Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pessimism and The Art of Unforgiveness

Pessimism and The Art of Unforgiveness


In his article, “Are You A Negaholic? 5 Ways Pessimism is Ruining Your Life,” Michael Hyatt from MICHAELHYATT.COM lays out beautifully what pessimism is and how it affects our lives and our relationships.  I read the article this morning, and it impacted me powerfully; I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Initially, I was only planning to repost it on my Facebook account with a comment about how important the article was for all of us to read, and then I went to church.  My pastor’s message couldn’t have been timelier, because the more I listened to his message about forgiveness, the more I kept rolling it around in my head that it went right along with the article about pessimism. 

As I reflected on what pessimism is, I began to size up my own immediate family and take inventory of whom, I believe to be, a pessimist.  It is pretty simple to size up a pessimist, but in doing so, it causes a lot of self-reflection as a spouse and parent.  I began thinking about our collective families, and it became apparent who the pessimists are, and I started to think about the impact it had on us all.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on pessimism, but being that I don’t classify myself a pessimist or optimist, but rather a realist, I realize that being a realist can have tendencies bordering on both pessimism and optimism depending on the people or situation. 

What is the impact of pessimism on our children?  Do we inadvertently teach them to be skeptical of all people and to be conspiracy theorists?  Do we teach them that they need to place a guard around their hearts to protect them from others and not to depend on others or God?  Do we teach them that our government is wicked and out to get us?   Do we teach them that they are not enough, and that they will never be good enough?  Do we implement such high standards and are overly critical of them to the point where they don’t feel loved or valued, and they feel the need to run away from us?

I would equate a pessimist with being a dark cloud.  This correlates to the article above, when the author talked about the individual that cornered him, and he just wanted to run away.  A pessimist is so full of negativity, and everything is wrong in the world to them, that after having an undesirable conversation, one walks away feeling “icked.” 

A pessimist exists in all circles of life.  They are not difficult to spot.  They are in our classrooms, the marketplace, Corporate America, the military, the doctor’s office, and in our churches.  I would venture to say that being a pessimist is toxic and damaging, especially in our churches.  A pessimist is the one who sits in the pew with their arms folded, sitting on every word a pastor teaches, and ready to mentally critique every word that is spoken.  He/she is always in disagreement about what is shared and how things are done, because a pessimist is the only expert.  They are quick to fall out of good standing with a church and are quick to leave a trail of dust as they exit.  They are negative, judgmental, difficult to get along with, and a know-it-all.  We can all be pessimists.  There are enough things going on in our world causing potential negative responses, but it is the open and spiritual person, who not only recognizes this, but he/she chooses to release it to God and trust him and others and move on.  It doesn’t indicate that we should be ignorant about what goes on in our churches or our jobs.  If it is unhealthy for us, then it is important that we know what God’s plan is for us and our family and make decisions accordingly.  What happens when it is of our doing that problems are created and magnified?

I wonder what factors create a pessimist.  A parent(s) who raises a child (children) in a negative environment?  I wonder if certain personalities are more prone to being pessimists?  I wonder if those of us who have more of a melancholy personality may be more prone to being a pessimist?  Is it a societal issue, a family issue, a biological issue, a spiritual issue, or all of some of the above?

Whatever the case, what efforts does one take to realize that he/she is a pessimist, and how does one interact with those who are?  Is there an inventory?  I would venture to say that one has to be open to assess who they are, because if he/she is not open, then it may very well be impossible for him/her to size themselves up.  One indicator is the relationships a pessimist has in their life.  Do they have friendships with others, or are they isolated?  If this person has children, do they come around?  Is this individual highly critical of others and believe themself to be a high authority on many, if not all, matters?  Has this individual performed well in their job(s), or have they bounced around, because they feel that they are not appreciated, or that others offend them?

This correlates well with the topic of my pastor’s sermon today on unforgiveness.  Some of the ideas he presented were about wounds, and how people deal with being wronged.  If pessimism is about negativity, then what is unforgiveness?  It, obviously, delves into negative arenas and not positive ones.  Are any of us prone to unforgiveness?  Yes, we all are, because we are human.  If one is a pessimist, he/she can feel like a martyr and feel that he/she is constantly wronged by others, and a natural pattern of behavior with this attitude is harboring unforgiveness  towards others.  As my pastor spoke today, he said that, “old wounds cause infection, and to keep on rehearsing them will eventually lead to death.  Our enemy wants us to keep fishing in the same spot over and over.  To forgive means releasing it to God.  It doesn’t mean that we no longer remember what was done to us, nor does it mean that our woundings have not been legitimate, but it means that we have to release them to God and let him handle it.  Forgiving means not rehearsing the wrongs. It recognizes the benefits of moving on. It also recognizes the future benefits of choosing forgiveness. Forgiveness offers no guarantee, but it offers grace.  Forgiveness will not allow anger, resentment, and hatred to destroy an individual.  Unforgiveness binds us to our past, and forgiveness binds us to our future.” (R. Strack)

