I really don’t care if a book is written specifically for my kid or not. I’m a fast reader and a quick editor and all my theater talents of days past are now poured into reading aloud for my family. Each time I open a book, it’s my own personal stage. So when I read Max Lucado’s Just In Case You Ever Wonder—the board book edition—to my foster baby this morning, I wasn’t offended that it didn’t fit our little guy’s life whatsoever. I altered the words a bit so they were true and kept on reading.
I wasn’t offended by the words. I was broken by the reality that these words expose.
Just In Case You Ever Wonder is a charming and sweet book meant to remind a child that Mom and Dad love them, always, and are on their side. It’s a beautiful little book with big, gigantic, earth-shattering truths about who we are and who God is.
Long, long ago God made a decision—a very important decision… one that I’m really glad He made. He made the decision to make you.
The same hands that made the stars made you.
The same hands that made canyons made you.
The same hands that made trees and the moon and the sun made you.
That’s why you are so special. God made you.
Can you feel the power-packed punch of these words, oh adult who is reading this blog post? I can! These words clearly aren’t meant just for the little people in our lives, they are meant for us as well.
Lucado writes more of how special our children are, pointing out that “you were made like no one else.” And then I flip the page and land on the sentences that stop me in my tracks, that make me grieve for the foster kids in my city, that make me weep over the brokenness that exists in our world.
And since you are so special, God wanted to put you in just the right home…
where you would be warm when its cold,
where you’d be safe when you’re afraid,
where you’d have fun and learn about heaven.
Does your heart get heavy like mine does? Do you feel the incredible injustice of what it might be like to not be able to live with your parents—for your parents to not be able to provide a warm and safe home for you? It might actually be your parents who are causing your harm, or it might be that they simply can’t protect you from it for now. Either way, a child is deserving of a warm, safe home with the parents that gave birth to them, and the reality of this world is that brokenness exists.
The book goes on to detail how the reading parent will be there for the child. As you grow and change, I will be there. As you get scared—of the monsters in your closet or in your imagination, or the meanies on the playground—I will be there. Basically, as you experience the trials of life, I will be right there to hold you and teach you and love you through it.
A parent loving a child and providing the best for this child, this is the way life should be. If this is the way your childhood was, praise God for that. If this is the way your children were raised, or are being raised now, praise God for such blessings. At the same time, know that the provisions of a roof over your head, food in your pantry and a soft place to lay at night are not the reality for many people around you.
There’s a fine line to walk between getting all preachy and just sharing the truths I experience. I see that and I’m aware of it. So let me say a few final things about what I see right now. I see what might possibly be the cutest baby on the planet and he’s rolling around on my living room floor. He’s putting blocks and books and maybe even a little dog hair in his mouth (this after repeatedly grabbing the dog’s tail). He’s sitting up and falling over. He’s making hilarious growling noises and he’s drooling all over everything. He is LOVED. His mom loves him. His dad loves him. His foster mom and foster dad love him. He’s got some good things going on in his life right now and changes are being made every day to ensure he can go home again soon. He is doing well because someone intervened in his world to help. To encourage. To bless. To provide. From police officers to caseworkers to extended family to the friends and family members of us, his foster family, people have intervened. People have stopped, they’ve asked questions, they’ve pursued righteousness and goodness for this little one who cannot pursue such things on his own.
Sure, this world is marred with brokenness. But there’s always the work of redemption. Keep working, keep redeeming your own little corner of this world. And just in case you ever wonder, yes, Someone does love you.
One of the many things I value about my fair city of Lincoln, Nebraska, is the constant movement and collaboration going on in the arts. It was my privilege to photograph Tamara Kaye of Art Planet and her advanced art students from Lancaster Learning Link as they worked with students and families from Elliot Elementary School to create their own Doorway to Hope. Enjoy these images and click on the links above to learn more about these artists!
I’m a planner by nature. If I could I would order my world so that I have the perfect amount of busyness and free time, the most delightful blend of scheduled expectations and margin for spontaneity and fun. But that isn’t how life works, is it? We aren’t machines that can be programmed. We don’t know what unexpected twists and turns life will take and frankly, people are messy. If you are a people-person then you know well that you cannot put people in boxes to control them like objects. So then plans have to be a bit fluid. We have to learn to go with the flow from time to time. The best laid plans of mice and men…
I had ordered my world for Fall 2014 pretty well, I thought. I could give so much to ministry at Redeemer. And so much to Livia’s school. And there’d be time for photography, too, even though I wasn’t sure exactly what form that would take. But then there’s foster care. You want to talk about messy plans and messy people, then let’s talk foster care! This summer we were very close to fostering a toddler and there was great potential for us to parent him long term. Like adoption long term. We were within 24 hours of picking up this little boy—I was literally on the way to buy whole milk from the store—when all plans were called off. It was hard. I am very slow to set up a room for a foster child, but this one was ready to go with new gray chevron sheets in the pack n’ play and a specially purchased stuffed animal waiting for a little person to love. I was disappointed. It felt crushing at the time, and then slowly life returned to normal and we all carried on.
