Dear Parent of a Sick Child {letter #4}

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

You are lonely, aren’t you?  You have spent many days surrounded by people who care, but there are moments when you feel like the loneliest person on Earth. Although you have had your share of visitors, kind words, gentle sentiments of encouragement through the written word, and comforting touches, you still feel like a small island in this vast ocean of life.

You continue to walk around…

an isolated warrior…

a weary soldier…

a desperate mother…

a lion-hearted father…

in a battle not of your own making.

You hear about and see all moms and dads with their babies enjoying the sun of the summer, traversing through the seasons, and experiencing a life enriched with joy, milestones, and celebrations.  Yet, there you sit.

Waiting.

Waiting hand-in-hand with your child who has barely been awake the past few days.

You visualize her running in the sun of the summer.  You think about the future, and what is to come.  You dream of the milestones, the intricate details of development, and the celebrations you have been able to plan.

You beg for a life beyond all of this.

You yearn for a life farther away from sickness.

You desire never to visit this place again.

You stare at her.  You wonder, “Will she ever wake up again?  Will she ever experience a life outside of these sterile walls, and the beeps of these machines?”  In these moments, your own vision of parenthood, and your dreams of it, seem to evaporate.

You think, “Will I ever wake up to MY child… my child before this illness?  Will I ever see her energy, her enthusiasm for life, and her humor again?  Will this silence ever stop?  Where is our life…our life before all of this?”

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

Your continual stance in the deep hours of the night mean so much to your sick child.  Your gentle grasp, your words of comfort, and your whispering of hope for life beyond this affliction, carry weight.

All of these things have a gravity of their own.  They are not measured in the physical lineage of this world.  Instead, they are mounted upon that seemingly invisible wave of fortitude that courses through your body.

You have the moxie to show this wayward season in your life that it is just that…a season…a temporary stay…a time that will not define your child, your parenthood, and your character.

With each glimpse of life outside of illness, you are anchoring your child and your own parenting experience to the hope of the future.

Hang on to that anchor.

Throw it onto land.

Proclaim it.

Set your vision on the shore of healing, and the life that is in sight.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

You are lonely, aren’t you?  You wonder about life beyond this sickness.  You remember those precious moments before this sadness entered your life.  You cherish with anticipation the visions of your child playing in the wonders of the world, dancing in the rain, experiencing a first crush, crying over a broken heart, going on a first date, graduating from school, and eventually, marrying the one who stole her heart.

You dream of your child launching herself into this world so that it can catch a bit of her radiance.

To be honest, I do not know what you are going through.  My children…my babies…are all seemingly healthy.  I know this can turn on a dime. From my own experience, I have learned that life is fragile.  One day, things seem okay.  The next, you are side-swiped by a diagnosis.

I hope, and pray, and give my own energy to the promise that my children will never experience the life-altering, nearly fatal, and forever-changing illness that I survived as a child.

I do not write from a point of complete understanding of what you are going through.  Instead, I simply write from the vision of what my parents must have felt while watching me fight for life during the eleventh year of my walk on this Earth.  I also write from the words that have come from their own mouths, and the mouths of observers when escaping back to that fateful time in my own life.

I write letters in retrospect.  I write in remembrance of their bravery, their quiet, yet strong presence, and their gentle proclamations that I would beat the hostile intruder that made its way to my life.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

I know you feel lonely.  I know you get tired of seeing the blessings of life that are happening around you.  You must get angry.  You must feel a twinge of jealousy.

You cry out to God in your anger, and in your weakness.

Please know that while you are feeling helpless, and maybe even insignificant, in this big world of unknowns, your presence is perhaps the largest and most beautiful sight in your sick child’s eyes.  Your own sense of loneliness is not seen by your child.

Instead, your nearness to the illness, and your child, has helped to underwrite the story of hope, and the melody of compassion that your child hears, and may even dance to in the future.

Continue to be there.  Continue to be that hand that can be held in the darkest of hours, the agonizing moments of pain, and the stillness of the day.

Stay strong, parent of a sick child.  Stay courageous.  Stay hopeful.

Stay.

Although you may feel like the loneliest person on Earth, your presence is a pillar of gladness that helps your child.

Together, you are not alone.

how I wonder…

School started this past week for my children.  My oldest son entered his second grade year with excitement.  He may not admit it all of the time, but he loves school. He grins from ear to ear when walking through the halls, and enjoys being around kids his own age.

