A Moment of Silence for Foster Care

It’s been a minute or 957,600.  I have started numerous blog posts and published none of them because we were swimming in the trauma, exhaustion, blessing, joy and grief that is foster care.  To say that it has been a roller coaster doesn’t do it justice.  The highs along the last couple of years have been so high and the lows have been devastatingly low.  We have experienced the unbelievable blessing of adoption and the unusual grief that accompanies that.  We have dealt with the post adoptive blues which I was totally unprepared for and will talk more about in another post.  I have experienced the heaviness of working in child welfare while doing child welfare in my home.  Our compassion has grown immeasurably.  Our family has grown by two little and very busy feet.

Each year that passes, I look back and think, that was a little insane.  Next year will be calmer but that isn’t true.  In the last 12 or so months, I started a new job, lost 70 lbs, ran a literal marathon, finalized the adoption of our son, supported my husband in a job search and we are now finalizing the sale of our home and the purchase of a new one as we move out of state.  Needless to say, not much has happened since we last spoke (insert eye roll).  As I think back over the last several years they are all full of change and excitement and craziness and I’m certain it will continue like this.  Moving forward means facing change and we Gabbards are moving forward.

I hope you will join me again I share about our family, our adventures and the lessons we learn along the way. 

Adoption Day (and completely reflective of the energy level of the newest Gabbard)

Too Much to Say To Say Nothing

I sat down at my computer about 8 times over the last 8 months to update you on our fostering journey.  Some of these 8 times would have been joyful posts about milestones or how beautifully our little guy has blended into our family.  Some of these 8 times would have been feet stomping, fist slamming on the desk rants of frustration and anger and all the rest would have been an attempt at explaining the complicated emotions I have experienced over the last 8 months.  This is by far the hardest thing God has ever asked us to do but with that said, the blessings have been many and some, so very unexpected.

Here is my first attempt at painting you a picture of our experience.

There are so many people in this foster care portrait.  First, there is this little boy who has stolen our hearts.  He and I spend a lot of time together.  It all truthfulness, probably more time than I spent with the ones I birthed in their first year.  Some of this is due to our current work situation.  I worked full time with babies in tow while my biological children were babies and they were all so very healthy.  I now work from home which allows me countless hours of cuddles, feedings, giggles and lots of time in the car for doctors appointments and on again off again visits with his biological parents.  What he lacks in physical stature he makes up with in personality.  He is quick to smile, quick to let you know when he is hungry and these days quick across the floor to find every Lego, craft supply or matchbox car that the Bigs leave at his level.  He thinks Andrew and I are pretty fun to be with and he LOVES the Bigs almost as much as they love him….I say almost because their love for him is so big it is hard to believe he could fit that much affection into his tiny body.  He is sweet and silly and so lovable he makes my heart hurt.

There are also many people around him.  His original caseworker who placed him in our home.  She still texts for pictures of him and checks on him occasionally.  I thought he was her favorite until I saw her interacting with other kids at the courthouse, greeting them by name and with hugs or encouragement about how much they had grown.  That is when I realized that she is just one of those amazing people who makes everyone feel like they are the favorite.  She will always be so special to us because she brought us our first babe.  His current caseworker who received his case a few months ago makes monthly visits to our home to check on him, checks in with his parents and helps provides them with resources in hopes that they will be able to keep him safe in the future.  She also handles countless texts, voicemails and emails from me as I try to navigate all the bureaucracy that is the foster care system.

Our little guy lucked out in the GAL (Guardian Ad Litem) department.  The GAL is an attorney who specifically represents the child.  She is experienced, organized, compassionate but firm.  We have only had to call on her with one big concern so far and she responded quickly, fairly and corrected the problem.  I appreciate her wisdom, encouragement and know that she is looking out for our little guys best interests always.  I also appreciate her willingness to teach some of the system to Andrew and me.  Along with the GAL comes a Magistrate.  He is the judge who will ultimately decide what happens for our little man.  I can’t give you a read on him but can tell you that I find everything about the court portion of this process to be intimidating and worrisome.  During our first court appearance he asked if I had anything to add and I’m fairly certain I grunted.  Literally grunted.

Our family also has a Support Worker who is in charge of making sure we are okay, that we get our training recertification hours done on time, that we have the resources we need.  Most times when he comes, I think he is just making sure that Andrew and I are holding up okay.  He fields our questions that often times don’t have answers and walks along with us.

In another post I will talk about our roles in all of this and the roles our children have grown to fill.

These are all people who I knew would be a part of this team but the team is so much bigger.  They consists of high school and college friends who shipped clothes and baby equipment and diapers and bottles to our home when little man arrived.  It’s my neighbor who planned a surprise baby shower for us.  It is Hope’s Closet, a local non profit organization who coordinates opportunities for us to trained, be encouraged and be known as well as provides equipment, supplies and clothes for kids coming into foster and kinship care.  It is our small group at church who brought food for us, prays for us and babysits for us so we can still have date nights.  It is my fellow foster moms who have listened to me vent and be surprised by things they already knew.  It is my non foster friends who try so hard to understand this unique experience we are going through.

