A Glimpse of Heaven

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Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. -Romans 5:3-5

For most people, the hike up to Emerald Lake won’t kill them. It’s not a strenuous hike, but it does take effort. And if you are like me, it takes quite a bit more effort than, say, the rest of the youth group whom you are hiking with. If you are like me, you will be the last one in your group to make it to the top. But you will make it. And it will be worth it.

In many ways, I think I keep viewing life as one long, tiring hike. It’s not impossible, but it is all slightly uphill and sometimes quite steep and there are plenty of spots along the way in which it seems to make more sense to just turn around and go back already, but that seems silly because when you’ve been hiking for so long, you are bound to eventually get there and what if there is just around the next switch back? Why would you turn back when you’ve gone so far?

The thing is this: we can’t see what’s ahead. There’s no way to know if we’re really almost there. When I was much younger, I had this idea that by the time I reached the age at which I currently am, I would probably be there. Now I’m beginning to wonder if there doesn’t get to be reached in this present lifetime, and instead of arriving, we’re called to continually climb, perhaps stopping occasionally to sit for a moment and take a sip of water, but to then get back up and continue.

The path is sometimes beautiful and sometimes really difficult, but still we climb. Sometimes it seems impossible, but why would we turn back now? We’ve come so far. There might be around the next turn. We can’t see it, we have no map telling us how far we still have to go, and yet we continue, trusting that when we finally reach it it will, in an instant, wipe out the struggle it took to get there.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lessons from the Queen of Hearts

img_0277“I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Six impossible things. I have a little notebook I keep in my purse. Sometimes I write down a quick grocery list, sometimes sermon notes, sometimes random musings. Always, though, I have my impossible prayer list in the back. These are the things that are not humanly possible for me to accomplish no matter how hard I try, how late I stay up, no matter how many hours I work at whichever place. I just can’t do these. And yet, they need doing. So I pray for the peace that passes all understanding to guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus and I beg God for grace and mercy over these things and to send an impossible answer for each one.

I just opened my notebook and counted them. Currently there are six. And I’m wondering if I need to take a cue from the Queen of Hearts and spend thirty minutes each day before breakfast believing that God will take care of these things in some form or fashion in a way that will be unexplainable apart from His own intervention.

When the Church is the Church

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It’s been a bit of a fall and winter around here. We kicked things off in September when Maddie (17yo) suddenly had an onset of stroke symptoms one Sunday night, complete with no feeling on her left side, droopy left side of her face, inability to grab words in either speech or writing, and a tremendous amount of fear. We took her to the ER. THEY also thought she had stroke symptoms, which, when they start acting in a way that confirms the thing you were afraid of… I had to leave the room for a bit to have my cry away from Maddie. It turns out she didn’t have a  stroke that night, but instead had a hemiplegic migraine – something I’d never even heard of before – but will be constantly on guard for from now on. But to get to that diagnosis, she had to have two CT scans, one MRI, and a tele-consult with the stroke team from the University of Utah. We don’t question for a moment what all the doctors needed to do that night to rule out all possibility of actual stroke, but all of those things don’t come cheaply.

Fast forward another month. All the bills started coming in and we discovered that our insurance benefit didn’t cover as much as we were thinking it would, to the tune of our owing the hospital almost $5,000. At this point I felt really silly, since I ignored my friend’s advice to switch over to a plan from OneSureInsurance.co.uk. This was the same time Bozeman started the hiring process for a bunch of seasonal retail jobs. I knew it seemed crazy to take on another job, but a $5,000 bill doesn’t just pay itself, you know. In the meantime, we put in a financial appeal with the hospital and they waived 40%, so we were down to a more manageable amount of close to $3,000 between the two hospitals and various doctors and techs we had to pay.

I started sewing like crazy in a crazy attempt to tackle a portion of the bill that way. I also accepted a seasonal position at Target. And let me say this: I’m thankful for available work to help meet needs, even if it’s tough to do for a little bit.

