Nanny News

This is going to be the wildest, craziest thing we ever shared.

So, as it turns out, there are fancypants agencies with online websites and uber cool apps that let you find all kinds of caregivers.  You can find everything from a pet sitter to a babysitter to personal assistants or even full-time nannies that “live in” or “live out”, and everything else in between – errand runners, grocery shoppers, all kinds of help.  How fascinating is that?

And one of those places heard about our family, and has decided to sponsor us!

I can’t say where yet, because I have to write about it later in a sponsored post.

But how funny is that?!

Also, what an answer to prayer as Nathan and I try to keep up with everything!

They are going to interview us for their commercial, and we get to approve the final cut, and it’s all legit and confirmed by attorneys.

In exchange for that, we get free premium membership to their services, which includes background checks, offender registry checks, motor vehicle checks, credit checks, reference checks, and all those kinds of safety pieces, and a certain number of nanny/personal assistant hours a week.

WHAAAAT?!

Here’s how it works:

We set up a family profile, with a picture and enough information to let people know who we are and what kinds of services we might need.  We set our budget of what we are willing to pay, and any filters we have for specifics about our family – like someone with their own transportation, or someone available on Wednesday nights to run children to church activities, or someone with enough nursing experience to run an oxygen machine, or someone who is willing to work with our special needs children, or someone who knows sign language.

For instance, date night.   What if Nathan and I wanted to go out on an actual date night, but his parents weren’t available to watch the children?  Now we can.

WHAAAAT?!

Yep!  We just post the date and time and what kind of help we need, and then anyone who meets our safety criteria and whose availability matches and whose capability matches (some people might be available, but not want to watch six children!)… they get to apply for our “job”!  We get to screen their profiles, and then pick a few to talk to online, and then interview them on the phone, and then interview them in person.

And then they are hired!

The website takes care of payment, even taking care of taxes and all of that so it’s done for us and for the caregiver.

There are even some who are qualified to do personal assistant work for me and Nathan, even can go with us on speaking engagements to help sell books.

We are so excited!

It’s kind of amazing when done well, and we found several qualified, safe people who also know sign language and have medical experience and have special needs experience!

It is such a silly, frivolous thing, and yet such a miracle to us for all that is going on and all we are trying to do.  Now when I am at work, but books need mailing, but Nathan is trying to write, we have someone who can run things to the post office for us.  When Nathan is on the phone with his composer, we have someone who can fix a quick lunch for him and the children.  When my pain is so bad I cannot even hang up my clothes, or lift my toddler, or braid the hair of my daughters, we have help!  When I am homeschooling the children, and giving music lessons, we have help to keep the others on task while they wait their turn.  When we have six children with therapies and doctors and all kinds of places to be, while we have our day jobs, plus the writing, plus the books, we have help!  When Nathan is away at a production, I still have help!  I could cry!

Help!  We have help!  We learned how to ask for help, pleaded for it, and our load has been lightened, just like that!

We have a nanny!  We have personal assistants!  It’s so weird!

The trick now is to figure out how practice using them wisely, so that it is really the most effective and productive use of our time.  We need to delegate what we can that most buys time for writing, and even more importantly, what gives us the most time to actually just be together as a family – especially as we move home with Kyrie on palliative care.

Oh! We have people who will be helping us move!  It’s crazy, what has happened!

I don’t even know how to explain it, or how exciting it is, or how hilarious it is…. or how tired Nathan and I have been, or what a relief this is.

I just know this from Mosiah 24:

15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort…

Painted Flowers

There are days where you have to get up early to work a ten hour shift at one hospital, and then get off and go work an eight hour shift at another hospital, and then the ER gets crazy and you don’t even know if you will get off at 2am, even though you have an eight hour class the next day, and you wonder how you will make it, not counting ever getting to see your family again.

The only thing that’s harder than that kind of work intensity is doing it on Valentine’s Day.

But you do it, because it’s the best gift you can give your family, paying for that expensive tube feeding food and extra oxygen supplies for preschool and all the stickers medicaid doesn’t realize you use trying to keep feeding tubes in your baby.

