Friday, August 25, 2017

My Soul Is Hungry For Grace

I've spent a lot of my life feeling like if I could just do better, I would make it (to the end of whatever goal I was working on).

If I could just choose the right all the time, everything would be okay.

If I did everything correctly, then I would yield the desired results.

That's not actually how this world works, though.  In SOME circumstances those kinds of IF/THEN statements are true.  But in so many circumstances - especially in the circumstances that people like to turn a blind eye to - those same IF/THEN statements become false.

So what are you supposed to do when everything you've ever believed or understood to be true doesn't actually work out to be true all the time?  That's when you want to lose faith.  That's when you question.

In the end, though, you realize that you just needed to question the lens you were using to view the truth you'd been taught.  For example, your questioning will lead you to find the truth of Jesus Christ's gospel vs. the gospel as defined by __(fill in the blank)__.  And that's when you find that the truth has been the same yesterday, today, and forever, but the trick is that you didn't actually understand it all the way, and you still have a lot to learn in order to understand it completely.


I was talking to a friend about her Christian Church, and I had attended a similar service at another church for the funeral of a friend.  I mentioned that I LOVED the speaker system, and the worship team, and the band (I'm a music person, what can I say?).  My friend who attends that kind of church all the time said, "Really?  I think it's all a little over rated."

I was shocked.  After 30+ years of attendance at a traditional Mormon church setting with subdued organ playing, and after being "on the worship team" of sorts at various times leading the choir, or playing organ, when I've attended other churches I have LOVED the difference in the music found at these other churches.  I love the music at my own church, too, but I also loved what was found in the spiritual expression, and the lyrics of these songs that were new to me.

I have also attended a Catholic wedding - in the which the organ player played the most exhilarating, stunning, full-of-open-stops, breath-taking, spiritually moving, tear-welling kind of organ music I've never yet been allowed (or brave enough) to play at my church.

I guess what happens to us all in our different churches is that we get used to the things we have on a normal basis and then sometimes they don't feel new to us, and they seem over-rated, but that doesn't make any of them bad, or not useful.

I can't wait for the day that either all the believers of Jesus on their own accord, OR the Lord Himself in the Second Coming (whichever might happen first), will combine all the best music from all the churches, and we all feel spiritually uplifted by the expression as One Fold with One Shepherd, because there will be a style and message that reaches everyone (not to mention, we'll all know Him personally by then, so we'll all REALLY be singing our hearts out to the hymns at whatever congregation we attend).  So since that unity across all the believers in Jesus hasn't necessarily happened, yet, I have made my own hybrid worshiping experience - I listen to Christian Rock all the week long, and then I thoroughly enjoy the organ music at my church because it's different and I haven't heard it for a week, and then I daydream about the day that we can install amazing sound systems for the "worship team" in all the Mormon churches, and play organ with open & exhilarating stops, backed by a full gospel choir. :)


Dallin H Oaks gave a talk 9 years ago called, "Have you been saved"

It talks about all the different meanings people in our church ascribe to the word "saved" or "salvation".  Mormons believe in at least 6 different meanings or angles to that word.

SO THIS IS MY OPINION:  If Mormons have so much to focus on with this extra truth and knowledge that we proclaim to have, surely just because we have "more" restored truth than other sects of Christianity doesn't necessarily mean that all of us in the church UNDERSTAND all of the truth.  Sometimes we can get a little self-righteous because we say we have "all the truth".   However, the rest of Christianity is hyper-focused on GRACE (and Mormons are focused on it, too, but they tend to use the word "Atonement" in a synonymous way, so we think we believe something different, but it's not exactly true that we believe in something different because the word sounds different, but we're just using different words that have basically the same ascribed meanings in the way we're using those particular words). Essentially, IF the rest of the Christian world is hyper-focused on Grace, surely they may have discovered some beautiful things about Grace that we still might not understand as individuals, because across the board we're still trying to learn everything there is to know about all these other parts to being saved, so it can be easy to miss or forget some basic parts to understanding grace.

Let's talk lyrics:

Casting Crowns

"Jesus friend of sinners the one who's writing in the sand
Make the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring your people to their knees

Nobody knows what we're for, only against, when we judge the wounded What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did
Oh Jesus friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours"

This is a beautiful prayer that resonates in my soul.  It's everything that Mormons believe, too, but it wasn't written by a Mormon.  That doesn't take the truth away.  I hear this song and I see Alma 31 enacted in a new way - I view the story of the people who thought they were righteous up on their Rameumptoms, but in a new way.  This song reminds me of the Sadducees and the Pharisees who missed the whole point of the gospel with all of their extra self-imposed & made up rules.  I think about the way I've defined the gospel and held myself to certain standards that were not written anywhere else but in my head, and then judged others who didn't live up to those standards, and then subsequently judged myself when I couldn't keep up all the extra extras like the Jews and the Pharisees, but have realized that just like the people on the Rameumptom, I was missing the whole point of the gospel when I got caught up in that outlook...the trick is that I didn't think I had that perspective, and I certainly wasn't TRYING to have that perspective, but sometimes the pride of that kind of thinking can sneak up in certain ways.  So that's why I NEED this particularly beautiful prayer.

