All you need is love….but not really

We have had the opportunity to share in a large public forum about what our life is like as foster carers recently. It was a fantastic opportunity and a wonderful experience for the kids, and while I hope we were able to share eloquently enough the importance for every day families to become carers, I am not sure we conveyed enough just how difficult every day life can be with a child who has suffered trauma.

When we accepted a placement of a one month old boy for two days, and then thought this little boy would stay a part of our family forever, I never imagined there would be a day that I would say, enough. I so very naively thought that “All you need is love” and my son that the stork brought would live a life grateful for the experience’s we were giving him.

The reality was a toddler who not only got in to things as any toddler would do but one I had absolutely no rest from. It wasn’t until it was pointed out to me by a professional that my whole house was living in fight or flight mode and had been for a long time. Foster carers are often faced with the impossible choice. To continue to care and love a child as best as they can while constantly having their lives interrupted because of experiences that have created nonsensical brain connections. Or they choose to say ‘enough’ and create another trauma in the life of that child as they bounce to another home. These decisions are then compounded by the relationships of the child and other children in tfoster-carehe home, the suggestions of the Department worker, the knowledge of other professionals and the age of the child.

None of this is easy.

Living day in and day out in a home full of turmoil that you didn’t create but you openly welcomed  with the greatest of intentions that “Love would be enough” is hard. Often Impossibly hard.

Living with the knowledge that you didn’t keep your word and that you have been a part of adding to a child’s experience of being abandoned is hard. Really hard.

So while I will often share of the wonderful moments that we get to be a part of in the life of a foster child, I am not immune, nor unrealistic about the experiences that don’t go as you hoped they would.
I have no doubt in my mind that saying enough was the right thing for my family to do, and it is why we have re-evaluated our capacity as carers and what are motivation is. That is why I passionately share that you must understand what it is that you want out of becoming/being a foster care because the notion of “Loving a child who is in need” is beautiful, but when you are absolutely exhausted, battered and sometimes even bruised and your whole house is crying, you will need more than that because the child needs more than that.

Advertisements

You’re Beautiful

All of my little ones have a song (those who stay with us for a few months at least). When little Miss Z arrived, fussy and tiny I sang the first song that popped into my head to her, “You are Beautiful” by James Blunt. With not much memory, I didn’t remember all the words but it instantly calmed her and for the first time our eyes connected. Today the song came on the radio and I listened to it as the words swarmed through the car, “There must be an Angel with a smile on her face when she thought up I should be with you. But it’s time to face the truth…I will never be with you”

Talk about ripping out my heart. This beautiful girl, it’s true, it will be so hard to let you go. But I will have a smile on my face as I got to love you. I got to see your first smile and you won’t be a stranger to me. As a foster carer the comment I hear most, almost by EVERY single person is, “I couldn’t give them up” (or some variation).

It is really hard to respond to this comment. Does it make me a harsh, uncaring person because I can? Does it mean that my heart doesn’t break? Does it imply I do this for some other motivation? Probably not. The person is just honestly saying that it would be really hard for them. Not every one can be a foster carer, and for many it truly would break their heart and be almost irraparable to say goodbye to a child who has been in your care. But I do question if this is the case for the majority or if this is just an answer others have said and has become owned by society. Some kids are easier to say goodbye to (poo painters come to mind) and some kids you will never say goodbye to because they will stay in your home for much longer then anticipated. But Foster care is, and should be about helping a small person understand what is happening around them. Big, HUGE, problems that are far out of their control. These kids have already had to say goodbye to the one home that they have known. They didn’t get a choice in that. They have already lost so much. Going home is the goal. If it is safe (it isn’t always, and sometimes decisions are made that just shouldn’t be) then we celebrate the restoration of a family. We get to be the safe place, the place where they are told that they are beautiful, no matter what. That they find hope, despite the darkness. Where they see joy, in amongst the unknown. Where they are loved, even if they don’t know it then, they will know it one day.

So next time you meet a foster carer. Please don’t say “I couldn’t give them back”, instead wonder about where the child would be without the love and care of that carer, and then wonder what you could do. It might be just smiling at them both. It might be buying a coffee or delivering cookies so that the carer knows that they are ‘seen’. It may be taking the child out for a day. It may be making a call and starting to say ‘Yes, it will be hard to say goodbye, but what will I lose out on if I don’t say hello?’

youre-beautiful-cy193

“You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful.
You’re beautiful, it’s true.
I saw your face in a crowded place,
And I don’t know what to do,
‘Cause I’ll never be with you.

