Live Your Life Filled with Joy and Wonder

This is the phrase I’m keeping in mind. Social workers have informed me that studies show weakened immune systems in children who have been in foster care and a tendency to be accident prone.

For six days Raine has been under the weather. Her appetite is gone and she’s not her usual energetic self. Refusing to admit she’s unwell, Raine keeps making up silly excuses for her symptoms. For example, she’s arguing that the bathtub is now dreadfully too small for her 8yr old body. Because it’s so painfully small, her head is hurting from trying to washing her hair. Despite the statistics, she doesn’t know much about being sick.

The last time she suffered was at age 3. Shortly after receiving the required flu shot, she came down with the flu and step throat. Then there was the time she burned her leg our first Christmas after the adoption took place. That healed remarkably fast without a trip to the ER.

In the midst of Raine’s lingering flu like illness, Athena managed to give herself a black eye. She has a way she likes to do things. Something mimicking modern dance or creative movement is how Athena goes about the house. While retrieving a stuffed seal from the floor, she somehow managed to cut her eye on the dinning room chair. No one knows exactly how since the rest of us were upstairs. Athena’s scurrying feet and tiny howls made me think she needed to go the bathroom. (Often she waits until the last minute then runs around in circles, panicking at the thought of not making it to the toilet in time.) I was about to shout, “Get to the bathroom,” when I realized she was crying.

Rushing downstairs and gathering Athena into my arms, at first I didn’t realize she was bleeding. She buried her face on my shoulder and I managed to calm her. When she lifted her head there was a stream of blood coming from the corner of her eye. I mentally prepared for our first trip to emergency. Staying calm, I put Athena down and went to get the first aid kit. With a bit of pressure, the bleeding stopped. The cut was much smaller than I expected. Athena assured me she could see perfectly fine – and found my constant questioning and testing annoying.

Later when I put Athena to bed, I tried to discover if she’d been afraid when she got hurt. The idea didn’t make any sense to her. “I wasn’t scared,” she told me. “Jesus was there standing right behind me.”

Well, that’s a crisis averted, I thought to myself. Athena isn’t gripped by fear or anxiety. She’s still dancing through the house and happily eating meals on the chair that maimed her. Her eye is swollen and black – but not in an overly noticeable way I’ve been told. Of course it is noticeable to me.

Looking at it, I’m filled with joy and wonder. It’s a miracle that the injury wasn’t more serious. And it’s a miracle that it’s been years since Raine was sick. In the midst of illness and injury, I’m filled with joy and wonder.

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Athena’s still happy and eager to make me laugh

 

 

When I Get Married….

“When I get married it will be to a guy who does all the work,” Athena

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6yr old Athena dreaming of her wedding day

recently announced. “I’ll just sleep all day long. I’ll never leave my bed. He’ll have to bring me food. And I’ll have kids so they can unload the dishwasher.”

Clearing her dishes after meals and unloading the clean dishes from the dishwasher are a few of the chores Athena must do. Evidentally, she doesn’t really enjoy the tasks.

Raine quickly reminded her that the kids would be babies for a while. “They won’t even be able to do it until they’re like 4.”

“That’s fine,” Athena replied. “My husband will do it until then. He’ll do everything – the cooking, cleaning, all the stuff. And I’ll do nothing.”

My comments did not cause her to amend this dream. Considering Athena is a bundle of energy and hates being alone even for a few minutes, I seriously doubt she’ll live in this ridiculous manner. So, parents, there’s really no need to worry if she does, eventually, catch your son’s eye. I have at least another 15 years to get her ready for a proper relationship. Really, there’s no need to worry yet.

 

Missional Living

I grew up in the church. It was, and is, an important part of my life.

Athena at church

Athena at church

In children’s classes, I heard about missionaries going to far away places. I learned there were abandoned children languishing in places I’d never been. I wanted to help. I wanted to go. I really wanted to be a missionary serving countless children.

Mothering is in my DNA. It’s the most natural instinct for me. I knew I could do it. And that’s what my heart set sights on. That’s where I expected to find children I would adopt.

