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.


hootenannie said...

Chills. Tears.

You are a wonderful, beautiful mother. I'm so excited that you're offering this to more than Joey and Jack...

God is doing something. I'm thankful that I get to witness it.

Love you, sweet friend.

Alissa Maxwell said...

Wow! This sounds amazing and scary and exciting and overwhelming and impossible and so incredibly tangible all at the same time. Here's my questions: how old will the kids be? Are you going to be working with 3 year olds and teenagers at the same time or will you guys have a "target age" for your home? Do the kids keep going to their own schools or will they transfer to the school in your area - you're going to be on CLOSE terms with some school administrators REAL quick!

Megan Davis said...

BEAUTIFUL! That is truly beautiful! I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face. Not only are Jack & Joey extremely lucky to have such an amazing mom with this vision, but there are going to be a lot of other lucky boys & girls that will be blessed & forever touched & changed to experience your family's and God's love, peace & hospitality. God bless you!

Emily said...

Thanks friends!

God is good.

Alissa, I want to get to your questions about the kids - I hope to do a whole post on it, but I'm having trouble corralling my thoughts.

In short, we will have all ages. In the first few years of operations they tried to group ages, but have found that having a mix contributes to a more natural "family" environment.

The last home we visited had 8 kids (I think) and they went to four or five different schools between them. Some of the kids woke up at 5:30 to make it to school on time!

In Arizona, when children are removed from their homes, their home school is required to continue to transport them if they choose to keep attending that school. Yes, I will know lots of teachers and administrators!