Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lesson Learned: Dogs Cannot Be Trusted to Make a Bargain

Quick post to give you an update. We have recovered from the drama that was the beginning of this month.

We had the opportunity this weekend to do Respite Care for two boys ages 10 and 11. Respite is the foster care word for giving foster parents a break. It’s also a word meaning “Scott and Kelly get to borrow children to do cool things with that we might look weird doing without children.”  Really, foster parents take on a lot when they take children into their home, so the agency says you get two weekends off a month and we (the agency) will find childcare for you (oh and pay the childcare givers).

So we had these boys for a couple hours last month and then all weekend this month. WE HAD A BALL.
  • -          We played Lego Batman 2 on the Xbox. FYI: we do that even without children; that’s how cool we are [Scott's note:  "Cool" seems like such a strong word].
  • -          We made a fire in our fire pit and roasted marshmallows and hot dogs.
  • -          We tried to blow up a bar of soap in our microwave. FYI: Don’t trust a 10 year old when he says it turns into a fluffy cloud. Maybe we had the wrong kind of soap. The house smelled like burned soap for several hours.
  • -          We read stories. We played with real Legos.
  • -          One of the boys took a “shower” outside under the water hose. The water was really cold. They other said he would prefer a bubble bath inside with warm water please and thank you.
  • -          We went swimming at my mom’s house.
  • -          They tried to teach me how to throw a football. FYI: I’m not so good at that. But Gwen Dogg is really good at catching the football and hiding it in the bushes.
  • -          We had French toast one morning – they didn’t know it could be homemade.
  • -          We ate a whole box of Froot Loops in one sitting.
  • -          We had mint chocolate chip ice cream.
  • -          We taste-test Oreo Cookies vs. the Target brand – thanks Heather!

We were really touched by how loving and polite these two boys were.  They said “Yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir.” They gave hugs and even asked about Jesus. They put their dishes in the dishwasher.  They didn’t interrupt when adults were having conversations. The boys had tons of questions and were so excited to do everything.

When we explained that our little dog Mr. Tumnus is “a bad dog” because he begs for food from the table, chases cats, and sometimes potties in the house, they replied, “He is not a bad dog; he just makes bad choices.” Later that night that same boy was scolding Tumnus for not adhering to their “bargain.” Tumnus was only supposed to eat the outside of the hotdog that got burned over the fire and leave the inside for him. I told them not to trust a dog’s bargain. I think Tumnus ate at least 3 hotdogs, chips, and a cheese stick that night.

We discussed multiple times that eating grape seeds would not cause grapes to grow in your stomach, unless maybe you ate some dirt and a Starburst.

We discussed that despite what Jim said there are NOT sharks in the swimming pool.

It was a great weekend.  Maybe next time we can borrow girls and go see Disney Princesses on Ice!


Saturday, August 11, 2012

In Defense of Dark Days (or "Where's God When I'm Furious?")

In the wake of our infuriating and heart-breaking false alarm, a common condolence we heard was, "God has a plan for the two of you.  Don't be discouraged.  You'll find out soon enough."  No-one said that verbatim, but if you were to take everything everyone said, it would come out sounding something like that (possibly with some foul language, due to a couple of our more foul-mouthed -- but nonetheless heart-warming -- friends).

I learned a long time ago that I can't worry about God's plan for me.  I've begged, pleaded, and prayed for a peek and God, in His infinite mystery (and probably wisdom), has refused to show me.  In those moments of desperation, I am reminded of Deuteronomy 31:8.  "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."  This is quickly followed by Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"  I'm reminded of these verses, yet, as pain leads to frustration and frustration to fury, their promises can seem so hollow.

The promises seem especially hollow when, from your vantage point, you can't see what you're doing wrong.  I'm not saying I (or we) have done everything right, but I can't look back and see what I (or we) have done wrong.  Kelly and I both try to live life as genuinely, as unguarded, and as fully as possible.  We have measured our talents and we have set about to use them for good.  We want to leave this world a better place than when we've found it and when people ask "why" we're more than happy to reply honestly and say, "because that's what God did for us."

It's a mistake to blame God for bad things happening to you.  Blaming God for your pain is like blaming the sun for your sunburn -- not to say all pain is avoidable or your own fault.  It's just a consequence of living in this world.  There is evil in this world, bent on your destruction.  There are people who act selfishly.  There are people who act foolishly.  There are well-meaning people who simply make mistakes.  There are lies.  There is miscommunication.  There are things, quite simply, that will lead to us getting hurt.  I do not believe any of them are part of God's plan.