I believe that growth is always possible.  I believe that we have to ask for forgiveness as we recognize the thoughts, patterns, and behavior that have been passed down to our children, and that we have to release our parents from the patterns and behaviors that have been passed down to us. I believe that everyone can change and move forward. 
I apologize for being a pessimist at times, and for being oblivious of my thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, and how they affect my spouse, my children, my family, my friends, and others.  I want to grow and move forward.  Please forgive me for being the know-it-all, skeptical, judgmental, critical, unpleasant, negative and unforgiving one. I am a work in progress, and I have a lot to learn.  Most of the time, I feel that I am an utter mess!  Thank you for being patient with me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Frustration: The Real Life of a Foster Parent


Having just returned from, perhaps, my 11th court appearance regarding Emma and her siblings, who have been wards of the state for over two years, I feel like I just got punched in the gut…again!  I was chewing on the drive home about what it is that has been so frustrating, and I discovered that the frustrations that I have felt as a foster mother has existed at a level that I had never before experienced.  It is frustration x 100!  I began pondering what it is that has been so frustrating for me, and there are many ideas that came to mind. 

First, it is so frustrating to reach out and attempt to do something that is going to make a difference in the life of children, only for others…social work agency, social workers, supervisors, director, biological parent, to look at you and treat you as if you are their enemy.  To be treated with such anger, animosity, rudeness, and confrontation is unbelievably frustrating. 

It is also frustrating to open our home and our family and have people come in who trounce on our boundaries, disrespect us, and criticize how I do black hair, how I buy the wrong diapers, how I have the baby’s room set up, how I live my life, how I don’t do this right and I don’t do that.  It is a complete intrusion!  This entire experience has been unbelievably intrusive!

It is also frustrating to advocate for a child where there existed so many unwritten rules and codes of which I was to abide.  I wasn’t supposed to advocate for a child.  I was supposed to know my place and be a paid babysitter, who wouldn’t have an opinion, certainly no judgment, and jump when they told me to.  Those who know me will understand that I cannot function in this manner.  I did the opposite, and I challenged many attitudes, lies I caught people in, and addressed issues that were not right.

It is also frustrating at a level that I cannot fully articulate to care for a special needs child, who needs five therapy services per week, who has gone to countless specialists, had countless tests, and they cannot heal her!  It cannot change the brain damage that she has.  It cannot make her suddenly start chewing food, or hold her own bottle, or crawl, speak, or move.  It cannot help her.  I have done all that I can in this natural realm, yet I, nor anyone else, can make her better. 

It is also painful and frustrating to see how Emma is judged simply because of the color of her skin.  I have seen the looks of disapproval, the smiles that stop when they look at her, the judgments, and it makes me very frustrated.

It is frustrating to hear all of the people tell me what a good job I (we) have done with her, and how blessed she is to have us.  I was told by her attorney today after court, as she had tears in her eyes, how much she admired all of the care we have given to her.  I contemplated this on the way home, and I wonder why she and others say these things.  What they cannot understand is that we feel like utter failures!  We have failed this child in innumerable ways.  She has been failed beginning with her conception.  Her parents failed her, her mother failed her as she carried her, DCFS failed her, her attorneys, the courts have failed her, the doctors, the specialists, her community, her church, her world.  We have all failed her.  We cannot change the circumstance of her life, those she was born into, and those of which she continues to live.   She is like every child who is born, she has a right to a life filled with love, health, freedom, and belonging.  None of us can change the damage that has been done. 

I am also deeply frustrated by the selfishness of people.  I am amazed at the depths of selfishness that we, as human beings, are capable of.  It is difficult for me to wrap my mind around how a child becomes a possession.  Circulating around all of this is a dangerous and debilitating toxin called entitlement.  Entitlement may have many connotations, and it is not race related, but rather, it is selfish related.  It is a mindset that individuals have that tells them that they can get what they want when they want it, and they will go to any length to get it.  They believe that they deserve things.   This mentality keeps people from fulfilling their potential, because they have been taught that they don’t have to work for anything, that someone is going to bail them out when/if they come to the end of their rope.  In turn, they get accustomed to keeping their hand out, and this becomes a vicious cycle.  With this also comes an inability to deal with the consequences that accompany their behavior. The other side of this is to give those who need a hand up, which they can then use to better themselves and their world.  I realize that sometimes, people need help, and we are to help those in need.  There are so many layers to this, so I will just leave it at this.