Or maybe you do it because your husband is a writer, a real kind, not pretend like you are, but a real writer, and it’s pretty much true what they say about starving artists.  And maybe he could get some 8-5 desk job, but he would cease to be him, and you don’t want that.  You married a writer, and you knew it when you married him, and so royalty checks at the end of the year and random production bonuses when you don’t expect them are the way he contributes, and that is all sufficient for your needs.

Because maybe he contributes more than that.

Maybe it isn’t just about money.

Maybe it’s how the laundry is clean when you get home, so all you have to do is put yours away.

Maybe it’s how the dishes get done, and the children are fed, and gas is always in your car.

Maybe it’s how he doesn’t complain when you wake him crawling into bed in the middle of the night, or how delighted he is to sit on the floor of the bathroom with a toddler who thinks potty time is singing time (just like her daddy).

Maybe it’s how, regardless of any other audience he has, he always makes time to write lyrics for the family, to sing poems to you, and to leave sweet messages between your glasses and cochlear implants as a surprise early in the morning.

Maybe it’s how he runs the children to school, and to doctor appointments, and even delivers caramel corn to your office when there is an emergency.

Maybe it’s the weight of his hands on your head in blessings, or the twinkle in his eye when he thinks he’s extra funny, or the geniusly creative ideas he comes up with that help you see the world in a way you never noticed before.

Maybe it’s how he held you when your mother died, when your babies died, and when you had cancer.  Maybe it’s how he held babies in the night when you never heard them cry because he wanted you to sleep, or how he welcomed children that were not ours just so they would be safe for a time, or how his heart softened toward the children who stayed.  Maybe it’s how he held you when you came home from being life flighted away with the last baby, or how he stroked your hair when you were told she wouldn’t live, or how he held tightly to your hand through bizarre moves that were blind acts of faith and made no sense otherwise.

Maybe it’s how he rolls out of the bed directly onto his knees each morning, or how he holds your hand as he prays each night.  Maybe it’s watching him read scriptures to the children at breakfast every day, or maybe it’s the sight of him cooking dinner in that ridiculous yellow apron I made him when we were newlyweds.  Maybe it’s the way he challenges people to discuss, or the way he facilitates kindness even in difficult circumstances.

Maybe you do whatever you can, because you know you lucked out in getting him for a husband.

Maybe you know he’s something special, and that the miracle isn’t that you finally got married, but that you married him.

Maybe you know he’s worth it.

Maybe he makes you feel like you’re worth it, too.

Here’s the funny thing about our Valentine’s Day that played out so differently than either of us expected or hoped… it’s so…. us.  Even though we were apart, and even though we kept trying to catch each other on the phone or FaceTime, we were separated and prevented from connecting in those ways.   But rather than ruining our day, it was tender because it reminded us of when we first met and dated from a thousand miles away.

That was pretty special.

And that was worth it, for sure.

So what did I do for Valentine’s Day?  It’s not that I had work 18 hours.  Or more.

It’s that I woke to a hand painted rose before my eyes were even awake, and I get to (eventually) slip back into bed and curl up with the man who painted it.

Those moments make the 18 hours in between seem like nothing, mostly because we are made of eternal stuff – and he is my forever.

Yellow Roses

When I did chapel this morning at the hospital, I talked about stress.  I gave examples of the last few years from my own life, and how hard it has been.  And then I showed them this cartoon:

 

We laughed, because everyone has days that feel like that, but I also talked about authenticity and not faking a Pollyanna smile just because it’s a hard day.

Even when life has a lot of hard days.

And sometimes there is not much we can do about it.

Our degree of fault is high at the end of the spectrum marked as sin. We should accept responsibility for problems caused by sin by repenting and continually striving to do better. However, as we continue down the spectrum, our fault drops to zero at the end marked by adversity, where we may bear no responsibility at all. These trials may come to us regardless of any conscious action on our part. If we blame ourselves for things that are not our fault, we make a bad situation worse by seeing ourselves as bad people who deserve bad things.

~ BYU Devotional, 2007

Other times it’s because we agree to do hard work, either to help ourselves grow or to sacrifice for our families or to serve in some way.  All of that can be very good.  We are even promised that the atonement will strengthen us beyond our own capacity to do more than we could on our own in these ways.