You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful.
You’re beautiful, it’s true.
There must be an angel with a smile on her face,
When she thought up that I should be with you.
But it’s time to face the truth,
I will never be with you.”

#fosternow

Squirt. Squirt.

I have a story I want to tell you.

One night there was a fire at a house. The firemen were called but when they got there they couldn’t get to the fire because a crowd had gathered infront of the house. They were standing their with their water pistols. Not the giant supersoakers, just normal, red dot size ones and they were all looking at the fire and every now and then going ‘squirt, squirt’. Squirting their water pistols towards the flames.

The firemen stood their and yelled “Get out of the way”. The crowd stood there, ‘squirt, squirt’. The fireman yells again “You’re not doing any good! Move!”

The crowd goes “Squirt, squirt”.

The firemen get really angry, “You need to move! You need to let us in so that we can put out the fire”. The crowd look at them and someone speaks up. “We are doing the best we can. We mean well. Besides, it feels good to know that we tried.”

We can have all the good intentions we want about loving like Jesus but if Loving like Jesus is just a small part of our lives, something we do on Sundays or that we fit around the edges of our lives it is like standing in front of a fire with a water pistol.

There are people dying of hunger and drowning on their way to safe refuge from war torn countries. We ‘share’ a facebook post or sign a petition. Squirt, Squirt.

There are people in our homes, our community that are desperately lonely. We ask once a year “R U OK?” Squirt. Squirt.

There are children, the most vulnerable in our community, living in homes that are supposed to be safe and we get outraged when it turns out that they are not. We ask for tougher checks and higher penalties. We say “someone needs to do something!” Squirt. Squirt.

The stories that are coming out of the Detention Centres, a place that is filled with people who have experienced the worst kinds of trauma, are enough to break our hearts. We march, we vote, We write about it. It can be so hard to even14231836_10205512551448150_168176024008755364_o know where to begin. Squirt. Squirt.

Our schools, workplaces and Streets are overwhelmingly full of people who are far from God. Who right now have a Christless Eternity. We drop a hint that we go to church on Sundays or if we are really brave, tell them that we will pray for them when they are sick or hurting. Squirt. Squirt.

Let’s stop squirting our water pistols at the big problems. What is it that you are passionate about? Who else is around you that shares that heart? What is a problem close to you that connects? Make that your mission field. We have seen one man 11228939_10153016371642237_2923754276295246533_owho took a stand to Sex trafficking and the horrible abuse of children in south east Asia, often at the hands of Australian men and he has not just made a difference, he is making the world different for those children and hopefully for our sons too. He simply got a few mates around to play Ping Pong. And then shared his idea with someone else who thought ‘I could do that too’. And now just 6 years later they have nearly made half a million dollars to educate society on what is happening and engage men and the wider community to say that it is not ok. Plus they are supporting children, families and whole communities recover from sexual exploitation. (You can sponsor my little man in the 2016 Ping Pong a thon here.)

 

What is it that you are here to do to experience what it is like to be a part of God fire hosing blazes that are destroying our world?

 

An inconvenient life

After 6 years of being a foster family I am more convicted that it is not about us,                not primarily about creating a family for foster carers or that foster carers are “Amazing” people.
Fostering is an inconvenient life.

From keeping a room spare in your house to the questions and stares of strangers.             As I snuggle a beautiful pink bundle my heart breaks anew for a family that will never be.
For a child that will one day ask ‘Why, what did I do”.
For a Mother whose choices I can not fathom yet who I want to meet and hug and whisper to her that it is ok, I have and will continue to love your child just as I know you do.


For a world that has lost its way so badly that this is not only commonplace, but we have no answers on how to stop it.

Today I am reminded that it is not about me and what we do.

It is about being a part of turning back to God, loving the vulnerable and being peace in a stormy life.

