Friday, September 19, 2014

Did you see me, mama? Did I do good?

I am not a football mom. Except that I am - and it is strange to even hear myself admit that. My 7th grade son recently joined the football team at school. We live in Texas where the sun rises and sets on football. It was important to him on so many levels. Being on the football team meant he belonged, that he was Texan, that he had athlete status, and that he had the fortitude to make it through the grueling practices. Dad and I were raised in California and neither of us are football people. Some things Texas are still a bit mysterious to us. Like football. But our boy was in and so were we.

So, last Tuesday, this non-football mom found herself in the bleachers for the first game of the 7th grade C Team (I never said he was THE BEST player). It was hotter than heck, I was still wearing my black scrubs from work earlier, and I was holding our 2 month old foster baby. But I came and I cheered for whatever I assumed was good for our team. I watched as my 12-year-old played offensive line (at least that is what I assumed he was playing). I tried to catch his eye when he was on the side lines but we were too high, the sun was too bright, and he couldn't see me. After the game, I schlepped the baby, my purse, and the diaper bag all back to the car (which was a ways away since this is Texas and apparently everyone comes out for a middle school football game) as I continued to drip sweat. I was only a little cranky and tired.

He got home later that night all pumped up from his first ever tackle football game. The first words out of his mouth, "Did you see me, mama? Did I do good." And my heart broke into a million tiny pieces. It didn't matter that I didn't think of myself as a football mom. It didn't matter that I was completely exhausted and hot from my effort to attend his game. I suddenly remembered one of the most important lessons in parenting. In all our efforts to provide for our children, to raise our children to be good human beings, to mold them and to teach them, there are really only two things they want from us. Are we looking at them with adoring eyes? Do we approve of who they are?

Do you see them, mama?

Do they know their worth?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Baby Barn Swallows and My Fragile Heart

Every spring I look forward to the nest building fury of tiny barn swallows building their nest high above my front door. It might be my inner Californian that is feeling wistful for the San Juan Capistrano swallows, or it could be hope that I sense for the birds as they build their nest and anticipate their brood. Either way, I get emotionally attached to the birds and the goings on above my door.

Swallows are really adorable little birds. They are agile and fun to watch fly. They bring the benefit of eating lots of the bugs that like to hang around the threshold of our home. We watch them build their nest so very high on a little bitty ledge that is tucked into the roof line of our two story house. And every year they come right back to where they left off.

Unfortunately they are messy. My porch ends up covered in bird poop. It's gross. They also tend to go a little overboard when building their nests. They build that thing with everything they find! Truly I have seen bits of diaper debris that was surely left by a naughty yellow lab in the backyard in their nest in the front! Many days we would come home to straw and other dried plant materials covering the porch. Whatever nest building materials not woven in are left in a heap on the poop covered porch. Its a pretty mucky mess.

But, oh, as we hear those first chirps! Those little guys hatch and my heart fills with excitement - and dread. I am thrilled for new life. I have hope that they grow, gain feathers, and at some harrowing point, spread their wings and fly out of that crazy nest. I love hearing little chirps as I walk in and out of my front door. Then it happens. And I can't take it. It isn't good for my heart. At least once a summer I find a baby bird with immature wings, barely feathered, and still a somewhat bald little head, dead. I open my front door and as I go to step out all my air gets sucked in with one swift breath. No. And I can't help it. The tears sting my eyes.

This year during swallow season around the same time as my baby bird tragedy, I had one of my foster baby birds leave my nest. Though she was 18 and could legally make the choice for herself, her feathers had not grown in. Her head was still a little bald. And her wings were definitely immature. Yet she left. Too soon. Finding the baby bird on my porch just made my heart ache for my little one who will land too hard. It's not good for my heart. And yet, I won't knock down the swallows nest and I can't seem to stop fostering.

This condition of my heart, it appears to be chronic. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Failing, with love

Someone recently commented on how they didn't know how I managed to do it all (they were clearly deceived). I am a mother of many. I have too many pets. I work full time as a school nurse. I am one crafty lady with fabric and the sewing machine (that I wish I could get to more often). I cook, mostly from scratch, every night. I work out every morning - no, wait, I don't. I am a wife. I do epic loads of laundry all weekend long. And I fail every day.

