The students from church spoil me. Tonight is the prom, and because I'm so incredibly pitiful, they came by to let me see how fantastically gorgeous they all are.
I also spent the day preparing for a glamorous activity that I'm planning for next weekend- a garage sale. I was wearing a t-shirt, glasses, and no makeup. Although I didn't take a picture of myself, I was able to find a fairly accurate approximation.
Last night we went on an "imaginary journey" during foster care class. We were asked to imagine ourselves in our home, with our people, in our favorite place. Then there's a knock at the door, and a "people mover" is on the other side. She tells me that I have to leave my home, my people, and my favorite place to go to a new family, a new spouse, and a new home. She assures me that the new home is much nicer than the old one, and that the family is very excited for me to join them. I arrive at my new home and meet my new family. There are lots of new things (I imagined a jacuzzi tub) and the family is really very nice, but I'm not allowed to see my family or my people again.
A year goes by, and in an attempt to make the most out of it, I have bonded with my new family. I have wanted to see my family, but because of scheduling conflicts, I haven't been able to see them since I left. Then the people mover comes to my new home and tells me that I'm going back to the people who used to be my people and the home that used to be my home. We pull in and I rejoin my family. The people mover leaves, and I am left to understand what I'm supposed to do and who my family actually is.
The idea of this imaginary journey is to help us understand what our foster children are going to be experiencing when they come to us. We'll be expecting them; they won't be expecting us. We're going to be excited about seeing them; they won't know how to feel about us. We're going to think we're helping them; they're going to think that we're pulling them away from everything that is normal.
Although many (but not all) children are going to come to us from abusive homes, it's still their home. Even if their parents weren't showing them love and affection in appropriate ways, it still felt like love to them. (I want to make it absolutely clear that not all children in foster care come from those kinds of homes. Misunderstandings happen. Some parents just need help to be ready to parent.)
And then they come to us. It's a sobering thought. I'm grateful that I get to be the person on the other side of the door. It's a challenge that I am ill-equipped to handle... apart from Christ. By His grace, I have been given all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), even if I don't always feel like my tool box has everything that I need. His does, and He lets me use all the tools at His disposal. Infinite grace will be my strength. Infinite love will be my hiding place. Infinite comfort will be my rest.
I say all of this so that I can see it, read it, and believe it. The journey we're about to begin is anything but pretend. It's a good thing my God is as real as any problem.
And how do I know? He just turned the main television to "Hanson: Best 5 of 5", brought me a cookie and milk, and walked out of the room. He's quietly watching basketball on the teeny-tiny upstairs t.v. while his wife resists the urge to boogie as her middle school (and high school... and college) crushes play some tunes that make her feel uncharacteristically giddy.
Spring has come! It's been here a little longer for a few of you, but we're just now getting a real glimpse of springy-springishness.
On Monday, we received a very special gift from two church families. One man owns a saw mill, and another likes to build things. The two got together and made our girls one amazing swing set. It isn't quite finished because the monkey bars haven't come in yet, but here's a look at the beautiful play set:
Ella was actually the first to get up the nerve to go down the slide. It's odd for Ella to be the more adventurous of the kids, but the call of the slide overtook her.
DeLaynie has always been in love swings, so she was pretty jazzed when she got a glimpse of our new set.
As was Ella.
Sadly, we got the play set on Monday, and the bottom fell out of the sky that evening, and wasn't returned until yesterday. The good news is that we received an invitation for an indoor treat....
This is DeLaynie in Heaven:
This is Ella pensively handling the fragility of life.
Maybe the difference in their reaction has to deal with the fact that I told Ella why our friends bought the baby chicks (that would be for dinner). I knew that DeLaynie couldn't possible deal with this dark side of reality, and that I would never again be able to get her to eat chicken, so I left her naive to the beauty of the food chain.
We've also been enjoying new pets, sort of. DeLaynie and Ella bought a butterfly garden with a birthday gift card. We've been watching each caterpillar build their chrysalis, and each chrysalis burst open with a brand new butterfly.
The butterflies have beautiful wings, but you can only see their colors when they open their wings, and that doesn't happen on demand. So witness the gray blandness of the underside of butterfly wings.
The girls certainly don't seem bored by it.
There's something truly special about spring and all of the changes that take place. It's a fantastic thing to watch little ones stand in amazement of all that God has done in His creation. I hope that you, too, will enjoy the moments of revelation that take place with each change and every transformation.
I thought that I was cursed. No, really. I actually thought that there was some sort of curse on me when our medical clearance was revoked and we were told that we couldn't go overseas. I've never been very "lucky", except when it comes to the quality of my family members. I know that there's no such thing as luck, but it seemed to me that there had to be some sort of Old Testament curse on me and the children God has graciously given me. Our path was blessed with our incredible home and church, and everything seemed awesome. Then Ella got lead poisoning. Which I then took as confirmation of the Hannah Curse. Obviously, the fruit of my womb had to be dealing with the repercussions of some sin in my past or one of our ancestor's past, right? My logic is faulty at best, but whenever I allow myself to go there, a curse seems to be the only "possible" explanation.
As I went for my exceptionally long Sunday walk today, I asked God about my curse theory. He didn't reply verbally, but He brought to my mind a certain passage that is probably familiar to many of you: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39 ESV)
Then, as is my Father's way, He reminded me of the context:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." (Romans 8:35-36 ESV)
And this is where He got personal. He spoke softly, but, let me assure you, it was clear. "You know, you have to go to battle to be a conqueror." It's true. If you want victory, you're going to have to fight. In order to fight, there has to be an enemy. Bad stuff has to happen if you're going to be "more than a conqueror".
And let me tell you, we are receiving victory after victory at the Attaway household. As I mentioned previously, we have been given a ministry stateside that we could have never imagined, and would have never been able to fulfill without the training we received for mission work. DeLaynie has made grand strides in development. We're raising the bar for her constantly, and she continues to surpass our expectations. She ate an actual pork chop the other night and even ate a little corn willingly. She sat right next to me in "big church" today, and my hair didn't turn gray or anything. She understood exactly what I meant when I said that she needed to be a big girl while we listened to that good looking pastor. She explained to Edwin the other night that when she was unkind to Ella, what she was really doing was "disobeying God's Word". Although her fine motor skills are still lacking, she is making great progress, and we are looking forward to DeLaynie beginning kindergarten next year, mainstreamed (but still receiving speech and occupational therapy as often as needed). Ella and lead? She has yet to display a single symptom, and her blood lead levels were considered acceptable the last time we had her tested.
There are always more battles ahead. That's the way of it. My daughters are both too young to know the Lord, but their parents are more than happy to wield swords on their behalves. While they have yet to join the army, we are amply supplied, completely armed, and ready to take on any foe through the power at work in us. That's what conquerors do, and we know that our King has a perfect battle plan. No matter the cost, His glory, His fame, His majesty, His recognition, they are worth it.