Choose Kindness

Choose Kindness

I used to think I was a somewhat peaceful, gracious, and patient person.

Then I had kids. HA. And I realized, okay, I’m really not that patient after all.

Then we started foster care. HAHA. Well, that’s when I realized I’m actually a monster. Or at least I can be. Maybe not all the time, but there is definitely a monster somewhere there inside me that I have seen over and over again lash out.

Most people assume my family must be really nice, you know, for doing foster care and all. However, I kind of cringe anytime we get praised for it because I know what really goes down inside our home and it is often not very pretty.

In fact, we have many ugly moments. Then we have really ugly moments in between those.

Not to make excuses, but homeschooling three kids while also keeping up with my foster child and all that he is going through at school (and in life in general) has taken a toll on me.

On your average day, I am dashing from child to child, to math lesson to reading lesson, to calls from the social worker to calls from the principal (“Excuse me he did what again? Throw the desks and chairs across the room?), to therapist appointments to doctors appointments, to messy spills to meltdowns to fist fights. All the while, I cannot forget to throw some food on the table every few hours so we can all stay fed and hydrated and more importantly, not hangry.

That, in a nutshell, is a little bit of why monster Irene has been coming out as of late.

But then I look at my husband’s parents (my in-laws) who live with us, and they challenge me so much to be better.

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to get away from all the craziness for a long overdue date-night while his parents watched our kids. I’m always so grateful for their bravery and willingness to watch them even though they know very well how difficult they can be at times.

So off we went on our movie date and we had an amazing time. Yet just as soon as we got out of the movie, I checked my phone and saw a text from my 7-year-old son through my in-laws’ phone:

“This is Micah. Rell is not listening to me. And I kicked him in the head. I am sorry.”

Oh boy, I thought. What happened. Please let there be no injuries.

So immediately, my husband and I went to our phone and opened the Nest monitor app to see what the camera at home caught:

 

8:06 –
Grandma tells Micah and Rell to read together on their own while she gets the other two kids ready for bed.

8:10 –
Rell keeps screaming for grandma to come read to him.
Micah keeps telling him that they have to read together.

8:20 –
Rell begins rolling around on the floor still screaming for grandma to come read to him.

8:30 –
Micah says, “Stop acting like a baby.”

 

Did he say baby? Oh no, I thought. I then braced myself for what might be coming next.

 

8:31 –
Rell puts his fists up and starts yelling at the top of his lungs, “I AM NOT A BABY!!!!!”…
over and over again.
Rell gets in Micah’s face.
Micah jumps onto the bed.
Micah kicks Rell in the head Streetfighter style.
Rell falls down but immediately jumps up and slams Micah into the wall.
Boys are screaming and tackling each other full force.
Daughter stands frozen at the door and quietly says, “Um I think we should call mommy.”

8:33 –
Micah walks out of the room.
Rell is crying uncontrollably and shrieking so loud that I’m sure the police will come. Grandpa comes in.
Grandpa holds Rell and gently begins to rock him while saying in a soft, gentle voice,
“It’s ok. Good boy Rell. You’re a good boy. It’s ok. Good boy. You’re a good boy. Caaaalm down. It’s okay.”
Although still sobbing, immediately Rell begins to calm down.

8:36 –
Grandma comes in with Micah.
Grandma says in the kindest voice,
“Okay boys. Say sorry. Good boys. You are good boys. You are brothers. You love each other, right? Give each other a big hug.”
Micah and Rell slowly look at each other, snot still dripping down the face, and they say sorry.

 

Shocked at the grandparents’ ability to maintain composure, I thought, that’s it? I would’ve gone ballistic, psycho mom, on them if I were there. But that is always their choice of response–kindness.

 

8:40 –
Micah and Rell sit closely together on Micah’s bed and Micah reads Rell a story.
They 
even laugh together at the funny parts.

 

And that was it. I then turned off the camera recording, hugged my husband, buried my head into his chest, and let out a huge sigh of relief because we have come such a long way.

