What NOT to say to a Foster Parent

In becoming a licensed foster mother, I’ve received overwhelming support, frustrating remarks and developed even more compassion for the innocent children that have been labeled some pretty insensitive titles.

I think there are some facts people need to understand about Arizona’s enormous need, to begin with. There are thousands of children in our state being raised in modern-day orphanages. I have seen them. I have volunteered in them for years. They are not homes, and they are not designed for children to grow up in.

When you are asking, “Why are you doing this?” Please don’t think automatically, “You must not be able to nor have a desire to have biological children.” I’d think this is common sense, but again, I was shocked at some of the remarks I’ve received over the past year…DO NOT ask if we are doing this because we couldn’t have our own kids. This is incredible hurtful and insensitive. For anyone who would be struggling with infertility, this could be incredibly painful to hear from someone. Also-having these kids in our lives, is a privilege for us. This isn’t the second best option. This is our BEST option.

Do not let your curiosity override kindness. This goes for so many things in life.

Please DO ask why we are doing this. I’d be more than happy to tell you! I understand it’s not an everyday occurance where someone under twenty-five and newly married goes out to foster kids. I wish it were more normal, for the sake of the kids that need people to care for them, but please ask why!

We are doing this because we have been chosen and adopted into God’s family. He has lavished love and acceptance upon us: I’ll always belong to him. Tanner and I love each other. We have an amazingly supportive family. We have friends that want to throw a party for us. All of our needs have been provided and we think that with the help of our community, we would be really good at loving kids. I know there will be hard days and behavioral challenges. After all, every child hopes that their parents will love them unconditionally and be able to meet their needs. Unfortunately, not every child is granted that, and heartbreaking behaviors result from that trauma. But we aren’t alone, and I hope we can have your prayers and support too, as we venture into this new season of life; may God’s name be glorified on the beautiful days, and hard days alike.

Thanks for reading.

Change and the Problem with Us

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA: Ashley Elizabeth Photography

“Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” my mom used to yammer on. I would roll my eyes over and over. It wasn’t flattering that my little sister would copy my every move. It was downright obnoxious and I wanted to pull her hair out when I’d turn around and she’d be stalking me everywhere.  I used to scream at her, “Stop trying to be me! Leave me alone!” It’s hilarious now, because I adore my sister more than anyone, and I feel honored anytime she seeks my proximity. All the years of impatience and separation has led to great closeness in adulthood, and fondness for those years I didn’t know how lucky I was that she wanted to be like me.

I gave my two weeks at work today. And you know what was strange? The last five months, all I thought was how relieving it would feel to quit. To wash my hands of a job where people are constantly at wit’s end at me over the phone, and to walk away. And yet, in the midst of sharing where we are at with being officially licensed foster parents and my desire to be at home at to build attachment, the response from all of my co-workers and supervisors has been nothing less than astounding. Everyone has been so excited for us, and nonsensically forgiving. I realized in a moment, how grateful I have been for them and for the work environment I’ve been apart of. It’s funny how when you see change, you suddenly start to miss the way things were. That’s the problem with us: we constantly strive for what’s next and how we could make our lives “better.” Maybe it’s with that last rep at the gym that could produce abs. . .now, I don’t know what having a six-pack is like, and don’t get me wrong: I’m sure it feels pretty damn good. But we think if we make more plans, schedule more vacations and dates, our lives could be more meaningful. We are living vacuums. Sucking at the next thing, over and over. Always looking for more.

We were made for worship. Now, am I worshipping my Creator and where he has me, or am I putting my trust in what’s next that could have more hope for me?

I’m scared. I’m scared of what it will be like to suddenly have a third person in my marriage. Sure, we aren’t marrying anybody, but it’s just been me and him the last five years of our story. How will things look with this child of ours in our lives? My mind continues to wander. Will I be a good mother? How will I know what to do when whatever I think I know doesn’t work? I think all parents feel this way, biological or not.

All I know is that looking at the pattern that’s constantly curving throughout my heart, we wonder what the next stage will be like, when things will change, and then it’s here. It’s here, and God takes care of us. All of a sudden, the newness is normal. In a breath, the enormous frustration of my sister’s mimicking, has turned to sweet memories of our brief childhood together that feels a millennial away. The job I found so exhausting to commit to, suddenly feels scary to no longer have. I don’t know what precious child will be placed in my arms and when: I can only imagine for now. But I do know that my King remains enthroned forever.  Seasons come and go, leaves change from green to vibrant orange, finally falling from the tree with the winter’s brutal frost.

