Time for School

All summer long I debated what to do about school this year. I knew for sure I wouldIMG_20140909_122125 continue homeschooling Raine. But what about Athena? Her teacher was very honest in the final Junior Kindergarten report card. Things weren’t going well for her at school. Athena was withdrawn and eerily quiet. Generally when teachers or children spoke to her she either ignored them or walked away. It was impossible to assess what she’d learned because Athena would not interact with the instructors.

In March of last year the dentist informed me that Athena’s habit of skewing her jaw was creating lasting effects. Her mouth was beginning to grow incorrectly. At that point it was correctable. I started keeping her home from school most days and we worked on putting her mouth the right way among other things.

Based on those two factors I was planning to homeschool Athena this year. Still, as the summer wore on, I wasn’t sure. Her primary interest became making her sister scream. Raine’s come a long way in her ability to interact with other kids. It took a great deal of effort to get her upset. But Athena devoted herself to honing that skill. Our days were filled with lots of angry shouting from Raine followed by riotous laughter from Athena. I was not amused.

Then there was the actual school part. We kept working a bit over the summer. I would give Athena a task to complete – for example a page of the letter K. After writing one she would shout, “I’m done!” My request that she wait a minute fell on deaf ears. She’d continue shouting, “I’m done!” until I looked at her sheet.

“You’ve only written one letter. You still have lots more to do there.”

“I know,” she’d answer with a smirk. “I just wanted to tell you I was done one.”

After the next one the scene would repeat.

So……I decided to send her to school. It wasn’t my proudest moment. As a mom, I like to think I can make every decision based on what’s best for my child. This choice was in favour of what was best for me and Raine. Based on last year, I had no reason to expect school to be good for Athena. It was with a heavy heart, I got her ready to go on September 2nd.

Excited for Senior Kindergarten.

Excited for Senior Kindergarten.

Surprisingly, Athena was eager to pose for pictures. Normally she refuses to and hardly ever smiles while I’m snapping shots. This morning she was beaming. She walked to school carrying her backpack. And ran into the fenced kindergarten yard without a second look at Raine and I.

When I picked her up, Athena was happy. Last year she was always miserable at the end of school. Never did I know what was going on because she’d angrily tell me, “What I do at school is not your business.” This year, she chatted all evening long with story after story of what went on.

Her good mood and eagerness to share have continued. Even her teacher has noticed a marked difference, commenting that, “Athena is a completely different child. She’s talkative and interacting with the kids.” The teacher and a few friends have asked what changed over the summer. Nothing that I’ve noticed. She’s remained herself – a little more bothersome at times.

With Athena my focus has been confidence. She arrived very insecure and fearful. Time and prayer have brought her to a better place. I didn’t expect going back to school to increase her confidence. Honestly, I expected her to be shy and withdrawn like last year. Instead she’s confident and self-assured.

The information I had while making the decision didn’t indicate such a positive outcome. Yet, sending her to school felt right. Guiltily, I thought it was only going to be right for Raine and I. We would get some much needed quiet. Maybe if I’d taken the time to listen a little more to Holy Spirit, I wouldn’t have picked up that guilt. He knew going to school would be the best thing for Athena. Glad I at least listened to that nudging.

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1st day of school

There’s No Winner Here

Friday evening 14yr old Emma* arrived on my doorstep. My friend, her foster mom of 5 1/2 yrs, brought her when things went from bad to worse at their home.

Having fetal alcohol syndrome and some intellectual delays, life is hard for Emma. Often her emotions spin out of control. Bringing her to me is a common occurrence. Usually she calms right down. I keep her overnight and her foster family has time to recover from the upset.

This time that didn’t work. When her foster mom left, Emma kept right on with the outburst she’d begun a few hours ago at home. She stomped the floors and slapped the walls. I tried to settle her in Raine’s room (normally there’s a spare room devoted to Emma, but we also had a visiting 2yr old boy who was occupying that room.) No doubt putting her in another bedroom fueled the fire raging inside of her. But there wasn’t any other choice. I’d already set up a crib for the physically delayed toddler. With Emma carrying on I couldn’t change everything around.

Refusing to go to the room assigned to her, Emma opted to sit in the living room while I put the other kids to bed. It took me a few minutes to realize the silence downstairs meant she was gone. By the time I untangled myself from the three little ones and got out the front door, Emma was no where to be seen.

I called her foster mom, who had a pretty good idea where she’d gone. Piling the very tired children into the car, we headed over to a nearby church. A friend of Emma’s had brought her to the youth group there a few times.

Thankfully there Emma was, outside the church because the doors were locked. She refused to get in the car. I pretended to drive away. Startled, she changed her mind and got in. Her attitude remained. During the drive home she repeatedly swore at me and spewed all kinds of hatred. “Because I don’t want to be at your house!” Emma explained. It’s not like I wanted her there either – at least not in that state.

