Thursday, May 21, 2020

I Cried Today

Dear Bio Mom,

I saw you standing there today, waiting outside the door, and suddenly my throat felt tight and my eyes pricked with tears. I thought of not seeing my four year old for two months and I cried. I thought of you hugging her and holding her and never wanting to let go but bravely saying goodbye after the allotted hour. 
I saw you standing there today, waiting outside the door all alone, and suddenly my heart ached. I thought of going through rehab and pulling my life together and working hard day after day for my child and I cried. I thought of all you've done these months and yet how much is out of your hands but to bravely keep on. 

I saw you standing there today, waiting outside the door patiently, and suddenly my heart skipped and my breath came short. What if? What if you haven't worked as hard as I hope? What if your resolve slips and the temptations come too strong? What if it's too hard one day to be brave and keep going? The ache in my heart gripped me and the tears fell down. 


I saw you standing there today and I cried. My heart longed to ensure a good outcome; a "right" one. But I knew that all that's in my power is to do the small bit that I can. And so I came home and read ten stories and whispered another prayer and hugged your four year old a little tighter tonight. 

I can't orchestrate this story, no matter how hard I wish I could. Only God knows both sides of these pages and all the hidden lines and phrases in between. Tonight I'm trusting Him with the writing and begging Him to please, please keep you in the story; your four year old needs you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Two Years Ago And Today

Two years ago today, I wrote this post. When I saw the memory pop up on Facebook this morning, I sent Chris a screenshot.


He replied: Still feel that way?

It's been a long journey since that day two years ago. Making ourselves available turned into so many experiences and feelings that I never anticipated. The hours and hours of classes turned into weeks and weeks of home study check lists which turned into months and months of jumping through added hoops. There were hurts and angry tears and so many, many questions along the way. God took us down bunny trails in those months and used our open hand in ways I couldn't have thought up if I had tried.

One year and four months after my blog post, when our foster care license officially arrived in the mail, I know I was better prepared than the day that I wrote it. But God wasn't done asking me to practice the open hand idea. It wasn't until eight months later, the week that schools closed and stay at home orders commenced, that our first placement arrived.

So, do I still feel that way? Well, probably about as much as I did then!

We're almost five weeks into this life and I'm sure in five more weeks I'll have learned so much more. But right now? Right now I'm pretty sure about several things.

1) It's not about feelings. For some people it might be; some people might have hearts just overflowing with joy and love and a desire to care for other people's children. Honestly? That's not really been me. For me, God called and it felt like the right thing to answer. It's ok to not have the feelings.

2) It's ok to miss the life that was. It's ok to think about how easy life would be with just my own happy family. It's ok to feel sorry for my youngest, who's life has been rocked the hardest; it's ok to feel sorry for my girls, whose shared room is now stretched to include a child who disrupts their camaraderie at bedtime. But it's not ok to live there.


For every hard adjustment, there is a coinciding blessing in knowing that this obedience makes Jesus smile.

When I look into those sweet, brown eyes I pray that someday the memories from our house will be ones of hope and love that will stay forever. And when I look at my children, I pray that the stretching and dividing of our love and time and ease will multiply into less selfishness and bigger hearts.

3) If foster care touched my heart in no other way, it would be touched by watching my husband love this child. Suffice it to say, I would never be doing this if it wasn't for him.

And now my hour alone that my husband granted me must come to an end. You can only sit in a cold van for so long anyway...




Monday, April 13, 2020

Perspective

Sun, April 12
I'm sitting outside alone again. I wonder why that's the only time I seem to be able to string words together these days? Actually, I don't wonder at all. 

My oldest loves frisbee golfing. Since his hours at work have been cut back drastically, he's been turning the game into a regular hobby. Every time he goes, and especially if he takes Jasmine with him, I feel a little bitter. Must be nice to just run off and do something fun, you know? Well, this evening Jasmine said, "You're going with him!" And Isaac said, "Sure, I don't care."

