Each Day :: A Foster Care Update

It’s Sunday. I am sitting on the couch with the TV off (joe canceled our TV subscription, just in time for the cardinals to go to the playoffs. Well played Cardinals.) The only sound in the house besides the tapping of my keyboard is the humidifiers running in the bedrooms. It’s nap time.

There are piles upon piles of clean clothes on the living room floor, all sorted and waiting for the babies to stir to be put away. Empty laundry baskets accompany them along with toys littered everywhere.

This is my life.

Each day, I wake up and think today is the day that I get the house cleaned up. Today is the day that I go to bed with the laundry done and today is the day when I make a great nutritious meal for my family.

And each day, I fail in some way or another.

I really always fail because we always have clothes on, so the laundry is never done. And each time I finish cleaning, someone is standing by to make a mess again. And yesterday we ate pizza, but I did make a pan of rice krispie treats – not nutritious, but really delicious.

Each day, things happen that make life interesting. Like yesterday, we were heading out the door and Speedy pooped all down his leg. It was unexpected, and not in the plan. And I guess we could say, oh sorry, I had plans to be at grandma’s right now, your poopy pants are going to have to wait.

Each day, I fight to keep up with the house, the dog, the kids, the laundry. And some of it gets done. Not all of it at once. Each day I try to be/do everything, I find myself miserable at the end of the day when I lay my head back down.

I find the happiest days are the ones where I offer myself grace. I find time to sit on the floor by the hall mirror while little Boots looks at himself. And chase Steel while he runs from me yelling bye and blowing kisses. And ones where I don’t freak out because we are remodeling the bathroom and instead give baths in the kitchen sink. And take pictures along the way – (which was so cute! Little babies in the kitchen sink are always cute!)

So today I choose happy days. Gotta run – while they rest, I will do some tidying up. But I will not freak out when they get up and make a mess again. They are just kids, and we’ve got time to clean it up later.

Laying Out My Fleece :: A Foster Care Update

Yesterday a new friend came to stay. We will call him “Speed” nicknamed because we seriously thought he was going to outrun us down the driveway a couple of times today. He is chunky, smart, observant, strong, fast and snuggly. He is doing great. We are all doing great, due to a mostly good nights sleep.

Yesterday DCS called.

Again.

Yesterday DCS called again and asked if I was insane.

Ok, that’s not exactly what happened.

Yesterday, DCS called and asked me to take two more. I can’t tell you their ages, but lets just say we will have 2 the same age, and 1 half the age of the other two. And lets just say they are all wearing diapers.

I wanted to cry when they called. I know they wouldn’t have called me if they had other options. If there had been an abundance of open houses around yesterday they wouldn’t have called us. But that’s the reality – we are licensed for 3, and have room for 4. And they need every square foot we have to offer.

Lately I have been praying for God to fill my house again. It feels so empty, and I long to care for someone again. So I’ve been intentionally praying for the house to be full again. And now DCS calls and wants to fill it to the max, and I wonder if this is what God wants for us.

So yesterday, I laid my fleece out.

In the book of Judges in the bible, God tells Gideon that he is going to save Israel by his hand. Gideon is unsure, and tells God he is going to lay a fleece on the ground and if it is so, let there only be dew on the fleece and not on the ground in the morning. And that’s what happens.

Gideon also asks God a second time the next day that if it is truly so, let the fleece be dry but the ground have dew on it, and that’s what happens.

When I say I put my fleece out, I mean I told God I’ll do it if…..

Friday I called every day care provider in our town and found one with one spot for Speed. One spot. Everyone was full.

I knew this when DCS called yesterday.

So I offered it up to God that if he would provide day care spots in town, I would take the kids.

Yesterday Joseph called a day care I had talked to Friday and she said they had 3 new spots open.

When I went in to get the paperwork for the kids, the day care lady told me she had received so many calls in the last few days for small children that she shuffled some rooms around, got another teacher and opened some new spots up. And 10 minutes later Joe called, and took all three spots.

I didn’t even need to lay another fleece out. I knew God would fulfill that request like the first one.

Yesterday I woke up anticipating meeting my new friend Speed. I had no idea how exciting yesterday would turn out to be. Meeting speed and news of two more friends.

Yesterday God answered my prayers in bigger ways than I can even comprehend.

And Today, I am back to sorting through clothes to try to be prepared for when the next friends arrive.

