Thursday, May 15, 2014

Kindergarten Teacher, I Am Your Biggest Fan

My son has five days left in his kindergarten career. Which means he only has 37.5 hours left with you. And while this might be cause for a party on your part, my gut response is to fall at your feet and embrace your ankles because I am so not ready for you to not be his teacher.

I'll never forget the fear and apprehension and worry that accompanied me when I walked him into your classroom on August 19. He was my first to leave the nest and I wanted to ask if I could install a nanny cam. You looked too young. And cutesy. And I had serious doubts that my son was ready for this. To that point I had been successful at teaching him to (sorta) write his name and (maybe) a dozen letters. (I'm good at other things!) I was convinced he would need two years in kindergarten. How could you possibly get him ready for first grade in just nine months?

You won my heart and gained my confidence later that week when I got a text from you. He had a minor meltdown after nap time, you wrote. When I asked what was wrong he said he missed you. I sat on the floor and held him for a while. Just wanted you to know he had a rough few minutes, but bounced back. 

I sat at the table and cried. Tears of sadness because my son missed me and needed me and I wasn't there. And tears of gratitude that you were. You didn't scold him, or dismiss him, or overlook him. You held him. And I knew then that you were for him

Since then it's been emails about his progress and calls of concern. Pulling his tooth (cause we both know that ain't my thang!) and texting a picture of his gaping grin. Paying for his snack when I forgot to send a dollar and keeping him close when the Easter Bunny came. (What is UP with that fear of costumes?!) Laughing at the stories he tells and not holding them against me. (Ahem. Most of them are likely. Probably. Sadly. True.) Making sure I knew that he offers to push other kids on the swing, and telling me often that he's a great kid. 

You call him one of "your babies" and watch over him like he were your own. 

Because of you he can read letters. And words. And sentences. He can do math and follow directions and write I love you mom and dad.

On the wall.
In marker. 

Because of you he feels safe and secure in the classroom and looks forward to going there. Because of you he has something that sets the stage for a deep and wide life. A love of learning. And a confidence that he can

Even without seeing his report card and the progress he's made, your influence is obvious around this house. He draws you pictures and writes you notes. He asks to buy you candy bars and cars and wants to invite you over. You are the Grand Poobah of knowledge and he thinks he can win any argument simply by saying, "Ms. Peacock says so!"  Also, my daughter has started including you when she draws pictures of our family. 

Beloved teacher, how can I ever repay you? Jen Hatmaker already came up with all the really cool ideas. But I'll offer what I can. You need prayer? I'm your girl. Something on your heart, I'm here to listen. A Pinterest project for your classroom? Better call someone else. A girls night out? CALL ME NOW. My undying devotion and forever words of praise. They are yours. 

Few things in this life mean more to me than someone investing in my children. You opened the world to my son. I am your biggest fan.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

Thank you for every time you got up with me in the night,
all the messes you cleaned, the laundry you washed, the meals you lovingly cooked,
the birthday cakes and parties,
for buying my favorite cereal,
a million trips to the doctor,
and a billion doses of medicine.

Thank you for getting me ready for church,
and taking me every time the doors were open,
for correcting me when I was wrong,
and praising me when I was right.

Thank you for teaching me about the big, big love of Jesus,
for reading the Bible to me,
for showing me how to be a Godly woman.
Thank you for teaching Sunday School,
and not wearing a new dress on Easter
so the little girl who couldn't afford one
wouldn't feel left out.

Thank you for putting up with my preteen swings,
for bearing my yelling and arguing,
for not killing me when I assumed I knew everything,
for listening to all the adolescent girl drama,
and buying me clothes that cost too much so I would feel less self conscious.

Thank you for being at every band performance, every concert, every competition,
for buying me two flutes and working tirelessly at dozens of fundraisers.
Thank you for bringing me dinner at school when I worked late on yearbook deadlines,
for being my number one fan and biggest cheerleader.

Thank you for all the money you spent to give me an education,
for leaving me at college, and then at seminary, so I could find my own way,
for letting go and trusting God would guide me.
Thank you for a zillion tears cried and prayers prayed on my behalf.

Thank you for a gazillion hours spent on the phone 
listening to whatever I wanted to babble about,
for not telling me I was crazy for dating all those weirdos,
for stocking up on wedding supplies for 8 straight years,
and for working your fingers to the bone when I finally met the one
to give me the wedding of my dreams.

Thank you for buying me maternity clothes,
for spending 4 hours in Babies R Us 
investigating "only the best" baby equipment,
for driving across the country 2 weeks early so you wouldn't miss Titus' delivery,
for spending 5 weeks away from home when Anna was born,
and for loving my children as much as I do.

