that donkey will bite you

Kids don't listen the first time. At least, not mine. I mean, they come the first time you say, "Want a snack?" but they certainly don't hear you say, "Don't hit your brother" and file that in the permanent log. That's the thing you repeat a thousand times.

We were at a petting zoo recently with my family. The kids were feeding this sweet old donkey (through a fence) -- kernels of corn right out of their hands. Excitement! But then the corn ran out. A youthful member of our party put his hand back through the fence. I cautioned him, "Buddy, don't put your hand through the fence anymore, the donkey will think you have food and bite you." Then I walked on. From behind me, I heard my sister say, "Honey, did you hear that? Don't put your hand in there, or the donkey will bite you." Moments later, she came to join me. I turned, exasperated, when I heard my other sister saying, "Don't put your hand through the fence or the donkey will bite you!" A moment later, I heard screams, shrieks, and panic that you'd expect from a four-year-old child who'd just had his hand bitten by a donkey.

Sigh.

It's hard to find compassion in those moments. (Somewhere, a really good mom would offer to kiss it, but that's pretty much making out with a donkey... so I vote no.)

Sarcasm aside, though, what are the things God repeats to me? I'm his child. And I'm the worst: petulant, ungrateful, disobedient, forgetful. And yet He patiently repeats Himself to me.

Here's what He's saying to me lately:

Do. Not. Be. Afraid.

The Bible says it 70 times, apparently. And yet, I'm afraid. I really am. I'm afraid because somehow, despite a perfect track record, I worry that God won't come through for me.  

We go to court again on Tuesday. And I'm afraid. The unknown is scary, but the future is already known (planned, ordained) by the One who loves us most.

So I guess He'll go on repeating it to me: Kelley, do not be afraid.

I'll hear Him saying "do not be afraid" when friends text me that they're praying for us. 

I'll hear Him saying "do not be afraid" when I kiss my boy goodnight. 

I'll hear Him saying "do not be afraid" when a song comes on Word-FM at just the right moment. 

I'll hear Him saying "do not be afraid" when I pray and there isn't a still, small voice or even a wind, an earthquake, or a fire... But there is a weird feeling when I'm able to swallow, and my palms are dry, and my heart is beating a normal cadence and I do close my eyes and drift to sleep. Because at that moment, the donkey didn't bite me.

 



             

choosing good memories

I know a woman who has nothing good whatsoever to say about her young children. Her grown children are great -- she's so proud of how they turned out! But I've never heard her say anything but negatives about their growing up years. It's like she looks back thirty years and sees nothing but messes, tantrums, and bad behavior.

Her attitude makes me really sad. This is a hard time of life. It's busy, sweaty, stinky, and heartbreaking. There are a lot of losses and only a few wins. It's easy to look back at the day and sum it up:

  • five syrupy fingers on my front window
  • one skinned knee
  • twelve time-outs
  • three swats
  • one lost dessert
  • three million suds splashed all over the bathroom
  • one early bedtime

But that same day could also be re-told:

  • six pancakes
  • one blanket fort
  • one long bike ride
  • one picnic
  • thirteen books read
  • one healthy dinner
  • one clean son to bed

You have to make the choice--which memories do you focus on? It's about more than today. I do not want to turn into that poor woman who looks at her grown children and only sees successful adults. I want to look back and fondly see peanut butter up their cheeks and a milk mustache.  I'm gonna be a grandma who smiles and says "he reminds me of his daddy" when I'm wistful, not one who glares "he reminds me of his daddy" when scornfully shushing for age-inappropriate silence and stillness.

I don't want to get so wrapped up in their (normal) sinful, child-like behavior issues that I can't also remember the times we laughed and smiled. Because, truly, even on a day with a long list of wrongs, there are a lot of rights.



             

in God's country

in-gods-country.gif

We're living in no man's land right now. The judge's decision that our son is to move away from us -- his foster family for these first 29 months of his life -- was made, but the change has yet to be implemented.

So here is this huge change, but then there is really no change at all. The "ultimatums" were cast and ignored; the promise of an out-of-character future was enough to seal the deal.

But now, three weeks later, we're still here.

