There is a dread of the loss that’s coming that completely takes my breath away.  Most days it feels like Saturday more than Easter Sunday.

And yet…there’s a deeper “and  yet”…what Saturday felt like to Mary, and John, and Peter, and all the rest, what “Saturday” feels like to me and what it will feel like to B.C., perhaps what it feels like to you if this is a somber Easter — all of that is the middle of the story.  There are glimpses of a better end, of a glorious resurrection.  Jesus said He would rise on the third day.  Today, when I took B.C. to his family, one I’d never met hugged me, kissed my cheek, and said, “Thank you for taking care of my nephew.”  He’s the dad of the one who may be B.C.’s second father.  There is a sense of promise to the whole thing, and it takes my breath away just as much as the dread, if I pay attention to the reasons to hope.  I don’t always choose rightly, but today I choose the promise.  Amen.

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Filed under Being Sam, Family, Foster parenting, Jesus, Struggle

A Heart Cut in Two

Foil covered heartI’ve been away from here for a while, for many reasons, one of which is that I became a foster parent four months ago. B.C. (not his real initials) came to live here on October 1st last year. He was four then and he’s five now. There is much to write about those four months, and about every day of this strange journey of foster parenting. Tonight, though, I keep thinking about B.C.’s heart — his red-foil-covered chocolate Valentine heart.

Last week, B.C. received an early Valentine’s Day gift that was supposed to hold seven small Nestle Crunch hearts. Much to his delight, it held eight! He announced that I should have the eighth heart, and stuck to his guns even when I reminded him I have a “new food plan” that means I won’t eat that chocolate heart for three weeks. I figured his enthusiasm would fade as that heart sat on the counter for a few days.

Last night, B.C. suddenly asked, “Can I give that chocolate to my mom?”

“Sure you can,” I said.

“I want to unwrap it, cut the chocolate in half, and then put the wrapper back on so you can have half and my Mommy can have half.” After a short encouragement to go ahead and give his mom the chocolate, he said, “I want you to have half because you’re so nice to me,” with a little quiver in his voice.

I held B.C. close and told him what a sweet, sweet boy he is.  The whole exchange took only moments.  This morning, he gave in to his desire to eat that chocolate once he knew he could buy his mom another Valentine.  Still, I keep going back to those moments last night. Is there a better picture of what this little boy must endure all the time? His heart is cut in half, or more likely in all kinds of pieces, without any smooth edges. I love him; my family and friends love him. And yet, as helpful as we hope that love is, it also adds to B.C.’s confusion, ambivalence, pain, and struggle. He likes living here and he aches to go home. I don’t know what to do except to ache with him.

Father, You know this little boy’s heart — every hurting, wounded piece, every delighted, singing-for-joy piece. Have mercy. Please protect and hold close and heal. Thy will be done. Oh, God, have mercy!

If you are one who prays, please pray for B.C. today.

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Expecting

Last week, at foster parent training, I went to sit with friends I had only seen across the room on the first night of class.  As my friend hugged me she said, “I told him, ‘I’m so excited, it’s like Leanne and I are expecting together!’”  What a cool thing to say!  I’ve thought about it ever since.

Since I wrote the post about Being Marilla, I’ve mostly filled out paperwork, waited, worked on my house and yard, gone to classes, and waited some more.  I’ve wondered if I really have what it takes to be a mom to children who have been wounded or rejected or abandoned by their parents.  So, I’ve prepared, waited, gone to classes, and been a combination of excited and nervous, and at the end of all of this, a child will come live in my house.  Wow, I really am expecting!

Thinking about it also reminded me of finding Psalm 5:3:  “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”  Almost every time I read that verse my next thought is, “Do I really do that?”  More often I lay my requests before Him and then rush off into the day as though I have to answer my own prayer.  There’s not much expecting in that, and there’s certainly no waiting!

Sara Groves recently contrasted the frenetic work human beings do in their own strength with the work of God in their lives:

“The things that have been substantial in my marriage, in my work, in my parenting, in my friendships, those things have come about like a pregnancy.  I’ve had a sense of God working in my life, doing something bigger than myself, and it’s going to be born if I like it or not – this thing is coming.”

