I hate fostercare.

Disclaimer: This post, though sad in nature, is not meant to discourage foster parents or those considering becoming foster parents. It is meant to give a real look into the lives and hearts of foster parents deep in the trenches of difficult days. Therefore, it is raw and unedited. Please withhold judgment and lavish prayers on us and foster parents everywhere also deep in the trenches.

I.hate.fostercare.

There. I said it. I even wrote it in pencil first instead of one of my colorful flair pens because I want to be able to erase the secret I’ve been carrying in my heart this whole time.

I hate fostercare

I.love.my.kids. I love the children in my home and my baby girl who doesn’t live here anymore and carries a chunk of my heart everywhere she goes.

The very name is flawed. Foster care system. The word system implies order and that a working plan is in place.

I know this is kind of a weird picture but I totally get those people in the New Testament who thought Messiah was on earth to smash the injustice of the Roman oppression.

Down with Rome!

Down with the foster care system!

My voice is far above the rest of the crowd because this system has failed my children miserably. It has failed thousands of children and I can do nothing.

On a weekly basis I am required to take my son to hell and back. Back through the memories of his terrible past all the while holding his hand and saying

“It’s going to be ok son, I love you.” 

I betray his trust in me everytime. I am forced to go back on my promise to keep him safe.

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I started this blog to be a blessing. I started writing about foster care to spread the word and encourage others to step up. I’m telling you now.

Run.

Yes, I am a foster Mom and I am telling you to run.

Unless.

Unless you are fully committed to live a life of slavery to the system for the love and good of these kids. This system tells you where to go, who to get along with, who to allow to come into your home, how to spend your time and money, and what kind of danger to put your child in… you become a servant to the system.

Another phone call leaves my legs trembling, heart pounding, palms sweating. It’s your worse nightmare and you are called to live it.

I want to scream, but can only whisper; “Oh God, how is this just?” Toddler boy recently accepted Jesus into his heart. “How can you do this… he is your child now…” 

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Like Abraham I put the one I love on the altar. Unlike Abraham I scream and kick all the way up the mountain. “Please deliver him God!!” My prayer for him everyday is that he have no memories of this time. That God would erase the struggle, the trauma, the neglect, the hurt, the weakness of his foster parents to do anything about all of it.

Our Pastor preached on weakness last week. I was seething the whole time. I wanted to shout to the pulpit. “Don’t you know how weak I am!?” 

Multiple chronic health issues, taking care of my family and home, a job, masters degree studies, foster care.

“I’m already as weak as it gets!” 

Two days later I also have a sinus infection.

As I call out to God these are the only words I hear.

… I have told you what is good…what does he require of me… to do justice, love kindness, walk humbly…

God isn’t only putting toddler boy on the altar for toddler boy, he is putting him on the altar to get to me…

Is my heart on the altar?

Through the Purple Door- A Memorial to Jim Elliot Christian School

I lost my job last week. Not just a job, but a home.

through the purple door

I walked through that purple door for the first time just about two years ago, scared out of my mind.

What am I doing?!” “You’re not a teacher!” “You’ve never had an education class in your life!”

Satan hissed in my ears as I found a seat among strangers. I was overdressed, sweating, and I was sure everyone knew it. It wasn’t long before I realized that everything that enthusiastic southern man said in the interview was true. Jim Elliot Christian School is really a special place. I wasn’t exactly sure why at first (plus, I was super intimidated by the Coach and a little weirded out by the theatre guy), but as soon as the students walked through the door that first day I knew exactly why this place was so special. Those kids are a uniquely incredible bunch of hooligans.

That first day of teaching I watched as the clock counted down the minutes before some of that unique bunch of hooligans would walk in the door. I began to teach and while science-y stuff flowed from my mouth, pure joy flowed from my heart.

I am a teacher.

Jim Elliot Christian School changed my life.

I fell in love with education there. I fumbled and failed over education there, but always fell into grace. That’s one of the most special things about that place. You fail and you fall, but there are always arms there to catch you and let you down gently into grace with a box of Kleenex.

I learned that teaching is only 5% really about teaching. It’s 75% mentoring and appealing to the heart; 10% loving, listening, and proving you care; and 10% wondering where in the world all my pencils keep disappearing to. God taught me that the more I tried to pour biology and equations and methods into their heads, the less I got to their hearts. I learned that teaching is not about the more appealing Powerpoint, but it’s mostly about the authentic person you show your students.

