Saturday, February 26, 2011

One Year

Happy Birthday Joey Boy!

You have added so much joy to our family.

We love you dearly!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Point of Vulnerability

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

James 1:27

I had been spending some time with this verse prior to knowing anything about GAP Ministries or ever having considered foster-parenting. What had caught my attention was the last part, "keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

I was coming at it from the perspective of someone who wasn't working with "widows and orphans." I appreciated the third "option" for genuine religion. My thought was, "Well, if I'm not working with the "homeless and loveless," as the Message translates it, at least I can make great efforts to keep from being polluted by the world."

But now that I am in the midst of preparing to host children who are temporary orphans, I see the verse in yet another light.

I love that God's word is living and active.

This week Andy and I spent two very, very long days finishing our initial training and testing. We will be required to have on-going training (all house-parents are) over the year, but we have now passed all the hurdles to get us going.

Training was extremely difficult for me.

In part, because I realized that I am, in fact, "working" again. After nearly three years of being at home, I am jumping back into schedules, meetings, paper-work, deadlines, and a myriad of other work-related words that I haven't had to think about for a very long time.

It took me many months to get OUT of work mode, I'm sure it will take a similar amount of time to transition back IN.

But, it is tricky. I don't want to look at the lives in my care as "work." I have decided that for me, I will think about anything on paper as my job. The logs and forms and information that I have to keep daily to report to the state of Arizona about how I am providing care, those things are what I get paid for. The children that come under my roof, the conversations that I have, the discipline that will inevitably be required - those things are a privilege. Each life I encounter is valuable to God, I want to treat it as such.

The other aspect of training that was difficult was the array of horrible, horrible scenarios that we were trained for. At some point during each of our training sessions I had to struggle against tears. And on a couple of occasions, Andy and I both were fighting to remain composed.

I learned everything from how to supervise phone calls between children and their estranged parents, to how to handle children who run away from our care, to how to identify and report signs of sexual, emotional or physical abuse.

Oh, my heart breaks.

So yesterday, when I read, "and keep yourself from being polluted by the world," I had a whole new perspective. If I am not careful, things that now sound unimaginable to me, will become common place: the anger and difficult behavior I encounter will become a nuisance instead of a sign of deep hurt, the paperwork will seem like the priority over people, the wickedness of man will cease to cause sorrow in my heart.

I don't want to be dulled or polluted by this world.

I am about to encounter more of the "world" then I ever have. I have always had a family that loves me, a sense of security, a safety net. My world has been small, because I have had that luxury. But now, by my own choosing, I am opening my home to the world. I am welcoming people in who are covered with the world's pollution, either by their choices, or by misfortune. My options are to try and stay away, so that I don't get dirty in the first place, or to draw close, and let the Holy Spirit daily cleanse me, so that the pollution doesn't stick.

I hope that I live the latter.

When I went to get my physical and drug test (a very bizarre experience) the doctor who was helping me was completely baffled by what Andy and I are doing. She kept saying over and over, "Ten kids! Ten kids?!" She was very friendly and curious, but she just couldn't fathom it. After a little bit of conversation she said, "You should be on reality tv!"

Now, I confess, the though had crossed my mind. There is a certain element of the process that has seemed very detached from reality (making it perfect for "Reality TV") and like prime fodder for mass media.

Yet as I was reading, "and keep yourself from being polluted by the world," I realized that my other point of vulnerability, and entrance-point for pollution, will be my pride.

I know this venture sounds either miserable or marvelous, depending on your own personal risk-aversion. Either way, there is a sense of wonder that accompanies doing something out of the ordinary.

I am a person that loves praise. I love to put on a good show (not on a stage, that would be horrible, but I like to make things look good and easy) and have people notice all the little details I have paid attention to. I know this about myself.

I know about myself that I like to do well. Prepare yourself for a disclosure that reveals my true sin-nature, but whenever I start a new job, I always, always think, "I am going to be the best they have ever hired." There is something in me that just wants to make people love me and need me.

So, I would lie if I said wasn't walking into this venture thinking, "Andy and I are going to be the best!"

And I would lie if I said I didn't think telling people about it makes me sound oh-so-awesome.


Knowing this about myself, I make it my aim to stay in step with the Holy Spirit. If I can genuinely walk with him, and surrender my ambitions to be the very best, to his goals, then I feel in a safe place. Being humble, doesn't mean not being incredible. Jesus was humble on this earth, and we all know how awesome that turned out! I firmly believe that God wants big things for the kids who come into GAP's care, and if I am a part of that, I will be so grateful! The danger comes when I see successes, and claim those victories as my own, rather than evidence of God's goodness and greatness.

So, in addition to the challenge to keep my heart soft, I need to keep my heart humble.

Easier said than done.

But with God, all things are possible.

Oh Lord, please help me as I give you my life!


I had hoped to give you a little more factual information to answer questions, but right now, my heart and head are so full of the process that I can't quite nail down details. Bear with me, we will get there.

Thank you for joining me on this journey!

Friday, February 18, 2011

FAQ: What is a "houseparent"?

Andy has officially resigned from his job.

We are now officially "all in."