A Northern Excursion Recap

This weekend we made a quick trip north to attend my class reunion.

Here is a recap in pictures:

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A beautiful drive north:

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Brought my Warrior Dash hat for this friend – who I knew would love it.

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Hung out at my sisters. She also has a dog who we call Cousin Bob. Her dog’s name is bob, but he isn’t really Dixie’s Cousin….but he is.

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Might get beat for this one, but had breakfast at Marj’s house with some of my very favorite people.

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Took a drive to Lake Mills to my favorite St. Vincent’s. The clouds were awesome all weekend.

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Had lunch in a cute cafe. I had tomato bisque – and a slice of sourdough. Yum!

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My handsome husband. He was so awesome all weekend – putting up with our incessant chatting like sisters and mothers do. Talking sports with my dad and playing with the kids. He also went around the class reunion asking people how they had been the last ten years and convinced one guy that he was in our class! So funny!

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Trev on the left, and then my sissy Theresa and her husband Jake. I’m so glad she married Jake – who was in my class, so we get to go to class reunions together!

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And then after the class reunion we went to one of the local establishments, with pretty much everyone else, and ran into this guy – he was the boy next door (or across the street) who I grew up with forever. It was late and I wasn’t able to stay long and visit with him, but it was great seeing him.

It was a whirlwind weekend. Up and back in less than 48 hours. But I loved every minute of it.

A Dad’s Take:: Foster Care

Here is the last installment of the Foster Parent Awareness Month posts. Eventhough tomorrow is June 1st, all the problems of the world have not been solved. We need to keep rallying around the families who need second chances all year long. We will continue to foster – please continue to pray for us.

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The joys, tears, brokenness and wonder that has been our journey through foster care has been well documented by my beautiful wife and her amazing writing skills. Yes, this is not Jennifer, but her husband, Joseph, writing to you all on this the final day of foster care awareness month. My wife asked me much earlier to complete this seemingly simple task, but I had not made the time available for the task.

You see, giving up three amazing souls after 15 months of investing our lives into them…well, it just is not so simple as we would like it to be. It would all be so much simpler if we could just take the array of emotions in put them in one box labeled sad, or happy, or relieved, or broken, or joyous, or…something. Jennifer aptly recorded that moment here and here. Since then, I have been ashamed at going whole days without thinking about them and have been amazed at how close I am to becoming undone by a forgotten sock or misplaced toy. But in the end, that is just life. There is no instruction manual to events that could happen. No stock responses that are ‘right.’ We learn and cope based on the foundation that has been built by our parents, faith, education, experience, and world view. People often ask us how we could be foster parents (or at least affirm the negative of this in stating they could never be foster parents) and I keep coming back to all of those who have helped build my foundation, and the sustainer of it all, my wonderful God. It was an amazing experience to be there, while our Creator worked through his willing servants and was glorified even amidst a desperate and broken system.

Well, back to the task, something about advice on foster parenting from a foster dad…that’s easy.

Step 1 – Have an Amazing Wife

Some may say the following steps are a prerequisite, but my experience says otherwise. Without Jennifer, this story line would not be a part of our lives. Her willful obedience to a answer the call and need of the orphaned(kids temporarily or permanently without capable parents) inspired my sometimes reluctant participation into dutiful assistance. She organized our paperwork, signed us up for classes, researched everything, and sacrificed much for those kids over the past 15 months. I often received praise from others for how I was with the kids (though this was primarily from there desperate need of masculine attention, which I will address below), but I could only do this because of how wonderful Jennifer was with them most of the time. I travelled during this tenure, more often than I wished, and the bulk of the duty fell upon Jennifer’s willing shoulders. Her diligent discipline, her charitable use of her time for the three kiddies, her unwavering love for them – it all worked the ground and grew the fruit of which I just happened to be near when others were around. In short, my advice is that this is 100% a team thing, both be on board – I was just lucky to have someone willing to be the whole team while I was away and not demand the credit when I returned.