I learned how to be honest and vulnerable to middle schoolers. Believe it or not, no matter how much I smiled or laughed or pretended to be ok, they could smell my fake from a mile away. It takes a lot of humility to stand in front of a bunch of kids and say “Guys, I am not ok today”. And strangely, the more open I was with them, the more I loved them.
I became a mom at Jim Elliot. Yes, God did bless us with foster children during my two years there, but I referred to my students as “my kids” from day one. While teaching, God affirmed in my heart that I did, in fact, have the capacity to love the children of another. God prepared my heart to be a foster mom with this unique group of hooligans.

colored pencils

Through that purple door, I learned things about myself that I really, really didn’t want to. I learned that there would actually be people in my life who didn’t like me that much… and I had to be ok with that. I learned I had actually fallen into legalism in spite of my railings against it, and I was not willing to see things from the perspective of others. I learned how to say sorry…a lot.

I became a grown up behind those purple doors, in the big classroom with no windows up way too many stairs.

I held a bleeding, unconscious child; I watched as teenagers watched their lives fall apart around them; I looked into the eyes of a child in pain who was just “so done”; and every time my heart broke just a little bit. Even so, the more my heart broke, the more crevices appeared to fill and fill up they did. I watched boys become men before my very eyes and I watched young women take a stand. I learned what burned carpet smells like and how to get a finger out of a test tube. I had to learn over and over again not to look at a magnesium strip when it’s on fire and I learned to laugh at the faces students made when I explained cellular respiration for the first time.

I learned how much I really don’t know.

I gave my all to that place. My heart, my time, my energy, my passion …..

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose

Because of Jim Elliot Christian School I have gained so much that I cannot lose.

Claiming God’s Promises as a Foster Mom

Last Sunday afternoon I was in my kitchen pouring juice into pretty glasses and hashbrowns were sizzling in the pan. Sunday brunch is my favorite. Mostly because it’s an excuse to drink another cup of coffee when I’ve already had a morning cup, but also because the peace that spending the morning in God’s house brings to my family. Shalom in my home.

Claiming the promises

As I was cooking I looked up and noticed toddler-boy sitting in the living room at the handmade trunk reading his Bible talking quietly to himself. I came a little closer and was stunned by what he was saying “yep… uh huh… sure…yea”

The first thought to pop into my mind was “No way did he learn that from me! I don’t read my Bible like that!” Instantly that still small voice prodded; “Oh yes, he did”

Maybe we don’t read our Bibles quite like that, maybe not out loud anyway but isn’t that sometimes how we live? Over and over again in Scripture God promises us good things. He gives freely his presence and protection. In my heart I’m saying “yep.. uh huh.. sure” Like when toddler-boy wants to tell me something and I give him a screen-bound; “Wow, that’s cool buddy” God wants to pour out these promises into the anemic parts of my heart, but can he if I’m not listening or paying attention?

Oh friend, is your heart doubtful and hurting? Mine too. I wish I had profound words, new revelations or methods but the truth is I don’t know how to live with a broken heart. I don’t know how many more times I can utter through tears “God please….” But I can preach to my heart the promises- the truths- I do know and pray that eventually drinking enough truth serum can bring healing to my aching wounds.

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Foster parents do a lot of paperwork. A. LOT. Sometimes I wonder if they make you go through so much work before you are even certified to weed out the feel-gooders. Those whose hands cramp up are left behind and those who persevere continue on. Signing up for foster care is basically signing your name on the dotted line of brokenness. Literally, it’s a dotted line for a reason. Even the line can’t keep it together. But anyone who wants God to be powerful in their lives are signing up for the same thing. Brokenness.

That’s a promise.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

my grace is sufficient

Christ himself lived this paradox. Weakness leads to strength. Brokenness to abundance.

Hebrews 12:2  “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In order to get to the fullness of joy that comes from these fulfilled promises we must endure the cross and the shame. Christ took on our shame when he died on the cross. In the foster care world we get to live that same way. We take on the shame these families endure. We bare this cross with them.

Ann Voskamp says this in her book “The Broken Way”

“The measure of your willingness to be broken and given is the measure of you capacity for communion and intimacy.”

brokenness

By signing up for brokenness we sign ourselves up for all the blessings that come with communion with our Lord. It doesn’t feel like it now. A broken heart after losing a child is the worst kind of suffering I have been through.

“Suffering is never a meaningless waste of your life but a meaningful path through your life.” Ann Voskamp

So for right now we endure the suffering, we bare the shame. No one is prancing their way through this life of loving the children of another but we trudge forward knowing that even through all this Christ redeems broken things, broken families, broken people, and we get to be a part of it.