As I went to court today, I went in with an expectation, which I don’t know why I still have them, because each time I have gone to court, nothing has ever gone according to the expectations that I had.   I have learned that this is a major problem with our courts and foster care system….there is not an expectation or standard that people are held to.  I was told by the biological mother in mid-July, as she also did in April, that today she was going to surrender her rights to Emma.  We got to court, and she did not.  She wouldn’t look at me.  She and her husband gave me the all too familiar cold and hard look away when I was trying to engage them.  I knew then that something was up. 

I could write a book about the lack of accountability that the courts offer to people who get more chances than anyone else to break the law and not follow the courts and state’s rules, but honestly, this alone is so exhausting  and causes such intense, internal frustration, that I just don’t want to open that can right now.

Court proceeded as usual, and when the judge said that the goal was still return home, even 21 months later, I became angry inside.  After court recessed, I spoke to the caseworker, and then I talked to the state’s attorney, and I was raising my voice, because I was/am fed up!  We have walked this road for 21 long months, and we thought for sure, as in mid-July, that today was the day-the day that we would move to the next phase of this whole, entire, rotten experience; it didn’t happen.  My mouth has never opened in court for the prior 10 court hearings, but I could no longer keep it in.  As I was sharing, the biological mother pulled me aside and said that she doesn’t want to be terminated, and she is surrendering in September.  She has to either surrender, or a motion will be made to terminate her.  Even knowing this, the deep, intense frustration that I feel is still there.  This whole experience is like a bad dream that one can never wake up from; one that causes terrible fear, panic, anger, frustration and grief!

I cannot imagine that we will ever be free from the constraints that go along with being foster parents.  I cannot describe my longings to have this experience over! 

So, as we have along, we will take one day at a time, and continue praying for God’s wisdom, peace, and self-control, as well as that his will would be done, and that we would learn the lessons that he is trying to teach us

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Fruition of a Prompting

Hello everyone.  I posted some information on Facebook yesterday that concerns our family's future.  I received a phone call yesterday from Emma's (our foster child) mother, and she told us that she was terminating her parental rights and asked us if we would adopt Emma.  I was shocked!  I happen to journal, and I discovered today an entry that I wrote last April of 2013, and I found it to be very relevant.  Here is that entry.

"April 10, 2013

Journal to self:  So, it is 10:30 a.m., and it is Wednesday, April 10, 2013.  About 15 minutes ago, I was sitting here at the dining room table working on a math assignment for an online math class I am taking, when a thought came to my mind about praying for Emma’s mother to give up her rights to her.  I got up from the table, and I started praying that God would immediately cause something to happen, and that he would use that to put thoughts in her head to give Emma up---and a realization that she cannot take care of her, and that she is better off with us, and that she cannot give her the kind of life that she needs, and that she would be able to get beyond our race and her ill feelings towards us for having her child to see Emma, and what she needs.  So, I got on my knees and prayed a simple prayer that God would cause something to happen , and then he would put those thoughts of giving her up in her mind.  I cannot explain this feeling inside of me—it is like a release of the strangest sort.  It is like peace without having any idea of what will happen.  So, I continue to sit here and pray, and I cannot focus on what I am doing.  I was drawn, again, to the verse in Exodus last night, after feeling down from court appearance #5 and the results that the mother and step-dad could have unsupervised visitation rights, and seeing some disturbing behavior from them in the elevator after court.  Exodus says, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.”  As I was sitting here, I prayed this again, and I said, “Lord, your word says that you will fight for us, that we need only to be still, and I thank you for fighting for us and for Emma.”  I also said, “Lord, is anything too hard for you?”  I spoke this out three times, and then I said, “No, nothing is too hard/difficult for you.”  I started praying fervently in the spirit, as I have hundreds of times since Emma came into our family.  I starting praying the song that was in my heart all day yesterday, and of which I sang all throughout the day, “You are the everlasting God, the everlasting God, you do not faint you won’t grow weary, you’re the defender of the WEAK, you comfort those in need, you  lift us up on wings like”  I said, “Lord, I thank you that you are the answer, and I pray for your glory to be revealed, and for our children, and us to see your power at work.  You see that I was just talking with my kids last night about God still being mighty and powerful today and that hasn’t changed.”  When I drove home yesterday after court, I passed a church on Curtis Road in Champaign that said, “Miracles happen.”  I made some comment yesterday about us needing that.  I was reminded of this again after I finished talking with the Lord, and I said, “Miracles happen, like that church sign, and we need a miracle here.”  So, I wanted to record these words, prayers, and thoughts of mine, and leave them here and watch and see what our great big God will do."
April 22, 2014:  What have I learned from this?  It is important to follow that still small voice inside, and it is also important to remember that God's timing is perfect, and that he doesn't follow our time table.  I had no idea that I would be praying this same prayer for an entire year!  I am thankful that God heard my prayers, and that I was obedient to pray what he spoke to my heart to pray.  There are so many blogs I can still write based on this experience, and I will leave those to another day.  The feelings I am experiencing today vary greatly from excited to terrified.  Some feelings are also raw, and overall, this seems very surreal. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Becoming an Outlaw

This new blog has quite a long introduction, but I had to set the stage to explain a nugget I have uncovered, which is critical for all of us as human being...especially as spiritual, human beings.  Please hang in there to get to the bottom of this.