Although my dad was in and adopted out of the child welfare system in Canada, I had no knowledge of it. That’s not something that came up in lectures at school or lessons at church. No one, in my vast community, had anything to do with that system.

It didn’t come to my attention until I was in my late teens. Discussing it with friends and family I was met with a great deal of resistance. Me going across the world to work in an orphanage was seen as noble. Me wanting to foster and adopt here in Canada was labeled as selfish. “There are lots of good Christian couples doing that.” The problem became the fact that I was single.

So I waited for that to change. When neither that nor my desire to parent vulnerable/abandoned children changed, I made a choice to step into missional living.

Eventually most of my family and friends came around. But it’s still a hard sell. The government graciously pays me to foster. Since I care for special/high needs kids I receive a bit more than average. The provincial government has come to recognize the challenge of adopting wounded children. They now offer a subsidy to adoptive parents. That enables me to remain at home working on connecting with my daughters and helping them to heal.

I’m very grateful for the financial support that makes my everyday life possible. I do my best to steward that responsibly. And add to it by making tutus, selling tea, doing some catering, making freezer meals for friends, editing manuscripts for fellow writers, and anything else that I can manage.

My children want for nothing and, hopefully, my efforts will instill in them a proper work ethic. Overall, we manage fairly well. But now I’m faced with the necessity of buying a new vehicle. Our careful budget doesn’t leave much room for that.

The daily struggles I share with you here aren’t glorious. Much of my mission is not. Some days it’s nothing more than meals and dishes in the midst of lots of anguish. The progress I make is slow and, at first glance, insignificant. Like my foster child not fully melting down over an unavoidable everyday task that usually undoes her. The fact that she argued, stomped her feet, and then eventually did what was required is huge progress in her own journey.

Parenting in this context is vastly more difficult than I ever

Athena at a princess party at the book store

Athena at a princess party at the book store

imagined. I don’t always do it perfectly or even well all the time. But I’m doing it. And that matters.

It’s not countless children I reach, but a small number who I walk with on a daily basis. Rarely is it picture perfect. But it’s an opportunity I can’t leave to lots of other couples. It’s one I am compelled to complete in my present state.

And, at the moment, it’s something I need your help with. We’re in need of a newer van to get us to things like church and princess parties and doctor’s appointments and what not. I appreciate the time you take to read my ramblings. And would appreciate your help as I forge on in this wonderfully unusual calling.

It’s not as exciting as heading overseas, but I can’t help believing that what I do matters. The lives I minister to matter. And I know you feel the same. Thank you for journeying with me.

The Vacation Comes to a Crashing Halt

Just after writing my last post and setting it up to be published this morning, everything unravelled.

Foster child J came undone because Athena shouted, “Wait for me!” as J and Raine ran out the door heading to kids church.

“Don’t you dare speak to me like that!” J thundered. A 90minute tantrum followed. Finally I got her calmed down and thought all would be well.

It was until bedtime snack rolled around. J wanted sour cream and onion chips. Raine & Athena requested dill pickle chips (it’s vacation time so there’s some treats to be had). J pushed in and grabbed Athena’s bowl.

I said, “That’s not yours.” My explanation as to why was drowned out by J screaming in a soul shattering manner. She doesn’t like dill pickle chips. I wanted to give her something she wanted – sour cream and onion. But I couldn’t. She was acting as though I’d committed an unpardonable act in telling her the bowl of dill pickle chips weren’t hers. I offered that bowl. I offered a bowl of sour cream and onion. J would have none of it.

She began kicking the frail walls of the aged cottage. That’s when I started packing up to leave. J screamed at me continually while I gathered our things and got everyone into the car.

Our vacation was cut short by two days. We left suddenly and without warning – not the way I usually parent my highly anxious children.

There werefireworks exploding around us as we drove (in celebration of Canada Day). Once we hit the road, J calmed right down. She wanted to be back in the familiar setting of our home.

Unfortunately it likely won’t be waterside cafes and picturesque fields that stick with the kids. Those are the things I’ll put in their memory books. But our hasty departure and missing a few days of camp will likely be what lingers. But I do have the pictures to prove that I tried to offer up a typical family experience. And for a few days we truly did have some fun.

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