Gathering Stones

gathering-stonesSometimes the big picture of being a Middle Mommy becomes blurred. Crying children, piles of laundry, the flu — all can make life overwhelming.

When a child wakes up crying in the middle of the night for a momma he can’t be with, there are no consoling words. When a young girl throws a tantrum because she doesn’t understand why she has to move from home to home, there’s no simple explanation.

It’s easy to forget the successes of past victories. A child learning to love bath time. A hug from another before bedtime, “I love you mom.” The simple prayer of a child asking  Jesus to be with his mom.

I can understand why God asked Joshua to gather stones from the middle of the river bend when he crossed the Jordan River. “Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.” – Joshua 4:3 NASB.

The stones were a sign — a reminder — of what God had done.

A few days ago, I unburdened my frustrations to a friend. With a new placement in our home, I was overwhelmed. Had I taken on too much? At times, I wondered if I could make it another day.

“Carolyn, remember, you are gathering stones.”

We talked for a moment about past victories. Children reunited with their relatives. Opportunities to encourage parents caught between life and their children. Families brought closer to God. All stones I had currently forgotten.

Sometimes, the victories are large. Sometimes, they are small. But with each victory and with each challenge, I must remember that I am simply gathering stones.

Stepping Stones

“Mommy, don’t make me go.”

The words broke my heart. After five months, the two children in our care were moving on to a new home — a more permanent, adoptive home. Looking ahead, our minds assured us that the move would be for the best. Their new home would be closer to other siblings, making visits easier and more frequent. Their new family would create the stable atmosphere both children required better than we ever could.

But inside, wolves were tore my heart to shreds.

Mommy, don’t make me go! 

Taking a deep breath, I responded. “Your last move to us was a good move, right?” Yes. “What if your next move is even better. You don’t want to miss that, would you?” No. “I don’t want you to miss it either.”

I hugged here and let her go. With tears, we said the final “good-bye.”

cbf_creekrapids_smIn the mountains around where we live, streams are abundant. When my husband and I hike through the hills, we usually encounter a creek or river to cross. Rocks across the water provide great stepping stone to the mystery that lies on the other side. Each step is one step closer to enjoying one more piece of God’s creation.

But not all stepping stones are created equal. Some rock under our feet, almost causing us to fall into the icy mountain water. Others are solid and provide a place to rest before taking the next leap of faith to the next rock. But each rock moves us closer. Closer to what God has for us.

But I must let you go. . .

I am a stepping stone.

I am a rock in the middle of icy waters.

I am a stable place to provide rest for weary travelers — even if they are children — but they cannot stop here. Their journey is not finished.

I am a middle mommy.

Blowing Smoke

blowing-smoke

Blending families into a single household is never easy. Personalities clash. Tempers rise. Months can pass before the smoke and dust even begin to settle and life seems somewhat “normal” again.

But it never really is the same.

Transitions are especially difficult with children in foster care. So often, foster parents are only aware of a fragment of history and trauma that the kids in our care have experienced. We only see the smoke that rises to the surface and many times have no idea what has been simmering underneath or how long the fire has been burning…

Or what it will take to ease their pain.

 

Smoke lingers in the home, a reminder of nightly battles fought with out tongues. Positive words. Negative words. Laughter. Anger. They all float in the air, trying to find some way to co-exist.

Peace in the storm.

After a difficult week, I’ve come to treasure the morning walk to the bus stop through the fall fog. In a county with many creeks and rivers, the fog is thick like smoke. But unlike smoke, I know the fog will clear when the sun rises. I only hoped the smoke will do the same.

A few days ago, as we walked through the fog, one child reached out and took my hand. The other did the same. Hand-in-hand, we walked to the bus stop and watched our breaths create smoke in the cold air. Before long, it became a game. Who could blow smoke the longest? Who could blow smoke the furthest? What would happen if all blu

The air was cold. The sky was still dark. The bus was coming. And we all stood there, side by side…

Blowing smoke. 