And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

~ Mosiah 24:14

But lots of times we take on too much because we aren’t paying attention, or don’t set good boundaries, or don’t realize how it all adds up, or forget that we are worth caring for, too.

If we are going to “love others as ourselves” (Mark 12:31), there is an implication that loving ourselves is part of the deal, right?

Even when we endure adversity, or progress through our own weaknesses, or sacrifice to care for those with no one else to care for them, such opportunities come in seasons.  It is not forever.  Seasons change, and spring always comes.

And I am really excited for spring.

Those are the beautiful yellow roses Nathan got me for Valentine’s Day.  I don’t know how he did, or who gave them to him for giving to me, but it was a lovely surprise and I was delighted.  They are beautiful!

It is also exciting because do you know what happens exactly one week after Valentine’s Day?

My birthday.

And know what else?

I turn 40 next week.  FORTY.

Do you know what 40 means?

It means a coming out of the wilderness.

It means my time of wandering is complete.

It means it is finally my turn to enter into the promised land.

Know when I turn 40?

Exactly 8 years after I first met the missionaries.

Know what 8 is?

Perfection.

I’m just saying.

I mean to say, perfection in a completion kind of way, meaning whole.

Never has anyone ever been so excited to turn forty as I am for next week, seriously.

My body is swollen from cancer meds, and sore from never-ending post-chemo pain, and weak from missed gym days because of broken feet and cracked ribs.  My hair is starting to streak with grey in all the places where hard-earned wisdom bursts forth and cannot be contained.  The boldness of the testimony I am sent to give is tempered only by the Spirit, and my heart is full of the love for children that fill my arms I once thought would be forever empty.

I earned this forty.  This forty is mine.

I have always been far more ancient than I was, and my body has survived far more than it should have been able to survive.   But this?  This is a coming into my own, a going home to my own home, a growing up my own family until they are the ones who are old.

Then I will be really ancient.

But do you know what I said in chapel this morning, about that stress rock squashing the little two thumbs up bug?

I said I’m not a rock collector anymore.

I don’t fill my pockets full of other people’s stress.   I don’t dig through granite when others don’t want to pick up a shovel to even try.  I don’t load up my backpack with the stones other people throw.

I only use stones to line my garden path, to step across the puddles, to set boundaries that protect me and my family.

This is good and right and as it should be, and makes every grey hair worth it.

That’s why we had to go to the temple this week, just so I could be sure where my tent was facing.  Forty!

And to say thank you.

Forty!

The truth is, that what I know, is that my “rock” is my Redeemer, and rather than weighing me down until I am squashed, I am given a firm place to stand.

“Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God”

~2 Nephi 4:28–31, 35

I testify, even with Alma, that we are:

“supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; . . . and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me” (Alma 36:27).

“I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 38:5).

It is true that:

All the dilemmas illustrated in the Book of Mormon contain dangerous elements uncontrollable by mortals, so that when deliverance comes, no one will be confused about the One from whom it comes. Life’s path is strewn with seemingly unsolvable dilemmas so that people will be driven to God for help. The Lord’s methods may be based on the principle that the greater the trouble, the more likely one will turn to Him for help. We are reminded that the only way that God can teach how faith works is through experience, some of it necessarily very dangerous. When the hand of God is revealed in the midst of a seemingly unsolvable situation, one’s confidence in the presence of God gains strength.

~ Types and Shadows, BYU Archives

This is not just a theology of suffering.

It is more than just a fake Pollyanna two-thumbs up.

It is progression, even the promise of life eternal, of the happiness sort.

And this journey through hell has been mine, and I wouldn’t change a minute of it.

It was exactly what I needed, and I know it is bringing me through the wilderness, just as He promised.  I know He will keep His promise because He is my Father and my God, and because He always has.  I know there is a promised land waiting, and that makes every moment of it worth it, no matter how dark it has seemed to be at times.

Or how many grey hairs it gave me.

I know the song the wilderness sings, and I know what hope it brings.