God Moves in Mysterious Ways- Life Update

My friends who are closest to me know I have a problem.

exciting announcement

An idiom problem.

No, not an idiot problem (even though some days Lord knows I have that too!), but an idiom problem. They are so hard to keep straight and they don’t really seem to ever relate to conversations. Something about a beating a horse while you have a bird in your hand. Or something about .. But anyway I know there is an idiom saying the only thing you can count on in life is that you can’t count on life. I think God abides by this idiom sometimes. In my experience, God can always be counted on to do something totally out of my box and unexpected. If you would have told this med school driven, anti-marriage, anti-stay-at-home-mom, anti-homeschool college freshman that I would not only be married the summer I graduated, but also would be a teacher and a foster mom – I would have thought you were crazy! And most days I believe I am pretty crazy! But there is nothing I would rather be doing. I love my life- hard as it is- and I know it’s because the great God I serve blesses obedience, not convenience.

Last school year was my second year as a teacher and it. was. Hard. My first year was a breeze compared to my second year. I tell you the truth; I love teaching. I am passionate about teaching. Yes, the periodic table and cellular respiration actually excite me, but I almost quit. Not just once in a moment of weakness, but many times. I sat with the Lord and begged him to make it clear if he was trying to lead me into something else. As hard as it was, the Lord has made it clear that I am to stay in education. I knew I needed tools. I needed help! After signing up for every simulcast and teaching newsletter/blog I could find, I started to entertain the idea of getting my Masters Degree in Education. I applied for a scholarship and not even twenty-four hours later the Lord provided a half ride scholarship to get my degree! After much prayer and discussion, the Lord has led us down this open road and I am going back to school! (Back to school shopping with me anyone?!) I am so excited for this opportunity and covet your prayers as life as a wife, teacher, foster mom, and student might be a little crazy!

Called to Live My Greatest Fear

It’s my worst fear, and God has called me to live it every day of my life.

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Usually when God gives me a story to write, it flows out from my heart onto the page rather easily. This story has taken a while. It has come in splintered, tear-stained shards and I fear it’s not going to be pretty. But I feel it must be told. Suffering for the Christian is never irrelevant. Suffering allows us to share with others, learn, and gain wisdom so that our suffering not only makes us more like the Savior, but also allows others to gain from our suffering if we are willing to show our raw, ugly, passionate struggles. I have often heard that the church does not know how to grieve or that the church does not know how to deal with emotional and mental struggles. To some extent I totally agree with these statements, however, I strongly believe that the church is that way sometimes because of me. If we want the church to be transparent, real, and more genuine, if we want God’s people to become the community we crave, then we need to be willing to be the one weeping in the pew. Or in the hallway in front of the nursery. Or in front of the greeters right in the front foyer. And yes, those are all places I cried in church today.

Two days ago our sweet baby girl left us to live with biological family members out of state. After eight precious months of knowing her, she suddenly is gone and the three nice, neat little divisions of my heart are now two. Bleeding and raw, a triangle cut right out of the middle, unable to be sewn back together. I could never imagine the grief. I had ideas of maybe what it would be like but it is by far the deepest grief I have ever felt. Our sweet girl suffered neglect for the first six weeks of her life so she usually was happiest being held. She became a tiny extension of my arm, hip, and soul. The bond between us was instantaneous and now she is gone.

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A week ago I sat in a courtroom determined to keep it together- instead weeping- for a whole fifteen minutes while person after person decided her fate. I was hopeless, helpless and nothing I would do or say could change the fact that her life was about to change forever, and so was mine. She sat in her safe place-my lap- and giggled, chatted, and waved at the judge, carefree and unaware of her Mama’s tears. I will never forget those fifteen minutes. They are burned into my memory.

Eventually I will stop peeking into an empty room to check on a sleeping baby who isn’t there. Eventually I will get out of the car and not open the back door on my side to get her. Eventually I will be able to breathe normally again. But until then, my grief has become my fight song.

My grief is my fight song. I sure don’t feel like singing, but my grief will be my fight song. A song of victory.

My husband needs me.

My son needs me.

God loves me.

And I will continue on.

I was recently reading a blog post about Elizabeth Elliot. Talk about an incomprehensible level of grief! This is one thing she had to say and it has become the lyrics to this fight song.

Trust God. Obey him. Do the next thing.

