Living Thanksgiving Day With A Black Friday Heart

black-friday-funny

The biggest shopping day of the year is exactly one day after we proclaim to be most thankful for what we already have.

Did that register?

The irony is thicker than mom’s gravy. Our Thanksgiving thankfulness seems cheaper than Black Friday’s cheapest deals. It’s like we can’t be done with giving thanks fast enough.

And sadly, the story is nothing new. It’s a humanity problem as old as Adam and Eve. The commercials and the web ads and the glossy mailbox catalogs are just modern day apples that distract from what is really important. It’s hard to see the apple for what it is when you are in the midst of the story though. Isn’t it?

So before you send your mother-in-law off to buy your family a new Vita-Mix, when you have a perfectly good working blender in your cabinet, put the latest Apple product (pun intended) on your want list, or set out for Best Buy and Toys R Us to make all your child’s Christmas dreams come true, I hope my own Black Friday story will have you giving a little thought to the kinds of things you want to fill your home with.

It is a story called “Black Friday Heart,” and it goes like this…

In a few weeks we will bring our second child home from the hospital. For months I could be heard telling my husband (and my co-workers, and parents, and friends, and anyone who would listen), “If I have to bring this baby home to our one-bedroom apartment I am going to flip.” It had been the same old complaint for a long time.

First the one-bedroom abode was perfect for us. It was an answer to prayer. It has cathedral ceilings, is surrounded by gardens and groves, and you have to cross a little bridge over a creek to get to our door.

Then, after a while, our home became not enough. It was only one-bedroom. My husband needed an office. Our guests needed a guest-room.

Adam's office and our cozy dining room. :o)

Adam’s office and our cozy dining room. :o)

When 18-month-old Little A came to live with us the one-bedroom was really not enough. Where would we put our daughter?

Our room and Little A's nook and trundle bed. The bright side - How fun that we get to have a trundle bed in our adult room. We don't even have to make it in the morning. Just push it out of sight.

Our room and Little A’s nook and trundle bed. How fun that we get to have a trundle bed in our adult room. Right? We don’t even have to make it in the morning. Just push it out of sight. :o)

Now we have a newborn about to join the mix and here we still are, in our one-bedroom place, with me pulling my hair out.

The baby's nursery, the dog's room, and Little A and baby's closet all tucked onto a wall in the Living Room. I mean, what's a "Living Room" if you're not "living" in it?

The baby’s nursery, the dog’s room, and Little A and baby’s closet all tucked onto a wall in the Living Room. I mean, what’s a “Living Room” if you’re not “living” in it?

It is simple math. Two adults + two kids + one dog does not = one-bedroom. This was not going to do. This was just NOT ENOUGH.

For two years I’ve been praying hard and complaining harder for something more. I’ve asked others to pray hard for us too. Surely God would provide. He was no idiot. He had to know. We needed MORE.

Can you sense where this story is headed?

God knew what we needed all right.

He knew momma needed a new attitude. He knew momma needed to sit down at the Thanksgiving table and stew in some thankfulness for a while. He knew momma needed to get rid of her Black Friday heart.

And this momma has come to learn that a Black Friday heart is the kind of heart only our good God can get rid of.

You guys, after two years of me praying for a new house and asking others to pray too, one morning I woke up and none of my prayers were answered. But. Everything was different.

I woke up and my glass was not just half full. It was over-freaking-flowing. I suddenly began to see our “predicament” and my “problem” as our “adventure” and something “fun.” I suddenly began to see this part of life as I should have seen it all along.

I woke up remembering how the best time of my life so far was when my husband and I spent 4 months together with one backpack on one motorcycle. We had nothing but each other and adventure and a $12 / day food budget. It was awesome.

Me, my love, and the open road. The year was 2010.

Me, my love, and the open road. The year was 2010.

Add a dog and a few little people to the mix and should I choose to see it this way, we are kind of on the same bike now. We don’t have much, we are snuggled up close, and life is still a big adventure.

I did not need a new house. I needed a fresh perspective.

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Sooo thankful for these two! Little A and Papa. Snuggled up close.

Living in this space we are not able to give our children very many things. Things don’t fit in our home.

But here comes the really neat part…

Do you know what we do have space for? (And you do too, no matter how big or small your house.)

Thankfulness. Joy. Kindness. Appreciation. Love. Adventure. Patience. Fun.

These things are FREE. And they are so good. And we don’t need to buy a bigger or fancier house for them.

Pretty cool how for the important stuff, there is always enough room, don’t you think?

If you too are missing out on an “adventure” because of a Black Friday heart, I hope my story will help you reconsider your perspective. I also hope that this Black Friday we will all remember to cherry pick only the very best deals, keeping in mind that the best things in life are free.

This holiday, let’s fill our homes with the stuff that matters.

From a momma who sometimes forgets that to raise a happy family all you need is love. And, if you want to have a lot of fun, a cardboard box…

Happy Turkey Day!