#fosternow

foster-quote

Family Breakfast

Who, with a handful of young children living with you, just LOVES dinner time!?!

art-1950s-20traditional-20roast-20dinner-20111024124850744154-420x0Mama has her apron on, it is 5pm and Daddy walks in the door from work. Mama rushes over and gives him a quick kiss and gently asks “How was your day?”, as she takes his briefcase from him and puts it away. The children are all sitting sweetly on the floor pushing around trains, all shining from the bath they have just had. Mama says, “It’s dinner time” and they all climb up to the table, say Grace and NOBODY says “I don’t like this!”.

If this is your reality! You are AMAZING! Take heart that you can do what most families will never be able to accomplish!

For this rest of us, the 1950’s approach to the family meal may need a little bit of tweaking. With afternoons already jam packed full of after school sport and activities, and we only have 2 kids old enough for such things. As parents we are told often by the media, the church, grandparents, books, parenting experts and our own experience growing up that we need to sit down as a family for meal times. Having those conversations over a table, asking questions while there is food being served, sharing stories and correcting table manners is so important but unless you are prepared to do this at 8pm with a toddler and a pre-schooler, you may need to rethink the family dinner mentality.

This year we have decided to shake things up and our sit down family meal happens at breakfast. It does mean that I need to plan a little, and make sure I am organised the night before, but it has actually meant that are morning are far more peaceful and we get out the door feeling less frazzled then last year.

As they say, “Fail to plan, plan to fail” so here is some of my plan.

Lunches need to be made the night before. I have occasionally forgotten to do this and it really has made a HUGE difference to how the morning runs. I keep lunches super simple. A sandwich or a wrap, some kind of homemade snack (honey joys or date balls are a favourite), something savoury like pretzels, a frozen yogurt in a reusable package and fruit. All easily made ahead and can be popped in 3 different lunch boxes.

Then the rest of our mornings run like this.

Before School routine

During breakfast we try to intentionally talk to the kids about what they are looking forward to in their day, what ever might have happened yesterday that they need a little reminder about and we are using this great little devotional. Short enough for Mr 4 to engage with but with enough thought that it also helps set the scene for our day. At the end grace for the momentof each page there is a chance to engage further with an activity. We don’t always do these but it leads on to some wonderful conversations.

A few years ago I read a blog post written by a mum with 10 children (yes, 10!!!) that talked about the benefits of giving kids daily family chores. Just one thing to do after breakfast and before school. Something that they can practice week after week and get better and better at. Once you have 3 (or 10) children doing just 1 chore a day, that means that there are 3 less things I have to do that day…which adds up over the course of the week. We have found the beauty of this plan is that once the jobs are assigned, as you are only asking each child to do ONE thing a morning, they don’t actually argue. We now have Mr 4 doing age appropriate chores as well as Miss 6 and Mr 8 and it has been a very smooth transition into the school year. As a bonus, my house is staying somewhat clean, with minimal cleaning/tidy up required from me on a daily basis! (They are only kids though, so the jobs are not always done to my standard but it is far more about rewarding and being grateful for the effort and lack of opposition at this age then anything).

Our morning jobs look like this.Morning Jobs.jpg

So nearly 4 weeks in, we haven’t been late to school once! We are leaving much happier and with far less yelling then last year (on my behalf) and we are all enjoying some family time during the crazy tee ball season. I hope you have found this helpful!

 

Living Fully, not Frantically

Last week my little girl started year 1! She went off to school eager and excited for homework! On the third day I went into her class and there on the wall was a picture she had drawn that I couldn’t quiet make out and the sentence under the title “What does your mum do while you are at school” was ‘My mum just Mops’.

I looked at her but the bell went before I had a chance to fully ask her what she meant by I just Mop! Hasn’t she been living in our house? I am pretty sure the last time I picked up a Mop was before Christmas! I thought I had been instilling in my little girl that mums can be more then housewives! What we do is important. We are raising the future leaders of the world, we are keeping our home in check and I am also starting a new thing that I have been dreaming about for years, literally her whole life, and here she is, telling her brand new, 20 something year old teacher that ALL I do is “just mop”IMG_2830

So I went home, and mopped my floor.

I called my husband and was divulging that I was failing to raise a daughter who saw me as more then just a housewife (while I was mopping, ironic I know) and he very bravely said,

‘honey, I think you have it wrong. I think what she is saying is ‘my mum does MOPS’.

(Want to learn more about MOPS?)