Step 2 – Be there in any way you can

You may think this is hypocritical given my time away, but I will explain. Foster parenting is so much more than providing the necessities of life for disadvantaged youth. It is raising and morphing young souls to be ready for the next stage of their lives, to be fruitful throughout their lives. It is loving like crazy the kids in front of you yet also being ready to love the parents that put them there, regardless of past transgressions. It is following the guides of a broken, underfunded system that follows the dislogic of the lowest common denominator. Any deviation from the above brings about more tragedy for those involved. Just get the kids through and try and remain detached, those young souls may never have a chance at being whole and trusting relationships. Blame the parents for it all and risk never seeing the kids again or planting seeds of hate in such innocent young lives. Disregard a seemingly pointless or backwards stipulation of DCS and you might watch the kids be removed and placed in another home. A foster parent needs to be there for the kids, the parents, and the process or risk ruining it all for their own selfish feelings. The kids need this presence; foster parents need this as well. Remove yourself and the tragedy of it all could drown you. I remember getting nearly taken down with the undertow of blame and shame when I allowed myself to try and distance myself from the kids when we first thought they were going back (only 1 month into it then). It happens, by the grace of God I recovered and decided I would be present no matter what error or problem was presented. Through the painful and joyous months that followed, I was able to get by just by playing with the kids or following the system or trying to see the best in the birth parents rather than stepping back and fully realizing how sad it all seemed at the time. If you think about them going home to something worse, your emotions and fears could tear you apart. Be here now. Be in the moment and focus on those kids.

Step Three: Let go and Let God

You cannot do this by yourself. You cannot do this with just an amazing and wonderful spouse. You need to let go of any prideful idea that it is you changing the lives in front of you. Once you give up on that idea, God makes it easy. God uses those people full of Christ’s love to blow you away with charity and willful offerings of time and support. God gives you strength that makes you feel superhuman. Try to claim as your own incarnation and it slips away. Let go of the control and fall into the hands that mold a peace beyond understanding. It is not always easy to do, but once achieved…even if for just a short time…foster care could be done by any family with a desire to serve. Maybe even yours.

Thanks for reading my rambling. Thanks to my wonderful wife for asking for my input. I want to leave with this last observation and then a poem. Most of the kids who are in foster care are there with no or little hope of having a significant, stable father figure in their lives. They crave the attention, the safety of bigger arms, even the sterner discipline that often accompanies a masculine approach. We all can do more to assist struggling families and detached fathers, be big brothers or coach little league, support foster families and volunteer to babysit for single mothers.

Today my mom was taken from me,
I tried to hide, do anything to stay;
they said I would finally be free
but alls they did was take me away.
The old van pulled up to a strange home
Out came a stranger called my foster Mom.
She said with her love that was not her own
That I would be safe with or without calm.
Through that first month, with screaming and crying
I attempted mutiny, and feigned dying;
Nothing I could do could keep her from trying.
Back and forth we moved to the saddest tune
That nearly tore my soul, so her things I tore until they were hewn…
Yet through tears and big hugs her love grew stronger.
Though I felt broken inside I could hide no longer.
Her pursuit brought me near and we laughed and we cried.
Her love she gave made me barely notice our coming goodbye.
My birth mother made well through time and circumstance,
All allowed by my bonus mother and our little dance.
Though distance now holds back her soft, “I love you.”
I now stand blessed with not just one mother but two.

Isn’t it ironic?

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Today is the first of May.

May is Foster Care awareness month.

And it’s ironic.

Because today my home is empty.

Yesterday we watched as our three beautiful foster kiddos were reunited with their mother. We completed the process. We came full circle.

And today we woke up and our house was empty.

It’s ironic, because today is foster care awareness month. I have been thinking about what I could write this month to move your hearts so that you would also foster or support foster care.

And it is ironic because today I turned down a placement.

That’s right, 26 hours after we found ourselves just two again, we were asked to take in 4.

4!

I laughed when she told me it was 4.

And then I said no. I haven’t even cleaned anything since the others left. I have so much organizing again. And my heart needs time to heal.

I told her if she went through the whole list and was still without a home, to call me back as a last resort. Then I told God that I would take them if he wanted me to. That if she called back, I would say yes.

But here is the point- yesterday we sent 3 home, and today we were asked to take in 4. These kids are 4 of the 408,000 in the US.

There are always going to be kids who need homes.

This month I am going to do a lot of blogging about foster care – our experience over the last couple of years as we decided to become foster parents to today’s call. I hope you will ask questions and have a little bit better understanding of foster care before the month is up. Please comment (they are fixed!) or email me at mrs.seger@gmail.com or look afterthechapel up on Facebook, twitter or pinterest.

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