It is also our parents and extended families who did not receive this call, did not wrestle with it for years and did not say yes but who have come along side us and supported us by listening, babysitting, loving us, listening to us cry and yell and laugh and who have decided that this little boy is in.  That he is in for as long as he needs to be in and that he will be in our hears long after that if he goes home.  They didn’t sign up to be this close to all this pain but I can’t say enough about how their hearts have opened to this little boy.  We are all wide open.

I hope that this is the beginning of me being able to find the words to begin to tell you the amazing blessings that come when you are obedient to a call.  That hope and love and compassion can come out of brokenness, sadness and hurt.  That He makes all things work together for our good.   

Please pray for everyone in our portrait.

Sara

Today was a Great Big Day

Tonight’s blog will be brief.  Today he arrived.  Our little big man.  Our first foster babe.  He is perfect in all the ways that matter.  He is loved by God, created in His image, destined to use his life to do good  things.  I cannot and will not share the reasons for his arrival into our home, what I can say is he is already well loved.  He came to us with a note from his mama.  She expressed her gratitude to us and her prayers for our family as her family works on the things they need to work on.  This was such an unexpected gift to me.  He also came with notes for us to read to him.  Notes that would split your heart in two.  It is so very easy to judge but sometimes people do their best, and it’s not nearly good enough, and they need some help.  Please pray for us, for her and for our little big man.

We Are That Family

Every year I think, this is the year we won’t be “that family” at the Christmas Eve Service.  This year the little old ladies will not say, “bless your heart.”  This year we will have control of our bodies and mouths and every year I’m wrong.  

Let us recap.  Three years ago Christopher was innocently playing on the floor at my feet in a sweet little country church filled with no more than 40 people in my parents hometown when I suddenly looked down and he wasn’t there.  He had crawled 2 pew rows back and was entertaining everyone behind us.  I, of course, was sitting in the middle of our pew and climbed over all the people to retrieve my little man. 

Last year, we went up for the children’s moment at the same church.  About half way through they handed out gift bags to the kids.  Benjamin grabbed his and ran, literally, like he had stolen it and was attempting to avoid arrest.  Then he stopped mid aisle and ran back put his free hand in the air, faced the cross hanging at the front and yelled, “Thank you Jesus!” And then took off running again.  

This year, I mean the boys are four years old, surely this year will be our year.  As I look around the packed auditorium I think, you poor mamas of crazies.  It’s okay.  I have been there.  I will not laugh when your toddler burps or throws a fit.   I have been that mom with that child.  I begin to smile as I remember all our crazy Christmas Eve service moments.     About five minutes into the sermon in a quiet moment while our pastor is talking about Jesus’ humanity he says, “I hate to ruin Away in a Manger, but come on, no crying he makes?  Has anyone seen a baby that doesn’t cry?”  Rhetorical questions are a lost cause with preschoolers, so my sweet Benjamin says in his loudest shouting voice, “Yyyeeeeeeeessssssss!”  I swear his yes lasted 25 seconds.  And again, we were “that family” at the Christmas Eve Service.  The difference in this Christmas Eve and the previous 2 is we were not in a small country church.  No, we were in a packed auditorium with 500 of our closest friends, who errupted in laughter.  

You are welcome all you other moms who were afraid it would be your kid.  The Gabbards saved the day again. I tell you all of this to say this.  The manger probably wasn’t perfect.  I mean, it was a barn.  There may have been crying and dirty diapers and postpartum emotional rollercoasters.  There may have been uncomfortable moments but it all worked out okay.  Jesus made it into the world.  He made it!  And because He made it, we get to make it too.  God bless you this Christmas!  And may all of you have a Benjamin at your Christmas Eve service to remind you that it isn’t about being perfect it’s about being present.  
Merry Christmas!

Sara

When God Just Won’t Leave You Alone

I got to see an amazing God ordained adoption take place….like front row seat witnessed it.  It forever changed me.  Ever since then I have had a nagging, notice I didn’t say gentle whisper, in my heart that perhaps we were being called to something like this.  I consistently resisted.  Come on God, we have three kids already.  We are a hot mess God. Have you met us?  You can’t be serious.  Perhaps we just need to volunteer at an agency that supports adoptive or foster parents?  Perhaps we just need to pray for these kids that need soft places to land.  That must be it.

But here’s the thing, God’s plan for our lives is like a swing.  We push it away but it keeps swinging right back to us, and if we push it away and assume it is gone it can hit us square in the face.