As mums I think we tend to lean in a direction where we fail to see the joyful obvious right in front of us. We are always concerned in ‘presenting’ in a certain way, or averting a crisis and we can miss out in delighting in our children, in our crazy mess, in our being alive.

Stop and think for a moment. What is it that you like to do? When I get asked that question I have the hardest time in coming up with something that I like to do just for me. But I am a mum? I don’t have time to do things that are just for me. I need to create spaces and wonderful memories for my family. I have washing, dishes, shopping and ‘mopping’ to do! There is no time for something that I like to do. At this stage in my life, I am not important enough to celebrate. I am not important enough to spend money on. And what’s more, ‘My family need me’.

This is NOT True!

Your family need you, but that is exactly it. They actually need you, not a version of you, or part of you. They need you whole and present and that means that you need to feed yourself. It means that you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you help those around you!

IMG_5090

My delight. Beach, family and a cause

I think we get so wrapped up in the busyness of life, rushing about between drop offs and pick ups, keeping our homes and lives pinterest or facebook worthy because a ‘full calendar’ means a ‘full life’ right? Our souls are tired. It is nothing a strong coffee or a sleep in on Saturday morning can fix.

Busyness is valued in our culture, it is something to strive for. People ask, “how are you?” and we comment ,“Oh I’m so busy!” It is almost something to brag about. Many of us have gotten really good at keeping up this frantic place. Going and Going and going without much to show for it and wondering why we feel less and less content. We hit a wall and reach a point where we just can’t go on any more, but we do, because we are mums!

I don’t think we were ever intended to live self-dependent, ready to throw off our tops and be wonder woman to save the world. If we were to stop focussing on the little things that stress us out, pushing and straining to be enough for everyone in every situation we could live closer to the lives God intended us to have.slow down.jpg

So what sits before us is the need to Make Space.

We need to let go.

We need to embrace rest.

I don’t know about you but I want to live fully, not frantically. I want my life to be a fierce flourishing. Full of what matters most. Full of God’s grace.

Our circumstances are not going to magically change but the way we see them and how we react to them can.

Embracing rest doesn’t mean the same as it did when you were a teenager, or a 20 something single and care free. It doesn’t mean the same as it will in another 20 years when the kids are all grown up and you are choosing which cruise you are going to sit back and relax on. As mothers of pre-schoolers we don’t have the luxury of sitting down for long periods reading a book, or taking a nap, or if you anything like me, have a solid nights sleep is a faint memory.

slow downToo fully embrace rest, we need to see things differently, we need to notice the goodness in the big and little moments and we need to celebrate life in all of its chaotic and noisy glory.

As mums of pre-schoolers, so often are days are long, some really really long and the nights are short. Really really short. At the end of the day, as you slump down into the chair, exhausted but still with a to do list the size of your arm, it can be hard to see what has just happened. Where your day has gone, where your weeks have gone. This year I want to challenge you to practice noticing goodness in each of your days so that the ordinary moments become extraordinary. Be done with being numb to the divine beauty that is all around you.

It is going to take a fierce guarding of your thought life to focus in and pay attention to what matters, to receive what God is offereing and then to respond with a heart of gratitude. Noticing goodness, is noticing God, and in turn embracing all that you are meant to be. I thought this video explains the practice of noticing goodness the best.

I would LOVE it if we as a community could share the goodness we are noticing. Be that via Instagram or facebook. You can join us by sharing your photos with Billabong MOPS on our Facebook page or Instagram. Or join us on a Monday morning and add a leaf to our grateful tree.

We want to celebrate the small moments. Breathe in and stop for a second. And share this journey of motherhood together.

IMG_4448And as we notice the goodness that surrounds us, I think it will become easier to think of celebrating as more then just cakes, candles and milestone moments. Bringing feasting and celebration into everyday, means you need to have the eyes to see it.

I don’t want to diminish what is happening in your life, because so often there are very Big, very hard journeys that each of us take where noticing the goodness is not so easy. And celebrating? Who wants to do that!? During these times I hope, and my prayer is that you will have people who will be the goodness for you by listening to you, bringing meals over, looking after your kids. That they will give extravagantly and that you will receive graciously and that a time will come that you will be able to celebrate their friendship to you. During the mountain times, the times in life where things are generally going as they should be, and even, maybe more importantly, during the valley times when all isn’t going well, making the crumbs into joy, savouring the meals that taste so good or laughing until the tears are rolling down your cheeks. They are all a part of celebrating. Embracing who you were created to be.