Kara

P.S. I will let you know how this family-of-four-in-a-one-bedroom-adventure turns out. Wawho!

P.S.S. I hope it’s clear enough that this is not a post against big houses (or people who own them). Rather, against black and lustful hearts. A big house just happened to be one source of mine…

 

projects

Doing projects at the dining room turned art table.

More art. This time in baby boy's room. We needed to mix up the surroundings to inspire creativity, ya know.

More art. This time in baby boy’s “room.” We needed to mix up the surroundings to inspire creativity, ya know.

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A Foster Child Is Home

melissayoungphotography.com

melissayoungphotography.com

I just love happy endings!

I have been wanting to update everyone on the court proceedings I discussed in my last post, but it has been a week and I am still speechless. Hospitalized, “potentially due to a ‘hormonal surge'” (don’t worry, I’m fine), and speechless…

So without any extra verbiage and with an awestruck faith, it is with tremendous joy and thankfulness that we share…

Little A will be adopted into the Gilbert family within the next few months!! 

Thank you for reading my stories. There are more to come.

Thank you for your prayers for Little A. I am more convinced than ever of their effectiveness and of God’s power.

When I can articulate more clearly I will share in greater depth.

For now, just so so joyful…

xo,

KG

melissayoungphotography.com

melissayoungphotography.com

(A big thank you to my sis for the stunning photos of Little A!)

Foster Care Judgment Day

Foster to Adopt

melissayoungphotography.com

Have you thought much about your own Judgment Day?

I hadn’t. That is until our more recent visits to the courtroom.

Last Tuesday was a pretrial hearing for Little A’s case. We sat in the gallery of the courtroom several pews behind A’s mother. She sat at the defendant’s table all alone. Her shoulders were shrugged into herself and she looked even smaller than she is in the black and grey hooded sweatshirt she wore. The judge’s bench loomed in front of her. On the other side of the courtroom at the prosecution’s table sat a gaggle of well and colorfully dressed blonde-headed ladies – lawyers and caseworkers – all representing the best interests of Little A. It was impossible not to notice just how lonesome A’s mother was, juxtaposed to the pack of older, educated women at the competing desk. My heart was in turmoil, oscillating between demands of justice for Little A and gut-wrenching empathy for the solitary young mother before me. Her lawyer had called in over the phone – distant representation without a face or physical presence to offer guidance and support.

This was an important day in the courtroom. It was a day to determine if the case would proceed to trial on September 2.

Let me give you a little foster care process background so that you know what brought us to this point…

Biological parents have a set amount of time to work on and complete their treatment plans. In A’s case, due to her young age, the “set amount of time” is one year. If representatives for the child can agree that enough progress has been made on the treatment plan prior to the one-year mark, visitation with bio parents is ramped up and a schedule for reunification of the child with bio parent(s) is put in place. On the other hand, if representatives for the child do not agree that reunification of the child with the bio parents is in the best interest of the child, yet the biological parents still seek to regain custody, the case is brought to trial.

Bringing a child’s case to trial is not ideal. I am told it is an emotional situation for everyone involved and is to be avoided if at all possible. A’s parents and their state appointed lawyers will face off against A’s team of lawyers, caseworkers, and volunteer advocates. A day and a half of testimony will be presented. Witnesses will be called to the stand. Experts will be asked to weigh in. A’s bio parents as well as Adam and I will likely have to take the stand (um – freaking out!). Supporters for either side will fill, or not fill, the seats in the gallery.

If A’s lawyer’s “win” this case, the rights of the biological parents will be immediately terminated. A would essentially become an orphan for a temporary period of time until her adoption day. If the bio parents “win” this case, A will remain in foster care for a newly specified amount of time while the parents continue work on their treatment plans. (“Win” is an inaccurate word to use in situations like this.) From what I understand the case would then go back to trial in some months for reevaluation.

It has been suggested that the experience of a trial will be devastating for A’s parents, win or lose. They will be faced with tough questions on the stand and hard to swallow presentations to the judge of them as people and as parents.

Did I mention that I am also freaking out about taking the stand? Speaking in front of people is hard enough for me. Speaking in front of people, about another person, who is also in the room, whom I hope to have a relationship with in the future, is going to be infinitely more terrifying. Oh man, I don’t even want to think about it. And I’m trying not to – too much – as I’m still praying for one of the other options to come to fruition.

The other options are voluntary relinquishment (best case scenario), or that the parents won’t show up on trial day and the case will default to termination.

Voluntary relinquishment was one of the major points of the pretrial hearing last Tuesday. The judge wanted to hear from the parents that they still intended to go to trial. They could, after all, throw their hands in the air and surrender custody of their daughter. Voluntary relinquishment is the preferred route because trial would be avoided, state imposed termination would be avoided, and more time in flux and in temporary foster care for Little A would be avoided. The parents would also avoid having a termination on their permanent record forever, which carries with it several implications including red flags if they have future children and the inability to ever work anywhere or anyplace involving children. Relinquishment, on the other hand, carries with it no legal ramifications.