Oh, it was lovely. 

I am terrible at frisbee golf. There's nothing like tagging along with your 17 year old son to make you feel like the old lady you really are!


But walking around the course with him and not needing to be responsible for anyone but myself was so refreshing. And when I got tired of walking and entertaining him with my lame throwing, I found a bench and enjoyed the breeze. 

There were signs of Spring all around -- from the green, green of the grass to the fresh, pale leaves on some of the bushes and trees. There were bright splotches of yellow dandelions dotting the waving grass and tucked here and there were tiny, purple violets for the people who took close notice. 


We weren't the only ones out enjoying the evening. Across the way to my left, an older gentleman was whiling his time away with a golf club. Standing in the lower ballfield, he methodically practiced his swing -- sending golf balls sailing into the upper ballfield and beyond. He must have had quite a collection of balls, because this exercise went on for quite some time. Eventually the stash was spent or his time was up; he spent the rest of his time wandering around the area retrieving his balls. I predict that by the time golf courses re-open his friends will have quite a competitor to deal with!

Life these days continues on with one day looking so much like the next that it's hard to remember what happened when and which day was what. It is always easier to focus on the negative in life but especially so now, I think. The close confines of home and the same circle of eight people seem to magnify and aggravate every bad part of a life that is really quite good.

Listing my many blessings doesn't make all the bad things magically disappear. It can help to change my perspective though and perspective is everything when you're looking at how things appear.

     * * * * * *
 Mon, April 13
I started my morning with this cheerful, inspired Instagram post:


"Get yourself a daughter who makes you breakfast.... and a son who let's you tag along frisbee golfing.... and a husband who pitches right in with foster care just like he always has with fathering his own... It's so easy these days to get bogged down with the hard parts of life but perspective is everything and I am so very, very blessed. "

 I'm pretty sure if I had known how my day would go, I would have kept my mouth shut. The day included -- among other things -- both me and my first grader in tears, multiple time outs, countless petty fusses, rain, clouds and cold wind. I'm tempted to say the perspective thing did nothing for me at all today. 

But if I remember that perspective doesn't magically make the bad things disappear, I can look back at this day and shift my eyes to see --
 * The first grader and I wiping our tears, praying together and tackling school with a will. 
 * No kicking and screaming included in the time outs and some sweet snuggles afterward. 
 * My two middle girls making a treasure hunt for the little ones with their own precious candy. 
 * The dad taking over after supper and some of the happiest playing of the day ensuing. 
 * The promise that Spring is coming, even though today didn't feel like it. 

It still wasn't my favorite day. I'm still looking forward to bedtime and the rivalry and fussing still make my brain feel weary. But perspective is still everything, so I'll focus and re-focus and keep doing it again. 

  * * * * *
That was his frisbee stuck in the tree. 


Friday, April 3, 2020

An Hour Alone

I am sitting in the woods all alone. My house, with all its bustle and noise, peeks through the leafless trees behind me. To my left, there's a rustling and I turn to see two chipmunks chasing each other through the fallen leaves.


The sun is slipping down in the west and in a cluster of fallen trees, a pair of cardinals flit brightly about. A dog barks in the distance and I hear the sound of a door and the voice of my son. I've gotten permission to disappear for an hour and no one knows where I am. The stillness and solitude are delicious; I could sit here for hours. Except for the fact that my seat isn't too cushy and I was only granted leave for one.

Count yourself privileged. 
I don't usually post pics of myself. 

I'm not entirely sure what I've come here to say. So many things could be said but where does one even begin to start?

  ● We've survived 13 days of school at home. We've been hanging by a thread a good bit of that time but here we are at another Friday. Survived.

  ● On Monday it will be four weeks since I have been in a store. I honestly don't really miss shopping. My husband picks up all my groceries and we fare more sumptuously now than before.

  ● I now realize fully what a problem my first grader has with concentration, how little I remember about 5th and 6th grade math and how hard it is to get a boy enthused about writing.