And Fiercely Flourishing!

fully not franticSo 2016 has really just begun and I can not wait to challenge myself to slow down and literally smell the roses. To stop living frantically for the sake of myself, my marriage and my children and to look at those around me and fully love them because I am spending time loving myself.

Mums – Maybe this is it?

Have you seen the pictures of little Aylan?
Have you cried tears for a little boy you didn’t even know like I have?
Wasn’t he cute? A world away, in more ways then just geographically. The world has seen the DEVASTATION of the crisis in Syria and so many other parts of our world washed ashore on a peaceful beach. Ironic. A picture that will last in our minds for a while, but probably, not as long enough as it should.

The reasons are complex. Way over my head really. I can not fathom the fear and necessity a mother and father would face to get on a boat bound for anywhere that doesn’t include a buffet breakfast and a kid’s club. Little Aylan was just one in 19 million people that are seeking a safe place to call home. That is almost the entire population of Australia!

Syrian internally displaced people walk in the Atme camp, along the Turkish border in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, on March 19, 2013. The conflict in Syria between rebel forces and pro-government troops has killed at least 70,000 people, and forced more than one million Syrians to seek refuge abroad. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC        (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian internally displaced people walk in the Atme camp, along the Turkish border in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, on March 19, 2013. The conflict in Syria between rebel forces and pro-government troops has killed at least 70,000 people, and forced more than one million Syrians to seek refuge abroad. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

My hope is that the picture of a little boy washed ashore will spur us into action. We can not sit back and watch any longer.
I have read many articles on this and I think Scott Higgins from Baptist World Aid sums this up as simply as possible,

“First, we need to work harder to help countries stop persecuting their minority groups, so that fewer people are forced to flee and those who have fled can return home. Diplomacy and a strong
aid program are key measures
to achieve this. Second, we need members of the international community to equitably share responsibility for protecting refugees who cannot return home. This means industrialised countries like Australia must accept more refugees than we
do at present; host countries
with manageable numbers
such as Malaysia and Indonesia must improve conditions for refugees and offer pathways for them to become citizens; and
the handful of host countries
with overwhelming numbers of refugees must be assisted by the rest of us.
What would it mean for Australia to make a start on this? First, we could substantially increase the number of refugees we accept. We have an annual immigration program of 190,000. We could quite comfortably double, triple or even quadruple our refugee intake.
Second, we could find positive rather than punitive ways to stop people making the dangerous sea journey from Indonesia to Australia. People get on boats because it is too dangerous to return home, they are unwelcome where they are, and only a tiny fraction are offered resettlement in a third country. They are stuck. We can change that. Give people some certainty about when and where they will be settled and they have no need to board a boat, we have no reason to lock them up, and there will be no boats to turn around. This could be achieved via an agreement with Indonesia to jointly process and settle the rather small number of refugees that enter their country. Meanwhile we work to expand
this agreement to include other countries in our region, until we have a system in which
the supply of the protection matches the demand.
We have done it before. In just three years after the Second World War we welcomed over 150,000 refugees. In the 1980s Australia, the US, Malaysia and Vietnam formed an agreement to ensure protection for those fleeing Vietnam, and there were years we welcomed more than 20,000 refugees.”
To learn more go to A just cause’s website

If you, like me, look at the picture of little Aylan lying there in the sand and can imagine the moment his mum first held him. All the times she would have picked him up, changed his nappy, chastised him for climbing on the furniture or wiped his mouth as he tried to eat a fist full of sand. If you know that a mother’s heart beats the same no matter where in the world she is, let this be a wake up call. Mother’s of the world, we need to hold onto each others babies. We need to make our world a home that they can grow up in. It will be hard. Being a mum is hard. But we can do hard things. Really! No one is going to care as much as we do. This has woken me up from just ‘wishing’ for a better world, I am going to figure out how I can take action. Because no child is ‘someone else’s. We are responsible for all the children.
mothers tears
If you need something to do today, start here with many wonderful organisations like Save the Children and World Vision who are on the ground now.
Rest in Peace little Aylan. The arms of all the mummies in the world are holding you tight.