So, I began a new book the other day by Ted Dekker called, "Outlaw."  It is a fictitious story about an American who goes on a journey with her two year old son to Thursday Island, which is by Australia.  She comes from a prestigious family in Atlanta, Georgia, and while there, she began having very vivid dreams about a jungle with specific noises, and flying over the jungle to the mountain to meet a man; this is a reoccurring dream.  After a series of events, she decided that she wanted to take her son and explore Thursday Island and get away from her life in Atlanta.  While there, she decided that she wanted to go on a short ride on a sailboat with her son.  She was caught in a storm, and the captain went overboard, and she was found by natives of New Guinea and taken captive.  I won't tell you anymore of this book, but having an introduction of this book is important to what I have uncovered. 

The purpose of this blog is to provide a framework of becoming an outlaw.  I know this sounds rebellious, but I assure you, that this is an important and urging calling for everyone of us who live on this planet.

The boy in this book, Stephen, is raised by a man called the Nameless One or Shaka.  He comes down from the mountain during very critical moments where two brothers, who are vying for their father's kingdom, are about to go to war with each other.  It is suspected from the beginning, that he is a messenger from God, but they don't know this. They each have their fighting men, and they are all tribal people.  Their entire survival is based on their upholding of specific laws and beliefs of living by these rules, otherwise, if they didn't follow these rules, they would be given over to evil spirits.  One of the brother's supporters is the shaman, who is a very evil man.  During one of these moments, Stephen was about to be killed to provide appeasement for not being the son of his mother's husband, who is the other brother.  They are living under the wings of serious darkness.

Stephen is taken to live with Shaka, and this last half of this book talks about some very profound truths that have cut me to the core.  Shaka has taught Stephen since he took him as a two year old child, that he is a soul who is loved by his powerful creator, God.  He taught him that his identity was who he is as a child of God.  He said that people are taught to wear costumes, which allow them to forget who their powerful creator is, and that when he and others stop believing that, that they were living in insanity. 

Shaka taught him, "My true mind is peace, and because my true self is always at peace,  I am dead to insanity.  Only the insane mind offers any disturbance to the sound mind. " (229)
"And who gave you this sound mind?"  "The One from whom I come."  "What is his name?"  "He is called the One.  The Way.  The Truth.  The One who first defeated death and is life.  The One who is perfect and whole, one with God, the atonement, having made right all that was wrong.  He has been called the second Adam.  Jeshua."

"My true self is now made whole, holy, without any further blame, condemnation, or need for correction.  I am dead to the old and alive in him.  I am my Father's child."  "And what wars against this knowledge?"  "The knowledge of good and evil.  Insanity.  Also the costume."  "Can anything separate you?"  "Nothing can separate me.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed any separation from him.  I am blameless and nothing can remove me from my Master.  It is impossible."

"Still, though dead, your insane mind speaks and causes suffering."  "Like a madman.  Jabbering always, his mouth moves to a different beat.  He likes to hear himself speak."  "And sometimes you listen, Shaka said."  "Only when I forget he is dead."  "And when you do listen?"  "He temps me to feel threatened.  Less than whole and therefore needing more than I already have.  Love.  Joy.  Peace.  States of being, not simple emotion."  "And emotion is?"  "Sometimes pleasurable, sometimes not, depending on if I listen to insanity."  "The insane secretly crave suffering.  It givens them an identity, however absurd."

"What is the past?"  "The past is past.  It no longer exists.  Now it's never."

"In the place of knowing his true identity, there could be no more true loneliness, because Stephen was one with his Father."

Shaka taught Stephen how to spend quality time absorbing this truth as he was growing up. 

The real meat in this book is found in the above paragraphs that I is this idea of wearing costumes, and I will stretch a little further and say that it is wearing labels too.  As I was contemplating these ideas yesterday, I became quite somber.  I was quietly chewing on these thoughts in my head about the costumes I wear, and mostly, I was completely unaware that I wore any at all.