His company paid for us to move to AZ, and Andy had agreed to at least a year here. With that in mind, we offered to pay back the moving expenses. Andy's boss, while sad to lose an incredible employee, was very supportive and told us to keep it and leave with his well-wishes. So, now we are jumping through all the hoops and signing stacks and stacks of paper to get us ready for our new adventure.

Yesterday I had to go get fingerprinted. That was exciting!

Actually, it was very boring.

And I went to the wrong place... twice.

But my boys were troopers and stayed polite and pleasant for all three stops. Jack was slightly distressed that my hands got so dirty and for several minutes after we got back in the van he asked me to retell the event, spending extra time and details on the part where I washed all the dirt off.

I realize that I haven't give lots of specific details about our upcoming life.

You may be wondering, "What does that mean, 'houseparenting'?"

You might be wondering, "Who will feed all those kids?"

You are probably wondering, "What about Jack and Joey?"

Well, I will tell you.

Probably not all right at this very moment, because frankly, that might make a really boring post, and honestly, I still am not sure that I am completely clear about what I have signed myself up for.

But I can tell you, in this very post, what Andy and I *think we* have signed on for.

Our eventual goal, after training, is to be the resident parent-couple at one of the ten houses owned and operated by GAP Ministries. We would live there and treat it as if it were our own home. We would have 8 available beds and would probably see a pretty regular turnover in kids.

In Arizona, once a child has been removed from a home by CPS, the parents or guardians have one year to remedy whatever the situation is that caused their children to be removed. When the state removes the child, they call GAP to see if there are any beds available. When there are, a child that comes into one of our houses could be there just for the weekend, while a family member steps up to take the child, or they could stay the full year and later be placed with a permanent foster family.

Andy and I will be responsible for welcoming each child and integrating them into a "home" setting. For some this could be teaching them proper hygiene, it could be modeling a healthy husband-wife relationship, it will probably be teaching them how to live at peace with those in the home, it will mean developing and maintaining a routine for the home - including chores, financial management and solid study habits, and for all of them it will involve managing a lot of appointments (case workers, parent-visits, court hearings, school, after school activities, doctor, dentist, etc.).

The goal of our role really is to create a home and invite children who need a safe place, to participate in the home experience. The ministry we are working with encourages outings and celebrations that contribute to the family vibe. If Andy and I wanted to budget and do the leg work, we could drive our whole house to Disneyland. We can take them swimming and hiking and to the art museum... whatever we feel like coordinating. We can take the kids for pajama rides to get ice cream on a school night if we feel like it! I love that about this ministry, that they put so much emphasis on creating a home and facilitating family.

Before surrendering myself to this transition, I spent some time going over all of the pages I have written in the past of what I want to define our family and our home. What I want us to major on. The things that I feel are critical expressions of who Andy and I are and what we want to teach our children.

I wanted to make sure that those things, that I also feel are God-given, would not be violated by this new undertaking.

Over the last three years I have kept random pages of thoughts and ambitions for my family, my marriage, my parenting... I have kept them all in one place, but haven't actually ever put them all on the same page, or read over them as a whole. As I did so, I discovered two major themes: peace and hospitality.

Those are the words that over and over and over again call to me. They embody what I want of my home and what I pray daily:

Lord, please fill this house with your peace.

Lord, please use our home as a sanctuary for those who need rest.

When I was growing up, my mom painted our front door. It was beautiful. A bright, shiny red frame with the following sentiment artfully written:

Peace to those who enter here.
Courage to those who go forth.
Let those who go and those who stay
Forget not God

Over the last year especially, as Andy and I have transitioned through three different houses, those words have filled my brain. That is what I want my offering to this world to be. A home of peace. Peace that speaks not of my hostessing skills or my cooking or my decor, but peace that seeps into spirits and invites my guests and my family to know God, the Prince of Peace.

With those two words, I feel such invitation to this new ministry. During a short part of our decision process I wanted to run away and say, "not right now." But when I saw those two ideas, in my own handwriting, alive on page after page, I knew that this was right.

What I want for my own children, I want to offer to orphans.



And as I talked to my own mom, and was refreshed and encouraged by HER enthusiasm and confidence in me, I thought, "the kids I am about to meet will probably never hear their mom say what I get to hear from my own mother." If there is a mom who is not able to speak comfort and encouragement, or who chooses not to celebrate her child, I want to do it. I am discovering that mothering, for me, is not just about Jack and Joey. It is becoming about every child who needs a woman to speak gentle words and to offer fresh food and to cheer for all of the little victories.

So for me, that is what I have signed up for.

To mother.

To promote peace and offer hospitality.

Of course there will be all the details of living and of managing and of learning. I expect hurt. I expect frustration. I expect challenge. But I don't fear it. Because over all of those things I know that God is able to do more than I can ask or imagine. And when I ask for his peace to fill my new home and to bring rest to those who need it, I know that I am praying HIS heart and can expect to see his hand and meet him face to face.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Turning Our Hearts

Yes, it is true.

Andy and I are considering being "houseparents" for a truly incredible organization that welcomes foster children into home-models while they are in transition between being removed from their homes and being placed with permanent families.