One thing that stands out to me is the lack of emotion in all of those statements. Like Isaiah in the wilderness. Just eat. Just sleep. Just do. I think this is the only way to get through this kind of grief. There are extremely wavering feelings of trust and obedience, if I am honest. I have no desire to do the next thing. “I just want to wallow, wear leggings and eat ice cream ok?! I just lost a child… I just lost a child. “

Get up. Do the next thing.

I really think that one of the most gracious aspects of God’s design of human kind is that he made our minds so finite and small. There is so much grace in not knowing the future. There is mercy in not knowing the darkness that is about to stretch out ahead. God allowed us to be led to believe that baby L was going to be ours. He led county workers to ask us to hire lawyers and pursue adoption. This actually allowed us to love sweet baby L in the best way possible. I saw her- and still see her as “my girl.” In fact those were my husband’s first words when I shared with him the decision of the court. “My girl…….” We could not have loved her any more if she had come out of my own body. Not knowing she would be suddenly taken from us was God’s grace.

Mamas, love your littles today as if today were the last day you had with them.Jones17-16

I am scared of some things like we all are; spiders, snakes, the dark, the garbage disposal… we all have things we are scared of. But most of us have one deep, dark, intensely visceral fear that grabs at our hearts and squeezes. One fear that, if messed with, causes us to lash out in anger and desperation instead of jumping and squealing. Mine is losing those closest to me.

Three summers ago, my husband-to-be was traveling the country. He left to travel the country and I was convinced he left to leave me behind. I struggled with intense anxiety, depression, insomnia, panic attacks, night terrors and migraines. I had lost the one closest to me and my mind could not handle it. Every time he called, I berated his very character because my deepest fear was being messed with. I received counseling, some horrible and some wonderful and still nothing helped. Those months were darker for me than my life ever was before accepting Christ.

Three summers later, God has called me to live my greatest fear every day of my life. As a Mama my children are the closest people to my heart. They are my life, my world, my identity. I live every day wondering if it is my last to smell them, to hear their little voices, to watch them grow, learn and discover the world. This past weekend after the baby left I fought hard in my mind if we were going to be able to continue foster care. I could not imagine suffering this way over and over and over again. I read in Shauna Niequist’s book “Bittersweet” this statement;

“When you stay with something instead of walking away it builds something new inside of you, something solid and weighty, something durable…”

Friends, that is the kind of faith I want.

Faith that is so durable generations can sit on and it not fall apart. Faith that is so weighty it can hold a ship in place.

This grief is intense but “If you can just stay standing… and trust the one who made you, who called you who empowered you who equipped you to use you he will! “ –Liz Curtis Higgs

So today I vow;

To just stay standing

To trust

To obey

To do the next thing

To sing my fight song.

 

 

 

Beakers and Bach is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Meaning, that if you purchase through any of the above links, our family receives a small commission off of the purchases you make at no additional cost to yourself.

Managing Your Foster Care Stockpile

Managing your foster care stockpile

Your home study is done! Shew! Take some time to shake out that hand that has been signing an endless stream of paperwork! This was the point where I got shopping happy. Like literally. Buy all the cute baby/toddler things am I right? My church family was also totally incredible and threw us a virtual baby shower. But if you are like us and live in an apartment and don’t have the organizational skills of my sister then you don’t want to have a huge stockpile of things you don’t necessarily need. Here are some of the essentials we have found most valuable.

Side note: We are licensed for ages 0-4 in the state of CO so there will be some differences in different states and different age groups.

Another side note: You may not be a foster mom but getting a foster mom you know one of these items will make her life easier I promise!

PJ’s 

Our friend did this for us and it was extremely useful. She got gallon ziplocks and put pjs for every other age and gender in each ziplock. This was incredibly useful for our baby girl who was an emergency placement.

Plastic sheets 

Most foster kiddos (especially ages 0-4) are either not potty trained or have bed wetting issues. I know it’s icky but being prepared will make it a lot easier to deal with.

Hygiene products

Sadly our little guy had lots of issues with lice before he came to us so have this brush and some lice shampoo on hand just in case.

Non-fluoride toothpaste. You may think your kiddo is old enough for a fluoride toothpaste but we were told in training “If you haven’t taught it to them, they don’t know how” Keeping this in the front of our mind helped a lot. Sadly, it makes sense when you consider the neglect these kids have endured.

Diapers and wipes

We kept a pack of newborn, size 3 and a pack of pull ups on hand. That can get you by in a pinch until you have time to run to the store and get the correct size.