That fight might have appeared to be really intense to an outsider, but to us, that was great progress. And actually, incidents like that were already getting less and less frequent. Sure they fight sometimes, but through the struggle, they are also growing and learning to genuinely love and enjoy each other these days more than ever. We have many more moments of laughter, drawing, playing legos, having fun, etc., more than anything else.

The reason for this? I know it is largely due to what we are learning from my in-laws.

I’ve been growing too. In the day to day grind, I really make an effort now to respond with patience and kindness. For example, rather than to enter into a screaming match with a kid (and believe me I always win in volume and fierceness), I force myself to dig deep, deep, deep inside to reach in and find any trace of gentleness I can find. To hold back snappy responses and punitive consequences and to extend grace and patience instead, just as I have always seen my in-laws doing.

Their example alone challenges me to want to do better.

To choose patience, to choose grace, to choose kindness as often and as generously as I can. The world needs more ones like my in-laws, and my kids and I, for one, are tremendously blessed to be their children and witness how they live out their faith and love this way on a daily, moment by moment basis.

*And for the record, no one was seriously hurt from the little brawl mentioned above or any other brawl in our home. No form of abuse has been inflicted upon these children. Also, you have been given fair warning: never call a 5 year-old, “baby”… it is of the highest offense. 

 
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“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Proverbs 16:24

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”
Isaiah 44:4

 

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First Day of Kindergarten for Our Foster Kid

First Day of Kindergarten for Our Foster Kid

Our foster kid, Rell, just turned five over the summer and is now Kindergarten age. Since I recently made the decision to homeschool my own kids, I figured I would just homeschool him as well. Afterall, I had already done so much work with him not only academically, but behaviorally as well, and I couldn’t imagine a teacher at a school being able to tend to him and his special needs amongst a sea of other children.

His needs, I have come to see, are truly great, especially since he has come back to us after being taken away from his family for the second time. The mounting traumas he has experienced and the negative behaviors that have resulted from them are both great, and it has been difficult for even us to deal with it.

He is a different person since he was with us last year as a three-year-old. He was practically a baby then who knew little of what was happening back at home and innocently embraced us as his family. He quickly adapted to our lifestyle and learned what we taught to be right and wrong.

This year, now at the whopping age of five years old, he is already so much more aware of the crisis that have transpired. His emotions are infinitely more complex and therefore so is his pain. The resulting behaviors are more severe, and I, for one, am often at a complete loss as to how to respond to him. Really, it takes everything in me to simply remain calm and to not get all riled up myself when it seems as if every other minute there is something that sets this kid off into a rage.

It has become a daily battle to keep both his and my cool intact and to keep us from spiraling down into the snare of gritting anger and frustration… day after day, night after night.

But we’re not the only ones struggling. My oldest son (now seven years old) also has his fair share of grievances and a growing resentment which my husband and I have been desperately trying to keep at bay.

We’ve done everything we can to try to make them get along, to see the other’s perspective, and to empathize with one another. After all, the two were like best friends last year, inseparable really, and Rell had especially looked up to my son the most. Now, they have become like arch enemies, hostile and cold towards one another much of the time.

Well recently I was told that foster kids are required to go to public school, so I would not be able to homeschool Rell like I had planned.

Oh no, I thought. He’s not ready. I’m not ready.

You would think that we would all be relieved to have a break from having to address behavior after behavior, but instead, I became scared and even more stressed out thinking about how Rell would fare in school by himself. All my motherly instincts came out in full force.

Will they know how to talk him off the ledge when he gets all upset?

Will they take time to understand where he is coming from rather than just punish the behavior?

Will they wait for what can feel like an eternity when he is unable to gather his words and express how he is feeling?

Will they see how he is just a scared kid with a hurt heart and that his screaming and kicking and fighting is his defense?

I worried for this kid for his first day of Kindergarten just as much as, if not more, than my own kids.

The night before, I cuddled in bed with him a little closer and explained to him this and that, like how I would pack his lunch and also put a separate snack in the front pocket for his afternoon snack.

After a quiet pause, he asked in a timid voice, “but what if I forget?” He then buried his head into my arms.

That’s when my son chimed in from his bed on the other side of their room. He explained things to Rell that I didn’t even think to tell him.