There's no timeline, no calendar, just a never ending "soon."

Or not soon. I mean, how soon is soon? Soon in some industries is moments, minutes. Soon in the foster care system seems to be anytime between now and when a child turns 18.  Can there be a "stat"? Can there be a "hot off the press"? Can there be an "overnight"? 

Soon.

Well, here's what I do know: I know that I'm still mama. I know that I don't know what's coming. I know that I don't know what my own future holds any more than I know what the future holds for each of my sons. So I rest and I wait. And I hide my frustrations with the well-intentioned comments from people who don't know what else to say. Because I don't know what to say, and I get annoyed at my thoughts.

Here in no man's land, it seems to be a bad as the desert.  I'm still wandering, I'm still tired, I'm still hot with emotion, I'm still uncomfortable. I know what's coming, now, though, so I have the sad anticipation of what is soon to come.

Soon.

The good news is that desert, no-man's-land, or wherever else this journey takes me, I am still In God's Country.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it.

Psalm 24:1.



             

Our laughter threatened hell today.

It's a battle just to get our kids' shoes on each day, and Christian mamas can lose sight of the war. The war isn't better behavior, or good grades, or even for them to still like me when they are adults.  The big picture is raising children who passionately love Jesus.

A friend texted me a very fierce mama poem today. It's very long, so here are the highlights. You can read the whole thing here.

 

Motherhood

by Christianna Reed Maas

...Our laughter threatened hell today.

I dined with the greats of God’s army. I made their meals, and tied their shoes. Today, I walked with greatness, and when they were tired I carried them. I have poured myself out for the cause today...

I birth the freedom fighters. In the great war, I am a leader of the underground resistance. I smile at the disguise of my troops, surrounded by a host of warriors, destiny swirling, invisible yet tangible, and the anointing to alter history. Our footsteps marking land for conquest, we move undetected through the common places.

Today I was the barrier between evil and innocence. I was the gatekeeper, watching over the hope of mankind, and no intruder trespassed. There is not an hour of day or night when I turn from my post. The fierceness of my love is unmatched on earth.

And because I smiled instead of frowned, the world will know the power of grace. Hope has feet, and it will run to the corners of earth, because I stood up against destruction.

I am a woman. I am a mother. I am the keeper and sustainer of life here on earth. Heaven stands in honor of my mission. No one else can carry my call.



             

it isn't like packing for college

I think when you pack up your kid's room, you should be packing university sweatshirts, not onesies.  Maybe if you're moving your whole house, then you can pack someone's tiny socks along with everything else. But it's weird to pack up someone's entire belongings and have it only be three boxes. 

But that's what happens when everything is small. Small pants. Small PJs with dinosaurs on them. Small dress shirts with only four buttons. 

This is crappy.

I busied myself this evening working on what Children & Youth calls a "Life Book." But I have to be honest, this book only further establishes something that's very, very wrong with "the system." You see, there's only one page for me to fill out. There's a single page, on the front labelled "Pictures Birth to Age 5." Literally, I can take up two-fifths of this page to represent everything his life has meant since we met twenty-six months ago. Ridiculous. I just printed my first batch of pictures for this "Life Book," and Snapfish is now hard at work printing 167 photos of the cutest face you've ever seen.

One single page to represent five years. Five years.

So my family is to be a blip on two-fifths of a page in his "life." That's nice. But it does sum of the way CYS views us. A blip, to be forgotten. His whole life is still ahead of him, I won't argue that, but I do take issue with their view that a child's life starts at school age, that these two years weren't formative, that we are only worth 4 inches on a piece of paper.

His life has meant far more than this already.

Dear caseworkers,

I am a person. I can't talk much yet, but I have feelings. I have desires, dreams, and wishes. I use a sippy cup and wear a diaper, but I am perceptive. I know more than you understand. I react when I'm scared in subtle ways that you don't notice because you only see me two hours a month. I don't understand what's going on around me, but I want to feel safe. Two years may feel fast to you because you're 22, but it is my ENTIRE LIFE. Two years are all I've known.  Please treat me like a person. Please treat me like my life matters. 

Love,

The forgotten babies and toddlers of foster care