Hope for deliverance, to a promised land, where we are wholly holy.

Going Home

My chaplaincy residency is coming to a close.  The entire residency is finished in May, but I have one extra unit from before, and have a little one who doesn’t breathe, and a husband who misses me, and other little ones who need their Mama back, homeschool to do, and a family to fall in love with… that is my work.  That is my ministry, finally.  So it looks like I may finish in March, if I can even make it that long.  We are going day by day, my team and I, seeing how things are at home and what we need as a family.

I honestly don’t know what chaplaincy will look like in my future, but I have been obedient to what was asked of me thus far.  I will confess I am crawling to the finish line, or maybe even hobbling like one of those Olympic racers that falls down and gets carried the last bit.  I am grateful to have had the colleagues I have had, who have been so gracious and supportive while I learned to apply a bit of grace to my Self.

I am hungry to be home with my children.

My psych job in the ER is evenings, so it has made for long days to do a full time job at night after doing a full time job in the day.   But the evening shift is perfect because it means when chaplaincy residency is finished, I will have days to be home with my children!  Then I will go to work about supper time, and Nathan will tuck them in, and have some quiet hours to himself.  It will work for us for now.  It’s perfect for the season we are in right now.

Except as chaplaincy finishes, it brings up new questions.

We need our Bartlesville house to sell, because there is not work for me there and no audience for Nathan.  I got the most random jobs there, but they were so spread out I was away from home too much.  Nathan came up with all kinds of different events to see what would draw an audience, and no one came hardly at all.  More people from Owasso came to his events than people in Bartlesville, even when the event was in Bartlesville.

It’s sad to leave Bartlesville for real, though, because we loved it, and the people there.  But we wouldn’t change having been there for a minute.  As Nathan’s dad just told me, we got half our children from Bartlesville, so that’s not a bad deal at all.

But now we are in Tulsa, temporarily, having moved quickly to get all the children in Deaf school and get me close to the hospital for chaplaincy residency.  But now the residency is almost finished, and the older children got asked to be withdrawn and go back to homeschool, and the younger children are in a preschool that is the same distance from Owasso as it is from our house right now.

Also, we are struggling to get sign language interpreters at church.  One of them can’t make it to our current building.  All the rest live in Owasso.  So why are we still here?

There’s really no reason to stay in Tulsa, other than our friends (and the fact that it’s super fun).   We don’t have housing here, and my work is easy to get to from Owasso where we do already have a house, and the schools are better in Owasso plus all our homeschool friends are in Owasso if that’s what we wanted to do, and the contract for our renters ends next month.

So we have given them notice that we are not renewing their lease, and will be moving home to Owasso in April.  If we have endured all we have endured, just to gather our family, and now with Kyrie on palliative care, it’s time to go home.  We are done with fostering, done with hospitals, and ready to be home.  It’s time.

So yeah, that’s our big news for the day: we are officially moving home to Owasso in April.

Family Dramas

I got to work just after seven this morning, and am here until around 9 tomorrow morning.

Nathan was busy, with a rare visit from Anber’s grandmother.  Her aunt was to come, but did not show up, and the grandmother was almost thirty minutes late.  She was late enough we were able to contact Alex’s biological dad, who came right away and played with him.  He and Kirk and Barrett’s mother are good to all the children, and all the children see them as more aunts and uncles, I think.

It’s such a struggle.  We want contact with their biological families as much as is safe to do so for several reasons.  The most important reason is that we believe in families.  Another reason is attachment, which is so important for development.  Another reason is to help equip the children with familiarity and information as they grow up, rather than slamming them with their entire biological children when they are suddenly adults by age but still struggling with developmental disabilities.  We want to be present now, and help them navigate those questions as they grow, rather than it being on them to sort out alone when they are older.

They have been sealed to us for all eternity, and we will always be their family.

But we are not their only family, and adopting them means adopting their biological families, too.

That’s easier sometimes than others.

Mary’s mom was back in jail last week for stealing again, and her mugshot revealed she is being beaten again by the man she thinks she loves but who uses her for drugs and dirty work.  Mary’s mother hasn’t seen Mary for over a year, and her father is still in prison.