My two-year-old seems to be exploding in his development.  Smiles, giggles, energy, and “Watch me, Mommy” all seem to captivate his world right now.  He is a happy, and healthy little boy.

My daughter started Kindergarten – she started Kindergarten!  Watching a little one grow into his or her own unique being, and enter into a new world of discovery, is both exciting and a little nerve-wracking.

The night before school started, I sat by my daughter’s bedside as she said, “I can’t go to sleep, Mommy.  My brain doesn’t want to.”  I know she was feeling anxious about the her first day at school, and tried to encourage her to get some sleep.

“Sing to me, Mommy.” she said. “Sing Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star….”

As I sat beside her singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, I looked around her slightly darkened pink and green room, and my eyes landed on her name spelled out in bright pink letters, a Cross hanging by her bed, and more than enough blankets to keep her feeling secure through the night.

As I softly sang to her, and gently rubbed her back, I thought about the mother’s around the world who are doing their best to sing their children to sleep. Under devastatingly tragic conditions, there are so many who are trying their best to soothe their children into a restful night’s sleep.

With the sound of gunfire, threat of violence, and hazards that make up the darkness of night, they might just be whispering….

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I wonder what you are.”

As I sang this song to my daughter, I peered through her curtains into the night sky. I thought about the mother’s looking up into the Heavens and wondering when God will deliver them from despair.

My mind escaped to the mountaintops in Iraq where children, mothers, and fathers are clinging to a sliver of hope…to that glimmer of light in a darkened place.

And then, I turned to my daughter, half-asleep, snuggled into her warm bed, and I felt thankful and sorrowful at the same time.

In my home state, a terrible thing has happened.  A young African-American male was shot and killed by a police officer.  Honestly, I do not know all of the details of what happened.  It is still a tragic and heart-breaking situation, though.

The aftermath has been a week filled with incredible anger and riots. Confusion, chaos, and images of seemingly palpable rage have splattered social media, television, and any form of news outlets.

Behind it all is a mother and a father grieving for their son.  A mother and father who, under tremendously sad conditions, are crying woeful, and deeply afflicting sobs for their son to whom they will no longer feel his embrace, no longer visualize his future, and no longer hear his voice.

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I wonder what you are.”

And then, I turn to my children, half-asleep, snuggled in their warm beds, and I feel thankful and sorrowful at the same time.

I’m thankful that some of my daily challenges as a mother include getting the kids out the door in time, deciding what they need to wear, assuring they are at least trying to use their manners, scheduling their extracurricular activities, and getting home in time to prepare dinner.

And, although it might sound odd, in some way, my heart is so incredibly sorrowful for too many who do not have the luxury of worrying about these things.

I feel guilty…I feel sadness…

My heart is heavy for the mothers whose daily challenges are keeping their babies alive, clothing them in whatever rags they can find, teaching them survival skills, visualizing (if only for a moment) a future for their children that does not include the threat of terror, having a home, a bed, and food, and burying their babies before they even have a chance at a life.  My heart is especially stricken with the thoughts of so many who are being persecuted for their faith or color of skin.

During this past week, I have celebrated my own children’s successes, fresh starts, and fun hobbies.  Not too far from these experiences have been my thoughts of the world to which we live in.

Although my daughter loves it when I sing, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to her as she drifts off to sleep, my heart is singing…

“Jesus, Jesus Savior Lord, 

How I wonder when You’ll come.

Up above this world so wrong, 

It is Your peace to which I long.

Jesus, Jesus Savior Lord,

How I wonder when You’ll come.”

 

“Jesus, Jesus Savior Lord.  

How I wonder when You’ll come.

Up above this world so torn,

We cry out; our hearts are worn.

Jesus, Jesus Savior Lord,

How I wonder when You’ll come.”