I have been going through a season of heaviness during the last 15 months, and it seems to have begun when we became foster parents, but if I am honest, it probably goes back to the first day I was born.  I have gone through a longer season of not feeling like God loves me, that he has abandoned me, that I am forgotten, that I am so troubled and have so many issues, that there is no way he could love me, and that I will have to live with these issues and this life as I know it forever.  I would also throw in that there exists a great big ball of hopelessness in there.

I have discovered that I wear many costumes, and that I have allowed my identity to be defined by what I have put on myself, and what I have allowed others to put on me.  My identity costumes are many:  my physical body, my physical illness, my education, my monetary status, my house, my vehicles, my desire to be successful, my dreams, my skin color, my sexuality, being a mother, being a foster mother, being a wife, daughter, sister, friend, my spiritual beliefs, political beliefs, my community, my talents, my children's talents, successes, and their failures, my failures, my personality, my weaknesses, and my drive to find my calling in life."

Under all of these, and I know there are mountains-high costumes that I am still unaware of, I find that no wonder I have felt such heaviness, worthlessness, and so far away from God's love.  God has used this book to begin stripping these layers off of me.  This is not an overnight deal, just like they did not suddenly come over me overnight either.  In this book, Shaka tells Stephen that the natives in the valley could not hear what he had to say, and unless they could hear it, his attempts would fail.  I think of this with me. I have felt broken down, and I am in a place where I can receive this, and I believe that it is God-ordained. 

I want to get to the place like Stephen above, where I am fully living in the truth of who I am to God--that I am his daughter, and that he is my powerful Father, and there is nothing that can happen to me if I remember who I am.  I realize that I haven't listened, and that I have lived in what was described above as insanity.  If insanity is the opposite of living as my Father's child, then I have lived in insanity every day of my life.  I'm ready to jump off of the cliffs of insanity and live in God's peace.  As I take a step back from this, I know that I cannot live here anymore.  The past is the past.  It shouldn't even be a part of my life anymore.  Today is truth.  Today, I am being beckoned.  Today, I must choose to trust.  Today I must become an outlaw to this insanity.  Today, I must know that my identity is found only in who my Father has created me to be--that it is not in the roles I have, the jobs I do, the dreams I have, or the dreams I think I want, nor anything else, because it is a counterfeit.

I would be remiss if I didn't uncover the reason why we as human beings wear costumes that bear our identity:  it is a spiritual battle.  I didn't decide that I wanted to wear these costumes, they were spoken to me as overt lies and covert lies.  There is an enemy of our souls, and he is the one who wants us to believe that God is not real, that he doesn't love us, that he forgets and neglects us, that we are unlovable, and that we are stuck in the messiness of our lives forever.  This enemy is called, Satan, and the Bible describes him as the great deceiver, a liar, and the father of all lies, who comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy.  What does he want to destroy?  He wants to destroy our identity, as the precious, created beings of God. By believing lies, we walk away from God and deem him cruel, heartless, uncaring, and unjust.  As Believers, we are not out of harms way.  This enemy desensitizes us too, and it is very subtle.  The pastor of my church spoke last week about apostasy--when one walks away from his/her faith, and he spoke of how it occurs subtly, and we are broken down by people and events, and he gains victory over us.  It is important that we realize that we live in a physical world with great, supernatural forces at work in our lives.  There are powers of light/darkness that are waging war over each of our lives, and I pray that we are open and allow God to expose the darkness, so that we can live in his marvelous light and have our identity wrapped up in Him.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

For the love of money and foster parenting Part II

So, I left off with my last blog discussing our new foster baby girl's arrival on November 12, 2012.  Let me first just say that we were not prepared for this experience!  Life was already chaotic, but taking in this child took our chaos to a completely different level!  I have discovered that there is nothing normal or logical about foster parenting or foster care.  If we are fortunate as women to conceive our own biological children, it is a nine to ten month long progression of bonding to this little life inside of us.  When the child emerges into this world, their arrival is a continuation of something that began long ago. 

As a foster parent, when one gets that call, one is not prepared.  Dont' get me wrong, I had all of the stuff--diapers, wipes, crib, toys, pacifiers, some clothes, enough to have a good start.  When I received the call from our agency, I was in the middle of teaching creative writing, and I was not in the right frame of mind to make the call, much less make a decision that they needed right then.  I talked to my hubs, and we both agreed to take the placement.  Two hours later, I picked up a very tiny baby girl, and we were on our way to pick my son up from school.  He got into our van, and I said, "Look."  He was shocked.  In the morning, mommy dropped him off for school as normal, and then mommy had a brand new baby after--now that's a shocker to a child!!  He googled over her, and I took a few photos, and then we were off to get my daughter, who was equally as shocked.  I didn't realize it at the time, but we had just entered into a time of survival by the moment!

