Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Night Watches

“He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121:3-4

Have you ever lost sleep over your child?

Let me guess…you just said DUH out loud.

Well, funny enough, I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with much of that.

When we first got our boys, they were 2 1/2 and 7 years old. I figured that since they weren’t babies, I’d have a pretty easy time of it.

WRONG.

Our 2-year old, nicknamed Nutkin, was learning to sleep in a big boy bed. Just about every night I would awake to the sound of a thud followed by a little muffled cry over the baby monitor and would go to comfort him. This happened once a night for maybe a couple of weeks. Sometimes he would have a nightmare. He needed to be snuggled in my arms for maybe fifteen minutes or so and then he went down for the rest of the night pretty easily.

The thought actually crossed my mind, Wow, this is easy!

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BAHAHAHAHA!

I had no idea that the greatest loss of sleep wouldn’t come from him at all.

Our oldest, who we affectionately refer to as “Pickle”, suffered severe trauma in his early years, much of which still remains unclear to us. Some things are in his file, while other things come up in conversation with him, rather nonchalantly at times.

During the first week or two of the boys settling into our home, Nutkin’s needs were the only ones expressed. Pickle was quiet, went to bed easily and didn’t seem to have anything bothering him at all. However, just as Nutkin was adjusting and needing me less at night, Pickle’s needs became so overwhelming and “in your face” that I felt like I was drowning.

I vaguely remember the first night it started (the episodes blended into each other quickly). Pickle was acting, I can only describe it as, odd. He was baring his teeth at us, smiling while lunging at us aggressively, saying that nothing was bothering him when we hadn’t even had the chance to ask him yet….just odd. We would soon come to recognize this as “normal” behavior for him when his emotions were needing to be organized.

I remember the first time he admitted that he missed his birth mom and my heart broke a little. I now recognize that I will never really be enough in his eyes, and even though I had been told that by some very knowledgeable people, I still had the fantasy that I could be.

What started as a soft conversation while rocking, and talking about her favorite color, favorite flower, happy memories of her (which were few then…and still are), became a dam breaking with emotion. First came the heaving sobs, followed by venomous anger at us, the judge, DHS and himself. He groped for someone to blame for his situation, but neither he, nor we DARED to place any of the blame with her. She was untouchable. After three years with us, he still is quick to blame himself for being removed from her care.

As the nights wore on, our bedtime routine often involved screaming, yelling, punching, kicking and the most skilled manipulation attempts that you can imagine. You hear about this kind of stuff on Lifetime Channel movies, but you think, That’s not for real. Well, I can assure you, it was very real. One night after he had punched Shane in the gut, I heard him whisper “He is dead and she is dead,” and I freaked out a little. We would try to comfort him, reason with him, ignore him…we were desperate. He would scream to lay on the couch, rather than in his own room with his little brother, so we would let him. Then, he would scream because we were leaving him alone in the dark. He would say he didn’t want to be read a story, but as soon as I left the room, he would demand that I read to him. When I would return to the room, he would shove me away and again, tell me he didn’t want to be read to. So I would leave again, and the screaming would start back up. And on and on and on it went. Different scenarios, same result. He was confused and we were confused. And exhausted.

At the time, Shane had a very demanding job schedule and could not be late or call in for fear of losing his job. We had no idea at the time that FMLA might have covered this sort of thing, and his workplace had very little understanding. The nights of putting the boys to bed at 9 PM but not actually getting Pickle to sleep until 2 AM were taking their toll. I clearly remember one night crawling into bed at around 1:30 utterly exhausted and just staring at the ceiling. When Shane entered the room, I asked, “Is it going to be like this forever?” Instead of, “No, honey,” which I desperately longed to hear, he flatly responded, “I have no idea.”

Thanks, Babe. Comforting.

Fast forward to today. I can’t tell you when it ended, because there wasn’t this magical day or event when it did. But, little by little, after hours of rocking, singing, crying, talking, praying, reading and more rocking, lots more rocking, hours of rocking, it is getting better. I still lose more sleep over our precious Pickle than either of our other kiddos. (We have fostered a beautiful baby girl off and on for the last two years.)