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” – John 14:1-3

Gift Ideas for Foster Care and Adoption

Do you know someone who has recently became a foster parent, or is going through the adoption process?  Do you need some ideas for gifts to give?  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Gift cards to a variety of retail stores (Foster families often take children in a “moment’s notice”, and may need to run out and grab a car seat, clothing, and other essentials for taking care of children.)
  • Gender neutral items (Even though a family has a preference for gender, sometimes they are selected or called about a child of the opposite gender.)
  • Gift cards to restaurants, zoo passes, movie tickets, or other entertainment venues.  Sometimes, actually often, a two parent home with no children instantly turns into a two parent home with three children.  Eating out, going to the movies and other forms of family entertainment can get expensive with a large family.)
  • Picture frames and scrap-booking materials (Foster families are asked to keep a Lifebook for each child in their care.  A Lifebook is essentially a scrapbook of the child’s life before foster care and while in care.)
  • Children’s hygiene necessities (Often, families are bombarded with clothing, toys, and other nice gifts, but they may not have a supply of pediatric fever reducers, pain medicines, toothbrushes/toothpaste, or other hygiene products.)
  • Photography Packages (Professional photography can get expensive.  Consider going in with other friends/family members and purchasing a photography session.  It is a wonderful moment when newly adopted children become part of the family portraits, and is a “rite of passage” of sorts.)
  • Foster Care and Adoption resource books (Families may need to read and learn about a variety of challenges they might face.  Reading is a great way to learn from the experience of others.)

One of my favorite gifts after adopting my oldest son (our first adoption) is pictured below.  My co-workers purchased it for me.  It meant so much because they prayed for our journey as foster parents.  They prayed for our son’s “case”.  They prayed for our son.  Gifts like this one can mean so much for a family who is starting a family or expanding a family through foster care and adoption.

plaque

Do you have any other ideas?  If so, please share!

 

 

The Gift of Brokenness {His grace is sufficient}

It seems I’ve been bombarded by the difficulties of life these past few days.  Friends struggling with illnesses, Christians turning against each other, children suffering through sexual abuse, and children being passed around through the foster care system, all seem to be on the forefront of battles within my own small piece of this world to which I dwell.

I have worried with concern about what is going on in other parts of the world.  Although feeling sheltered and stowed away here in the middle of America, I still wonder if…when…the life that we know of might be taken off-course by the wavering pains of the world.

There are those moments when you say to God, “When is enough going to be enough?!?” 

“How can we ever expect to fix a broken world when it is full of broken people?” 

There are times when I wonder why in the world has the Lord not claimed His world back.  “How many more children have to suffer at the hands of their abusers…their soul-drainers?  How many more parents have to watch their babies…their own flesh-wrapped part of their hearts…lying in a sick-bed?”

 “Lord, how many wars are too many before You intervene?  And…why…why  don’t You intervene?”

Even in my own fears of raising babes in this world, succumbing to the frailty of my own mortal coil, and witnessing again and again the vileness of abuse and neglect of God’s children, I still find myself in total awe at the moments when He declares Himself.

Even in those times when my heart is breaking, I know that in my sorrow I am drawn even closer to what breaks our Father’s heart.  I know that when you, my friend, despair over the ways of this world and the battles of your own flesh, you are also despairing over what breaks our Father’s heart.

Lately, I’ve seen many statements that declare “Strong Is the New Skinny”.

Do you want to know what is really strong, my friend?  Do you want to know what declares true strength?

In our most vulnerable moments when we cry out to God, put ourselves right in the center of someone else’s pain, or experience those times when we feel our own weaknesses, we are the strongest we have ever been.

The gift of brokenness is one that holds great beauty, courage, and strength. 

  • It is felt when you are whole in your faith in our Divine Father.
  • It is witnessed when you sing songs of joy even though your body is failing.
  • It is heard in your prayers for those who persecute you.

And, it is settled in your own broken heart…the one that causes your tears to flow for others, your actions to fill love in the spaces left empty, and your willpower to put one foot in front of the other for the good of another soul…another child of God.

This morning, I got up early, went to the gym to work-out, and saw the most beautiful sunrise on my way home.  It was bright, colorful, and simply breath-taking.

Sonrise

I took a picture of it because it was worthy of being shared.  I don’t know about you, but when I witness sunrises like this one this morning, I am profoundly humbled by the promise of our Lord.

I am inspired to keep going because day after day, the Lord continues to paint skies like the one is this picture.

Despite our frailty, weaknesses, selfish desires, and failures to love the way He does, God still shows up each day and declares Himself to the world.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

 Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

for my fellow child welfare professionals and foster families

I watched out the window as one foster family loaded three little ones into their car, spent time talking to the other foster family, and eventually drove off.  I thought to myself, “I bet those children have no idea that the family who has tucked them in bed the last few months of their lives will no longer be tucking them in.”

I do not blame the foster family – life happens, situations lean themselves to not being a good match, often trauma is so intense that it does not create a safe situation, and after all, we are all just human.  Sometimes, foster families have to let go of children they are attached to.