In true big brother fashion, he said, “I’ll introduce you to my friends at the bus stop. It’s bus 777. I’ll walk you there too. But when you’re coming home on the bus, don’t forget to get off at the SECOND stop. One. TWO. Don’t get off at the first stop. Just look out the window and look for me. We’ll be there.”

I guess for my son, too, his brotherly instincts kicked in. No matter what qualms they had against each other, he would be there for him when in need.

So there we stood that bright and hot morning on the street corner waiting for the bus on the first day of school. My forehead was already glistening with sweat even though the morning had barely even started. Nervously, I stumbled around trying to think of what final words of wisdom I could say to Rell before the bus would arrive and tow him off to his first day of Kindergarten.

But it was too late. Before I could really say anything at all, the bus turned the corner and pulled up right in front of us.

All the other kids quickly crowded the curb, and a wave of hesitation and fear crept up on me as I’m sure it did to Rell as well.

Big brother, however, did not skip a beat. My eldest son immediately took Rell’s hand into his own and boldly paved a path to the door of the bus. He motioned him up the big gigantic bus steps and soon Rell’s little frame could be seen sitting through one of the windows towards the middle of the bus. I waved frantically to him and even ran with the bus several steps as he drove off and left the rest of us. I wanted him to know that no matter what happened at school that we were for him.

When the bus was no longer in sight, I turned back around to look at my children. It was then that I realized how much we all truly loved Rell despite all the difficulties as of late. I didn’t know what school would be like or if they’d know how to handle him well there. I also didn’t know if we really knew what we were doing at home either. But one thing was for sure and that was that deep inside, Rell is dearly and truly loved by each and every one of us.

My daughter whispered how she already missed him and wished he didn’t have to go. My youngest cried and hollered for the next half hour that Rell was gone.

And my eldest… well he quietly patted the little one’s head and tenderly said, “You love Rell? I know. I do too.”

I Am Not His Mom

I Am Not His Mom

One day last week I got a call from an unknown number in Westminster.

Westminster, I thought. This can’t be good.

The only time I ever got calls from Westminster was when we were going through the whole custody ordeal with the first little boy whom we hosted in our home last year. The one who stayed with us for 10+ months, became like part of our family, but then went back to his home in hopes that things would be better.

As soon as I answered, I could recognize the voice—it was the social worker who had worked on the boy’s case last year. Without any details, she asked me urgently if we could take the youngest boy again…and as soon as possible. He and his siblings had been taken the day before and were currently being sheltered.

There were a million things to consider of course, but I knew that in the end, our answer would be yes. So I agreed. But before we hung up, I asked her to please just tell me how he was doing. How did he look.

After a momentary pause, she responded with a soberness in her voice.

“Sad,” she said. “Dirty and sad. But as soon as CPS got him, he was crying out for you… and he wouldn’t stop saying your name all night.”

The very next morning, I got in the car and found myself taking that one-hour drive back down the same roads I had taken so many times before during that roller coaster of a time with him last year. We came for court cases, parental visitations, mediations, and more.

And now here I was again. So many emotions. So many thoughts. In a lot of ways, I felt really helpless and unsure, not knowing what was happening. Yet something drove me to keep going and told me I just had to go get him. Nothing else mattered.

After all, it’s not like he ever fully left us anyways.

Since his departure seven months ago, his pictures have yet to come down from our walls and he is still talked about just about everyday, if not by one of the kids, by me or my husband.

And while the circumstances that were bringing us back together again were not good (and I so, so, so wished he never had to go through this nightmare again), I still looked forward to seeing him again. To see him, to hug him, to look into his eyes. I’ve wondered so much about him almost every single day.

However, the reunion between he and I was far from what I imagined it to be–no huge smiles or bursting flowers and butterflies as we hugged. No, as soon as I arrived and spotted him at the social services office, he only glanced at me a quick second to register who I was. And although his eyes said he knew me, his posture told me to stay away.

What had happened to him.

When the paperwork was taken care of, we all walked back down the hall, and I was instructed to escort him to my car. That’s when I saw his fear escalate as I’m sure the place was familiar to him as well. It was where we had taken him from his mother the first time, screaming and kicking through the doors. And now we were doing it again.