The challenge: Remember His faithfulness, worship the Creator alone and be content in the now. He has you and me right where we need to be. Breathe. This season too, will come and go.

Random Rantings

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I feel like I have a lot going on internally. I want to believe God’s promises that I have a future hope and a good purpose. It’s hard though when I feel like the pieces haven’t fallen into place just yet. I was always taught that performance is everything; that’s why I’m trying to hold it together at work. Be friendly, be smiling, be available, be excellent. Right now, all I feel like being is a crying mess though.

I finally had a job opportunity that would take me away from the call center existence i’m currently living. But working full-time and going to graduate school at the same time doesn’t feel like the right answer. I don’t handle my stress very well anymore. I’ve been out of practice of being busy like I was in college. But I think looking back on my life, it’s always been a point of contention. After all, I was mainly taught how to do a lot of things at once and look “good” doing them, but not really how to deal with stress. That in itself is hard to admit: that I don’t believe I could succeed at both avenues, work and school. Oh, and did I mention being a foster mom? No, I don’t believe I did. That in itself, is a whole other blog for a whole other day.

Post-graduate depression is REAL folks. When you have constant support and connections for four years, and then it drops off the edge of the cliff-you BETCHA you can feel it. I kind of feel like making new friends in adulthood is like being on E-Harmony. You are throwing fishing lines out to sea, waiting to see if certain fishies will take the bait: you know, “Do you like me? Do you want to be my friend?” And some fish don’t bite back or make the journey to land being dragged by your hook. Ew. That sounds more aggressive than I had envisioned or intended. Sorry.

Anyways, sometimes I look in the mirror and I wonder if I’m a human or a leech. Because of my lack of being able to stare into a friend’s supportive eyes, I find myself desperate for attention from my husband. He is a very intentional and attentive man, and for that, I am so beyond thankful. But even that isn’t enough sometimes. And that indicates a problem. I know I need to be clinging to my Savior, and allow to him to save me again and again. That is really hard some days for me to feel is tangible. Jesus doesn’t hug me or wipe away my tears. I need to remember the Word and the comfort Jesus’ words bring, and yet because I can’t snuggle the Bible comfortably, I rarely remember I have that option.  And then I try and snuggle my husband instead.

I know that so far my life story has reflected the love the Father has for me. My head knows He will be faithful to “see me to the day of completion.” But for now, I feel messy and broken in a lot of ways, and waiting to see the fruit grow on my metaphorical tree has been really frustrating. I need more water, and that’s clear.

 

 

 

Two Will Become One. . .

You know, before I got married, I never understood what Genesis meant when it read,

“The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife;and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.…”

This is one of the most beautiful miracles of marriage: this sense that what is “mine” is now “yours,” and the matters on your heart and mind, are now on mine. I know that Tanner’s personality can be quite opposite of mine. It takes a lot to get him discouraged, and he is constantly courageous and fiercely outspoken. But it’s amazing that even if my fears aren’t what his would be, he cares about what I care about. WHAT?! That’s not even human nature.

And let’s be honest. It’s not like we’re always able to care about what the other cares for. I don’t want to hear the latest stats on the NBA. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be interested when he shares. And a lot of the time he teases me about my newest obsession with Gilmore Girls. He doesn’t get the girl talk. Nor would I want him to.

Love dies when two people forget they need to care about what the other cares for. If you think about a childhood friendship you made once, there is almost something we share with that other kid on the playground. I know that I bonded instantly with my best friend Megan when she was interested in making sand-pies on the playground. No one else seemed to care about pretending that we could frost our pastries with imaginary sprinkles, but her. It’s a fact: in relationships we want to connect.

Following Jesus is beyond an amazing connecting tool. It’s a complete life-saver, heart -transformer, desire-redeemer. I could go on and on. And sharing Jesus with Tanner has been the most amazing soil to grow our life-long marriage on.

It’s days like this, where life has seemed really distracting and worries have far flooded my capacity to remember how to be joyful, that I arrive at work and miss my Husband. I’ve seen him and hugged him, talked with him and read by his side this week; and yet, I want more of him. He’s my best friend. And you know what? Caring for someone like this, and knowing he loves me unconditionally like he does, reminds me that this relationship isn’t running from our own capacity to love. If it was, we would have fallen short and run up exhausted a  long time ago. But Jesus is doing something incredible here, and I give him all the Glory.