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We still have hard nights. There are entire months that are harder on him (and us) than others. Pickle still has “new” traumatic memories dredged up from time to time. He is extremely hyper-vigilant. He has nightmares that are severe, often violent and very vivid. He is in constant fear of peril because of these.  As part of his safety plan, (perhaps another story for another day), he has to have an alarm on his door. So, if the poor kid needs to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I have to get up to let him out of his own room. Often, I am up with him once or twice each night…at least.

In light of all of the difficulties Pickle has at night, I feel sorry for him because he has to call on me.

Poor kid.

I am not a person who does well when my sleep is interrupted. At times I am cranky and nearly always I am incoherent. In fact, whereas some women are “morning glories” in the wee hours of the morning, Shane affectionately calls me his “snapdragon.”

In pondering the lesson that the Lord is trying to teach me in all of this, I am once again in awe of how my Heavenly Father uses my children to deliver the lesson.

The Bible says that our Father shall neither slumber nor sleep.

There have been times, regretfully, when my heart has longed for something other than Him, but He held me anyway. Often I have kicked and screamed (albeit emotionally) when I am frustrated with my circumstances, yet He patiently waits for me to calm down.  When I can’t turn my brain off and my thoughts stray, He listens. When I have a nightmare, He holds me in His warm embrace. When I am fearful, He assures me of His protection. When I am sick, He is with me in the night watches, and has healed me more times than I can count. When I wake in the middle of the night and need someone to talk to, He’s there when I call on His name. When I dread the day that lies before me, He gives me a song in the night to carry me through.

He has allowed me to wrestle Him until the break of day over something He called me to do that I struggled to yield to Him (yet another story for another day).

I’ve never heard Him say that He was too tired. He’s never asked me if we could talk about my concerns after He’s had His morning coffee. My needs have never, not once, interfered with His “down time,” because He doesn’t need it!

And though I do need down time, and like my caffeine, I’m beginning to recognize these quiet moments with my kiddos as opportunities to show them what the love of the Father should look like. This means I need to call on Him readily in the night watches.

So, the next time we need extra energy, patience, or love in those very night watches when our children need us most, we can confidently go to Him when we need Him most. And He will be there. As we hold our children, He will hold us. As we whisper words of peace to our kiddos, He will speak peace to our souls. As we lull them to sleep, He will give us that song in the night.

What a comfort to know that we can all safely rest in Him.

Do you have a story to share of what the Lord has taught you in the night watches? I’d love to hear from you!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

Why You Could Never Be a Foster Parent…and Why You Should Do It Anyway

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27

The month of May is National Foster Care Month. And so it seems appropriate to talk once again about this subject that is so near and dear to my heart. If you get tired of reading about this, I can’t promise you it will get any better. As this world becomes more sin sick by the day, the need for foster care becomes greater. And when the needs of children become greater, I cannot help but want to carry their burdens for them. Their tired, sometimes bruised and broken little frames were not meant to carry the weightiness of the circumstances that bring them into care.

There is a shortage of good foster homes in this county, in this state, in the U.S, really.  There just aren’t a ton of good options for DHS to turn to. Foster homes are full to capacity and as a result, are overcrowded. Kids sit in lobbies for hours on end while intake workers scramble to find a place for them. Once they find a shelter home, often, the conditions are makeshift at best. What choice does the agency have? The kiddo can’t spend the night in the DHS office. And so as a result, on top of being severely traumatized by just being removed from the home they know, safe or not, they end up immediately feeling unwanted, unloved and like a big burden.

And this is what KILLS me. Because of the special needs of my kiddos, especially my eldest, we are at capacity with the three children we have. I asked Shane the other day if he ever feels helpless to meet the need because we really can’t foster anymore. What he said next registered with me profoundly. “Honey, we can recruit. And I think we can be good at it.”

Without waxing political, I must say the following because I cannot detach my Christian values from the political climate in regards to social programs.

Conservatives (often Christians) are really good at decrying Welfare, and social programs in general because we shouldn’t be so dependent on the government. I agree. 