Somehow, this tiny life had to fit into our already busy world.  She came with four weeks left of my two college classes, and one was a very demanding math class.  I was teaching several hours a week, and we had just finished coaching soccer less than two weeks before.  We also had two very hyper puppies who suddenly didn't have much of a place in our world, and who helped me realize that we were truly living in a zoo!  In addition to the fact, I was 42 years old, and let's just say that the body changes in such a way that it requires sleep to function.  At that point, I ceased to function normally, and in case I forgot, my son was quick to tell me how grouchy I was on a daily basis.  I know those days were difficult; I didn't think I would make it through!

At the end of our first week as foster parents, I realized that something was wrong with our baby.  She moved all of the time, her body was very stiff, she lost a lot of formula when she drank, and she was a very angry baby.  At the one month appointment, I told the doctor that there was something that wasn't right--she was already holding her head up, and I told her she was stiff, screamed through all diaper changes, clothing changes, baths, and was difficult to hold and feed.  I told her that her head moved all over the place when she ate, as did her eye balls.  The doctor said that she was really muscular.  That was that, and we continued to live one day at a time.

It became apparent to me that I was way over my head with all of this when I missed my math final the second week of December.  Frantically, I called my math professor and told him what happened, and I told him I had a one month old, had a graduate degree, and had never missed a final in my life.  I begged for mercy, and he said I could take it the next day.  So, I took the final the next day and failed it.  Yep, I failed my first final ever.  I went home and that night, I got down on my knees and told God that I was overwhelmed, and I prayed for mercy from the professor.  I had an A in the class until the final, and then when I checked my grades, I discovered that he had given me a C for the class.  The final was worth 60 percent of my grade, so I should have failed the class!

By the time our baby was seven weeks old, she started sleeping through the night.  In reality, she was ready at six weeks, but I didn't get it at the time.  I kept waking her up around 2 to 3 a.m., but she wasn't interested in eating.  So, I began sleeping through the night again, and how blissful that was!

Thanks to a couple of wise friends who are several years older than me, and women who were clued into my life, they gave me some tough advice about how I needed to downsize my life.  They told me that I was on my way to burning out, and they said that I was spread too thin, and that the kids and everyone else around me would suffer if I didn't drop something from my life.  So, I decided to drop my teaching job and the two puppies, and as difficult as it was initially, I can sit back now and breathe and say, "Yes, that is exactly what I needed to do."

Our baby was such an angry and difficult baby.  There are so many circumstances which contributed to this, and of which I cannot share due to confidentiality, but I have learned some very interesting things about people through this, and so this is where I will digress deeply. 

My sister is someone I admire for many reasons.  She told me four years ago that she and her husband were thinking about adopting internationally.  The country they first inquired into was closed, so they went back to the drawing board.  Not long after that, they decided that they were going to adopt from Ethiopia, where there are five million orphaned children.  Their hearts were greatly stirred, and so they began a long and arduous process of adopting, and I learned some unbelievable things through it, one of which is how much patience it requires, and two, how not in control they were.

Because we are of the Caucasian variety, there were certain individuals close to us who had issues with my sister adopting a brown child.  Conversations erupted which were not pleasant, and it was amazing to see how an innocent, brown orphan could stir the proverbial pot of racial and cultural issues to such a great degree!  My sister's girl came home, and then they felt called to adopt a second Ethiopian girl, and she came home in April of 2012.  Now, her family is full with three biological sons and two adopted girls.  What a beautiful family they make!

Because of my sister's experiences, she was kind of the forerunner for us raising our brown foster child.  She has told me countless stories of looks she has received from various people, some looks of disdain, and others, looks of curiosity.

As I took our foster baby and our other children to our predominately white church that first week, it was interesting to see the looks on people's faces.  Some people looked for a couple of seconds and turned away, others stared, but I pretended to be dumb and not see them, and others were distant.  I was trying to understand this interesting phenomenon week in and week out when only a couple of people that I already knew, and a couple new ones approached us.  It wasn't until the seventh week that the leadership of the church approached us, and it was my husband, because I was out of town in D.C. for my doctors appointments, who they approached.  They asked who that was and how long we had had her.  I admit struggling with the aloofness that people exhibited there.  The amazing thing to me about it all was that when we had the three little girls in August for a week, one of the pastors approached us and asked who the kids were.  He pulled me aside and told me that he thought that was neat, and that if we needed anything to let them know.  He told me that he saw our church moving in that direction of supporting families who were adopting internationally and who were foster parents. 

I wondered what happened to that friendliness and support when we had our newborn foster daughter?  The same pastor to this day has never approached me.  The entire staff has seemed uncomfortable or aloof, and they have seemed to hold us at arms length.  Others in the church also seemed to hold us at arms length.  I am an extremely analytical individual who has strong perceptive skills, and I cannot adequately describe how I felt when all of this was occurring. 