She in turn was commenting on Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Psalm 127:1-3.

“If God doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks.

If God doesn’t guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves?”

Ah, yes, rest and waiting.  Both are symptoms of a heart counting on God to come through, on His work on behalf of His child.  He hears my requests.  He is building my house – He already knows the name of the child who will live here soon, and He is preparing my heart and mind.  Yes, Lord, I wait in expectation.  Amen.

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Being…Marilla?

When I was around 10 years old, my grandparents toured the Maritime Provinces of Canada in their Winnebago.  They returned with many pictures and souvenirs, as always, including a boxed set of the first three Anne of Green Gables books for me.  Like so many others, I was taken with Anne right away.  I imagined myself right along with her as she imagined herself right into all sorts of adventures and mistakes.  I read those books over and over, then bought the next three and read all six over and over, until they actually fell apart.  I even read the first one out loud on a road trip with my brother, though I’ve been careful not to state that publicly ‘til now.  In college, the first two Anne mini-series were released, and I was caught up in Anne’s story all over again.  In my head and heart I wanted to be Anne, complete with a faithful Gilbert coming along to love me and share even more adventures, and hopefully not too many mistakes.

Last year, I turned 40.  The weeks leading up to the day were not fun.  I have enjoyed a rich, full, and abundant life; still, it never occurred to me that 40 would come with no husband and no children.  Some dreams have been lost along the way.

As is often the case, the anticipation of turning 40 was much worse than the actual fact of turning 40.  My family and friends lavished me with love and the disappointments faded a bit.  In my favorite present of all, my brother and sister-in-law gave me the Anne movies on DVD.  It had been a long time since I’d visited Anne’s world via VHS, and the fact that my brother picked the perfect gift helped me feel all the more loved.

I settled in to watch the movies with anticipation and delight.  Somewhere in the middle, it hit me:  Wait a minute…what if I’m supposed to be Marilla, not Anne?  I struggle to translate the workings of my heart in that moment into words.  Part of me heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit whisper, “Yes,” and answered Him with, “Amen.”  Another part of me protested – No, I’m Anne, the one with the imagination, who has adventures and deeply delights in all the bits of life, who grieves deeply because she loves much!  The whisper, though, was louder than the protest.

Marilla and her brother Matthew adopted Anne, a thrown-away orphan given to long monologues and wails from the “depths of despair.”  Marilla is described this way before Anne:

“Marilla [was] always slightly distrustful of sunshine, which seemed to her too dancing and irresponsible a thing for a world which was meant to be taken seriously…She looked like a woman of narrow experience and rigid conscience, which she was; but there was a saving something about her mouth which, if it had been ever so slightly developed, might have been considered indicative of a sense of humor.”

She is described this way after several years with Anne:

“…her expression was very different; the something about the mouth which had hinted at a sense of humor had developed wonderfully; her eyes were gentler and milder, her smile more frequent and tender…Marilla felt that out of her sixty years she had lived only the nine that had followed the advent of Anne.”

So you can see, perhaps, why I wasn’t all that excited about being Marilla.  Some of those beginning words describe more how I fear being than how I actually am.  And yet, the longer the picture of Marilla has been before me this past year, the more taken with the idea I’ve become.  Marilla loved Anne, and made all her fantastical, tragical adventures possible to some extent.  What developed in Marilla was there all along, and used for the good of a girl who needed a home.

There’s a lot more to the story of how a gracious God has been slowly working all this out since that jolting “what if” last spring.  But, like Marilla, I find myself rather quickly preparing to welcome a child into my home.  For right now that means paperwork and classes and health inspections, so an agency will know that a foster child will be safe here.  It also means much prayer – rarely have I so clearly sensed my dependence on God and my need for His grace and wisdom.  Sometimes, after all, I still feel like Anne, like I’ve been playing at being a grown-up and someone is bound to find out the truth as I stumble into some misadventure.  Somewhere tonight, though, there is a little boy or girl who needs a Marilla.  I’m honored, humbled, terrified, delighted, to try on that name.  Amen.

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