Thank you for buying 3 dozen plane tickets,
for giving up having us with you during the holidays,
for never making us feel guilty for living so far away,
while making sure we knew you would prefer us right under your nose.

Thank you for embracing this new one who is not of my womb,
and every one who might come after him,
for defending us to those who think we're nuts,
for being a mama bear even though this cub is 34.

Thank you for not forcing me into a mold,
for being behind me no matter what the Lord asks me to do,
for trusting my discernment and letting me blaze my own trail.

Thank you for taking this mothering thing seriously.
You are really good at loving me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Truth About Me

It seems there's a rumor going around that I'm some kind of exceptional person. Everywhere I go since we gained a housemate, I'm greeted with "What you are doing is amazing" and "You're inspirational" and "You have the best hair". (Okay. Not that one. But I really want good hair.) My inbox has been flooded peppered with over-the-top kindness from people telling me how great we are for fostering this darling boy. And this is causing me all kinds of anxiety because I know the truth, and it's time to let the masses in on it.

There's a false belief that you have to be a "special person" to take a child into your home that isn't your own. Like we must posses some above average ability to love or parent or follow Jesus. I've been told how brave I am, how full of faith. And while I covet every thoughtful word of encouragement, I can't have people thinking we're anything special. Because we simply are not.

The faith that led us to fostering was full of ups of downs. Up days when I was excited and motivated and ready to take on whatever small and wounded soul the Lord sent. Mostly those days were on Sundays. There was something about standing with my church family and singing to the Savior that gave me the strength I needed to keep walking into the unknown. The song Oceans by Hillsong United became my theme and I sobbed like a baby every time we sang it. Sundays I was full of faith and trust in God's guidance and provision.

But by Tuesday I was usually saying are you sure, Lord? Cause I really need you to make this one clear. My motto became, "Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief!" I was a volatile mixture of fear and faith.

There were plenty of down days. Days I wasn't sure I wanted to do this. My family was happy and normal healthy and rolling merrily down the road. Our kids were becoming more self sufficient and I began to consider working outside the home. Our life was easy and manageable. And under control. We had a good thing going and I wondered if we should risk it all.

So if you think we decided to foster and then walked headstrong to the day of our first placement with little hesitation, you're dead wrong. I doubted everything. I doubted my ability to maintain the stability of my current children while also bringing in a new child who needed extra care. I wondered how I could keep up with the endless emotional demands that come with raising kids from hard places. I fought the fear that fostering would somehow lead Titus and Anna to grow up resentful and reject Christ. I obsessed about what problems a foster child might bring into our home. What if they cracked our foundation? During the dark hours when I was plagued with doubts, I knew that I didn't have the faith required to do this.

God would have to give it to me. 

Now that we have a sweet little one in our home, there are moments of exhilaration. We are water walking! We stepped out of the boat and HE IS FAITHFUL. He is giving us what we need moment by moment to navigate this wild new way of living. And often, it's a rush. We're touching a life. We're serving the least of these. We're rocking this new adventure with Christ!

But sometimes I look at the waves and lose sight of His grip. And that's when I plummet to the depths.

Nathan was holding him while I was fixing a bottle. He pondered out loud, "I wonder what he'll look like when he gets older." The first thing that came to my mind also came out of my mouth...

"What if we never know."

My heart has never been this vulnerable,this laid out for potential pain. I get physically nauseated at the thought of him leaving us. Of not having him under my protective wing and watchful eye. I fear the day that I might have to hand him over. I worry. I grieve the unknown possibilities. It's a daily struggle to remember that he might not be a permanent fixture in our family. That he has another mother and my rights are none. I get overwhelmed with the onslaught of new emotions that became my constant companion when he joined us three weeks ago.

And it's not just the tough stuff, I wrestle with all the silly and selfish aspects of this new thing too. Like, where did my free time go? I kinda want some of it back. I drool at the thought of a housekeeper. And a cook. Or a babysitter that doesn't have to be fingerprinted and background checked.  And I know my sin nature is really kicking into high gear when I start keeping count of the hours of sleep that Nathan is getting verses mine.

I'm harder on my kids because there's more to do and less time to do it. I fuss at my husband for leaving junk laying around - despite the fact that he has served me and these kids sacrificially nearly every waking minute since our new normal began. I get aggravated. I get tired. I get testy. Just ask my family.

Sweet readers, my belabored point is this. There is nothing special about me or my family.We're weird and messy and sometimes mean. I have hang ups. I have fears. I have faults. The only thing "special" about me that makes this task doable, is that I also have Jesus.