  ● I have proven that all you really need to do in order for a family to survive is provide food and keep the clothes washed. A bit of cleaning here and there is great but the bare minimum will suffice.

  ● Sunshine and fresh air are the greatest gift in the whole wide world.

  ● A father's voice is an amazing thing. Or is it his physique? His size? Maybe his confidence? Whatever it is, it works wonders in little people with attitudes and mothers just simply do not have it.

  ● Going from six solid hours alone five days of the week to zero hours alone + overseeing the schooling of four children + adding your first foster child to your family all in a week's time is.... a lot. Thought maybe there would be somebody out there that needed to know that.

A birthday and a mini pie

  ● We're two weeks in to this foster care experience and what do I say? I could say that it's hard. Everybody knows that. I could say that it's rewarding but everybody probably knows that too. Someday I will find more words. For now, it's only been two weeks and I know so little. But I'm already learning so much.

  ● I am learning that starting my day by "Entering His gates with thanksgiving in my heart" does wonders for my attitude and my day. Also, the prayers of friends and family are worth their weight in gold.

  ● I have no idea what the future holds in all this strange and bizarre life that we're living. Mostly, I do one day at a time. One more load of laundry, one more penmanship paper, one more temper tantrum from a sweet little soul who is learning the boundaries in this new place, one more meal made and scarfed down, one more round of night time hugs....

Whatever the future holds, God will be there.

  ● My husband is an angel in disguise.

And now my seat is complaining about this fallen log, the sun is hiding it's cheery blaze and my hands are turning to ice. My hour is nearly up and I guess I've said what I came here to say, although it came out differently than I thought it might.

Wherever you are and whatever you are facing, I pray you feel the grace that only God can provide.

   *************
PS. I don't think anyone even missed me during my hour.


PPS. I forgot to mention that clean up before bedtime is essential.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dear Mom

This is rather an odd time to be breaking my long silence, what with all my children home and needing to "homeschool" and our first foster child arriving on Thursday - a four year old girl.  Let's just say, I don't exactly expect to be having more extra time than usual in the days ahead! 

For months my urge to write has disappeared -- gone; dissipated; vanished; dissolved; non-existent. Lately I have felt some faint flutterings inside, along with a little flame of hope that just maybe my urge will return again. Today, when I started to post these pictures on Instagram, the thought flashed into my mind that they would make a perfect "Dear Mom" post. Usually I would have let the flash go by and easily ignored it. Instead, I shrugged and said, "Why not?"

This might be the only urge that I act on for another three months but so be it. 

     ****************
I saw your handwriting today, Mom. It's not that often that I run across it these days, so I thought I'd tell you about it.



A very long time ago, when I was a little girl begging you for things to do, you made me some quilt blocks to cross stitch. I labored over them happily, undoubtedly trying your patience with endless interruptions about knots and needle threading and weird puckers. Granted, I don't remember them but it's safe to assume I was a fairly normal little girl in that department. 

You made me a little quilt with the blocks. 

And then, one day I was the Mom. I don't remember what made me come up with my grand idea but I decided it would be neat to give my daughters the same experience you'd given me. For Jasmine's fifth birthday, you made her the same cross stitch blocks you had once made me! And then you made them for my second daughter, Jennifer. And, because you weren't here anymore, I asked my sister to make them for my youngest daughter, Lillian. (This is how I know about the endless interruptions part of the deal.)

Jennifer age 5

Jasmine finished her blocks swiftly and I remember how you helped me make them into a little quilt. Come to think of it, I think you were the one who sewed them together for me, Mom. Then we quilted it.

When you made Jennifer's blocks, you sewed a pink border around each one and kept the leftover fabric in your drawer to be used when the blocks were completed. Months after you were suddenly gone, I went through your stash of fabric, Mom. There was the pink fabric with a note carefully attached. 