God having a plan for me doesn't mean I will be immune to this world and the effects of sin.  God knowing what's best for me and me trying to allow for that to happen doesn't mean I'm going to get it right.  God's plan also, very honestly, may be something I am not at all comfortable with or interested in.  There are plenty of men and women in the Bible who wanted to follow God but did not want -- in any way -- to do what He asked them to do (see also:  Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Job, Esther, Jonah, Gideon, and at least eleven of the twelve apostles).  Perhaps that is what I take the most comfort in.

Feeling pain doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong.  Feeling pain means you're alive.  Feeling pain doesn't mean God has turned his back on you.  Feeling pain doesn't mean you're broken or that you need fixing.  Feeling pain does, for me, remind me why I need God in my life.  Without Him I would not have made it through the last couple of years.  Without Him I would not be where I am right now, looking forward to the future with a bit of hope and optimism.

So don't despair during your dark days.  You're not alone.  You're not the first to feel this.  The sun will come out and eventually this will all make sense.  That's what I've learned and that's what I'm still reminding myself of.


The cynical Bible reader (which I can be) should read the books of Job and Ecclesiastes.  They are wonderfully dark books that demand questions of God while pointing out all the general screwed-up-edness of the world.  They have guided me through (and of out of) many-a dark day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

False Alarm

It's amazing how quickly you can plummet from the highest peak to the lowest valley.  The short version of the story is:  We were misinformed.

The longer version is:  We were told the boys were coming to our home.  We were given their Social Security cards and their medical histories.  We were told the boys were coming to our home.  We told the foster care people that we were taking time off to help the boys acclimate to their new home, because it was our intent to adopt these boys.  We were told that was a great idea.  Once we felt assured that the boys were coming, we announced it to all our friends and family.  Kelly had the major insurance company she works for rearrange her entire workload to make up for the fact that she wouldn't be there for a month.  We were told the boys were coming to our home.  At roughly 2pm, the coordinator told us she was going to go see and pick up the boys at 4:15 and then brought to our home.  We were told the boys were coming to our home.

At 6:30, when we hadn't heard anything, we texted our coordinator to see what was going on.  What was going on, it seems, is that the boys weren't coming to our home.  They were staying with the foster family they are currently with.  We were a back-up plan -- a Plan B.  The foster care coordinators had thought the family the boys were with were going to quit being foster parents.  When they heard this, they contacted us to see if were interested.

The thing of it is, we were never told we were a Plan B.  During all of our conversations, the only vagueness that was conveyed to us was at what time the boys would be coming to our home.

So . . . I'm sorry.  False Alarm.

Strychnine in the Well

We have been so amazed by people's support and love through this entire process.  Every time we announce another small victory, it seems like all of Facebook just erupts in joy.  It honestly has taken us very by surprise and has greatly humbled us.  We honestly expected more people like Rachel Lynde:

"Well, Marilla, I'll just tell you plain that I think you're doing a mighty foolish thing--a risky thing, that's what. You don't know what you're getting. You're bringing a strange child into your house and home and you don't know a single thing about him nor what his disposition is like nor what sort of parents he had nor how he's likely to turn out. Why, it was only last week I read in the paper how a man and his wife up west of the Island took a boy out of an orphan asylum and he set fire to the house at night--set it ON PURPOSE, Marilla--and nearly burnt them to a crisp in their beds. And I know another case where an adopted boy used to suck the eggs--they couldn't break him of it. If you had asked my advice in the matter--which you didn't do, Marilla--I'd have said for mercy's sake not to think of such a thing, that's what ... I hope it will turn out all right only don't say I didn't warn you if he burns Green Gables down or puts strychnine in the well--I heard of a case over in New Brunswick where an orphan asylum child did that and the whole family died in fearful agonies. Only, it was a girl in that instance."
And to be honest, we do have a couple Mrs. Lyndes in our life, but we don't blame them for being cautious.  We know they're only looking out for us and are trying to protect us from being hurt or harmed -- be it emotionally or physically.  And to be fair to them, there are a lot of horror stories out there.  It's important, however, to remember the context of these "horror stories."

Every child in the foster care system has gone, or is going through, trauma.  They've been taken from their homes.  Some of them have been abused and neglected their entire life up to this point.  Some haven't been neglected or abused; their parents may have done a good job of shielding them from their destructive behavior.  Regardless of the child's previous situation, they find themselves suddenly living with strangers.  How would you react if you were taken from the only home you've ever known and you were forced to live with people who may have absolutely nothing in common with you?

They may not be carrying any physical scars, but each and every one of them is carrying some emotional ones.  They're a little bit broken and it's our job to help them put those pieces back together.

We're supposed to meet them today.  They're supposed to come home with us today and sleep in the beds we've prepared for them.  Thank-you, everyone, for your words of comfort, encouragement, and caution.  We've appreciated it so much.

We can't wait for this next chapter to begin.