This book (A Blessing from Above) really hit home when I was reading it to Alianna just a few hours after we talked to her biological mom on the phone. I’m so thankful I was positioned to catch my Little One when she fell out of her Mama’s nest and I’m grateful I have her blessing.
I haven’t read Orphan Justice yet but I love this quote:
“To love is to risk. Opening your home to a foster kid will be emotionally difficult. It’s inconvenient. It’s hard. It’s messy. It’s exhausting. I guarantee it.
But all too often, selfishness keeps us from taking care of these children. Somewhere along the way, in our concern for an easy, happy, comfortable life, we may be missing the heart of the gospel — to seek and save the lost, to reach out to the forgotten and the oppressed, to love sacrificially, and to pour our lives out so that others can catch a glimpse of Jesus.
If the only reason we refuse to get involved in foster care is because ‘it is too hard emotionally’ or ‘we can’t handle saying goodbye,’ we may need to repent of self-absorption. We must ask ourselves the question: Do we truly love our neighbor as we love ourselves? What if a foster child is the ‘neighbor’ that God has brought into our path to love?” —Johnny Carr, Orphan Justice
People who consider foster parenting are often concerned about “getting too attached” to their foster children. But what is the alternative? To only half-love them? I’m already head over heels for our new foster son. I’m not afraid of getting too attached. I’m a grown up; I can survive having my heart broken. He’s an innocent, precious treasure; he needs and deserves to be loved with abandon.
It’s firefly time of year in Nashville. Every evening as the sun is going down, we finish up our popsicles or ice cream cones and scramble around the yard trying to catch the little lightning bugs to put in our mason jar. I was a summer baby and I’ve always loved summer.
Things have been pretty quiet around here. I just finished up some big deadlines at work and a freelance project that had been on and off for months. On Thursday afternoon when Ali was napping and I was all caught up on work, I stepped out onto the back patio to enjoy a cup of tea. It had been rainy so I stayed close to the backdoor where it was dry and I tossed sliced raw almonds to my silly hens. It was a beautiful, restful moment. I wanted to capture it. Ashley Ann wrote a post a few months ago about drinking coffee (or tea) with two hands, savoring it instead of multitasking. That’s what I was doing.
Right in that moment of peace, my phone rang. It was DCS placement asking if we could take a newborn baby boy who was being released from the hospital that day. Without hesitation, Jason and I said yes. Firefly arrived at our house 90 minutes later. He’s the tiniest little person I’ve ever met, a preemie at just 5 pounds. He is precious and delightful. He smells like Heaven. He sleeps about 23 hours a day. He is by far the easiest foster placement we’ve ever had. We have no idea what the future holds for him and us at this point. I’m savoring him, holding on with both hands, just like that warm cup on a rainy afternoon.
Jason plays guitars. Martina makes designs.
A few months ago, Jason requested my help to redesign his website. I’ve been working full time in magazine publication design for the past 7 years and though I do various freelance projects, my website design skills were a bit rusty. I’m thankful he
pleaded challenged encouraged me to take this on because it turned out to feel good flexing the old HTML muscles again.
It’s at JasonAhlbrandt.com, where it’s always been, and now also at JasonPlaysGuitars.com because… we have a hard-to-spell last name. Not only the spelling, but you’d be surprised how many people just flat out get it wrong. We’re probably called the Abernathys, the Albrects and—my personal favorite—the Allbrights more often than we’re called the Ahlbrandts. So, JasonPlaysGuitars.com. Boom.
My favorite part of the new website is that there are tons of audio clips and videos embedded right there on the site. Jason’s main gig is the road guitarist for a country-gospel singer but he’s also been doing tons of work in his home studio composing and producing music for TV shows, movies, commercials, etc. I love hearing all the stuff he comes up with. He also posts a Guitar Lick of the Day (#glotd) most days on Instagram and a lot of those videos are there, too.
In celebration of the redesign, we’re running a mega sale on CDs in the store. Two for $20 with free shipping, for the month of June only. Jason gets lots of repeat customers for his albums because they both make great gifts. I’ve heard rumors of a third album in the works…and by “rumors,” I mean I can hear him working on it because my office is right next to his studio.