Three weeks ago we fielded two calls for babies. We said yes, as we almost always do, and lo and behold one child ended up in our home. The baby that I’ve deeply hoped for and wanted is now in our house! He is amazing and chubby and wonderful. He is ours for the meantime, yet he belongs wholly to another family who loves him to the moon and back. We are standing in the gap for this little one, claiming him as part of our family by cuddling him, teaching him, feeding him, clothing him and doing all the things parents do for a baby. But we do it for God’s glory. We do it because this little one is worthy of such attention. And we do it because it’s good for this other family who needs a helping hand right now. He both is and isn’t ours to claim, yet we will love him because he exists. If you could see what I see and know what I know, then you’d love him, too, knowing full well your heart will feel empty when you hand him back to his mama someday. You can’t love this little guy halfway.
So life is indeed messy. My carefully planned margins have been written in and stomped on and woken up in the middle of the night at 2 and again at 4:00 am. My time has been less about fall plans for women’s ministry at Redeemer and more about how to get enough sleep to be something of a competent person during daylight hours. Instead of editing photos and booking shoots I am trying to figure out how to give my 10 year old some semblance of normality while figuring out team meetings and court dates and a feeding schedule that makes sense for a baby. Why share all this with the world? I suppose I am asking for grace. My world has gone topsy-turvy for a time and I’m treading water. Every single meal brought to our house, every encouraging email or text, every small gift given to my family gives me just the boost I need to keep walking forward in the mess. Knowing that our friends and family are flexible and that they support us allows me to take on the bumps and bruises of the unknown twists and turns with their love and grace as the buffer I need. Thanks to each of you who understand this journey we’re on. We are so grateful for you! Scratch that, it’s more than gratitude. We could not do this without you. Period.
So proud of my tall, beautiful, sweet 4th grader! She still lets me hold her hand a little. We prayed on the walk to school for blessings on all the students and staff, and then she let go and walked down the hallway to a new classroom. May the Lord bless you and keep you, my Livia Raine! We love you so much.
(I’m drippy with tears this morning after a night waking up with both kids. But some things, like kids growing up and dear friends cheering us on with sidewalk chalk—year after year after year—are worth crying over with happiness. We are blessed.)
Says my girl, age ten going on 21.
I then request that Jeremy join her, and this is what I get. Nice.
School starts in two weeks. I confess I’m not ready to give up the late nights of playing outdoors, the easy mornings of waking up late, the freedom of summer play and summer messes and summer joys. I’m excited for the start of a new school year with new teachers and new classes and new school supplies. The structure will surely be good for us all and I can’t wait to see what Livia learns this year. But summer has a magic all its own, too, and I think I’m a summer girl at heart.
One thing I love about photography is how it can reveal so much about a specific moment in time. You’ll notice that photographers often resort to what seems like cheesy cliches to describe photography and time, but honestly, there’s great truth to what we’re trying to express!
This image charms me for many reason. I’m finding that age ten, for my child, is truly an in-between age. She’s not a babe any longer but she’s not a teenager yet either. She’s ten. She’s looking to the future and growing up (note the incredible growth from this past year and, yes, the eye makeup in this shot) and yet still a kid at heart (self-imposed bunny ears, anyone?). Look closely and you’ll find something that gives away 2014 as well; Livia’s got a rainbow loom necklace stretched across her forehead as a headband of sorts. If you’ve got an older girl in 2014 then you’ve experienced the insane popularity of the rainbow loom.
Age ten is so much fun. It has Jeremy and I feeling kind of in-between as well. We remember well the baby cheeks and toddler babbles of the past and we look forward to seeing who Livia will become as she grows up. We’re not in a hurry these days, rather we’re loving our girl, in all her bunny-eared glory, at age ten.
This little one, placed in his adoptive parents’ arms as a newborn discharged from the hospital, was adopted today! He turns two in a few days and, my goodness, this is an amazing birthday present. Happy adoption day to our boy Joe! We love you and your family so much and praise God for the joy you’ve brought to all of our lives. [Photos taken Fall 2013.]