After church many of the weeks, I was alone with all three kids, and we went to Steak and Shake, where kids eat free on weekends.  For many weeks, we would go with just the four of us, and I caught many looks of disdain.  I found myself doing some serious introspection about my previous judgemental thoughts towards Caucasian women who had brown children.  I didn't realize that I had some serious racial issues towards Caucasian women with brown children.  Now, I found myself on the receiving end of people thinking that my older two kids were from a white daddy, and the third was from a brown daddy.  The looks of disdain I received were mostly from middle-aged white women who were shocked that I had been with a black man, and that he sired a child with me.  The psychologist in me was shocked, convicted, and extremely humbled all at the same time.

My sister and I have had many discussions about this topic of race, culture, and its effect on people.  We have discovered that having a child of a different race causes other people to evaluate their own racial prejudices, and when they realize they have them, or perhaps if they don't, the looks that come out on their faces are very obvious.  Sorry, but those of us in the church are not exempt from our racial issues.  In fact, I have mused about the reasons why our church has not been supportive, not helped us, nor extended any generosity or kindness to us, is because it makes them uncomfortable, and they simply don't know what to do with that.  So, they do what they know how to do best--they avoid the situation. 

This reminds me of when I was diagnosed with cancer, I discovered that my closest friends and church body abandoned me when I need them the most.  I discovered that the reasons for this is because in our society, we are taught to show our support to people by talking, why, because it is easy; it doesn't require much out of anyone.  When someone goes through a crisis, we feel that we need to have all of the answers.  So, when we don't know what to say, we run away, because it makes us uncomfortable.  This is what happened to me.  I was 34 years old with a baby at home, and no one knew what to do with that--heck, for that matter, I didn't either.  I felt very lonely and abandoned.  This is how I felt when we took our baby to church those first few months--lonely, abandoned, and I will add another--discarded.

I realize that these are intense emotions, but I assure you that they match an even more intense experience!

Being a foster parent is grueling, harrowing, and a very uncomfortable and stretching experience.  I have yet to find any other experience that relates to this.  There's nothing like raising a child, where one is told from the beginning, "This is not your child.  They will be reunified with his/her parents.  You have no rights.  It is about the parents rights and their schedule that we work with for visitations.  Don't get attached to this child, because she is going home. The more you come to terms with this, the easier it will be for you in the long run."

These are just a few of the comments that have been made to us.  As foster parents, we are caught in the middle of a turbulent political hailstorm.  The stress of having a child we have grown attached to with serious developmental issues has had its effect on my emotional state.  The reality is foster parents have no rights, foster children have no rights, but rather, it is only biological parents who have rights.  I won't get into the ins and outs of my thoughts on all of this, but I will say that I had someone tell me the other day something very interesting about foster care.  In order to do it justice, I will quote what was said, and this takes me to my "For the love of money" portion of my title.

"I have met enough foster parents who have been more about the money, than the child and it has been turned into a business about funding. More often than not the foster parents, don't know everything and can only say what they have been told. So the ideal of foster care and it being right is a farce, not in this fallen world."

So, I have, along with several wonderful people I know, gone into this intensely difficult and sacrificial situation for a few bucks a month?  I resent every notion that this is my intention, or that others think of foster parents in this fashion.  Yes, there are those who may do this, but as my friend describes foster parenting, it is "Messy love."  We take someone else's mess and love the precious, innocent children subjected to it.  So foster care is about funding, and it feeds others love for money? 

I know a lot about the situation with our foster child, because we have gone to court five times so far, because if we didn't, we wouldn't know what is going on.  We are an advocate for this precious, innocent child, and we are fighting for her life.  Whether or not this means that she stays or goes doesn't matter, we are fighting for her. 

The spiritual implications of this are tremendous!  At Christmas, when I was reflecting on Christ's birth and arrival on earth to redeem mankind, I had a realization that I had never had before.  Our baby was an orphan in the eyes of the law--to some extent.  What do orphans long for more than anything?  A family to call their own.  I realized at Christmas the magnitude of the fact that we are all orphans on this earth longing for something that goes beyond punching a time clock and paying bills; it is at the heart of every human being under the sun, and it is our desire to be accepted by our creator.  It is our desire to be loved and known; to know that we are never alone left to struggle on our own.  The Bible says that God  has adopted us as sons and daughters through the precious blood of his son, Jesus, which he shed on the cross for us.  We have received the ultimate grand adoption, and once we accept this, we never have to go searching and trying to figure it out on our own.  There is a grand design at work in each of us, and our heavenly father is the master architect and builder.  I realized all of this with this innocent child, and the lessons keep on coming.