But also let me say this: I AM tired. And I think you’d have to be blind not to notice that, though I’m always a little surprised when anyone does express concern or care for me, for us. I’m rather hard-wired to believe I don’t deserve either from anyone.

So that could be part of the reason why I cried when we got a surprise check in the mail from our church. The people in our growth group had noticed. And they helped. In a massive way. Between their check and sewing madness of 2016, we have enough to cover Maddie’s hospital bills.

And then Millie got a stress fracture. And two x-rays. And an MRI. And once again, I’m tired, but grateful the Target position is already in place to help. But then we got another surprise check in the mail from friends from our past and I’m once again humbled and undone. We haven’t even received the bills for Millie’s round of needs, but we should have enough in place to cover them right now.

The box of pillows in the photo above is representative of what we’re about to start delivering around town to those we know contributed. It’s a very small way to say, “You saved me from needing to make 181 of these, and we’re so very grateful.”

Sometimes you pray for provision and seek a job simultaneously because that’s the next logical step. And you’re grateful when you get it because it will help, even if it means a temporary sacrifice.

Sometimes you pray for provision and God surprises you with manna you never saw coming. And you pick up the portion you need for today and you say, “Thank you.”

And so here we are: humbled, grateful, and blessed.

Be Thou My Vision

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Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one

It’s October 17, 2016 and I’m sitting here in my living room. My 17yo just kissed me on the head and said, “Now don’t stay up too late, Mom,” in a funny turn-around of advice. And yet, I have that potential tonight. Potential to sit and ponder. Sometimes pondering is good for the soul and sometimes it just brings up the dregs of the past.

It’s funny to be in this new life with an almost totally different identity than I had before. Occasionally I will mention to someone that I used to homeschool the girls and they are usually surprised. Bozeman only knows me as the working mom whose kids all attend a 5-day Classical Christian school. They don’t know the me who directed a Classical Conversations group for three years or the me who was always available to do all the school things when the girls started in at the blended-model school, or the me who cried over giving newborns and preschoolers back to the state to hand over to someone else. They don’t know the me who spent all the weekends driving between two cities, two-hours apart, to help with my mom during her last months of ALS. They don’t know the me I think I am. And maybe I’m not that me anymore. Or maybe I’m not willing to let anyone else in on the me I think I am.

The me that I thought I was was seriously rejected. And, yes, it’s been 21 months now and you’d think time enough to let things go already, but I don’t know that you can ever let that kind of rejection go. It colors everything you do moving forward. Every conversation has a giant “what if” in the background. What if I say something to someone who ends up keeping a list of things I said. What if I confess a marriage or parenting struggle to someone in friendship-confidence and it ends up being used against us later as a reason to fire my husband? What if I trust people again and…later realize I never should have?

And I find myself praying again. Sometimes for vindication of the past, sometimes for the grace to move on. Sometimes for both.

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And then sometimes I lift up my head and take a good look around me and thank God for bringing us to this place. And sometimes I thank him without the qualification of the how we ended up here. Because if I believe God to be sovereign…and I do…then I need to believe he took us out of the one place and brought us to another. And I need to stop grieving over the process.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art

High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun
Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all

Vengeance is the Lord’s

I’m not super good at participating in group discussions. I’ve always been the attendee who *maybe* has something to share, but usually waits………..to see if there is a reasonable pause before sharing it. ProTip: There is rarely a pause like this in Bible discussion groups, so I’m usually off the hook because I just assume what everyone else has to say should be heard and what I *maybe* might want to share probably shouldn’t. There’s my introvert group discussion therapy session for you. So, even though I had two opportunities this week to share this, I didn’t. So I thought I would now.