Kyrie’s father was back in jail last week, too, for drugs and stealing also.  Anber and Kyrie’s mother has been transferred to a different prison again, and is now asking for visits there.  I am more open to that idea than Nathan is, but then today the grandmother told us Kyrie’s biological family wants to steal her and take her back to Pakistan.  While that may be true, I think it is more stereotyping than actual current threat, as mostly what we have heard from that side of the family is simply that she does not exist since the two parents were never married.

What do we do with that?  How do we still reach out to them, while keeping the children safe?  It’s “easy” when a family refuses to participate like Kyrie’s father’s side of the family, or when some of them aren’t functioning enough to participate, like Mary’s mother.  But that just delays the questions instead of normalizing them, and it leaves us wondering how to reach out.

Today was big because Alex’s mother was sober and also came to the visit.  Usually it is just his father.  He was so glad to see her!  They play hard, talk about serious things, and Alex does a lot of confronting.  It’s been good for all of them, and I am in awe of their healing.

Kirk’s father’s side of the family is involved, but far away, and we want to drive there sometime for a vacation and stop and visit.  He would love it, and I know they would.  That’s a real possibility, when Kyrie is stable enough for us to be in the car like that without involving any hospitals along the way.

Barrett’s father’s side of the family is skittish about participating because they think he won’t remember them, but we still think it is important.  I keep encouraging them to try.  Anyone who has met Barrett knows that his attachment issues swing to the intrusive side of the spectrum, so meeting new people is no big deal to him.  He would do fine to meet that part of his family.

The point is, that all we can do is invite and support.  We cannot do the work for them.  We can, sometimes, depending on circumstances, even help with transportation, but we cannot make them come.  We cannot make them be interested.

Some of the parents, the ones who have tried hard for several years, and so we are building relationships with them, like with Alex’s dad and the boys’ mother, that just feels good.  We like them.  We are getting to know them.  We are, maybe, even starting to trust them.

But it also feels like as the more that develops, the more significant is the difference between the parents who do not want to participate or do not try to participate.

We know Mary’s mother has lots of struggles, but that doesn’t mean we want her out there getting beat up all the time.

But we can’t exactly keep her safe, either.

We know Anber and Kyrie’s mother is amazing, but a monster on heroin and we can’t keep her clean.

It’s a helpless feeling, this agency thing, when people are free to make their own choices.

It’s hard when you can see what good could come, but others are not ready.

It makes me wonder what are others wanting to support me through, that I just am not aware enough to receive?  How can I do better receiving the encouragement and support of others?  How can I use my own experiences to think outside the box and continue reaching out to these parents in behalf of their children?

I don’t know that we can, except through the inviting part.

That’s what the Savior did: inviting.

He didn’t compel.  He respected agency.  He broke the rules to minister to those who thought they didn’t deserve it, but he was never pushy in trying to get them to engage.

This was what I thought about today, as I worked with families in the hospital, and saw the dynamics of their families in all kinds of different scenarios.

Nathan took the children to church, where a chaplain friend was visiting today, so I was sorry to miss that, but I am glad to be able to do my turn at the hospital.  It’s been hard, between Kyrie medical dramas and my fall, to complete all my hours or be as reliable as I used to be.  But I am trying my best, and my team has been gracious to me.

In the meantime, Nathan is homeschooling second graders on days I am at work, and wrestling with an almost 2-year-old who was way cuter before the terrible two’s!  She can scream “NO” with those lungs we prayed would be strong, and hit the other children with those arms that used to be full of IV’s, spit at you with that little face usually covered in tubes, and run away from you pretty fast with those little feet in their tiny braces.

We prayed hard for this, I remind Nathan.  We prayed hard for a family.

It feels an awful lot like mortality, he says.

 

Round-Ups

I got off work a little early tonight, and so actually got to have a stay-home-date with my husband!


He made us some Korean food, which he knows how to do from his two year mission there, and I am grateful because it is delicious.


Tomorrow is my first complete day off, not scheduled to work at either hospital, for the first time since October.  I am so excited.  There are a thousand things I want to do, but nothing I want as badly as to just spend the day sleeping!  But I know what I will do, and we are all so excited, but you will have to wait and see!