His breathing grew heavier, tears welled up in his eyes, and he started to scream. With everything he had, he fought to get away, digging his nails into my arms, spitting, and wailing.

Back to square one, I thought, as I used everything I had to hold him down and buckle him in. A boy I knew so well now seemed like a stranger running away from his kidnapper. When I finally got him in, he continued to let out the loudest, most heart wrenching, soul trembling shrieks I have ever heard. Over and over and over again, all he could do was scream.

Against his will, he was being taken away, further and further, mile by mile. His life spinning completely out of his control… again. What else could he do?

Thankfully, he did calm down, and he warmed up pretty quickly to everyone back at home, remembering all the Korean names he picked up during his stay with us. Instantly, he called my husband “appa” for dad, my son “hyungah” for big brother, “halmuhnee and halabuhjee” for grandma and grandpa, and gave everyone big hugs.

But slowly, I noticed he was very different with me.

For starters, he told me that I am not “umma,” which is what he used to call me. He made it clear that I am not his mommy and that I was not his family.

At first, I couldn’t understand why he was singling me out. Was it because I was the one who had to take him from his home again? Was he mad at me for something I did when he was with us? Was he just older now and less comfortable with me as a mom, albeit a foster mom? Why only me?

As each day passed, I discovered more and more that for whatever reason, he had absolutely resolved not to let me get too close to him this time around.

The other day, for example, he sat happily drawing a picture of his family. At the very end, I saw him draw one more person and looked up at me to say, “and that’s you!” Yet just as those words left his mouth, a look of terror came over his face, and he told me I couldn’t be in the picture. He tried to find ways to take me out but eventually drew a new one altogether with me omitted.

“My mommy going to see it! You can’t be in there.”

Then, I knew. It was his mom. He wanted to be loyal to her and eventually even shared that he was put in the corner for calling me “umma.”

Of course. It all made sense.  

I don’t blame his mom for making that distinction for him. I am not his real mom after all and she has every right to be clear on that point. But what kills me is that at this moment, he is a broken boy who needs the comfort and warmth and love of a mom but he won’t let me fully in. He’s afraid, and my ache is not a personal offense, but it is that he has to deal with all of this brokenness in the first place in this fractured world.  

Sometimes at night when he is teary eyed over what has happened, he asks me to lay with him (next to him but not touching him), and I close my eyes to encourage him to sleep as well. Then just when he thinks I am asleep, I can feel him gently touch my hands and stroke my hair. I peek and I can see it in his eyes, even in the day, that he wants so much to be close and have that nearness, but he can’t show me.  

So I have let him take the lead. I tell him he can call me anything he wants to call me. He can hug me when and if he ever wants to. He doesn’t have to take any pictures with me or anything else, but I do stay close enough in case he ever does want to let me in. Whenever he’s ready.

In the meantime, we pray. There is a war in the spirit and we are still contending for this boy’s mom to be healed, freed, transformed, and well-equipped to raise her children. Both for her own sake and for the sake of her children. And while I am not a mom to him by name, I know God has called me to be so in this season. So until they are reunified, I will quietly play the part and pray that a healing process occurs in this boy’s heart as he stays with us.

Never Fatherless

Never Fatherless

Father’s Day, to me, is a joy-filled day. Every father I’ve ever known has been amazing including my own dad, my husband, and many other male figures in my life. However, this past Father’s Day, I was reminded that this is not the case for everyone. There are many who have not had such good experiences with their dads and others who have never known their dads before at all—they have always been fatherless. An example of one such person sat with us in our living room this past Father’s Day morning.

It was another emergency hosting and this 10-year-old girl was seeking safety and shelter for the weekend. We didn’t think about how her stay with us would overlap with Father’s Day, how she didn’t have a dad, or how this day might be difficult for her. At least not at first.

But the moment we all woke up and I whispered into the kids’ ears to go give daddy a big hug for Father’s Day, I saw this girl’s momentary smile fade away while the rest of the kids continued to squeal and laugh as they took turns jumping on daddy’s back.

That’s when it dawned on me.

Right. She doesn’t have a dad. Think fast. What do I do.