On Sunday one of our pastors, Jeff Hamling, preached on the vengeance of God (and, incidentally, I now know that the word vengeance has an “a” in it – this could come in handy the next time I want to throw some vengeance around) and, as usual, there were some things I was aware of, as well as that one thing that it seems was just revealed to me for the first time ever. That thing for me on Sunday was that if I’m to be perfectly frank, I know I’m supposed to leave vengeance in the hands of God, but, if I’m honest, and I mean HONEST, I don’t really trust God to do a very good job with that.

*gasp*

Confession, it’s good for the soul.

But, I think this is why I don’t really trust God to exact justice the way I think it should be meted out – I’ve talked myself into thinking I have a better plan and that better plan includes not only forgiveness and restoration, but first exposure and vindication! That’s right and fair, no?

But, no. It’s neither. And God does not need my help in developing the plan of restitution for wrongs done. He never has.

On Sunday, I think the light bulb moment came for me not in hearing that my place isn’t to condemn and pass out demerits (blast…my ISTJ loves doing just that) – I know those things. The moment of realization came when Jeff said that God IS a God of Justice. And he WILL act on our behalf. And he WILL restore all things. And…here it is: The way He enacts his justice will ultimately be satisfying for me.

Seriously? I can trust God to do this? To not just ask me to forgive and move on, but that He will take care of wrongs done in a way that I will say, “That is exactly what I was hoping for.”

Because maybe He will change my own heart in the process to move my desires to be more in line with His, hence ushering in the perfect plan of restitution that leaves me wanting nothing more.

Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

On the Eve of my 42nd Birthday

You know those memory flashbacks that Facebook is so fond of posting, giving us the choice as to whether or not we want to remind others of what happened on that day 1 year, 2 years, or 5 years ago? So this one came up for me today: On the eve of my 40th birthday. Sometimes I’m hesitant to look at the memories of the past because…they hurt too much. And yet I don’t hide that option from my timeline. I’m trying very hard to look back and deal with, if not make sense of, the past couple of years of life. I haven’t wanted to feel the hurt there. There is a major part of me that thinks that feeling the hurt is the same thing as letting bitterness take root. And I want to be very clear – they can be co-mingled for sure, but they are not necessarily the same thing.

And I’m finding a bit of release in embracing the fact that I can still hurt over very real relational wounds without being bitter. I’m allowing myself to feel things a bit more and that means more tears, darn it, but so be it.

I was reading again in the Psalms this week and read this from Psalm 15:

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
    Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
    and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
    and does no evil to his neighbor,
    nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

I think I understood something that day. From January through the end of May we were not allowed to speak of what happened. I really wanted to. I REALLY wanted to come June. I didn’t. But there has always been this thought inside me that one of these days I will. I’ll write out the whole thing from our perspective just so there’s a fair representation of what happened. I’ve been waiting for some untold amount of time to pass so I can finally unleash it all.

And yet. He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend…that is the one who will sojourn in the tent of the Lord, dwell in His holy hill.

I got the message that day. There are some hurts that may linger for a lifetime. There are some stories never meant to be shared. God hears and that’s enough. It has to be.

So on the eve of this 42nd birthday, while I’m storing a prepped turkey in the front seat of the car in the garage here in Bozeman, Montana, I’m remembering an evening of sweet girls making pies and taking silly photos and watching a Christmas movie and then eating one of the pies and I’m grateful for this space of our lives. We’re in a good place. Educationally, we’re in a better place. Spiritually we’re working towards the same in our hearts. And I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for parents who stayed together through the good and the horrible. I’m thankful for a 4-year period of time where I could live close enough to them to be involved in my mom’s care during her last years. I’m thankful for fourteen little ones who softened our hearts in a fresh way over and over and over. I’m thankful…for the winter here (because if I say that one enough it has to come true, right? Where’s my sweater…)

I’m thankful for the hope of selling our OKC house soon. I’m thankful for the new relationships God is building into our lives. I’m thankful for a warm house here. I’m thankful for hope, for hope is sometimes all I have.