In the meantime, the news on the radio as I drove home said that immigration started doing round-ups in Texas tonight, and that it is going to start in Oklahoma as well.  Regardless of politics, this issue is near to our heart after working so hard to get a green card for our oldest daughter.  We don’t talk about her much because she is grown and can tell her own story, but we love her, and watch out for her, and care about her and her family and friends.  So tonight I posted this to her Facebook page, so that she and her family and friends would be sure and know their rights.

I am so relieved that her green card finally came through, and I hope her family is being safe.

In other news, I found out I cannot get the new cochlear implant “eggs” that I got to try on because they are SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS EACH.   I can get a $2,000 credit voucher if I turn in my old white ones from when I first got my implants, but that would still be twelve thousand dollars!  No, thank you.  I will stick with the weight of the world hanging off my ears for right now.  My turn will come soon enough, maybe, or not, but I am okay.  Disappointed, but okay.

Know what is even more exciting?  Sherlock Holmes on Netflix.  Oh my goodness!  Nathan found it and we watched it for our date night, and it was so good!  I love it so much!  We enjoyed the time together in the quiet evening, and I am grateful just to be close enough to hold his hand after this very intense year.

I am also excited to play with the children tomorrow!  We have such big plans!  It’s going to be so great!  I already packed the car and everything, even our food.  I can’t wait!

I don’t know how I will sleep between that excitement, and being all stirred up from Sherlock Holmes, but maybe I think I am exhausted enough that sleep will come!

Haters Gonna Hate

One of my favorite things about the preschool where my little ones go is that they stay in touch with me.  They let me know when the children struggle, when they are having good days, and when they are hilarious with their cereal:

Today was a huge day, in some pretty interesting ways.

First, my “Frenemies” blog from last night got more responses from any blog since the Joplin tornado.  People really responded to it, not to my exact situation, but to their own experiences of either struggling to find friends or struggling to be one.  It’s legit hard, sometimes, but it does make finding good friends worth it.

Right now I am back in Tulsa, where I have lots of friends I do not get to see because of working two full-time jobs and spending the rest of my precious time with my family.  I am so glad this season is almost finished!  We go to a ward where I do not even know people’s names, though I recognize the kind faces who have helped our family so much, as well as some of the brave faces who greet me as I breeze past wishing I got to stop and chat (or hiding since I don’t have to try).  But my heart is full of love for them, and I don’t know what I would have done without my church family in all these hard years.

Because last night was my overnight as chaplain, that meant I had today off.  This was so great!  I got to hang out in homeschool with the second graders, and we got through laundry (again).  The little ones went to preschool still, and Kyrie went another day tube free.  Once the children were finished and outside playing, I even got our taxes finished, which is always a relief.

And then I took care of me, and took a nap.

Really!  I did!  I know you don’t believe me, but I am working seriously on self-care.  Last night my overnight shift was not one of those nights where it is quiet and I mostly get to rest and sleep even though it is not as good as being at home in my own bed with Nathan.  It was one of those nights with one code blue after another, and I was so tired today!  So instead of working harder on the house, I got the big things done, and then let the rest go, and laid down and slept for a whole forty-five minutes.  BOOM.

I remember sitting down with Nathan’s parents and with the Bayleses last summer, talking about the chaplaincy residency, and how hard it this year would be.  We were really worried about how we would get through, and that was when we thought we would have their help.  But moving to Tulsa so that I could be home those extra two hours a day before and after work, instead of driving back and forth to Bartlesville, was really worth it for our family – even though it was a lot of work to move here and we miss our family and friends there.  It was the right thing, and the focused-on-our-family thing, and I am glad we did it.  We have had so many moments together that made worlds of difference, moments we would not have had if I had hours to drive each day and missed that extra time at home.

I still miss being at home, but Nathan calls me from pickup line at the preschool, and we FaceTime with the children.

I love that man.

I call when they are finishing supper, for prayers and good night tele-kisses before he tucks them in.

Except for on extra exciting nights, when second graders have tickets to the ballet!