"Point to You" by We Are Messengers

"I know You want my heart
My bruises and my scars
I'm coming as I am
The only way I can
I can't forget from where I've come
And what my heart's been rescued from
Yeah when they ask me who
I owe my whole life to
I point to You
I point to You
I want so badly just to finally get well
But I don't want a quick fix and emotional self
I will be honest with my humanity
No I'm not perfect and I don't pretend to be
I need a miracle
Some healing for my heart
I need a revelation
A brand new start
I want simplicity
Where I can rest
But I need a miracle to put my past to death"

These words are SO REAL.

They speak the feelings of my heart and the way the Lord saves me in grace every day. Christ wants me even with my bruises and my scars.  They make me who I am because I'm only as good as my entirely and truthfully broken version of myself.  I can only come to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit if I know where I am broken and stop pretending that I'm perfect so that others will think well of me.  Just because someday I hope to overcome these things doesn't mean that I have yet.  If and when I do, it certainly doesn't mean that if I overcame it I did it on my own with my own works and strength.  Jesus is at every step of the way. If you have a particular life circumstance that you think you earned, Jesus was actually the one who gave it to you.  If you have a particular life circumstance that crumbled apart no matter what you could do to save it, Jesus either took it away from you because sometimes He allows that to teach us things, or maybe the crumbling of that circumstance wasn't caused by His will, but He's going to be there for you and carry you as He manifests Himself by picking up all the pieces for you until you can get on your feet again.  There are other reasons that things happen to people, but these are some very consistent scenarios I've been finding in my own life.


At any rate, I'm tired now.  Not just because I'm up late blogging.  But I'm tired for a lot of reasons.  And that's why I need Jesus.  That's why sometimes I have to pray minute by minute.  That's why I have Christian Rock on all day.  That's why I play organ at church.

I need His grace more than ever before.

My heart and mind and soul is HUNGRY, THIRSTY, and CRAVING His beautiful, amazing, liberating, life-creating, perspective-changing, freeing, healing, renewing, & empowering grace.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

People Who Foster and Adopt for the $$$

We've all heard it before: "Why are those foster kids in daycare so long? Clearly that family only does it for the money."

It's true that there are news stories chalked full of grisly horrors enacted by individuals who were or who had been licensed to be foster parents, and who (while enacting crimes) collected checks from the state.  I've heard those stories.

Last May I sat in PS-MAPP.   There were times I found myself staring around the room and wondering about people's back stories.  Internally I evaluated what they thought of me, and what I thought of them, and what all of our lives might look like when the classes were over.  How well might we fair on the emotional journey?  I even raised my hand at one point to respond to a question during those 30 hours and said, "Well...maybe that's because some people are in this for the wrong reasons and do it 'for the money'."  Even now I wonder where that thought came from.  I've decided that particular idea was verbalized because the public eye and scrutiny on the system is palpable.  I can understand a small degree of the scrutiny as your tax dollars fund a broken system that limps along and scrapes to get by while trying to fulfill a feat much bigger than anyone understands.  However, too many scrutinize by stereotype and end there - the staring glare of judgement does more damage than good because their words cut down the very people who still want to believe in hope for the weary, and change for the weak.

Over a year later, I have come to know and understand what truly happens "in the system".  After 30 hours of training, I found that the first 30 hours and the subsequent days, weeks, months, and years of raising a child with trauma post family disruption was much harder, more deeply emotional, more taxing than any of the preparation classes could explain.

Many days I wonder - WHO in their right mind WOULD do this for the money?  COULD they do this FOR the MONEY?!?!?!?!

It sounds so extremely deplorable, doesn't it?  Maybe that's why the idea is entertained and maybe even romanticized into the only idea that is allowed to be heard.  This idea is proclaimed in "The Space Between Us" and enacted - a drunk and neglectful foster father collecting the check for himself.  Sure it's happened to real people, but why do outsiders looking in think this is the norm?

WOULD someone who needed cash sign up to foster the state's children if they knew it would take almost an entire year or more from start to finish just to get a license?  COULD they live for 10 months on negative income while waiting to get that paper?  A hungry belly can't quite make it that long.  Surely applying for a job, or even pan-handling would yield quicker results.  While desperately waiting for the funds could they drum up the money to get their house up to code, too?