Do yourself a favor and get a pack of wipes from Costco. Even if your kiddo is potty trained, messes happen. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a mess or a nasty diaper and using the last wipe in the pack.

Pacifier

This Wubbanub paci is super trendy right now and for good reason. It doubles as a lovie for your little one, and having a little animal stuck to it makes it less easy to loose (it still happens trust me) and something to grab on to when you have one eye half open in the middle of the night trying to find your little ones paci.

Bottles and sippy cups

These bottles are the only ones we have ever used and they’re a little more expensive but they helped a lot with our little ones really upset tummy.

Don’t go crazy with sippy cups but these straw ones work for a wide range of ages

Comfort items

Our toddler had a really really hard time sleeping the first few weeks he was with us. (understandably so!) Make sure to have a soft lovie, sheets and blankets on the bed and especially nightlights. Just the nightlights didn’t scare away enough of the scary darkness bedtime brings so one night I brought our little guy one of the battery powered candles we had from our wedding and it worked like a charm. There was something comforting about being able to snuggle with the nightlight. (Get more than one to avoid pre-bedtime-can’t-find-the-candle-meltdowns)

Swaddle

When we got our emergency placement baby she still seemed to be showing signs of drug exposure. These swaddles saved us those first few months not to mention burrito babies are the best! Just make sure to follow the safety instructions for when your baby starts to roll (especially if she doesn’t have freakishly strong neck muscles like our little one had early on)

Ok, foster Mamas, what have I missed? What things do you have in your stockpile? Any organizing tips?

**Coming soon! Free printable stockpile checklist for subscribers!

Beakers and Bach is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Meaning, that if you purchase through any of the above links, our family receives a small commission off of the purchases you make at no additional cost to yourself.

 

Reflections from Mother’s Day

 

reflections on mothers day

The breeze coming down the mountain blows my hair across my cheek. I should be sobbing. An utter mess. Instead I am numb. The tears won’t come.

I am a Mother. It defines me now, it envelops my soul. I wear it carved into metal close to my heart. I am a mother, but it doesn’t feel like it. I look around the church at mothers holding their babies, mothers who know everything about who their baby is. Data measured in ounces and inches and personalities that have no unit. I hold squirmy babes on the platform at the baby dedication trying to keep them quiet, but almost hoping they won’t be, to distract the eyes of the crowd from the heart of their Mama that must be pounding visibly out of my chest. Pastor announces my pilgrim children with my last name attached. It sounds so beautiful. Never before has a name held such meaning to me. To make them Joneses is my heart’s deepest desire and I want it so bad it hurts. There is no word to describe the feeling. To give yourself completely to a child and know they will not stay… There is no word. I dedicated these children to the Lord knowing that in mere days they could be taken away. My home empty and my heart even emptier.

Last Saturday was a brutal day. I walked into a public place filled with people and I wanted to scream to the crowds “Foster care sucks!” I had to warn them. “Don’t do this! It will tear your heart to pieces! Save yourselves!”

You learn to live with a tightness in your chest and a heaviness in your heart. I always thought being a foster mom would mean that you were strong and allowed yourself to show no emotion. I sought out privacy in the bathroom and slumped against the wall. I had to pray, I had to cry, I had to fight down the emotion burning inside. Nothing. Stillness. No tears.

Sadness is a gift to avoid the nothingness of numbness, and all hard places need water. Grief is a gift, and after a rain of tears, there is always more of you than before. Rain always brings growth. –Voskamp

Sadness

I arrived to the park early. Thirty minutes early actually. It was nothing short of miraculous. I pulled out my flower covered Scriptures and rolled the windows down. The birds sang and the sun shone on the page in an incredibly peaceful way.

I wasn’t even sure what to read so I went to the Psalm with the illustration added that I am most proud of. Psalm 127. Normally I am drawn to verses 3-5 because they are my foster care Ebenezer; my fight song, my song of victory. This particular morning I am drawn to verses 1-2.

“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?”

My deepest desire for my pilgrim children will fail if it is my desire so deep that I attempt to build it myself. If I tear down the letters of their past names to erect the names I desire for them, it is in vain. The Lord builds the solid house, himself the foundation; or I build a rotting shack, splintered and falling apart. I was working my “worried fingers to the bone…” desperate for the attorney, the caseworker, the legal team to just do something! I was working myself frantically in order to avoid the emotions I could not handle and the situations I could not control. That beautiful morning in the park I read these words.

“Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?”

Rest

I could almost hear him in the breeze. “Come to me child, be still and know.”

Being a foster mom doesn’t mean a strong independence with a steely ability to just deal with it. In fact, in order to be a foster mom you have to be quite weak. Weak as a child, willing to collapse in the arms of the Almighty and be still.

 

Beakers and Bach is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Meaning, that if you purchase through any of the above links, our family receives a small commission off of the purchases you make at no additional cost to yourself.

Six Books That Have Changed My Life

six books that changed

When my husband and I were first married one of our favorite places to go on a date night was Barnes and Noble. Actually, it was kind of a strange ritual because he would head off to the sci-fi, fantasy, foction section and I to the biography, religious section so it wasn’t really very date like. Even so, this place is like a haven. Normally, I like more hole-in-the-wall kind of bookshops rather than big chains but this particular Barnes and Noble is special. It has a circular Starbucks porch-like thing right in the middle of the store so no matter what section you are in you can smell those delightful beans. It’s also right near my favorite park with the lake. Something about simply being near a lake makes this Mid-West girl feel calm and at ease. Of course, the main reason it feels like a sanctuary are the rows of books. I think few things make my soul more full than the written word. That is why I want to share with you my short list (ask for the long list if you wish!) of books that have changed my life.

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 I read this book when I was preparing to be a licensed foster Mom. Well, we were still in the mountain of paperwork point of licensing but I wanted to be prepared! When I pictured what motherhood was going to be I imagined how hard it was going to be. I was worried about how chronic pain would affect my ability to be a Mom. To be honest, I was scared. This book gave me hope that motherhood was not only do-able but that it could even be dignified! It changed how I saw mothering before I even became a Mom.

 

Oh I wish I could remember when or how I discovered this book It’s honestly a main factor in why you are reading this post now. She is by far my favorite author and while some can’t quite get past the “flowery” language she has a way of loosing me in the beauty of her thoughts like no author can. Life is crazy busy and if we aren’t careful it can fly by without our permission. This book has taught me to notice-no not just to notice- to memorize the moments. To live full. To take in every breath with thankfulness and intention. This book is a sanctuary.

No books-that-have-changed-my-life list would be complete without my favorite version of the Scriptures. As a writer or a reader we desire beautiful things. My Bible is a beautiful book, inside and out. If you aren’t into the whole lettering thing, than just take pleasure in the organized space to take notes that don’t clutter up the page.

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This book. This book not only changed my heart but it changed my marriage before it even go started. When my husband and I were dating I held a lot of bitterness in my heart. Difficult experiences of my past tainted my view of men and the marriage bed. With every bitter expectation the main character had about those two things my own heart was revealed. Never would I have expected that a fictional story (loosely based on a Biblical one) would lead me to a place of healing, forgiveness and preparedness for marriage.

You know that book that you go back to over and over and it gets better each time? This book is that book. There’s nothing trendy, edgy, or radical about it. To be honest the cover is kind of outdated looking but oh how my heart needs this book. It’s full of gentle honest, simple truth written as though a mother or kind mentor were speaking straight into my heart. “Worry is like a rocking chair. It keeps you busy but gets you nowhere.” –Calm My Anxious Heart

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Community is something I’ve been talking about a lot lately but it used to be sort of a hard idea to nail down. This book is so important because it gives hands and feet to the idea of community. It gets down to the super practical to help with the akward that comminuty can be in its early stages. Specifically, this book talks about how to do community when a part of your community is broken, struggling or even terminally ill. I learned so much from this book about how to big love my community but as a chronically ill person I learned valuable lessons on how to receive from my community. I was recently discussing with a Bible study group how every member of Christ needs each other and as much as we need to show up for each other, we need to depend on each other. If you don’t know what that looks like, read this book.

Here are my top six but I am sure I’ve left out some other’s that are just as life changing. I would love to hear from you! What books have changed your life and why? I’m always looking for a good excuse to go back to my sanctuary B and N.

 

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Foster Care Update

Many of you have asked about an update about our foster care situation so here ‘tis! Here is kind of a general idea of where the kids’ cases are, as well as how we are doing as a result.

foster care update pic

Reunification. It’s a word that should be simple, but for anyone in the foster care world, it is far from simple. It’s an idea that is extremely complex and impossible to nail down, yet it defines this broken system.

When we entered foster care, I had a picture in my mind of what it would be. It was a broken-beautiful that I could not wait to be a part of. I loved the idea of being a part of this ugly system right down to its rotten core. I did not realize the incredible imbalance of broken over beautiful.