It is a choice for A’s parents that I do not envy. It’s a battle for them of head versus heart, desire versus ability, pride versus honesty, and the fight for love versus the strength to surrender in light of it. It is a lot to process and A’s parents are young and largely unsupported. We can hardly imagine being in their shoes. Yet participating in this case has personified the faith we have in the nerve-wracking fact that we too will be sitting at the defendant’s table in front of The Judge some day. I had never visualized this occasion before. Seeing A’s mother there brought the whole thing to life and got me thinking about some important questions…

Will I have an advocate at my trial to represent me, or will I have to speak on my own behalf? Will it be a somber or joyous day? Who will I call to the stand? What will my witnesses say? Who will the witnesses for the prosecution be? Is there testimony I will be ashamed of? And most importantly, how can I make restitution for my choices now?

I have not and do not always love God or others well or enough, but I believe God’s “treatment plan,” in theory, is simple. The Bible says the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest is like it, to love people. Everything else [in the “treatment plan”] hangs on this. This case has reminded me to relinquish my rights on a daily basis and to continue to chip away at the treatment plan. I’d like to avoid the trial all together. How about you?

We should have some answers regarding Little A on September 3. I will keep you posted!

As always, thanks for reading and would love to hear from you.

Xo,

Kara

How Foster Parenting Fosters Faith

melissayoungphotography.com

melissayoungphotography.com

One of the first nights we had Little A I was singing her songs as she was falling asleep. Without much thought I started to whisper the words to Jesus Loves Me. It’s a song I’ve sang a thousand times, but the words had never hit me quite like they did that night. This 18-month-old little darling had just been pulled from all things familiar and placed into the arms of strangers. She had absolutely no control over what was happening to her. She was weak.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I sang familiar words, new circumstances giving this seemingly simple song new meaning…

“Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong.”

In that moment, singing those words, I was surprised by the conviction with which I believed in that last part. I didn’t yet know how my faith would be put to the test.

It is 8.5 months later and we are in the thick of this foster care process. Expectations regarding A’s future change weekly. We are left to question, interpret, and put our spin on the information given to us by “The Team”.  If we felt good about A’s prospects and her future outside our home this whole thing might be less emotional. But the circumstances are what they are and the ups and downs are taxing.

“Do you guard your heart with her?” some friends have asked.

“Guard your heart,” other well-wishers have suggested.

I know that all these friends mean well, but guarding our hearts is the last thing we want to do.  I don’t think God guards his heart in case his people walk away from Him. I don’t think the world needs guarded love like that.

The foster care journey with Little A has been faith testing in the best and worst of ways. Trusting Jesus is something we must surrender to daily. It is not easy. Now, each night, as we tuck Ana into bed we sing “He is strong” as more of a prayer than anything else. As a nightly ritual, when we are done with the song, A looks up at us, puts her hands together in baby sign language, and pleads in her little toddler voice, “More Jesus please.” We couldn’t agree more. We really have no other choice.

Do you struggle with trust like I do? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

With a grateful heart,

KG.

Parenting on the Foster Care Coaster

 

Little A loves baby dolls. She likes to put clothes on them, pretend to feed them, make cry noises and pat their backs and rock them. Particularly troubling to her is when another child is playing with a baby doll she wants to play with. She is communicating better now, but just a few short months ago she would point and fuss and whine, “mine.”

As her parents it is our job to teach her what is and is not socially acceptable behavior. Yet if ever my heart has been able to relate to hers, it is in these moments. Sometimes I want to act the same way.  I just wish little A was mine… Waaaa.

Have I mentioned that we are foster parenting with the hope of adopting? That wasn’t the original goal, per say. When you go through the process to get certified you can check all sorts of different boxes indicating what type of court case and / or child you would like to foster.

Within 12 hours of having A we knew we wanted to adopt her if that were to become an option. I’m not sure if it will be like that with every child we foster. I do suspect that wanting to adopt her has made foster care all the more emotional for us (or perhaps just me as Adam tends to have a great perspective and a level head).

At this point in the game the emotional roller coaster has become routine. About every two weeks we get an update from a lawyer or caseworker that either leaves me feeling elated or wanting to crawl into a hole. The emotions were intense at first. Now that we are a little more accustomed to how all of this works I understand that today’s update on the case may look nothing like tomorrows. Sometimes updates are based on how visitation with bio parents is going. Sometimes we get information regarding how A’s parents are doing on their treatment plans. Sometimes we hear about A’s extended family members and the interest and/or appropriateness of them adopting her.

I wish I could be more specific on details. Perhaps when this is all said and done I will be able to go back and fill in some gaps. Suffice it to say there are some days when I feel strongly that A will be ours forever. There are other days when I feel hopeless and have to remind myself that God is in control and knows what’s best. Little A is not “mine.” She is His.

All of this custody stuff will unfold over the next 4 months or so. We go back to court on June 20th (next Friday!).

How is parenting your own children a roller coaster? Or is it? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Xo,

KG.