I fail. I fail a lot. I yell at my kids when I don't mean to. My desk is always a mess. I have 25 half done projects. I cooked PB&J tonight. We overslept by an hour yesterday morning. We haven't had a date night in months. And our washing machine was broken last weekend. My house is in a constant state of upheaval. I fail at something every day.

But there is one thing I know how to do. I know how to love. I know how to love kids. I love fiercely and sometimes irrationally. I love my students at school. I love my kids at home. I love kids that don't live with me anymore. I love my grown up kid. I love my furry kids. And I love my husband who agreed to take this crazy kid adventure with me. I know how to love.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Love Does

For a while God has been prompting me to write again. It feels a little foreign to be typing anything longer than the standard social media post, but in order to be obedient, here I am.

This year has been a doozy - yes, I still think in terms of school years. Since this one is coming to a close, I am reflecting on it much the way most normal adults reflect on the past year in December. And this year gives me much to reflect on.

Don't read Bob Goff's book Love Does if you like the way your life is going. Brian and I have a pretty decent life. Over the years we have done some good things - leading ministry with students and children, coaching, and foster parenting. We have had some good jobs - I am a nurse and Brian thinks he is a social worker. We have loved some good people. And then God.

I didn't understand the phrase "God wrecked my life" before this year. Why would God wreck someone? If you were doing things God's way, what is there to wreck? I was a knee deep Christian. This year took me in over my head. I was wrecked.

We had a rapid fire summer. We mission tripped, we summer camped, we traveled, and we took a foster placement that would extend us to the end of us. Over the summer at camp I discovered (late to the game, I know) Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller and devoured it. Amazon being cleverly Amazon suggested if I liked Blue Like Jazz I might like Love Does. Oh, Amazon. Love Does did it. I was hooked and I knew that God already had plans for us to do Love. I just didn't know how much Love was going to cost. Turns out Love costs everything - and in return you get more.

Summer spit us into Fall and school started. One child at every level of education this year, daycare/preschool, elementary, middle, high school, and college. Fall started to unravel our already frayed teen foster daughter into a complete heap of threads unwoven at their core - or never woven correctly in the first place. Things were hard. Love got harder to do.

At what we see now as the crux of the hard we would endure, Love came to town. Well, Bob Goff, Don Miller, and a crew of their friends came to town. They held the Love Does conference in the Hill Country of Austin, TX and Brian and I decided it was meant to be. We attended the conference in the midst of our troubled daughter expressing her anguish through self harm and suicidal thoughts, we had a CPS caseworker at the time that seemed unconcerned for the severity of her case, and a foster agency that wasn't backing us up and ultimately in conversation questioned our very core - they questioned our faith. We missed the closing talk by Bob Goff. We had to leave early to pick up our daughter from school because her suicidal thoughts and self injury had become so bad. We left to do Love. And it hurt a little bit.

Fall rapidly changed to winter and somewhere in the midst of bleakness we felt a little shift. Our family started to understand how far Love could take you. Love took us deep into our daughter's depression. It took us through crazy PTSD nightmares and sleep walking. It took us to domestic violence shelters, to refugee apartments, to acupuncturists, to psychiatrists, to therapy, to sleeping on couches next to a child who couldn't shake the night time terror. It took us to the edge but didn't let us go. Love didn't release us from our mission. If anything Love drove us deeper in.

Spring came and Bob and Don were getting together again (those two) at Don's Storyline Conference. Love started to change us and we felt moved to go to San Diego to get a clearer picture of this crazy journey we were on. Don said some things like, "understand your story" and "live your passion" and it was good stuff. Bob told us to go Love people. So we went home, Loved people and worked harder at finding ways to help heal hurting children, our hurting child.

Spring is almost summer now and Love did something amazing. She has been two months free of self injury. She has worked harder on getting better than I have ever seen. She is an engaged part of our family. She is becoming Love herself. Today I got a call that she had rescued a fallen baby bird. It was in her bedroom as she was walking to school. Love did the best thing she knew to do, take the wounded into our home and love it (we quickly went home and re-rescued it back outdoors to it's mama's nest - but the intention was there). Love is contagious.

God wrecked my life with Love. How dare He! I hope He'll do it again.