Many thanks to Nathan’s parents, who drove all the way down tonight to stay with the little ones while Nathan had a date with Mary, Alex, and Kirk.  They had such fun!  I am very excited for my residency to be almost finished, so I can play, too!

The other big thing today was that we got our first haters!  We got our first nasty remarks in some comments on social media, which we knew would happen as not all the reviews can be positive.  Obviously not having read the book, one lady was saying that we should have written about our experiences of fostering instead of what happened to the children before we got them.  We assured her she could get the book and learn all about our fostering experiences.

A second nastygram came in an fairly legitimate concern about us telling stories that belong to the children.  They said that we should not tell the children’s stories at all, because now we have made that public and the children don’t get a voice in what is shared.

It is actually a totally valid concern, and I agree with it.

Except that it’s not entirely accurate in our case.

Our children had stories already made public by biological families and in one case, a foster family that did not follow privacy rules and got their home shut down and all fosters removed because of it.  So their stories were already public, and some of it even on the news as well.  Because of all this, the children were being traumatized by those versions of their stories and wanted to tell it their own way.  They worked on this in therapy, sharing their story in their own way, and we still do that when we go around to speaking engagements.  But they also get to share their story through the book, and the children helped choose which stories to tell or not, and they have listened to the whole book several times and approved it before publishing.  Kyrie was too young, it’s true, but our focus on her is the advocating work, and that just requires sharing a story.

We have an older daughter who did not want to be included, and we respected her wishes.  We rarely talk about her, not because we don’t love her, but simply to respect her privacy.  As the other children have gotten older, what we share in the blog and how we share it has also changed.  The children also often pick which pictures of theirs they want to share, and still love making their song videos.  They love having a YouTube channel where they can watch a playlist of themselves!  It’s so funny!  But as they grow, we hope that shifts into their own voice in some way, and will become more about their own style and voice than us helping them do it.  We totally agree that they are individuals, and get their own votes – and that those votes shift and change as they grow.

Mostly I love that they still like dressing up in matching clothes, because I know those days are numbered.

Besides that, the response to people sharing our story through the Humans of Foster Care facebook page has been outstanding!  Emails are pouring in, of families who have now signed up to be foster parents, or foster parents who called caseworkers because now they have the courage to go ahead and adopt, or special needs moms who are now connecting together, and even many former foster and adopted youth who want to share their stories, too, and talk about how to connect with their biological families.  It’s so huge!

And on Amazon?  People buying the book?  Our book has jumped all the way up to 25,000 in the rankings (out of two million), which is huge even if not fancy, and we are grateful for people spreading the word.   We are getting so many foster agencies and CASA agencies and other advocacy groups saying they purchased it for their libraries for parents, and so many high schools and colleges who are getting the book as required reading textbooks for their classes.   We are so excited that people are finding it, and hope it is doing well.

In the meantime, I am avoiding the hard work of writing the next chapter of our next book, so I ought to work on that while I can!

Frenemies

I once walked in on my VT making plans with an old high school boyfriend to meet secretly in Texas.  She was married, but struggling.  I was a new convert, with my faith development still in the very black and white stage.

There are two problems with the black and white stage.  One is that it gives an illusion of temporal facts rather than spiritual principles, and not everyone has the same understanding or has made the same promises.  Another is that worrying about rules more than people is legalism, not compassion.  I’m pretty sure the Savior was pretty much a rebel from the rules, and always erred on the side of compassion.

Jesus as “the shepherd” is what teaches us to be “pastoral”.  Instead of confronting my friend about the phone call, how could I have instead been more supportive of my friend in her marriage struggle?  I don’t mean having affairs are okay, but I do mean she obviously already felt emotionally abandoned, so what good did I do her by abandoning her further?  I was a terrible friend, even though I was defending truth.  I was not being pastoral in how I delivered truth.  It took me a long time to understand that.

There are ways to testify of truth while still showing love.

I did not show her love, and I lost that friend.  We had been very close, and I grieved losing her for a long time.  I am forever grateful for the lesson I learned, though, because what I thought was “right” really had been so damaging.

People are important, not rules.