There's much more to be said of this very long novel, but I will save up some juice for the next time.  Be well my friends, and remember that you are NOT alone!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

For the love of money and foster parenting.

So, it has officially been two years since I have posted to my blog.  Apparently, after writing my book and song, I went into a time of having nothing left to say that wasn't already written in my book or song. However, I (along with the hubs and kiddos) have embarked on a journey through foster care being placed with a four day old infant back in November.  It has been the greatest challenge of our lives, and believe me when I say that I have been challenged beyond belief spiritually, physically, and emotionally with my health crisis, which has now gone on for 8 years.  I know what it means to suffer greatly and feel like I would die at any moment and be forced to leave an earth that I loved and children that I longed to raise and love more than anything. 

Here I am in a trial of my own choosing.  With so many conflicting emotions on this journey, and looking back at how all of this was pieced together in the first place, I see that I could have embarked on a path of least resistance, but that is not the path that God has for me or our family. 

Last summer, I had it in my mind that I needed to return to college--again--not like spending 10 years the first two times in undergraduate or graduate school were enough.  I, all along, have wanted to have an impact on my world, and this was driven home even more pointedly to me when I was in the throes of battling for my physical life.  I tend to love learning, so I had it in my mind to become a nurse, like my husband.  Since I am a professional patient and online doctor like my sister, I know a lot more about the human body because of my own illness than your average Joe or Jill.  I knew that I would be a great nurse, because I knew how to empathize with people, because I knew what it was to suffer.  I prayed fervently for God's direction.  I spent hours talking with a local college about the program, and they really wanted me and were willing to waive certain requirements to get me in their program.

Then, our church began a new series by some pastor who has a big church somewhere in Illinois, I think.  He wrote a book called, "The power of a whisper," and my hubs and I attended a small group that went along with each corresponding chapter.  The first chapter and week at church had me mesmerized.  It is not often that I sit through a sermon and feel like God is talking straight to me, but that was one of those moments.  The gist of it was that there were five or so steps to determine if a whisper we were hearing was from God.  The first was, does it align with scripture, well, in my situation, whether I was supposed to be a nurse or not would not be found in the Bible.  Another was, does it go along with your God-given giftings and personality, and another was, what do those closest to you say about this?  I have never been a fan of science.  I wasn't a good science student, and I didn't like it.  I became an English teacher, because I could spell well, I loved to read, and I loved to write.  So, I found myself in a small group the first week, and I knew a few people, but most were strangers to me.  I sat quietly through the whole discussion, and at the end, I told them that I had something to share.  So, I shared a long story about where we were and what my plans were, and how I had been asking God if he wanted me to go back to school to become a nurse.  So, a rather boistrous lady asked me, "So, you said you don't like science and that bodily fluids disgust you, and that many of your friends are in the medical profession and have told you not to become a nurse, and you wonder what God's whisper is to you?  The answer is NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"  Okay, well everyone laughed at that point, but the point was made.  God never told me anything per say, but after several days, what happened is that I gradually had a change of heart and eventually didn't want to be a nurse anymore--and it had nothing to do with the lady's comment.

My husband and I recieved our foster parenting license in May of 2012, and we had no idea which children he would bring into our lives, so I would pray daily for our empty spare bedroom, that God would bring the children he wanted to be here.  So, we had three girls with us for six days at the end of August, but it was obvious that it was not a good situation for us, and they ended up with a different placement with friends in our town. 

School started, and I went back to work as a teacher in August of 2012, and I also was taking two online classes.  Life was very busy and hectic, and I was talking with my licensing worker on November 7, 2012, and I told her that there was a lady at church who had these tiny foster babies and why didn't she call me with one.  She told me that I wanted kids that were adopt only, and I said that I changed my mind.  I told her not to call me until after November 27, because I was taking the G.R.E., because I had plan to apply for a doctoral program for the Fall of 2013, and I had to study for that test.  She called me on November 12 to tell me that she had a four day old baby girl who was being removed from her home, and she wanted to know if we were interested.  After talking with my hubs, it was obvious that it wasn't something we were looking to happen, but we trusted that God was in it, and we told her that we would take her. 

On November 12, 2012, we became foster parents to a very tiny baby girl.  I will write more about this in my next blog.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My new song is out!

Hello everyone, my new song was just released, and I received my CD in the mail today! It is called, "Broken," and it goes along with my book, "Broken But Not Defeated." I was informed last April 2010 that it would be picked up, and it is finally finished!

To order my song, go to and click on "buy CD's and songbook." Type Andrea Lively into the search engine or "Broken," You can buy the song individually for $1.99 or the entire CD for $12.99. Hooray, hooray!