There was once a time when hard things happened in our life and I lost my way. I’m thankful God led me through that wilderness into a place of trust again. And trust in such a way that this time, though I’ve been wandering again for a while, I have not been lost.

And, in fact, I have a pretty clear view of where I’m heading.

And I’m grateful. Tears and all.

Happy Thanksgiving

 

It’s a Chili Night

Have you ever gone to bed and lay there wondering why you can’t fall asleep even though it’s late and you have a lot to do the next day, but the laundry has been done, and the dog has been taken out, and you found the paperwork you have to take with you tomorrow, and…OH NO YOU LEFT THE CHILI OUT AND YOU MADE A QUADRUPLE BATCH SO YOU COULD FREEZE IT SO IF YOU DON’T GET UP AND DEAL WITH IT RIGHT NOW YOU WILL LOSE A QUADRUPLE BATCH OF CHILI, thus ushering you into the next hour of heart-pumping adrenaline which will keep you from sleeping even though you finally did that thing that you’d forgotten to do that was keeping you up in the first place?

No? Just me?

We’ve been in Bozeman for two months now. Just a touch over two months. Just long enough to start to realize you aren’t actually on vacation with everything you own, but you do, in fact, live here now and you have a local bank account to prove it. Except normal life really hasn’t started for us yet like it would have if we were still living in Oklahoma and that’s a weird thing all in itself. Social media, for all the ways I love it for keeping up with people I wouldn’t otherwise be able to, has been stabbing us in the heart for the past few days as we watch the life we once had begin again. Without us.

School starts late in Montana, but it’s funny to hear people here talk about schools in other places and how early they all start. It’s all relative, I suppose. September 8 is our magic go-time. My girls have transitioned as well as you can expect four teens and tweens who have been moved across the country to transition. They miss friends. They miss the familiar songs of our old church. They miss the familiar everything.

And I understand. And I don’t know if they cried on Thursday when school in Oklahoma began again or not, but I did for them and my heart aches on their behalf. There is a true grief aspect to a transition like this that hits in waves. Sometimes it hits when one of us says a common phrase that A2 used to say and we all laugh a second and then get quiet because…he’s not here with us anymore. Sometimes it hits when we watch a movie that has a theme or a scene that hits a little too close to home in the betrayal or loneliness category. Sometimes it just hits because it just does.

Leaving a hard situation helps because you don’t have to think about it all the time anymore – it’s not constantly in your face anymore…but it also makes it easier to just stuff the hurt away. And when you stuff the hurt away…eventually it has to bubble up again and so it does. This is one of those weeks it’s spilling over.

The songs that theme this time waffle between Sheryl Crow’s Change  and Matt Maher’s Lord, I Need You and Wayne Kirkpatrick’s It’s Me Again.

Basically, I’m the same mess I’ve always been in a much prettier setting.

And yet, at some level I can’t even name or explain we are still being sustained. And the hurt and the need is drawing me back to the Word again in a way I haven’t been drawn to in a very long time.

And so I will continue to cling to the promises of the only One I know who will keep them. And I continue to pray through my impossible list. And I continue on.

Okay, maybe I’m not as strong as I pretend to be
Okay, maybe I’m just as insecure as everybody else

But I tell myself, maybe
I can work it out alone
And no one else will ever know

You there, watching and waiting with the patience of a saint
While I wallow in self-indulgent, paranoid philosophies

But I’m no Socrates, baby
And in the end it’s like a marathon
I’m running straight to you

I can’t seem to take this ride with ease
I can’t see the forest for the trees
I’m coming undone
Hello, it’s me again
It’s me again

Tonight, while all the world is sleeping I will roam the halls
Consumed, with the obsessions of a terminal insomniac

Under attack, save me
From the poets and the poltergeists
Playing in my head

I can’t seem to take this ride with ease
I can’t see the forest for the trees
I’m coming undone
Hello, it’s me again
Yeah, me again

Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Me again

So you tell me not to worry
But I’m a frightened little child
With a strong imagination
That can always be found
Running free and wild

I can’t seem to take this ride with ease
I can’t see the forest for the trees
I’m coming undone
Hello, it’s me again
Yeah, it’s me again

Bozeman, Bozeman, Take Me In. Are You Aware the Shape I’m In?