Today I’m thankful for marriage even more than I was the day I walked down the aisle.

Cubicle Thoughts

“I’m a very important person who works in Time Square.”

“You are completely useless if you can’t help me in this way.”

“I don’t speak English, but you need to figure out what i’m saying and FIX the problem.”

Welcome to the life of your regular customer service employee who resides day-side in a cubicle. A lady called me yesterday to describe the “lesion” growing on her lip hoping I could diagnose. Another woman called to ask me where she could get her driver’s license. Granted, neither of these requests are permitted within my job title: but regardless, I’m in customer relations, which means I can’t have a laughing or crying attack in response to the things I hear over the phone.

Someone signed their email with a final cursory “worst regards” the other day. I just had to chuckle at their creativity.

But here I am. And boy, am I trying to learn about contentedness and patience with the reality of these calls and emails.

But then I think about the man in one of my graduate classes that is a landscaper by day. I know he makes significantly less money than me and that he sweats a whole lot more. I think about the sweet, round woman who mops the floors of our building and scrubs the toilets of our restrooms; never departing with the smile she chooses to wear to work every day.

This is one of those jobs I can tell people stories about and strive to keep my chin up over. I feel tired and defeated many moments throughout the day, and then take a deep breath as the phone rings and start anew with someone else who is standing in their own reality somewhere out there in the world. Maybe the things we discuss and the ways I inquire about their life can straighten the way the walk a little more. Maybe I can listen really well to the struggles they encountered and remind them their story matters.

One of the times I felt most encouraged here was when a woman called from a southern state and told me about the physical limitations and pain she’s had wrapped around her life lately. She started crying as she told me about her questions and doubts of her purpose here; I was able to just be a random, and yet meaningful voice in her ear reminding her of the future to come, reminding her of her worth. . . that kind of call hasn’t happened for a while since, and I keep holding out for it to happen. But until then, I remember that I am a Daughter of my Father. He resides on-high and within my heart. With Him, I can hold tight to the promise of his goodness.

 

Bleh. With a capitol B.

To think? or to feel? I’m lost.

To think means chaos: my brain fires a million thoughts at once and so I become flooded by what feel like millions of pointy arrows at my head.

My thoughts seem to have minds of their own even; as they seem to escape me and then swing back around only to punch me in the gut.

But to feel means a pressure comes crashing down and the pain reminds me of when I fell down from a swing set in the third grade. I reached out for the fire pole and somehow lost my gripping. I basically did a belly-flop off of a five footer. It did not feel good.

So this brings me back: to think? Or to feel? Thinking is easier to bear. But just almost.

Here’s the catch: thinking means my brain analyzes everything in the world but what actually needs thinking about. I don’t think about the pain and where it is coming, or why it feels so relentless at certain times of the day.. . like the morning.

The person pelted by too many thoughts and too many feelings is left over on this plate for the world to take tastes of. . . which I feel really bad about. There isn’t much to pick over, and there isn’t much to taste that isn’t bitterly sad.

This leftover person remains:

someone impatient and rude

someone scared and wounded

someone selfish and vain

And that brings me to the worst kinds of thoughts: this type of woman shouldn’t exist. I know me, and I don’t know what’s here right now. So, where is “me”?

Jesus, you don’t seem to be very near. I feel overwhelmed and distraught with this platter you seem to be serving me. The energy it is taking me to be here at work is near impossible to glean from this dirt dry field that is my reality today.

I want to be strong and faithful. . . but what does this even look like when I can’t even define it in your Character right now? I feel like you’ve dismissed me from all of the splendor of your courts and I’m left to grovel at the waste bins of your servant’s headquarters. It’s dramatic, but I really do feel like you’ve forgotten me. I know that I’m mysteriously and delightfully yours, God. But right now, how can I be? I’m a mess. And you aren’t doing much to help me.

I don’t even know where the source of my sorrow most resides. I know that comparatively to others in the world and around me, my life is beautiful. But I don’t need to make excuses, and I know that. Loss is loss. Plain and simple.

My reflection in the mirror that stares back even throws a wrench into my stomach, as of today. I see this girl looking back and I can’t remember how to make her smile. When I forget about my loss, I smile. So there’s that, I guess.  This things I feel I’ve lost make me wonder how I can be the same joyful and innocent girl I once was. I mostly just miss the positive me. It takes a lot more energy and puts me at a lot more risk for disappointment; rather than just being negative.