I watched the foster-mother wipe away tears from behind her sunglasses, and made a mental note to check on her after the weekend.  I listened to the case worker cry in the lonely confines of the bathroom, and then checked on her after she planted herself at her desk.

During all of this, my mind escaped back to when I was a new soldier in the awfully disgusting, seemingly inhumane, and never-ending war of child abuse.

My first “case” was a six-year-old girl with brown eyes, blonde hair, tomboyish temperament, and an infinity to act older than her age.

I received her file, which happened to be a very thick binder, on my desk the very first week I started my job.  “Here’s your first case.  She’s disrupting from her adoptive home”, my supervisor said.  “You need to find her another foster home that might be interested in adopting.”

In situations like this, case workers are left to scramble and search for a new family to be found.  I remember calling county offices asking…essentially pleading for a new foster family for the little girl to whom I had not even met.

Shortly after my frantic calls, I drove to her foster home..the one that promised forever…introduced myself to her…stacked her belongings in my truck…buckled her in…and drove her to the next foster family.

I literally remember every moment of this experience.  I can see the pictures on the walls of the family who gave her up, and I remember the awkwardly silent ride to her next home.

I also remember reading her file, and the many others that crossed my desk through the years.

I recall the initial trauma I felt when learning about the extent of abuse that had occurred in the lives of the children who had just started their own walk in the world.

I got angry.  I cried.  I wondered where the heck God was while all of this was going on.  I became motivated.  I worked a little harder than I thought I would.  I became passionate about the field that chose me.  I prayed.

The little girl whom I bared the responsibility of finding a family did get adopted by her new family. Even after she became comfortable with her new family, she would run and hide when she saw my white truck pull in the driveway.

I’ve been reading about the impact of child welfare work on social worker’s lives. Poor sleep, stressed relationships, depression, nutritional issues, weight gain, nightmares, and secondary trauma all seem to creep up in the lives of workers in the front lines of child welfare.  And, let’s be honest…social workers do not make a lot of money…at all.

Having been in child welfare as a professional for thirteen years, and a former foster-mother (now mother through adoption), I find myself with the ability to tuck away the painful reality of it all into a corner that I very rarely enter anymore.

I do not know if it is possible to process all of the information of tragic life stories that I have read through the years.  Sure, there are the moments of grief and anger that are witnessed as they unfold in the lobby of the office before my very eyes.  I still cry from time to time about the very nature of what is truly going on in the underbelly of our seemingly idealistic and happy communities.

Although I am weathered by the years, it really does not get easier.  It just becomes less traumatic, more expected, and a seemingly natural part of life.

That seems awful, doesn’t it?  Why in the world would child abuse and neglect become a part of life?

To be honest, if I dwell too much on it all – the sounds of children asking why they can’t go home with mommy, babies crying from feeling stressed during visits, and mixed up, lonely children being bounced from home to home – I end up getting angry.

I get angry that God would allow any of this.  I am reminded and aware of freewill, but it does not make me less outraged, less saddened, and less frustrated.

There are many opinions about children’s protective social service workers.  If there is media attention, it is usually centered around the one case of hundreds where something went wrong.  Attention is very rarely spotlighted on the day-to-day choices that case workers, juvenile court officials, child welfare attorneys, and foster parents have to make.

It does not capture the tender moments of social workers picking out gifts (often from their own money) for “their kids”.  It does not show the hours of work spent by workers in the field.  

Attention does not get up in the middle of the night to answer the “on-call” phone, travel to a meth lab in the middle of the night to pick up children who are confused and weary from the unknowns, or visit with adults trying their best to turn their lives around.  

It does not celebrate when permanency is achieved through adoption, or when children, whom desperately love their parents, are able to return to them. 

It does not hold a raging or sobbing child who seeks comfort from the stranger who just took her in.  It also does not lend an ear to listen to older youth as they wonder about their future.

Media attention definitely does not highlight the words of encouragement case workers, juvenile court officials, child welfare attorneys, and foster parents speak to the families and children who find themselves caught up in the system.

I have listened as people (whom did not know that I work in child welfare) slam foster families, children service workers, and the system as a whole.  I have been shocked by their opinions of how easily this war could be fixed.  I have also found myself wondering, “What are you, opinionated one, doing about it?   When have you called a child welfare agency to offer your time and talent?  Have you taken the time to care enough to bring a child into your home, support a family who is struggling, or advocate for change?”

For my fellow child welfare professionals and foster families in this unending plague of child abuse, remember this, everything you do matters…a lot.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” –Robert F. Kennedy