During the month of May my family succumbed to the Whole30 eating plan, which was equal parts crazy and brilliant. Brilliant, because we were moving, so I was able to either toss or give away everything that was non-compliant with the plan, but crazy, because we were moving, so I was also packing up the kitchen and cooking became more and more difficult as the month wore on.

Still. We did it. And now that we’re traveling for three weeks, we’re kind of in a maintenance mode until we settle again, at which point we will likely do it again. For a stress eater who is under a tremendous amount of stress and not able to eat all the things, I needed another outlet. I began cross stitching again, a craft I haven’t done in easily fifteen years or more. I called it stress stitching and I just completed my second project last night and prepped for a third. It’s been a great project during this interim stage of living, as I can stitch while conversing with people, or while watching a movie, or while traveling if I’m not driving (this is less likely because we’re moving with two vehicles and I’m usually driving one of them). Still, it’s been good and I’m liking the mental release it provides while simultaneously producing a tangible outcome, one I’m happy with, one I will frame once we land somewhere again.

Ah, the blank slate. It’s a metaphor for the summer, really. As we put more and more distance from the physical location of Oklahoma City and the pain that locale still represents, I find myself thinking about the pain of the past few months less and less and thinking more about the people we loved while there, who loved us too, who we will miss (are missing), as well as the hope of what it is to come. There is healing in the distance that I’m not sure would ever be able to come without it.

As we look ahead to what is to come, I’m finding a scary hope spring forth in my heart that our family is entering into a season of jubilee and God will put a spiritual salve over our hearts and heal so much of the hurt. I’m not so naive as to think we will never be hurt again nor never hurt anyone else again, but the blank slate makes me hopeful in a way I haven’t been for a long time.


Load the car and write the note
Grab your bag and grab your coat
Tell the ones that need to know
We are headed north

One foot in and one foot back
But it don’t pay to live like that
So I cut the ties and I jumped the tracks
For never to return

Ah Bozeman Bozeman take me in
Are you aware the shape I’m in
My hands they shake my head it spins
Ah Bozeman Bozeman take me in

I Need My Stories

For a variety of reasons I’ve lost my voice this past year. I’ve alluded to it before, but I’m not the gal who will become famous for writing about sorrows when they come because when sorrows come I clam up.

And I’ve clammed up for the better part of a year.

We’re moving to Bozeman, Montana in June. We’re leaving Oklahoma in a little over a week. This chapter that held so much potential four years ago has now come to an end and we’re turning the page of a new one with no idea which direction the author intends to go with the story.

I was recently asked where I was blogging these days and I said, well, the same spot. It’s just that I haven’t been blogging. I said I hoped to find my voice again once we moved. He said he hoped so too, that people needed my stories.

I don’t know so much about that. I don’t think anyone really needs my stories except for maybe me. I need to write to process, write to ponder, write to remember.

I don’t have any regrets over letting things go here for a while. There are seasons for everything, even silence. My kids are older now and it’s not as easy to use them as illustrations because they, you know, would read about it and I respect them too much for that. I have really great kids and I’m continually amazed at how God is shaping their lives in the midst of so many things we wouldn’t have chosen to use as shaping tools. God is funny in his working of things that way. We’ve worked hard to cultivate a relationship of trust with them and I don’t plan to break that now.

When I first started keeping this blog, oh, some 12 years ago, my intent was simply to share stories and if they resonated with someone along the way it would just be a bonus. Years passed, and I got caught up in the stats game and the compensation game. I saw potential for this space beyond what I was able to procure simply from sharing stories, so I shifted. I got free stuff. I paid some bills. And I sold out my writing space.