Because when we are talking about the laws of covenants, the only ones I am in charge of enforcing are my own.  I am responsible for the covenants I have made, not responsible for judging others who have but “sin differently than I do” or for condemning those who haven’t even made those covenants are so are not held accountable for them.

Two years later, I lost another BFF when I verbalized my own personal struggle with her struggles.  I was wary of the temptations of things from long ago that she was currently exploring.  It felt necessary for me to protect myself by fleeing from the Pharaoh’s wife like Joseph did, and just not even get anywhere near some of that old stuff.

If Nathan were in New York, and had to go out with theater friends who were drinking, he can go and not drink alcohol.  It’s not a big deal to him.  He just never has, and just doesn’t.  I maybe could do it, and would want to think I could do it, but it seems like a foolish dare to take when it is better for me to just stay home.  But it doesn’t make Nathan bad for going, and it certainly doesn’t make drinkers “bad” when they haven’t made a covenant not to do so.

Nathan and I have promised not to drink alcohol.  He just doesn’t, and picks something else.  I choose to not even get that close.  I can drink water at home!

That may be the best thing, but I felt convicted when a friend was struggling with her own issues and wanted to explore the difference between her embedded theology and her deliberate theology.  Embedded theology has to do with the faith tradition you grow up in, while deliberate theology has to do with growing your own faith – like gaining your own testimony, rather than just relying on what everyone has always told you.  Sometimes, developmentally, when people are shifting from embedded theology to deliberate theology, it looks like backsliding or rebellion, even though it’s actually progress.  I so wanted to support my friend in this journey, and be present with her, but for me it was true that her exploration would be my rebellion, and I could not go there.

But again, I was not very pastoral about it.   Maybe Joseph wasn’t very pastoral when he fled the scene, either.  Because sometimes fleeing really is the best thing.  So maybe I did the best I could.  Well, I know in both situations – with my VT and my friend two years later – I did the best I could, really.  But my best wasn’t very helpful to my friends.

I wasn’t pastoral.  I was judging their choices instead of focusing on my own, and judging the implications of my supporting them instead of just being a friend.  It can be tricksy sometimes.  So while it is true there are some things I myself may need to avoid or even flee from in effort to keep my own covenants that I have made myself, it is the Spirit’s role to convict hearts.  I have no authority to condemn people.

It’s like being a parent.  You can’t nurture your children by shouting at your children until they are compelled into obedience.  That only teaches them how to scream while resenting you.   If I were to follow the pattern of the Savior, I would be loving them, which would invite them to change.

I think this is one of many reasons I got called to chaplaincy.  It isn’t because I was so smart, or so special, or even so spiritual.  It was because I was a lousy friend.  Chaplaincy taught me about being “pastoral”, and helped me grow in self-awareness about why I struggled with people skills.  Or just people, in general, which is pretty ironic since I’m a counselor and all.

Counselors are crazy, most of the time.  I’m sure of it.  Why else would we be so good at what we do?  It’s our language, folks.  Crazy.

But when we learn how to be more pastoral, or at least start practicing to get a little better at it each day, relationships improve dramatically.  Whether my work with patients, or interacting with people with whom I disagree, or whether getting to know people who are very different from my little world that obviously needs expanding, anyway.

This week I took the children with me to the Owasso High School “Equality Club”, where we presented about the story of our family.  We talked about different disabilities, different races, and different backgrounds.  Then we listened as they shared about gender issues, orientation issues, disability experiences, and racial tensions.  It was super intense, and I took the second graders with me, so we had lots to process after we finished.  But I think it was really good for them, and I know they are already better friends to others than I am even now.

But that’s the kind of thing parenting teaches you, how to be a better person and all.

Because as it turns out, you can’t really teach the children anything you aren’t willing to teach yourself.

What?  I know!

It’s like Love and Logic for adulting.  Yikes.

Because as it turns out, to be friends with others, you have to stop being a frenemy with yourself.

To be friendly toward your children, you have to stop being a frenemy with yourself.

To be pastoral with those around me, I have to really actually truly believe The Lord really is my Shepherd.

It’s a learning curve, you guys.