Jennifer didn't finish her blocks until she was nine. Since you weren't here to sew them together for me, Mom, they went in a bag on my closet shelf, along with the pink fabric with the note attached. There they have stayed, except for a time or two when I got them out and determined to sew them together. Soon. 

Jennifer turns twelve this month. 

For some odd reason, I decided that today was the day. Out came the bag and we figured out a plan and I sewed it together in no time. I thought you might be proud of me, Mom. 


Miss you. 

Love, Bethany

    ****************
P.S. On another note. Remember how you used to disappear into the bathroom at strategic times, Mom?  When everything was up in the air, you would often disappear for a reset. I get it now.  XO

Monday, January 13, 2020

A Mountain As High As Heaven

Every now and again, my little world gets put swiftly into perspective. You know what I'm saying? The little mole hills I've turned into mountains suddenly become the tiny bumps in the road that they are and the discomforts and irritations of life shrink down to the ridiculous trifles they really are. Perspective will do that, you know?

Five years ago, I shared a story here about The God of the Big Picture; this morning, I read the sequel and felt my whole world shift to size.

If you want to hear the whole story, send me an email at christopherbethany@juno.com and I will forward it to you but here is the story in a nutshell...

After the failed brain surgery five years ago, Tarica's seizures eventually returned. They have intensified but been somewhat manageable with medication. The first part of this month, the seizures became alarmingly frequent and Tarica was hospitalized. Several measures were tried to regulate/ control the seizing and nothing seemed to help. Finally, their only options became a breathing tube and sedation or a plan for brain surgery. They have opted for a second attempt at surgery but there is a two month wait until the surgery's date. At the moment, they are looking at the possibility of two months of hourly seizures.

Stephanie writes, "On the last Sunday of 2019, I sat in a church not my own and listened to a preacher I had not heard before. But God found me there, a stranger in a strange land, and gave me the nearest thing to a vision I’ve ever had. He knew I would need it.

The preacher said—in my own words—that prayer is an essential work of the church even the least of us can do. He moved on to another point, but I didn’t go with him. Instead, I saw—as clearly as if I were standing beside it—an enormous mountain made of Bible-sized stones. Beside the mountain was a pile of dirt, maybe the size of a garden shed owned by a disinterested gardener. People carrying more stones kept walking up to the mountain and adding their stones to it. With each new stone, the mountain grew a little taller.

I knew instantly that pile of dirt was epilepsy and the mountain was prayer. Each time someone prayed, be it me or Linford or anyone else, the mountain grew higher and the dirt pile grew comparatively smaller.

Not that the dirt ever disappeared. Not that it ever turned into gold. There was no analogy here about dirt becoming a rich bed where flowers bloomed. Nothing would make the dirt pile beautiful.

But prayer can be taller and wider and deeper than epilepsy."

I cannot even begin to imagine being the mother in this kind of scenario. My mind rebels at the ongoing heartache of this kind of story; I cannot help but ask the many whys, including 'Why not me?' I do not know the answers. 

I do know that God is still the God of the Big Picture. And, while I can't do one thing to change the heartbreaking stories around me, I can add to the mountain of prayer. If we join hands together, perhaps our prayers combined can surround the Leinbach family with the strength they need for this journey. 

"This week, we have been well-prayed for. Our mountain towers over us, and from it flows living water. But it also looks like our dirt pile has grown. I do not know how we are going to live like this, nearly every waking hour marked by a seizure. I come begging: Will you pray for us? Please help us build this mountain up to heaven, to touch the heart of God." ~Stephanie

Will you join me?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Pictures and Holiday Tidbits

It's a new year! I keep thinking I will take the time to write some sort of end of the year/beginning of the year kind of post... highlights of the past year, recounting the decades in my life or something cool like that but it just doesn't happen. Instead of not doing anything at all, I thought I'd just throw together a bit of a picture post from the past few weeks of holidays and vacation from school.

