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The joy of the Lord…

Did you think I’d disappeared?

Nope. I’m still here. Only problem–is Rico Suave is not. Momma bird packed up all 5 and joined my sister at her in-law’s beach house. And without Rico–momma is exhausted. (Someone has to work to pay the bills folks;). It was a loooong, QUIET 6 hour drive down here. 6 hours where moms hands had to be on the wheel and eyes on the road so no charades. My kiddos had KungFu Panda 2 in and headphones on…Princess T had her head phones on…and momma–she drove…talking to her free therapist (aka her sister April) off and on throughout the trip as we caravanned:).

WE. ARE. HERE.

We are alive.

And all is well.

My sweet sister and her three girls are here. And my parents just got in too. Thankful to have them with us. I have lots of pictures–but those will have to come tomorrow. I’m exhausted.

We’ve once again lived a million years in our 2 days here. We’ve ridden battery operated tractors. We’ve all kayaked our arm muscles off. I think every child has had a melt down—and momma bird rocked Frankie baby last night on the front porch during his holding back tears…because every thing is so out of sync and everyone feels it.

One of my precious blog readers said it best when she emailed me to encourage me. “Dying to self is so hard–it kinda feels like…well, that part of you is really dying.” I have no doubt that foster children…orphans from the hard place…are the hardest to love. They lie. They cheat. They steal. They give you the stink eye. They ignore you. They roll their eyes at you. They mock your children. They slam doors. They don’t love back. And they almost successfully do everything possible that would make you want to give up on them. This is safe for them. Because they have already been rejected for so many years–their hearts hurt so many times…hurting is easy…but taking the risk to open up and love again…it’s just too much.”

There have also been amazing behaviors. Watching our sweet girl share the things she has been given for the first time to call her own. Seeing her fight for smaller goats when we go feed them. Watching her learn new things and look to us for approval…and when we all cheer–watching her facial expression light up knowing how her heart feels…she’s walking on clouds. Feeling her hug BACK after days of many hugs. Watching her connect with us and seeing her fall in love with people like my parents (I considered giving her a stop watch with a 5 hour count down on it when we learned they had just left for the beach to join us—she was about to POP with happiness!) Laughing at her run in the room after missing them for a bit…and seeing that she does’t care and even laughs if they wipe away her kisses (they do that with me too). There are so many amazing–so many MORE amazing–with the hard…trust me.

Many of the hard behaviors we have experienced this summer (not all of them thankfully though!). Yet the ones we have experienced has helped make this by far the most emotional summer of our lives. The lowest of lows and then the highest of highs. It’s almost like a cycle at our house…okay day + distant day + BLOW + awesome day…repeat. There is no doubt I love the awesome days for sure. And every now and again we get stuck what feels like far too long on a distant day. All the while…I feel like I’m pulling 4 smaller ones along for the ride hoping their needs are being met, knowing everyone is off kilter and watching everyone struggle in a different way with the adjustments we have to make on the blow days to get to the awesome ones again.

I have a precious friend who is about 15 years ahead of me in parenting. Her children now in their 20s–and often when I have a Facebook post about something crazy one of my kids has done…she or her husband are both always quick to comment: “You’re gonna miss this” which quickly turns my perspective from the pull up I found in the washing machine that blew up to man–I’m gonna miss this…I wanna live in this moment…pull-up particles all over the place and all!

There have been days lately that I have struggled to live in the moment. I confess there have been some I have wanted to wish away or fast forward through. BUT today–I got a sweet reminder…

Another precious blog reader (how I adore you guys) who is a foster mom sent me an encouraging email tonight–reminding me, “Carry on, you will not only survive and thrive though this; you will look back on it fondly. Because when she leaves you won’t remember the hard parts (it’s like labour and delivery)…you will remember the gifts you gave her and the gifts she gave you and you will know it is as meaningful as parenting your own children; because they are all God’s children. After you sleep for about a month, lol! You will miss this craziness. I promise you will…” (Thank you Leigh for this reminder.)

Every distant day–takes so much energy to get her back…or to communicate through the problem…or to even stand my parenting ground on what is going on that day. Truly parenting my new bird for the summer requires more of me than my 4 little birds all put together. Yesterday and today were another of those days. And I feel like I’m so not good at this…like there is dying in the dying…and then–the BLOW happens. Everything comes out in the wash–I am then able to pour TRUTH in…pour LOVE in…pour MORE in…and it is accepted. But hard stuff has to happen to get there…because these kids–they are tough. Because to survive they have had to be.

So many of these kids WAIT. They wait for families to bring them in–whether through hosting, foster-care or adoption. And knowing what I know now–I could never be on a wait list when there are so many waiting. 15 year olds. 10 year olds. 5 year olds. Their ages and their pain being their special needs. Many feel called to bring wait to bring home the babies, but so few feel called to bring home these children that believe they are unlovable. There are thousands of these children right here in our foster care and in every country in the world. And they wait.