Negativity is pleasantly surprised when things actually work out. It keeps fairy tale feelings like hope, at a distance. But even as I write that, I know how ridiculous and pretentious I’m being because I don’t really believe that. Hope never fails. It’s the belief that there is no hope, that is the most heartbreaking.

I’m really pounding these keys and processing these things for the sake of my future version of me. You know, the one that comes back around after hard times pass and then becomes someone else’s shoulder to cry on. I want to remember what it was like to be the one downcast. Not just so I can say better things, but so I can shut my mouth and remember this moment where I don’t want to hear anything.

I have to allow myself to struggle. I have to be kind to myself even if I’m not proud of the way I handle this grief right now. But hey, i’m young and there is still plenty more time to learn and more grief to grieve later on.

It’s a depressing end, yes: for my own affirmation-seeking’s sake. And yet, there is hope. As long as I cognitively know the sun will rise, and as long as I know people still love me and want me around, and as long as I know my Jesus can easily handle my frustrations and pain, and still cover me, It’s all good.

 

 

You & I is Peas in a Pod, I say

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“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” These wise words stated by good, ole Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh stand out to me this morning. I say this because as I waved goodbye to my best friend in the entire world through my car door window as I drove away, the tears just barely dripped from my eyes. Jesus has made me stronger than I thought I would be as I anticipated this moment. I was even able to drive home in one piece. I even sit here, bravely typing away, less than two hours later. I didn’t think I would be able to.

Five years ago, as I sat in the floor of my new dorm room, my first home away from home, I unpacked a box slowly as thoughts filled to the brim of my mind. “What was I doing here? Who would be my friend? I’m so alone. I’m scared of what these years will look like. Who even am I?” Etc. etc.

Cue Hillary Amanda. She opened the front door with gusto, slamming it into the victimized wall behind it. She stood there with a heavy box in hand and screamed, “Yeeeee! College!!!!!!!!” Her squeal was enough to silence the nervous pangs of my heart and put a smile on my face in response. She dropped her moving box and ran to embrace me with a “WE’RE ROOMMATTEESSSS!” scream. This has always been the warm welcome I’ve received from her, and nothing has changed these past five years. Her heart is one of those that just keeps on giving.

We established a group of five girls during that freshman year: Hillary, Hannah, Katlyn, Kaley and Me. We are all extremely different, and yet fit together like missing pieces to a puzzle. Sure, life has changed since graduating, and we haven’t been able to spend late nights in the dorm reading, praying and chatting until the sunrise, but I would say we still “do life” together. Both Kaley and Hillary are moving away this week to Washington; which brings me to our grandioso sleepover we had last night.

It was strange having a sleepover with my friends again and not spending the night at home with my husband. We’ve only had a few nights apart since getting married, and this is the first time I’ve slept somewhere else while we’ve both been in the same city! I felt like I was a young girl again: you know, with all the blankets and pillows thrown together on the floor, with snacks and pillow-talk late into the night. I liked it because it made me remember how much my life has changed and how lucky I am to have Tanner as my husband.

But even more, I remembered the college-girl version of myself again. The one I’ve forgotten amongst the everyday stressors adult life has introduced. The Ashley that was full of silly jokes and outbursts, the Ashley that did all sorts of embarrassing impressions to make others laugh and feel included, the Ashley that wasn’t so self-aware and guarded when in group settings. The Ashley that loved Jesus so much there wasn’t a divide of appropriate/inappropriate times to bring Him into discussions, but the unashamed passion of sharing him with everyone; the Ashley that didn’t embrace fears or worry, but the potential of what could be someday: the future was such an exciting thing during college: and yet somehow in adulthood, I’ve let the future become something daunting and scary.

This night of sharing and crying with the girls I met my freshman year of college: all of us bounding in youthful joy and eagerness of what was new all around us. We were like puppies being sent out to the dog park for the first time: I can’t help but compare where we are now. So many of us have lost pieces of our joy along the way. Hannah lost a baby last year. Hillary had her heartbroken by someone she thought loved her back. Kaley lost her innocence in a careless moment and faced the pangs of lonely isolation. Kate has been wounded by every roommate she’s ever lived with and the message that she isn’t worth it has dug its sharp edge into her once trusting spirit. And yet, the fire that each precious heart has encountered in adulthood, has resulted in refined and gorgeous pottery.

Brokenness aside, what’s left behind is the priceless gift only Christ gave us by example: love & everlasting hope.

Here’s to a new future, bound only by love instead of distance, and the continued promise of lasting friendship.