Examples of being hit square in the face.  My first time volunteering as sub in Sunday School at our church I ended up in a room with a lovely woman.  We were chatting while cleaning up toys and she mentioned that she was a foster parent and had helped to form the organization that supports the families in our county.  As if this weren’t enough, the sermon that Sunday was about allowing God to stretch you in your ability to serve.  After this, we literally couldn’t go anywhere without meeting someone who was fostering or had fostered.  My aunt, who didn’t even know we were debating this possibility, randomly suggested we look into it after a terribly local story was all over the news about a mistreated child.

God and I pushed this swing back and forth for about 6 months.  Meanwhile my poor husband is off to the side praying that this blasted swing will just go away.  It didn’t go away and after praying about it and talking about it we attended an informational meeting.  It was informative, sad, scary and exciting.  We came home and talked more.  We talked about what type of child we thought we could bring into our home.  How would our biological children feel about this addition?  How could we do this and keep them as safe as possible?  Could we even do this?  We are still struggling through that last one but we signed up for classes.  These classes begin tomorrow.  We may complete them and feel a calling to a different aspect of this ministry but we are marching forward.  We are scared and excited.  Everytime I think about beginning this process I get a little overwhelmed about how much this could change our lives.  The additional doctors appointments, the treatment for trama, the extra patience, the feeling of complete inadequacy is daunting.  But once I quiet some of that I begin to imagine our first child.  I imagine the difficult and challenging circumstances they may be currently experiencing or will be experiencing shortly and it hurts my heart so much that it makes me grateful that God and I are no long pushing the swing back and forth.

In the coming weeks and months we request your prayers for the following things:

-Pray for our child.  Pray for this little one that is going through something so hard that they need to be scooped up and placed in our care.

-Pray for our children.  Pray for their little hearts to expand to love one more.  Pray for this to be an opportunity for them to show Jesus’ love to another child with their own kindness and gentleness.

-Pray for Andrew and I.  We are terrified.  We feel unprepared and unworthy of this opportunity.

-Pray for a community to raise up to support us as we move forward.  We are relatively new to our local community and would love to experience additional support from those who are close by.

-Pray for the Mamas and Daddys that will be having their children placed into care.  I can’t imagine what that would feel like or the circumstances that you would have to go through to have it come to that point.

Inspite of the fact that I was a very resistant servant, I can tell you that we have experienced a peace since we signed up for our first training class.  If there is something that you feel God is urging you to look into, I would encourage you to investigate it.  Jeremiah 29:11 keeps coming to my mind when I get scared thinking about this new adventure.  For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans give you hope and a future.  I keep hearing those words both for ourselves and for our future foster babe.  Get with the plan.  Find the peace.  Stop pushing the swing.

He Marches to a Different Beat…and that’s okay.

DSC_4420This is my Benjamin.  He is so different from my other crazies.  He is busy and yet highly focused on what he is doing.  He is challenging and very loving and sweet.  He doesn’t follow instructions well but is very sensitive to correction.  He is cuddly and yet has a hard time receiving too many snuggles because he has so much to do.  He is hard to teach and coach but extremely curious about how things work and often takes things apart and puts them back together.  He even answers questions in unusual ways.

Benjamin, what do you want to be when you grow up?

A dump truck.

Do you mean a dump truck driver?

No, I mean a dump truck.

While coloring recently, I got on his case about how he holds his crayon and was encouraging him to try to color inside the lines.  He looked up at me with these big brown eyes and said, “Mama, those lines aren’t for me.”  He’s right.  They aren’t for him.  He just sees things differently.  He challenges me to try to see things from a new perspective.  I want so badly to understand him but he is so beautifully complicated.

He views the world in a very different way than anyone I have ever met.  In 1st Peter 4:10-11  it says, God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.  My sweet Benjamin is a gift to me.  He challenges the way I see things.  He encourages me to seek understanding over judgement.  He draws me in because I want to know him more.  He’s right.  The lines aren’t for him.  He marches to the beat of his own drummer because my drummer is either too fast or too slow.  His differences from me are so beautiful and mysterious.  What a blessing he is, not just as my son, but as a constant reminder of how our uniqueness is not a mistake but a plan for us to better serve others and serve God.  He will grow up to challenge the way we think about the world and for that I am grateful.  Color outside those lines little man.  Love you.

10 Crazy Things This Mom Says Daily

1.  Stop fighting over imaginary toys!

2. Don’t stand there and dance, just go to the bathroom.

3.  I don’t have any napkins, just lick your fingers.

4. That was not a snuggle, you just wiped your face off on my shirt!

5.  That’s nice but you aren’t at grandma’s house right now so NO!

6. Go back in there, wipe your bottom and wash your hands…..and turn off the light!

7. What do you have in your mouth?

8. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

9. You better eat all your pizza (or insert any other unhealthy kid food here) or you don’t get any ice cream.

10. Did you need that drink 10 minutes ago when I was in the kitchen, or do you just need it now that I’m trying to use the bathroom by myself?

The struggle is real.  What crazy things do you say?