I didn’t like who I was as an online writer at that point. If I want to share with you that I really love Target then I will do so without needing Target to send me a $50 gift card for saying so. So I’m done with that season too.

I’m actually not sure what this space will become again, if anything again. My domain expired two days ago and I called to renew it and as I was doing so, the guy I was talking to was all, “So, half-pint house…is this some kind of beer blog?” I started laughing and said, “No, but you are the first to ask me that one. I used to get more hits off of some rapper name Half-Pint and I’m sure I was a disappointment to those doing the google searching.” I went on to explain it was a literary reference with a nod in the direction of Little House on the Prairie.

*crickets*

He had no idea what I was talking about. And that’s okay. I don’t know what I’m talking about half the time either.

Our time in Oklahoma is coming to a close. As much as I hate the way it came to this and still feel pain over the situation that came about that caused this and still struggle with certain people who caused it to be so, I no longer view the past four years as a wasted space. I was given the privilege of helping my dad care for my mom during her last weeks of her fight with ALS and, as hard as that was, I’m thankful for that time. I wouldn’t have been able to do that living anywhere else but in Oklahoma. And the 14 kids we cared for during the past 2.5 years in addition to our own would not have crossed our paths ever either. And they might not ever cross our paths again, but I’m thankful for the time we did have with them and for as long as I can remember their names and visualize their tiny faces, I will pray for them. And for the people we became friends with who really are sad along with us at the way things transpired and that we have to leave, I remain thankful. For there are a lot of them. And we will miss them. And I’m glad our paths intersected during this small span of 4-years.  For our girls who made friends and are now having to leave them, it’s difficult to watch them grieve, but it’s part of the process of living. And just like we said with our foster kids, if it doesn’t hurt when they leave then we didn’t do it right, then the same is true of our relationships. If it doesn’t hurt us when we leave people in Oklahoma then we didn’t do relationships right either. And while we certainly didn’t do that perfectly, it will hurt. We will miss many.

As we enter this new season that’s what I want to convey the most to my kids – the hurt isn’t bad, and we can’t be afraid of pain. I want to live and love well both the place and the people of Montana so that one day, if we are ever called to leave that place as well (and trust me, I do NOT want to keep up this moving spree), then we can say we had no regrets. We did what we were called to, came to do, and stayed to do.

The Salvation Song by The Avett Brothers

If you take my heart
Don’t leave the smallest part
I’ve no need to live if you’re to come up gone
An as my life turns to a song
And if and when I treat you wrong
No I never want to hurt our family

And I would give up everything
No this is not just about me
And I don’t know a plainer way to say it Babe
And they may pay us off in fame
Though that is not why we came
And I know well and good that won’t heal our hearts

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that’s good that’s how we’ll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way

Now if I’m walkin’ through the rain
And I hear you call my name
I will break into a run without a pause
And if your love laughs at your dreams
Well it’s not as bad as it seems
Either way one of them has got to go
And if you take of my soul
You can still leave it whole
With the pieces of you own you leave behind

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that’s good that’s how we’ll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way

And I would give up everything
And if you were to come up clean
And see you shine so bright in a world of woe
And they may pay us off in fame
But that is not why we came
And if it compromises truth then we will go

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that’s good that’s how we’ll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way

On Hurt and the Pain of Risking our Hearts for Kids in the System

Two days ago we dropped off our two little guys, A2 and J1, at the educational care center we’ve been taking them to for the past 9 months and, with tears, we said good-bye, knowing we would likely never see them again.

Craig wrote about this here here in his post, The Comfort of Sovereignty. Shortly after leaving the care center, we received a text from Ben Nockles, of the 111 Project, and he asked us if we would share about this final chapter of our Oklahoma foster care story at the Foster Care Forum the next day. Here’s my portion of what we shared:

Three years ago I hosted a Compassion table at our then-fledgling church. Compassion is an organization I care deeply about and we’ve sponsored children through that program for over a decade. That Sunday, not one single person stopped by my table or picked up a packet. Not one. And, as a good Christian often does, I became self-righteously angry. I’m talking ANGRY. So angry that when our pastor, Doug, announced he was going to the 8308 conference later that week (what was then the Foster Care Forum) and that he hoped members of the church would also attend, I went out of spite, knowing that nobody else at our church would probably go.