For the next minute or so, I paused and drowned out the laughter in the background. I looked at her as she withdrew and tried to think about what was going through her mind.

What was she feeling? Was she sad? Was she angry? Was she numb, perhaps? After all, she had never even met her dad before.

I could not tell what she was thinking, but her blank stare simply told me that Father’s Day, to her, was not as joyous an occasion as it was to the rest of us.

So as covertly as possible, I nudged my husband’s arm. Very quickly, he caught on to the somber mood in the room. Immediately, both our eyes dropped down low as we frantically searched for the proper words to say, as if they were hidden somewhere on the floor.

Then at the same time, we briefly looked up at one another before moving into action, doing what I think we both would’ve naturally done if this was our own child who was suddenly sinking into the quicksand of sorrow.

Our bodies swiftly gravitated towards her, not allowing isolation and loneliness to accompany her a second longer. My husband joined her on the couch and wrapped his big arms around her. I sat at her feet on the floor and looked into her eyes. For a second, no one spoke, but it felt like a million words were exchanged in that silence as she finally allowed her tears to stream down and my husband held her tight.

She had already told us how she never met her father before, that he left when she was a little baby. At the time, however, she said it so matter of factly that I didn’t catch onto the hurt inside. But of course it was all in there somewhere. It had to be.

This was her dad we were talking about. The man who was her very own flesh and blood. The man who was meant to protect her, provide for her, and tell her how precious and beautiful she is. The man whom she was supposed to be able to safely come home to each day, even when everything else was falling apart. No matter what happened out there, she should have been able to find value in herself and the strength to face the world again, simply because her father told her everything was going to be okay.

This is the man who should have been here this day and every single day before. But he wasn’t there and he never was–not once. From birth until now, he has missed out on a million moments that beckoned his presence.

And whether she ever mentally knew this or not, her heart, her soul, her spirit knew it, and her entire being deeply and longingly missed all of that and more in this moment.

So there she was, bearing witness to our happy little moment on Father’s Day. For a minute there, I felt so badly for her that I was tempted to feel guilty and sorry that my children were given the fortune of having such an awesome dad. It just didn’t seem fair.

Where was her dad??

Nobody knew, but one thing was for sure. All those things that she had missed throughout her life from the absence of a father, she still desperately needed now.

And right there—in that need—was the hope.

Yes, her heart still needed and yearned for it. When that yearning is still alive and kicking and crying out, there is hope for a response, hope for life.

And on this day, my husband was there to answer her cry as she let it be known to us. He heard her unspoken questions, hurts, and longings, and he spoke to them warmly, telling her she was beautiful, that she was loved, that her pain was acknowledged, that she was seen, and that everything was going to be okay. In that exchange, I could visibly see some glimmer of hope and life being restored, even through just her eyes.

Although not from her real father, my husband was the messenger of the words, the strength, the validation she needed to receive. This is how God has used my husband, not only for our children, but also for the fatherless. To strengthen them in the knowledge that they are loved.

And perhaps because they have been fatherless on this earth, maybe their hearts’ yearning will continue to cry out that much stronger and that much louder and persist and never settle until they are found and answered by the perfect love of their true Father in heaven.

That is our greatest hope. Because when their yearning is met by God alone, the ultimate Father, Provider, Encourager, and Lover of their souls, they will be absolutely healed, transformed, and able to walk out the fullness of life that was intended for them.

Until then, we will continue to speak that truth on behalf of our Father.

Husband, you are an amazing dad and I am amazed at how you welcome the Lord to use you. Without striving and just by being you, you are being that father to both our children and to the fatherless on behalf of our mighty God.

Happy Father’s Day, to you and to our God!

Because of You, Lord, we are never truly fatherless.

 

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
Psalm 68:5

Okay, the Guinea Pig Can Come

Okay, the Guinea Pig Can Come

Today was full of surprises. For one, we were called to take in a last minute emergency hosting for a 10-year-old girl. Her mom had to unexpectedly go to the hospital, and I was instructed to meet the little girl at her house when she got home from school. Well, when I got to her apartment, I expected this girl to be home alone, but surprise, surprise, that was not the case at all.