When I told her not to swear at me. Emma responded, “I will. And there’s nothing you can do about it.” True. There’s nothing I can do. It’s a frustrating sense of powerlessness. This child is not mine. Nothing I say matters to her.

Back at my place, Emma settled herself in the front garden – refusing to come inside. At a loss, I called her foster mom. Normally I’m quite capable of managing Emma or any other child in my care. But this time it was all completely beyond me. Some stern words from her foster mom got Emma inside the house.

Then the real battle began. I put the other children back to bed. Emma stomped her feet in the hallway and punched the wall with a violence that made my pictures shake.

When I was done with the little ones, she got up in my face screaming about how much she hated me. This went on for over an hour. In the midst of it, I did get her into the room she would be using that night. Emma kicked the door so ferociously I was sure she’d put holes in it. But it remained in tack as did the walls she poured her anger out on.

Normally I just walk away, but with this being completely unlike Emma’s normal behaviour at my house, I kept close. Fear for the other kids mounted as she her anger increased. At this point she’d been raging for nearly 5hrs (mostly at her own home), breaking briefly for her walk to the church. It was late. I was worried and tired. I needed the noise and the violence to stop. But it didn’t. Emma kept going strong – coming out of the room and again aggressively confronting me.

My patience wore out. I couldn’t endure being bullied in my own home by a 14yr old. My voice was no longer kind nor were my words. Eventually Emma retreated to the bedroom.

She’s on a fair bit of medication which is supposed to save her from these moments. Perhaps the pills aren’t working, but I still wanted to get her nightly does in. That didn’t happen. Emma was wielding every bit of power she had.

While on the phone with the emergency after hours worker, Emma kicked my door in. I’d gone into my bedroom and locked the door. Her screaming and kicking was making it hard to hear the woman on the phone. Having access to my room, the girl just stood in the hallway shouting and punching the walls.

My door frame is broken. My nerves are shot. And now Emma’s saying that I attacked her which of course I did not.She, however, did slapped me during my initial retreat to my room. This is warranted in Emma’s mind. She’s completely beside herself with rage and panic all rolled into one big, ugly mess.

This is the result of a life in foster care. Arriving at the age of 2, Emma’s moved countless times. My friend is trying to keep going. It’s been 5 1/2 yrs. That’s miraculous for a child with FAS. The long term goal is holding out until Emma turns 18. But things are unraveling quickly. Not long ago, the teen ran away and called the police saying she felt unsafe in her foster home.

She’s safe. It’s those around Emma who aren’t safe. Her accusations could land my friend in jail. At the very least, it may lead to Emma and the two other foster children in the home being removed. The two sisters – 14 & 10yrs – have been with my friend nearly 4yrs and are doing well. The plan is for them to remain until 18. Emma’s antics could put them all in jeopardy.

I’ve told my friend it’s time to let go – especially after this weekend. Emma awoke Saturday with an incredible sense of triumph. She’d gotten away with leaving my house, speaking to me in a deplorable manner, slapping me, breaking my door, and refusing to take her pills. As far as she can see she’s won.

What Emma doesn’t realize is how much she’s loosing. For 5 1/2yrs she’s been part of our family – I’ve been like an aunt to her and her foster mom has been the same to my kids. Emma’s foster family, while not perfect, have cared for her with generosity and grace. They’ve welcomed her back after many such outbursts. But she doesn’t want to be there. Eventually Emma’s behaviour will get the result she’s seeking. She’ll be moved into a group home until she ages out of foster care.

It’s a tragedy. I am heart broken. At the same time, I’m encouraging my friend to make that move. My prayer is for Emma’s complete healing – that the Lord will restore her mind and heal the wounds tormenting her. I know that’s possible. I want that for Emma. How long can we wait for the miracle before we have to make choices based on the reality of here and now? It’s becoming impossible to have Emma around.

*name changed

Heading Home

Tonight I leave California. It’s been an eventful 5 days (six if you count our journey). I’ve met some amazing young people learning to navigate life with the Lord in ministry school.

I ran into a couple I knew ages ago. They live here now and our paths happened to cross at church Sunday morning. That had me thinking of some more past experiences the Lord wanted to work through. It also reminded me of a beautiful chapter of my life when I was young and free.

I don’t regret the current chapter of my life. This is exactly where are I’m meant to be. There is immense beauty – not all of it have I taken the time to enjoy. Returning home, I’m expecting to do more of that.

2 Corinthians 10:4 says:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

One of the “weapons” the Lord has given me is peace. I’m coming home with that weapon sharpened for my own life and the life of my daughters.

Can’t wait to see these faces…….