Our Foster-baby’s case is somewhat simple. We are about to “intervene” or have a seat at the table in the discussions of this sweet one’s future. Once we do we can hopefully move that she stay with the family she recognizes as her own (as we have had her from the time she was only a few weeks old.) Once we sit at that table we must wait until everyone is finished eating before we can be excused, meaning- once we are in, we’re in. Every court date, meeting and appointment my husband and I must attend if we are to look like a legitimate party. Please pray for us as this can be an extremely slow and time consuming process.

Our Foster-toddler’s case has taken lots of ugly turns over the 6-almost 7 months he has been in our home. We wanted so badly to love on his family, especially his Mama who has lived a life this small farm town, Baptist raised, Mama can even comprehend. We haven’t seen his Mama in months. She is no longer safe for me or even her own son to be with. While this absolutely breaks my heart, the most unsettling development in this case is a legal loophole that is being explored. People whose names are on birth certificates (and their relatives) have more legal rights to a foster child than those who have had this child in their care for half a year. This is regardless of whether or not they are biologically related to the child. This loophole makes these people viable options for permanent placement of the child even if they have never met and live all the way across the country. We are seeking the help of an attorney in this matter.

As a parent you will do anything to protect your child. Anything to make sure he has the best life possible. As foster parents you feel exactly the same way however, there are government employees, lawyers and judges who get to decide how you protect that child and what to do to give that child his best shot.

I was recently listening to a song that has meant much to my husband and I over the last few years, God of Heaven. There are so many beautiful lines and powerful promises that flow along with the melody but one that I am clinging especially hard to in this time. “…God of power…. Goes before us into battle…” Yes, the God of power goes before me. He is on the front lines, he is going before us into this battle. I have never stepped foot in a court room before, but my God is the righteous judge. We literally cannot afford by any means to pay for this attorney, but my God is Jehovah Jireh. I cannot do anything to stop this harm from coming to our precious boy, but my God is the Good Shepherd.

There is a lot of sadness in these words but believe it or not I still am in love with this broken-beautiful. Toddler-boy and Baby-girl have changed our family in a way that nothing else could have. They have taught us that the broken doesn’t have to be ugly or disgraceful. They have taught us that wallowing deep in the midst of the brokenness of others has a strange way of healing parts of us we didn’t know needed healing. They have taught us to love in a risky, sacrificial, whatever means possible, (dare I say) radical way that Jesus did. They have been our Zacchaeus, our woman at the well, our Eve in the garden, our prodigal son and have allowed us to learn and try our very best to respond as Jesus did. While these things have changed our family and pressed us into the character of Christ, foster care has taught our family three other very important things; what community is, the true meaning of mercy, and what the Gospel looks like with hands and feet.

Community is something I talk about a lot these days. I never had it before but I always blamed those around me for. Community isn’t necessarily something you are invited into and made a part of (even though that is a part of it.) Community must be cultivated and you are the only one who can cultivate it for yourself or your family. Foster care has created in us a need to get our hands dirty, dig deep into the soil of fellowship- koinia.

Mercy was always a vague song lyric for me. I know, pretty shallow of me, right? I never really understood it until we began this journey. Mercy is ignorance. Our sovereign God created us- in his mercy- to be un-sovreign. If we had known what was coming toward us on this journey. Foster care overall, but even the day in and day out waiting for tantrums of a traumatized child to subside, hoping and praying that a biological family member would come to visit so you don’t have to try and explain to that heart-broken child why they are so unwanted by the one on earth who should want them most. Mercy is ignorance. Mercy-ignorance leads to trust. We don’t know what’s coming but God does. He is socreign and has an abundance of mercy and grace waiting around each bend and in each dark corner.

In between the excessive amount of blankets and pillows I use each night my body would lie still but my mind and heart would ache for the families that God was calling us to touch through foster care. I would try and picture a child’s face, I would imagine loving them and their Mama then sending them home to a home restored, and renewed through the Holy Spirit. I pictured this entire story Gospel wrapped with  an emotionally happy bow. Oh this story is indeed Gospel wrapped but not at all how I pictured. I’ve always had this problem too. The Gospel to me worked out is grand and elaborate. It sits on a stage proclaiming it’s great story for all to hear. The Gospel working out in my mind has a megaphone and strobe lights calling attention to itself. This is rarely-if ever the case. The Gospel lived out is a still small voice, it is a call into the darkness, it is in the mundane. It is the simple living-out-loving-out of the best news ever told. Often I am asked why I am a foster Mom, I get to simply answer “I want to love others in the same way that God has loved me.” This what it is all about.  