As soon as the door opened, I saw two sets of eyes staring back at me, both a little alarmed, timid, and confused.

First, I greeted the girl and explained to her what was going on. Yet before I could even finish, I was immediately introduced to Ms. Dewberry, the guinea pig, whose beady little eyes were still locked into mine. Not being very big on animals (especially ones that in any way resemble rodents), I tiptoed around the cage and cringed at the smell and all of the flaky bedding that had fallen on the floor.

I, then, tried to avoid Dewberry as much as I could while getting the girl to quickly gather all her belongings. I really wanted to leave the premises on the double, but everything took much longer because every other sentence the girl said was about this guinea pig.

Dewberry of course was the least of my concerns at the moment and starting to feel a little itchy all over, I thought to myself, I did not sign up for this! I just signed up for the girl… the human girl.

Nonetheless, it became undeniable that human-girl really cared about this guinea pig. For all I knew, this guinea pig might have been a great source of comfort for her, her best friend, perhaps her confidant, her family.

And in her sweet, soft voice, I could hear her sadly whispering to herself,  

“I wonder who’s going to feed her. Who will give her water. Who will change her bedding and hold her and take care of her if no one’s home. I don’t know who will. I think she might die while I’m gone.”    

For.

Crying.

Out.

Loud.

Was this really happening. I don’t like pets in my house!

Before I knew it, we were driving home with human-girl happily holding Dewberry in the back seat and Dewberry’s oversized cage clanking around in the back trunk. I just hoped the poop was not popping out everywhere and that there were no diseases spreading amongst us.

Then just as we approached our once pet-free-zone-home, it was found that Dewberry had a runny nose and was sneezing. Knowing nothing about guinea pigs, I tried to tell the girl that it would probably pass in a day or two. That’s when she told me her last guinea pig died after having a runny nose. Google, of course, confirmed to us as well that runny noses and sneezing could be fatal for guinea pigs if left untreated. Goodness gracious.

So there you have it. The entire night turned into the Dewberry fiasco. I was online researching while on the phone with emergency vets and any animal lover I could think of, seeking medical advice for this guinea pig that I could hardly stop myself from cringing at. I even began praying for her in between shaking my head in disbelief of what was happening.

Yet as the evening progressed, I also noticed how bright and sweet human-girl was. I saw how she warmed up to us and our home so quick and was no longer quiet and despondent as she was at first. Suddenly, she was full of life, cracking corny jokes and showcasing silly dance moves along with the rest of us. I felt her walls had come down before I even knew it and her heart was warm and open. For that, I’m positive that a big reason why is because we had allowed Dewberry to come with us and we were trying to care for her as well.

To end the day, we spent some time out on the lawn with all the kids playing with Dewberry as she roamed around nibbling on blades of grass. Thankfully, she seemed to be feeling a bit better as well. Thanks to Dewberry, all the kids, especially human-girl, were so happy.

Even I began to warm up to the little critter myself, although it will definitely still take some time for all my walls to come down. I’m just glad human-girl is doing well on her first night with us.

Thank you Dewberry for the comfort you provide this precious girl. You are welcome in our home… for now. =)

Mom, Dad, I Forgive You

Mom, Dad, I Forgive You

It’s so easy to blame things on my parents. To think back on the ways they hurt me… whether they meant to or not. To remember their weaknesses and how they left me wounded… whether they meant to or not. To see my own shortcomings and issues today and somehow find their origins in my parents’ history of mistakes. Of course they also did many things the right way, and I so appreciate all the good they taught me as well. But sometimes, the bad is so hard to erase when you are in the thick of things, especially as a parent now myself.

As a young adult, when I was single and had no kids, I envisioned myself being a great mom. No, the best mom. Focusing in on what I perceived to lack from my own parents drove me to subconsciously swear and believe that I could both do and be better than them.

In my mind, I pictured being the kind of mom who would love my kids so deeply, be present, discipline them just right, always show patience, be funny, warm, cool, collected, and never lose my temper. And, I would never fight with my husband… ever.

Then I had kids. And well, I was wrong. Dead wrong. On my best days, I can kinda be some of those things, but those days are far fewer than I ever imagined or can bring myself to admit.