No Photos Here

You know it’s back to school time when photos of kids holding signs of their new grade level begin taking over everyone’s Facebook feed. Well, not from me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love watching my friends’ kids grow up and change, year by year. With friends scattered across the country, these photos are a lifeline and make me smile. But as a foster parent, I can’t participate in the back-to-school photo parade — for the safety of the children in our care.

The first day of school is no less important for our kids than others. In many ways, it can be even more traumatic. The grade level, teachers, and material may be new, but for thousands of foster kids, this change is one of so many they have experienced in recent weeks or months.

New school.

New friends.

And in many cases, the city is new.

Home is new.

And the family is new.

With so many changes, the first day of school is nothing less than stressful, if not traumatic. Small things like walking into a new classroom and staring at a sea of strange faces are huge for these kids. Watching a safe adult walk away is scarier when you don’t know who you can trust.

But like all first days of school, they pass. Second and third days come, bringing even more victories and moments that are celebrated in private.

So even though I can’t participate in the annual photo parade, our celebrations are just as meaningful, but silent. We rejoice in private. We share victories with a few. And we shed tears behind closed doors.

This is the secret life of a middle mommy.

 

 

Silence Cuts Deep

I love silent moments. I crave silence, when the world briefly stops spinning and, for a moment, I find peace.

Silent moments are few and far between, especially with a house full of children. During the past year, I’ve cherished each rare opportunity to escape into a world of silence, where I can rest, recharge, and face the challenges of racing from job to job and from activity to activity with a car load of active kids. As an introvert, I’ve watched my world crumble when those silent moments aren’t found and chaos simply takes over. On those days, I fight to maintain control until I can find a brief moment of silence.

But silence has an ugly side.

As our foster children begin their transition back to family members, the silence of weekends without them have become deafening. Sure, I can breathe and regroup for the week to come, but the house seems empty — almost too silent.

I dread the day when the silence becomes permanent. Yes, the chaos will be gone, but so will the hugs, the sweet moment when a child cuddles by your side, the laughter of children playing in the back yard, and the “I love you”s that come when least expected.

Those silences cut deep.

…Will I miss the things that tired me most?
…Will the memories linger in the hallways?
…Will I still be a mom when the children have gone? 

 

My Purple Heart

Around my neck, I wear a purple heart…purple heart-cropped

It is not shiny or lined with gold. It does not hang from a fancy ribbon. I did not receive it from the president or a military official in a ceremony filled with trumpets, flags, and crowds. I’m not a veteran, injured by the ravages of war.

But I wear a purple heart…

My purple heart is made a clay and hangs on a simple black string. It was given to me in the stillness of the morning by a child who was proud to offer me a simple gift — one he had made with his own two hands. He has seen ravages of a different war. He wears the wounds of silent battles behind the closed doors of a home that was supposed to be a safe place.

And yet, he gave me his purple heart…

For being there when he needed a family. For loving him in moments he felt unloved. Or just because he didn’t know any other way to say, “I love you, Mom.”

So, I wear a purple heart…

To remind myself of why I became a foster parent. And when he leaves, I will carry it with me. I will wear it with pride. I will feel his thumbprint in the center and know the imprint this child has left on my own heart.

The scars I now carry in my own purple heart.

Confessions of a Middle Mommy

I’m just a “middle mother”…

As a foster parent, experiencing my first Mother’s Day was filled with mixed emotions. Even though I currently carried out the role of mother to the two foster boys currently in my care, I didn’t feel like a real mother. I’ve never given birth and never will. I missed out on so many of milestones in my children’s early lives. And within the next month, I will hand them back to family members to pick up where I will leave off in the role of parenting.

I’m just a “middle mother”…

When I began this journey a year ago, I never anticipated the strong connection I would feel towards the real mother of my foster boys. During the months that followed, I would write her letters, hear the pain in her voice as she spoke with them over the phone, and hold back the tears as I watched them cry when their visits were over. Her life would never be the same again — neither will theirs.

I’m just a “middle mother”….

The kids entrusted in my care will only be mine for a short period of time, but I will love and care for them as if they will be mine forever. My heart will break a million times before they find a permanent home, and yet, I will turn around and do it all over again.

Because, I’m just a “middle mother”…