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ” (Matt. 22:36-38)

That is probably more than you bargained for when you asked for an update but allow me to put in one shameless plug. In order to give our toddler boy his best shot we need to hire an attorney. Below is the link to our go fund me. Donate if you can but please pray because that’s what we need most.

https://www.gofundme.com/jones-family-attorney-fund

How to Deal With Yourself When You Feel Like a Failure

I am a teacher. I have the best job in the whole wide world. (With the exception of being a Mother of course.)

Parent teacher conference days send a chill up my spine every time. I sit in the middle of the big cold gym in the middle of a month way too far away from spring break. Parent sits across the table- the table I have covered in neat stacks of student data, strengths, weaknesses, goals and dreams.- She states “Should you really be teaching?” Just like that my world crumbles. Shattering and falling all around me, it takes shards of my skin and soul with it on its way down to the ground. She has exposed me in my doubts, inadequacies, and utter unworthiness because the truth is;

I am a failure.

Without God.

Without God I am a failure.

An important change in syntax makes a world of difference, does it not?

But God… I have heard this is by far the most beautiful and miraculous two words in all of Scripture. I am a failure …but God!

Simply understanding and forcing my heart to believe this simple truth changes how I deal with my heart when I am a failure.

But God… remember his grace.

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I recently heard a message on Psalm 77. I don’t know about you, but often when I am discouraged, when I am full of all kinds of the feels I go to the Psalms. They remind me that it is ok to feel. They remind me that even great heroes of the faith struggled with fear, doubt, and feelings of failure. Psalm 77 starts like this:

“I cry aloud to God…” Yep, that was me. “God, why am I struggling so much? Why do I feel like such a failure? Am I worth anything at all?” Have you been there with the Psalmist and I? We lay in bed at night, we meditate and make diligent search… finally our “misery catches up with our mouth” and we cry aloud “Where are you God?!” Suddenly there is a change in attitude. I wonder how much time there is between the two sections of this Psalm because the change is so drastic! When I feel as though I am failing, I just want to do something. I want a three step program or a downloadable chart or a task so I might feel as though I am no longer a failure. But all the psalmist does to change his emotions was to change his meditations.

To change your emotions you must change your meditation.

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“I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
 Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
 You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.” Selah

He meditates on all the wonderful things that God is and did and does. He remembers his grace. Another way to deal with my foolish, failure-heart is to constantly remind it of truth. The truth that even when I feel failure I have been called to something bigger than my emotions.

I can’t, but I am called.

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I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. No, don’t laugh, really I did. I struggled and pushed and strained toward that goal and was utterly rejected. I can still hear prospective medical schools laugh as they got to the health part of my application. No, I could not succeed in medical school, because I wasn’t called to medical school. What hard thing are you called to my friend? Are you unequipped, discouraged, sick of the fight? Me too most days we’re being honest here. One tiny verse I discovered in college I cling to with all of my being. My lifeline in the treacherous waters that turn my attention.

1 Thess 5:24

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

He has called me to much hard. Balancing job, home, foster care and chronic conditions. Mama, student, friend- take heart. What he has called you to do he will be faithful to accomplish through you.

Here is one more thing to think about when you are dealing with your failures.

Tear down the idol of the unseen.

I recently read something like this sentence and I have been meditating on it for weeks now. The state of my home does not reflect the state of my soul. As a mama, one who is far more addicted to social media than I should be, I get Instagram-envy hard core. Beautifully decorated homes with all the latest trends scroll before my eyes and I start to look around my tiny apartment full of memory-making mess and see very few of the latest décor trends. It’s pretty foolish, really, how much I think about it and how little it really matters.

The state of my home does not reflect the state of my soul.

The grades of my students do not measure my identity as a teacher.

The attitudes of my children do not reflect my ability as a mother.

The chronic pain and exhaustion raging through my body do not affect my worth as a woman.

These are the things I say to myself over and over each day as a sort of reflection reset. Crucifying the idol of the seen that I might gaze upon the unseen. Tearing down the idol of the seen to allow others to see God and give him the glory.

So, Mama sitting across the table – the table covered in neat stacks of student data, strengths, weaknesses, goals and dreams – No, I can’t, but God can. No, I can’t, but I am called. Because of these things, I am not a failure.