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The Joy of Arrival

For me, becoming a mom has been a lot like getting to California. There was a decade of heart ache, disappointment, betrayal, loss, and grief before I arrived. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Maybe your own journey hasn’t been all that smooth.

Still I arrived. And when I did instead of becoming easier life got a whole lot harder. I was finally living the call of God on my life. My mind knew that. But my spirit and soul were struggling. Some days were good. But most weren’t. I carried on. What else could I do?

I knew the pain from the journey to motherhood was holding me back from the joy of arrival. In the whirlwind of everyday life, there was never a good time to work through all that old stuff.

Being here in California, childfree, the Lord has my attention in a way that’s not possible at home. He’s taken full advantage of that opportunity. In the midst of jetlag, worry, and the residue of a complicated journey to our destination, the Lord has been unburdening me. We’ve revisited some key moments of heartache. His truth reframes them so when they hang on the wall of my life there isn’t the same pain.

Doing this sooner would have been better. I get that. I’m resisting the burden of guilt for not encountering Him ages ago. I could have. He’s always there – waiting. I should have. It would have made the past while much more life giving for my girls and me. I know. At least it’s done now.

There’s something about being here in California, a place I’ve always wanted to visit. There’s a freedom in not having the role of caregiver lingering around me. Even when my kids are asleep, with a babysitter, or in their class at church there’s a realization that at any moment I could be called upon to meet their needs – be their mom. That reality kept me from diving fully into healing my heart. It’s not a good reason. But it’s reality.

I won’t bore you with the details of how my heart got hurt along the way. It wasn’t one particular incident but a lot of big ones all put together. During worship at church on Sunday, Father God brought each to mind. He pointed out the pain I was still carrying and the lies I’d come to believe. Graciously, He spoke truth. Sometimes simple things like, “People make choices. Not always the right ones. But they make them.” He let me off the hook for some really bad choices people in my life had made. I let go of the shame I’d been carrying because their choices made me feel like I wasn’t all that loveable. If I was they would have chosen to build me up instead of tear me down. The cross came between me and those choices breaking the power of them in my life. That doesn’t change the fact that those were really bad choices people made that affected my life negatively. But it does release me from the pain of those choices. I still live in the reality of them. But I don’t have the carry the burden in my spirit and soul. I can move forward unhindered.

It’s amazing what the Lord can do when we take time to encounter Him. Getting here has been hard. But I’m glad I’m here – in California and in my life. I’m glad I pursued the call of God on my life. Being a mom was the dream He birthed in me 27yrs ago. It’s right that I’m here. It’s time to start living in the joy of arrival.

this is how we roll - fancy dresses while biking

this is how we roll – fancy dresses while biking

On My Way

Last night I couldn’t sleep. My mind raced with everything yet to be done.

sipping coffee from my California mug (a gift from a friend after her recent trip)

sipping coffee from my California mug (a gift from a friend after her recent trip)

This morning I woke frightfully early, pulled myself out of bed and got to work. At 11am I leave for 6 days in California. Since becoming a mom my trips have been brief – I’ve not been away from my kids for more than a weekend – and primarily within Canada.

I’m excited to be going somewhere completely new. California has always been on my list of places to visit. A lover of old movies, many times I’ve watched characters drive along the coast and long to do the same. My reason for being in California relates to prayer training. The city I’m headed to is very far from the coast. But hopefully we can fit that in at

my favourite tulips grown along side Queen of the Night black tulips. A stunning pair.

my favourite tulips grown along side Queen of the Night black tulips. A stunning pair.

some point.

My bags are packed. I used to bring an excessive amount of reading material with me whenever I travelled. This time it’s electronics. A GPS, tablet, laptop with exterior fan (since it keeps overheating), and a cellphone are all coming with me. The book I recently began reading is not. It’s a frail paperback printed in the 1960’s not up for the trip. I’m combing through my vast supply of well-loved novels looking for something else to bring. Despite all the technology, I still like a story before bed. And there’s nothing comparable to the look and feel of an actual book.

Some tulips have burst forth to bid me farewell. My daughter, Raine, is

a burst of purple to herald the soon coming lilacs

a burst of purple to herald the soon coming lilacs

ever so excited. “You’re not missing it all,” she shouts when we pass by blossoming tress or the tulips show a bit of colour in the mass of green.

There are a great deal of things being left undone, like weeding the garden. But there are limited hours in the day. Knowing that I’m going, my girls have been quite out of sorts and, therefore, demanding my full attention.

I won’t have any fun stories to share about them this week. But watch for a guest post from my friend who is staying with them. That’s sure to be entertaining. She has a knack for catching the comedy of the situation. Too often I get caught up in the details, like getting dinner on the table or another load of laundry put away.

Well, the children are starting to stir. I still need to print my boarding pass among other things. See you tomorrow in California!