I’ll tell you this. I really thought bringing home a 1 year old was hard. Until now. He was cute. He was loving. Although he struggled…he pushed me away…yadda, yadda, yadda…IT. WAS. DIFFERENT. (In no way am I saying adoption or fostering/hosting little ones is EVER easy–it is always hard…because it always starts because of brokenness in their world. I started Created for Care retreats because after we adopted a toddler I felt desperate for connecting with other moms who were in the same boat–who also needed encouraging and equipping to bring healing to hearts. But you moms who are adopting/fostering teens–oh man…I get it in a whole new level now. I HAD NO IDEA. This is different!) When we brought home our sweet boy, much of his ache and trauma wasn’t remembered by him…baggage weighing down his shoulders making it difficult for him to smile, to laugh, to breath. Yes–loss is absolutely still there and it will always be. We will walk through those waters indeed. But these older children…the ache is deeply there…sufficating their souls…and they are deeply wounded beyond anything you could imagine. They make things up to wish it away. They steal for fear of rejection if they ask. They give you the stink eye because what if they smile…and you don’t smile back? They’ve come to terms with their reality–of never loving or being loved back–and keeping their hard shells and hearts protected from being rejected again is safe. Yet–deep down…they long for more. And they wait. And they wait. And they wait…deep in their hearts…on a waiting list…most of them will wait until the system hands them their bag, a few things and shows them the pathway out…one we would never send our own children own without constant provision, guidance and support.

They wait because the world is scared to love them.

But they are lovable.

They are glimmers of their hearts that haven’t given up yet…even at 16.

After the really, REALLY exhausting hard day–you feel that connection as you pecked on the keyboard Biblical truth…and you know and saw it strike a cord as her eyes lit up. You remind your big love how momma bird feels–and although our bird says she wants to return to her birth country…you type in that she’s not going back without a momma bird to be in her business…and connections are made as you see in the corner of your eye a smile begin to curve softly in her lips. You stop typing. You ask her again and again to look in your eyes and repeat after you that thing you are trying to work through…followed by saying her name and “I love you” and you know–that it’s true…you’re gonna miss this.

You know one day the Lord might just call you to bring home an older one…and that you could do it. The Lord might call you to with a house full of little ones. He may ask you to open your heart and home to a foster child who has layers so thick it looks impossible–but He’d carry you through. It will not be easy. And for much of it you will not feel happy…because at first it is so, so hard. But as you go to sleep at night–you WILL feel joy.

And that is the difference between happiness and joy. JOY–it is lasting. Happy is temporary. Happy is moments and created by things or feelings through how something or someone else makes you feel in the moment. But JOY…Joy is walking through something really hard–digging your heels in the ground and saying, “Lord, you called me to this. I can’t do it on my own. I will not be moved. I will run this race to the finish…I can only do this with you.”

I realize this weekend how absolutely crazy I look…

My mom was sitting at the bar eating grapes…watching me and princess T go back and forth over how you make something—we were turning the eye of the stove on and off…off and on…on and off (with me saying here and there “New Horizons told me you aren’t supposed to work the stove by yourself–you are gonna have to let me help you”)…Frank and Isaac are at my feet asking for juice…I get popped in the back of the neck with a nerf bullet from Parker and his cousin’s aim practice…and I look at my mom and say, “You all think I’m crazy don’t you? You think we are totally in over our heads?”

And we do look it. There’s not a moment of free time or down time–because when toddlers nap it’s my time to connect with T…and after babes go down–we sit down on google translate to work through all the misunderstanding throughout the day. And I almost decided to not even document/blog this day at all–but then I decided to because…I know she’s right…I’m gonna miss this–and I want to remember. I open up my laptop and instead of my blog address I literally typed in: www.imexhausted.com instead. Seriously–I did that. The domain isn’t taken and is still available by the way;)

I’m learning for once what it means to really pour myself out as a living sacrifice. (It’s so much easier to pour yourself out to children or even toddler adopted littles…okay–it’s NOT EASY to ever do the mommy thing…but it’s not this–trust me…it is NOT this.) I’m learning what love can really do–and watching how love can heal…as my mom, dad, sister, friends, our family and so many pour into this sweet T for the summer. (My parents are AMAZING at this–and I am touched by their hearts even considering bringing her home if she wanted it.) I’m learning how much I need the Lord–and how He is enough…and how truly–the JOY of the Lord…not happiness…is my strength. I’m learning how deep the wounds are of older orphans…how unwanted they feel…how so many have waited a lifetime…and that one day we can and Lord willing will follow in this way…because no child should ever have to wait and long and wait more…to be loved like this.

I’m also learning…that I’m gonna miss this.

Pictures of our crazy to follow…

xoxo,

andrea

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