We don't generally do gifts at Christmas, although often we end up doing a little something. This year my 11 year old had spent months collecting small gifts for each of us. She could hardly wait to give them to all of us and kept wondering when we would do it? To her surprise, I had also spent some time on a gift for each person and the Thursday night before Christmas week, we had the fun of sharing our presents.

All of my pictures of the evening are terrible quality but her joy in giving 
was the sweetest thing ever!

I had gotten the brainstorm at some point that family pjs would be fun and I spent way, way too much time looking at options online and trying to decide if I was crazy to try to make my ideas reality. You have to remember that my husband sometimes requires me to buy things, so just buying matching pjs was going to be more than my penny pinching self could handle.

I finally decided to order plain black t-shirts and scoured the internet for the best sales on black Friday, agonizing over prices and sizes until I so nearly chucked the whole idea. I still needed to figure out how I was going to write on the shirts if I ordered them, not to mention, I wasn't even sure what I wanted them to say! <Yes. Insert eye roll here. Enneagram 9, what can I say. >

Long story short, I ordered the shirts, bought some cheap stencils from Wal-Mart and some acrylic paint and some stuff to add to it to make fabric paint and found ideas for wording all with the help of good old Google (how did we live without Google?!).

I spent a crazy amount of
 time on them but surprising everyone
 was so much fun that the whole 
thing was completely worth it!


Friday was Chris's mom's birthday. Earlier in the week I decided at the last minute to try to get the family together to celebrate. We told her we'd like to take them out to eat and then I invited Chris's brothers to come meet us if it suited them. Ended up they all were able to come, so that was fun and she was quite surprised and pleased!

Some of the grandchildren
weren't there but
it was a fun evening. 

Early Sunday morning we left for Arkansas to spend Christmas with my family! Jasmine had a stomach bug Saturday evening and I had visions of everyone taking their turn on this trip and wished we could just stay home. We got to Arkansas in time to go to church Sunday evening and listen to my sister talk about her work in Belize. I was glad for the chance to say hi to friends. Early Monday morning I heard Isaac go flying down the stairs to the bathroom with Charles and my heart sank to my toes! He spent the day on the couch Monday but by evening he was fine and the rest of our time everyone stayed healthy, thank the Lord.

By late Monday night my whole family had arrived and we spent Tuesday and Wednesday enjoying family time and the lovely, sunny weather Arkansas was having.

Tuesday was a georgous day for a hike and the whole crew - from the 7 week old to the 80+ year old - enjoyed a trek up the mountain to an old fire tower! The view was lovely and we rigged up a bucket/ cement block 'tripod' to take a group picture.




Our time together wasn't that long but we packed it full with games and music and laughter and memories.




Oh, and food. Lots of good food. 
And pretty tables to eat it at.  



I have a sister who is the queen of sentimental, creative ideas. The jars on the table with fairy lights tucked inside all came from mom's canning shelves and we got to each choose one for our prize in a game of Bingo! So special. 

It was a good trip.

Oh, I must mention -- Chris got a great thrill out of surprising me with a large wrapped gift Christmas morning! I did guess what was inside when I lifted the box, since I had debated about buying a serger on black Friday. Can't wait to play with my new toy! I've never used one of these things before.


We traveled back home on Thursday to the grey dreariness of Ohio...... Was that complaining? 🙂 At least it wasn't freezing cold!

This week there's been no school, so we've had lots of relaxation along with a few projects and fun things. Sunday evening we invited family over for a snack and ended up with a few more people, which was fun.  The girls enjoyed arranging all the goodies.


New Year's Eve we were invited to Charles's classmate's house for a delicious supper and board games. It was a fun evening that lasted almost into the New Year, the clock struck 12 on our way home!




School starts again on Monday and, I must say, it's about time to get back to a schedule. If we went on like this too much longer we might completely forget how to be disciplined, productive people. In the silence that will bring, maybe I will have the chance to collect my thoughts into a 'cool' post of some kind. For now, I hope you enjoyed some pictures!

Happy New Year!