Then when we began thinking about this whole orphan care thing, I also started off fantasizing the same grandiose thoughts about how I would care for these children. If I’m going to be honest, there were also subtle levels of underlying pride and judgment against these kids’ parents as well, just like I had towards my own parents.

I will NEVER treat those children badly, I thought. After what they’ve gone through, I will be the greatest picture of love for them. I will be their advocate, the one to help them heal, the one to love them so much that no matter what kind of terrible situations they came from, they will grow into awesome human beings who will CHANGE THE WORLD.  

Biological or not, I wanted the absolute very best for these ones who were entrusted into my care. All with good intention.

Yet the sad truth I quickly discovered was that good parenting is so much harder than I ever imagined. Not only is it a struggle because these kids push so many of my buttons, but we, parents, are also each battling with our own demons and personal issues as well. I battle with them daily. I know my parents did too. And so do the parents of these children being hosted in my home. We all struggle.

Consequently, the children almost always get the brunt end of this struggle. Slowly, our hearts forget the good we set out to do, and since our children are human as well, their flesh wars with ours. They disobey. I lash out. They turn into monsters. I turn into a greater monster. They crawl under my skin. My blood begins to boil. Back and forth, back and forth, and that picture-perfect mom I envisioned of myself fades quicker than I can help.

The scary thing is, before I know it, these little ones will be grown and have their own story to tell of what kind of parent I once was as well. I wince at the thought because whether I mean to or not, I make a lot of mistakes. 

Yes, every single day I fail. It is so easy for my heart to turn the wrong way, even against my own my flesh and blood. I hate it.

Then again and again, daily I come back to this thought, I need to do better.

While sometimes I try to think that God is okay with sloppy parenting as long as I’ve “tried”, that He understands my struggle, and that we’re all fine, I know deep inside that everything really is not fine.

Of course God does understand, but in no way does He ever tell me that doing wrong in the way I raise my children is okay. Just like sin is never okay with the Father although He loves the sinner.  

I need to do better. 

The harder it gets, the more God shows me that I cannot settle with, accept, or get comfortable with less than “better.” Instead, He constantly reminds me that we are meant to do better always. 

And He will help me because the way I parent the children in my care is of absolute critical importance. The entire next generation depends on it.

Lately, I’ve been reading the book of Malachi, the last book of the entire Old Testament which is basically a series of stories of people following God, then falling away from God. Generations turning to God, then generations falling away again. You see this constant back and forth and it finally ends with this very last verse which is the last prophecy we hear from God before the time of Jesus. And He ends with this:

“He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents.”

This is how God wanted to end the entire Old Testament? A word to children and parents? Yes. Absolutely. Because it is in this intimate, tender relationship between parent and child that the children will learn and hear of the Lord. Without that, we will face another godless generation.

We indeed need to be better.

Because God puts it inside of us to desire to be better, better everyday, for the sake of our children and for the sake of an entire generation of followers. Parents must turn their hearts to our children and the children must turn their hearts to their parents. For God longingly desires for this next generation to turn their hearts to Him.  

And while I want this for me and my house, that is not enough. I want it for the families around me, for the children who come into our home and for their families as well. To follow, to know, to love the Lord.

So I end by turning my heart back towards my parents with this note:

Mom, dad, I forgive you. I know you did the best that you knew how to do and I’m thankful that indeed you have grown “better” everyday. I saw your lives transform before my eyes and from that, I have grown to have the greatest hope and confidence in the Lord. Thank you for teaching me that with God, all things are possible and that I can be better always. 

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  -Deuteronomy 11:18-19

Hosting Round 2, Homeschooling Round 1

Hosting Round 2, Homeschooling Round 1

I finally decided to take the plunge. I am going to do it. I am going to do what I thought I could never do and do what is perhaps one of the most difficult, daunting tasks ever recorded in the history of mankind.

YES. I AM GOING TO HOMESCHOOL.

Whenever I tell people this news, the immediate reaction is almost always shock, followed by questions of why and what happened?