Since relocating, Andy and I have been on a wild adventure of seeing God move in mighty ways on our behalf. It is remarkable what has happened in our spirits as we have made space to listen and interact with our Heavenly Father.

Originally, we decided to move for a "break." We wanted to take a year and refocus and step out of what was starting to feel like a cluttered life.

As our departure neared, and as we have been adjusting to the move, it has become more and more clear to us that while the idea of "something new" was the driving force in our move, it isn't the point.

A week before we left, Andy shared with me that while he felt like he was being obedient to the Lord in pursuing his teaching degree, it still somehow felt selfish. We had built a nice little plan revolving around summers off and comfortable houses and close family. But something was stirring in his heart, causing him to open up to possibilities beyond our plan.

Just two nights before we hit the road, one of the pastors at our church was praying. As he prayed it was one of those, "there is someone here..." prayers. He said that he felt there was "someone who was on a path, a path that might not be bad, but that God was asking them to turn from their path and work for other people's eternity."

Immediately Andy and I both knew he was talking to us. At that point, our move wasn't about a rest any more. It was about waiting to hear what that would mean for us, and opening our hearts to God's invitation to work intentionally and specifically for his glory.

Through a series of divine appointments we have met a couple who currently work full-time as houseparents in a home that serves as a transition place for foster children. They have a family of three boys of their own and currently host six foster kids.

As the husband was sharing what they do, and about the organization that he works for, both Andy and instantly knew that it was our next step to find out more about it. The ministry is called GAP Ministries and after two or three emails the directors asked to meet us for dinner. On Thursday we connected over the phone and I said Andy was off on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and we could meet any time in the next few weeks on those days. She disappointedly said, "You can't meet this weekend?" We made plans for an evening dinner yesterday and at the end of that dinner she said, "We are starting training for another couple on Tuesday and Wednesday if you want to come."

So we have spent the last two days touring houses that host kids (there are 10) and starting the process of training (there is a ton!).

So, the wheels are turning and we are moving toward a MAJOR adjustment in what we thought we would be doing. The ministry is extremely well run and Andy and I are both amazed at the thought they have put into how they operate.

We have committed to waking through the doors that keep opening until we see a great big red light. At this point, I don't expect to see that red light, so we are moving our minds and hearts toward planning to be foster parents for anywhere from 6-10 kids.

The job requires two full-time parents so it would mean that Andy would leave his job.

I feel so unqualified for such an undertaking, but I know that I can't turn away from this - I might be swallowed by a giant fish!!

From the moment we opened ourselves to participating in this ministry, everything has felt like confirmation. From the songs on the radio, to the bible stories I read to Jack, to things that we have talked about over the years that are coming to our minds in a fresh way, to the scriptures Andy and I have been reading on a daily basis.

This is what Andy read the other morning in The Message:

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it."

Romans 12:1-2

We feel like we are being asked to surrender our "sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life" to a whole new way of existing. We are under no illusions that it will be easy or even fun, but we know that this is what we are to be faithful to now.

It is both terrifying and exhilarating to set our feet so firmly on a course that God has invited us to. So, as we continue in the process of learning a whole new way of living, and preparing our entire family for a life of ministry, we would so appreciate your prayers.

Self Discovery

You know you are a true grown-up when you use your hard-saved money to purchase a washing machine and dryer.

You know you are brave when you have ivory skin and move to Arizona.

You know you are very brave when you move to Arizona with your fair skin and purchase sunscreen in SPF 70 instead of 100.

You know you are a brave adult when you in the course of a weekend tell near-strangers that you are willing to move into a house of eight foster children as fill in "parents" and they say, "Great! You are hired."

You are now caught up my life.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Curious George

Yesterday I was digging around in one of our yet-unpacked boxes. I was looking for the special yellow goo that makes my hair stay smooth, instead of floating around at all angles and forming an unruly halo of pomegranate-red hair tentacles. Believe me, I need it here. So. Much. Static.

The top three things that Jack says about Arizona so far:

1. It is so sunny.
2. It is so cold.
3. It is very shocky.

All of our boys' blankets are fleecy and when I adjust them during the night for bedtime, it is a firework show in their beds.

Anyhow, I was pawing through the most likely box to find my smoothing solution and instead of drawing my hand out in victory, I pulled it out in horror. Attached to my thumb was one of Andy's razors, without its protective cover. All four (or five or six - whatever is the current maximum of razors for men's shaving devices) were dug deep into my thumb. With stomach-turning effort, I detached the razor and tried to identify the damage.

I had no luck even examining it as my whole hand was covered in blood in just a few short seconds. I made my way to the bathroom to find some band-aids. I could find little tiny ones and some bigger Curious George ones. So, I strapped up my thumb with bright blue adhesive strips with pictures of a happy monkey and bright yellow bananas.

I went through all of our band-aids yesterday and this morning resorted to cotton pads and electrical tape. I have yet to have a good look at it, but I suppose I'll get around to it.

Until then, I will struggle with texting and I will answer Jack's every-five-minute-inquiry about what I have on my thumb.

My very own Curious George!