WOULD someone stay in this for the income when they've been lied to time and again by case workers or professionals who hid large portions of the truth purposely in order to keep children "adoptable".  Even if they weren't purposely lied to, COULD someone stay in this life path for a lengthy amount of time while dealing with ignorance or incompetence from the inexperienced people who boss around the foster parents in the trenches?  WHAT IF people were told they were being given children with no special needs, but the the children really did have special needs...could the new parents handle that burden "for the money"?

WOULD YOU stay in it "for the money" if you lost life long friends (or family) who turned their backs on you or who took sides because they judged your intentions and didn't understand why you had to handle your situation the way you had to handle it?  What if they couldn't understand your new style of parenting and freely told you so?  Is that worth it?

COULD you stay in it for the money if your family couldn't immediately understand the WHY of this life choice you had taken to be a foster parent?

WHAT IF every where you turned, the therapists, your friends, strangers, family members alike, your spouse, and let's not forget YOURSELF all spoke to you with a loud voice of criticism and told you that you're handling the entire situation wrong?  What if they told you that what you're doing to your biological kids (by making them go without some of your immediate attention in order to take care of the secondary trauma crisis following a disruption of your newly adopted foster kids) is no better than what the original parents did to your children who were forced into care because of extreme and awful circumstances?  The bar of comparison won't even be close to true or fair, but you will be judged to the core and deeper on every move you make.  Could you stay in the fight for just $19.65/day?  Could you do this as a kinship emergency placement for a year or more on just $0.30/day?

If you were handed a child or two or three with screaming fits and PTSD, whose life experiences have rewired their brains, and you weren't ready to give up on the idea that healing is possible--if your mission to help them find a path of healing cost you uncounted hourly wages so that you could attend therapy after therapy, if you were to run out of gas money in the middle of the month because you couldn't afford all the medical miles of 12 appointments a week, would you stay in this for the money?

If your children with trauma ate more than multiple non-traumatized children on a daily basis....  If they cleared your cabinets, pantry and fridge faster than you could fill them because their first life experiences continue to tell them they don't have enough food....  If you HAD TO (not wanted to) turn to WIC or the United Food Bank or food stamps or any other program you could find just to get them what they need, even while participating in feeding therapy, could you actually do it "for the money"?

WHAT IF you had to let a child go because after all you could do, after all the tears you cried, and prayers you could pray weren't enough - is that heartbreak because you no longer needed the money?

WHAT IF your own emotional, mental, and physical health was affected along with every other member of your family?  Would it suddenly be worth $19.65 a day or $0.30/day?

WHAT if you had to pay almost $200 or more WEEKLY to take your foster kids to daycare, because even though the foster children get some help for those kinds of services, it's not covered 100% by the state, but you cannot stay home with them all day because you are legally required to prove that you can fund your personal bills on your own without foster care reimbursements, so then you have to continue working full time thru the trauma crisis, while also paying for daycare and/or respite with a qualified adult, but then you also have to take time off of work to make it to all of the medical and behavioral health appointments so your income including the state reimbursements starts taking a negative turn that isn't easily corrected, does that mean that your heart is only in this "game" because you "need the money"?  COULD you stay in it for the money if you get a month behind on bills?  What about 2?  What about 3?

There are so many more angles to the family and personal strain that is carried by these families, because every situation is different, but I think you get the point I'm trying to illustrate.  And let's not forget about private adoption families - we all know they pay up front to jump into the world of trauma - no one warns them how hard it will be.  Many lose homes, go bankrupt, have extreme marital stress.  Many of them are taken to a place where they need financial help to get them through the cross they have chosen to bear.  Did they do it all FOR THE MONEY?

Every foster and adoptive family's horror stories are different, and yet there are so many threads across all of them that are the same.

When it comes to these despicable people we've all heard about in news-stories and in movies, it makes me wonder where on earth these individuals really are.  I'm quite certain that if you know any foster or adoptive parents who chose to adopt domestically through the state, and who thereby collect a reimbursement to help their children navigate the rest of their childhood, the likelihood of you knowing one of the disgusting human beings we've all heard about is quite low - I have developed a relatively large network now of friends who live this crazy foster parent life, and let's just say, I haven't met a single person who is "in it for the money", yet.

What is more despicable than the idea of people fostering or adopting for the wrong reasons, is the truth that our collectively judge-mental perspective on the people in the trenches is unequivocally false.  Because our perspective lens is false it isolates and damages the people who are just trying to help and turns them into monsters.  What's actually true, however, is that across the board, foster and adoptive parents are just good people with big hearts who are trying to take on burdens that are far larger than they can imagine while hoping to make a small dent of change for one helpless child at a time.