Why homeschool?? Did something bad happen? Is the local public school not good enough? Are they not learning anything in their class? Are they learning things you don’t want them to learn? Are you afraid your kids will get left out, bullied, or maybe even shot?

While all of those things are sadly possible in today’s public school system, homeschooling was probably an even greater fear in my mind than most of those things. Keep all the kids homes with me and go crazy together every single day? No, thank you! I also used to think people only homeschooled these days if they absolutely had to because of some problem.

Homeschooling, to me, has always sounded completely overwhelming and at best, foreign and outdated.

Growing up, I did not know a single person who was homeschooled. If I ever heard of such a kid, I automatically imagined them to look like the children on Little House on the Prairie. They just seemed… different… and yes, unsocialized. I think this is the popular belief.

Yet in the last few years as a stay-at-home-mom, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting more and more people from this crazy, “different” population of homeschooling families. Different, but kind, intelligent, fun, witty, and actually, they look a lot like me!

The parents definitely don’t have it all together and their kids struggle with the same kind of issues as any other “normal” kid does. Yet what is really “different” is something extraordinary I see taking place in their homes through this journey of schooling their own children.

This is what I have observed:

Homeschooling is rubbing on each other the wrong way, gritting your teeth through sounding out words, and then learning that life is more than spelling lists and word problems. Homeschooling is trying to teach your kids everything they possibly need to learn from math to reading to Bible verses to character building (not to mention health, physical education, and so on), feeling like a complete failure, and then being able to just ditch the lesson for a moment to hug or cry or eat icecream together while learning grace. Homeschooling is overcoming countless obstacles, experiencing those precious and monumental ah-ha moments, and growing together yet another year. Homeschooling is bold, it is brave, it is bed-heads and pajamas all day long, it is pure awesomeness.

While some of those things I can honestly do without, I’m willing to endure those more difficult moments when I think about the thing I am most excited about when it comes to homeschooling.

It is this–homeschooling gives you the most precious and priceless gift of time, to really and TRULY do life and even ministry together, day in and day out with your children.

Yes, I know this might sound like absolute madness, and I’m sure that many days it will be. But I also know it will be amazing and so completely worth it. The best things in life are, and today I got to see a glimpse of this dream playing out before me.

Today, we accepted our second hosting assignment and brought home another little boy who will be staying with us for a short period of time. He is so reminiscent of our first hosted boy, Rell. They are both 3 years old, boys, and mixed half white/half black. He came in March during a snowstorm, just like Rell did, and he is just as sweet, fierce, and rambunctious as Rell. And just like Rell, one of the first things he did when he came into our home today was play on the piano.

And my kids. Again, I was amazed at the vital role each one played in bringing this one in. Even my 2-year-old, Moses! Without Moses coming with us to meet the boy, playing with him and warming him up at the office with his charm and smile, I don’t think he would’ve ever come home with us as willingly and joyfully as he did. It would’ve been another soap opera in the parking lot like last year.

Then when we got home, the new boy got to meet our two older kids and they have also hit it off ever since, playing like they’ve been friends for years. It is a gift my children carry, the gift of friendship, and they each are moving mountains in the spirit through their ministry.

Our children. Ministering. Learning about the problem of pain in the world through children coming from broken families. Learning to receive and extend the healing light of Christ. And together, witnessing Christ’s transformative and redemptive work. WHENever and WHEREver we go throughout the day, this is what we will be learning.

There’s nothing more I want them to know in this life and we are going to learn it together right in our home. In between math, reading, science, and the like, we are going to learn Christ and be able to not only be at home, but together, we will go out into the world to love those in the darkest of places. It’s going to be crazy, messy, beautiful.

Now I can finally say that I am no longer timid or scared or wary about homeschooling, but I am absolutely ecstatic to begin the most honorable and gratifying job I know I’ll ever have–training up my children full-time as their teacher, in every sense of the word.

And don’t worry, I’ll make sure they have a social life ;).

While I am completely uncertain how long we will go or if we will even make it through one year of homeschooling, I’ll take any amount of time we get with them as a gift!

I am ready to begin.

Hosting round 2 has begun. Homeschooling round 1 to begin fall of 2018.

…pray for us.

“Train up a child in the way he should go. And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)