That’s a great motive for going to something that is designed to soften your heart towards the cause of kids in crisis, right? Well, there it was. I went and God opened my heart up in a way I never expected. He opened up the hearts of my entire family in a way we never expected. And nine months later we welcomed a new child in our home. And over the course of the next 2.5 years we welcomed 13 more. Some we had for a very short time, some we had much longer. One set came to us twice. We loved and we lost and we loved again. And we lost again. That’s how this gig works. You can’t lose what you don’t love  and if you aren’t willing to love big and risk big then maybe you should think about a different cause to get behind. Foster care requires everything you have because it takes all of the good intentions of every program ever designed to help and it deposits them in your front door, at your kitchen table, in your spare bedroom and you have to do more than just know it’s what you should do…you actually have to do it.

That first year I wrote a lot about our experiences on my blog and I attended the Foster Care Forum again, this time to stand up here and give an account of our first few months. Last year Craig did the same.

Yesterday we said good-bye to the 2yo and 1yo we have cared for for the past 9 months and it was a fresh heartbreak for us because like so many of our plans that don’t go in the path we intended, it was never our desire to hand them over to another foster family and yet…that’s exactly what we had to do.

Shortly after we said our good-byes to two little boys who did not understand why we were crying, nor that we would not be back to pick them up, nor that we would likely never see them again, Ben asked us if we would share some final thoughts here today.

We said we would and the first thought that popped to mind came from Galatians 6:9 which says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

And that’s the thing: It’s so easy to get discouraged in this work, in spite of the worthiness of it, for it is work. And after 2.5 years of it combined with other real life heartbreaks like losing my mom last year to ALS and Craig losing his job earlier this year, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to become discouraged.

Discouragement comes when you give a child back to a broken system, or parents that are only JUST able to function well enough to keep their kids out of the system, or to new foster parents, you lose touch altogether. We have no idea what has become of the majority of the kids we’ve had and we likely never will.

And yet…we are told to press on, to not give up. The harvest will come, we just may not get to be the ones to see it happen.

If we’ve been asked once we’ve been asked a hundred times if we plan to step back into foster care when we move to Montana and for the longest time I’ve said I just don’t know. I gave away everything we have collected over the past 2.5 years (and when you need to be prepared for ages 0-5, boys and girls, all seasons it amounts to a LOT of stuff). The only things remaining right now are the small shirts and socks that are still working their way through the laundry cycle here and we still have our original baby crib left. Three months ago we were planning to hand that off too. Now it has reserved seating on our moving truck.

We don’t know what the next piece of the story looks like for us – could be respite care, could be fostering again, or could be in a support role, for we know how desperately those things are needed. Regardless of how it plays out there, one thing is for certain – we will not look back at our time here as a wasted one. We will hang our little green hand prints of all 14 kids on a new wall in a new state and we will pray – for those we’ve had as well as the thousands of other kids who are living that story. And we will pray for you, that you will step in and be a voice for the voiceless; a parent for the parentless, and that you would not grow weary in the work, for in due season we will all reap…if we do not give up.

Special thanks to Ben Nockels and the 111Project for this going-away gift you see up above (the HURT letters) acknowledging our foster care efforts in Oklahoma. Ben honed in on our family’s mantra that, “If it doesn’t hurt when we give kids back, we’re not doing it right,” and the large “R” represents our goal to redeem hurt in the lives of kids. This is easily the most “hipster” decorative piece we own, and we’re excited to hang it with the 14 framed handprints/footprints we’ll hang somewhere on a wall in Bozeman. Humbled.