But there is Someone who everyone on this entire planet should be dependent upon. And His name is Jesus. But how can people know that they can or should be dependent upon Him when they haven’t met Him?

We, as a Church, need to step it up. I believe where the government cannot, we should.

We must.

Here’s a thought. How about instead of just voting and legislating to limit these over-budget and over-burdened social programs, we them unnecessary and obsolete by meeting the needs within the loving arms of the Church instead? If we see the need, shouldn’t we be the ones who point people to the Source? The Answer?

Foster parenting is difficult. It’s scary. It takes everything out of you. You have to take training. The requirements set for you are much higher than that of the parents trying to get the kiddos back. You will get attached. You will deal with loss and grief. You will be the one watching as the child you care for is crying and longing for hugs from someone other than you. You may even be investigated for any number of reasons, which, from personal experience, is no picnic.

Have I convinced you with my mad recruiting skills yet??

Believe me, I’ve heard it all…“I could never do what you do…” or “I don’t feel called to do that…” and my personal favorite, “I’d get too attached.”

I am sorry, but in my heart, I do not believe that we as the Church can make these excuses anymore. They are just not valid reasons to not meet the desperate needs of a world who is longing for peace, restoration, protection and healing.

Isn’t it funny how when you are sick, or overweight, or shopping for something and you find a wonderful product how readily you share it? Essential oils, protein shakes, household cleaners, the list goes on. We are so proud to share our new found knowledge with our friends and family when it works.

So, what about Jesus? 

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His name repels some. Why is that? There is power in His name. But what often makes His name so repulsive is how we have claimed it and used it where it suits us but are not using it to go out and meet the desperate needs of a dying world around us.

Some feel that activism is the answer. Maybe we should legislate more, advocate more…OK, maybe. But we must be careful! It is so easy to turn these poor, hungry, empty people, often children, over into the hands of the government instead of into the nail-scarred hands of our Savior!

To be clear, I am not necessarily urging everyone who reads this to go out and get certified to foster. Foster care is, indeed, one of the many callings God has for His Church. What I am urging each one of you to do is to really and truly do some soul searching. DHS doesn’t need droves of people that are being guilted into doing this. What they do need is people that realize that it takes more than just commitment, more than just courage, and a clear realization that even when you love and love and give and give that it may not be returned.

We can’t be in this to have our needs met. We can’t be in any calling or ministry to have our needs met. We must minister to meet the needs of others. That’s what Jesus does for us.

In closing, I thought I’d share how I typically respond to the comments I listed above.

“I could never do what you do…”

Yes. Yes, you could. I told the Lord I couldn’t either. And He told me that I was never meant to do it alone. He never asked me to do it without His help.

“I don’t feel called to do that…”

Obedience isn’t about feelings, it’s about faith. Faith that the Lord will accomplish His plan and bless us enough to use us to do it. We are all called to do something for Him, but this is one of those needs that is specifically addressed in Scripture.

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“I’d get too attached.”

Yes. Yes, you will. Don’t let that fear ever stop you from loving people who need the Lord. Don’t hold back! Give the child everything you have in you. Jesus did. He died for us while we were yet sinners. And He loves us knowing that we may never love Him back. 

Remember, according to Scripture, the Church should be taking care of the fatherless and the widows. If you are part of the Church, please seriously consider the part you play in their care. If we are honestly, truly, taking that calling to heart, the government will have very few needs left to meet. And as the apostle James so beautifully elaborates, when we meet a physical need, it then opens a door to meet a much deeper longing in every human heart. A longing that only my dear, sweet Jesus can fill. When these beautiful children are placed in our care, we often, in addition to cuddles and warm meals, can provide them with their first introduction to Sunday school and its songs, daily family devotions, VBS, Christmas Programs and Jesus Himself!

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Yes, ministry is hard and mission work is draining. But consider this. Jesus literally shed blood, sweat and tears for us. We owe Him nothing less in return.

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

P.S. – Did this post speak to you? Has the Lord laid foster care on your heart, too? Let me know! I would be happy to find a way to get you connected to the right people to get started and I would be privileged to support you in prayer as you answer this high calling.