If you're on the outside looking in like I used to be, it could potentially be high time for you to jump in and find out what fostering and adopting is all about.  The way this journey changes your life perspective, the way it teaches you to forget about everyone else's opinions and rely on God, and the way it helps you learn to love is worth far more than any dollar sign that exists in the entire world.

To my fellow fostering & adoption friends, many of whom are beaten down and have taken on far more than they feel they can bear, here is a quote a fellow trauma mama gave to me at a time that I really needed it.  Today this is for you:

 (Photo credit - quote shared thru facebook)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Gotta Steal to Eat; Gotta Eat to LIVE

Did you ever watch Aladdin and wonder what it's like to be forced to steal food so you could live?

Most people would say, "I can't even imagine." 

{Photo Credit:;_ylt=AwrTccF8DIxZ_9UAEbInnIlQ?p=aladdin+gotta+steal+to+eat&fr=yhs-mozilla-002&fr2=piv-web&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-002#id=10&}

Thanks to early trauma and neglect in her pre-adoption life, my 4 year old daughter knows what that's like.  Her brain has been hardwired to think she's going to die if she doesn't eat the second she is hungry.

Maybe that sounds like an exaggeration.

It's not.

She's now safe in a loving home and has been legally considered "safe" for almost 2 full years, but still her every day experience is ruled by her early trauma regarding FOOD.  If her tummy even THINKS it might need to grumble in the near future, she can't break out of the first step on "Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs" to save her life.  DEEP INSIDE HER MIND, finding food is what will save her life, and it's always been that way for her. 


I have some cousins who adopted 7 children.  One of their kids has always LOVED food.  He loved it so much that for his birthday one year that was ALL HE WANTED.  Food is what they bought him - his own food - his favorite foods.  I remember liking their Facebook post with a picture of the special food bundle they got for him and I remember thinking it was cute.  I may have even ignorantly said, "That's hilarious!"

Now I have children from a similar background as my cousins' kiddo.  Let me tell you.  This kind of thing is NOT CUTE.  And it's NOT EVEN CLOSE TO FUNNY.

I will CLARIFY what Aladdin was alluding to since I currently have the time:

Early Trauma & Neglect can cause children to...

*Eat until their stomach is distended
*Say they're hungry (and seriously mean it) after eating everything off of a large plate
*Perform the Mother of all Meltdowns if they don't get a snack the second they want it
*Hoard food in their rooms, in their backpacks, in their closets, under their beds, etc.
*Spend any gift money they receive on food items instead of on clothes or toys
*Yell at the top of their lungs about anything and everything if dinner isn't ready by the usual time
*Continually play with food in the pantry
*Have most of their imaginary play centered around eating
*Avoid social activities with peers because they want to stay perpetually by the snacks
*Want food every time they are nervous or are in a new situation
*Dramatically increase your grocery shopping bill 
*Lose control or awareness of the internal sensor that let's them know they've eaten enough.

Those are just a FEW of the things that MIGHT happen. 


Recently I attended "Meet the Teacher Night" with all of my children.  Big Sister got a pack of Goldfish crackers from her teacher.  Each child had a different teacher, though, so not all the children got goldfish.  Almost everyone else in the family was content to allow Big Sister to have the goldfish to herself.  She was actually willing to share them, but it wasn't the right time to eat them yet.  Little Sister couldn't handle the idea of delayed gratification even though she knew we would eat in 10 minutes when we got home.  She knew the goldfish belonged to Big Sister.  I put the cracker package in my pocket to save for Big Sister while we were going thru the classrooms for the kids. 

As for Little Sister - she could not get her mind off the crackers even though there were many other distractions and attention getters.  As for boundaries?  There's no such thing when she's hungry (AKA HANGRY).  It doesn't matter what Mom says; it doesn't matter who the food belongs to.   Her mind was screaming to her that she needed to eat in order to live, and so when she thought I wouldn't notice, she stole the Goldfish right out of my pocket.  When I stopped her hand with the package in it, she lied that she didn't do it.

At 4 years old.

As awful as stealing and lying to cover up is, the crazy part is that she wasn't trying to be bad.

She LITERALLY felt and believed that she needed to steal to eat, and that she needed to eat to live.  Her impulses were all about survival of the fittest. 


One last memory - about a year and a half ago when Mitch & I were contemplating foster/adoption, I had a friend who was very close to a kind Christian family who had adopted 5 kids.  His girlfriend was a nanny for them, and he said, "They spend $500 a week on groceries." 

You know what I thought?  I thought $500 a week was absurd for that size of a family.  I had 4 kids at the time (so just one less) and our family was only spending $200 a week on groceries.  I figured they weren't shopping very wisely...they weren't getting deals.

Well, it just turns out that I knew nothing.

My 2 new children eat MORE food than the other children combined, and THAT is what Aladdin was talking about.