There’s a joke among chicken owners about how the flocks keep mysteriously growing from adding “just one more” chick to the group. It’s called chicken math. We live in a metropolitan area so we’re limited to 6 chickens—hens only. When buying from a feed store or hatchery an experienced person can tell hens (pullets) from roosters (cockerels), even at a day old. The average farmer cannot. Chicks bought unsexed are called straight run, meaning it’s a gamble. Here’s how my chicken math happened:
• Got our first 3 pullet chicks — 1 Rhode Island Red (Meringue) and 2 Buff Orpingtons (Sunny S.U. and Scramble) in early February
• Took a chance on 2 straight run barred Plymouth Rocks (Quiché and Souffle) a few days later
• Scramble (injured from a fall the first week) died a week or two after the transition from brooder to coop in late March
• Added two more 1-day old chicks — 1 RIR (Frittata) and 1 Buff Orp (Omlet) because both of our Plymouth Rock straight run chicks started crowing. Dang. End of April.
• Found a new home for my favorite cockerel Souffle “Sue” … He’s now called Hitchcock and enjoying country life.
• Took a spontaneous trip to Poultry Hollow and came home with two 8 week old pullets — 1 Production Red (Custard) and 1 Black Sex Link (Poach) … At that point we were at 7 chickens. Shhh… Literally, Quiché the Cockerel, stop practicing your crow!
• A sweet family from our church kindly took our last roo after we were unable to find him a new home. Phew!
So, we’re at our legal limit with chickens now and I’m confident they’re all hens. I don’t plan on getting any more for a long time (unless something should happen to any of these 6). I didn’t realize how much extra work it would be to have chicks of three different ages. The young chicks in the brooder in the garage, the 8 week old chicks trapped in the coop by the pushy older ones, and the original two girls who have free range of the coop, run and yard when we let them out. Finally, after 3 weeks the four oldest pullets are getting comfortable with each other and I don’t have to deliver food and water to the coop hostages twice a day. I’m already dreading the transition of the two littlest ones out to the flock in mid-June. I’m definitely going to purchase some chicken peepers to reduce the pecking since it’ll be 4 against 2 this time. Chickens are not very friendly to new birds and they work out their hierarchy by pecking the new ones and keeping them away from the food and water. It’s stressful for the new girls AND for the chicken mama. Establishing pecking order is ugly work.
In case it’s not evident, I’m really enjoying the chickens. Jason tried to talk me into getting chickens for a couple of years but I wasn’t on board until we finished the fence this January and I could finally envision it. He spent many hours building that coop but he really just wants eggs. I’ve always been an animal lover but never had birds. Despite my resistance to raising farm animals in our urban backyard, I really love these birds.
I’m back. I’ve had a good rest with time to reflect and refocus as it pertains to my family, my work and this ole blog here. I love this space and I’ve missed writing. In the next few weeks expect some cute kid pictures, home projects, chicken randomness, wise words (written by people smarter than me) and the usual rambling. I’m starting here: This post called The Gospel of Entitlement was shared the same day I got the dreaded news about Alianna’s baby sister—that she would not be joining our family. These words are perfect for how I felt:
I’m angry because this isn’t fair.
I’m angry because this doesn’t seem just.
I’m angry because this isn’t what I signed up for.
I’m angry because doors opened and God moved all for this?
I’m angry because we obeyed and now we’re hurt.
I’m angry because I feel like we deserved a good ending to our yes to Jesus.
Gross stuff of the heart, y’all.
At the core of it all, there is a part of me that believes in this weird gospel of entitlement mentality. I stepped out in faith. I said yes. I obeyed. Therefore I’m entitled for it to work. I deserve a happy ending. I have a right to it. Because THAT’S written on how many pages of the Bible?
I have the best community. Seriously, the best. So many people have been praying for our family and were anxiously waiting for news about the custody decision for Ali’s little sister. When I got the news first thing Monday morning, I sent the first texts with trembling hands. It was so much to process and wrap my brain around. I was dreading telling everyone who was waiting with us…because I knew it would open up a flood of texts, emails, phone calls, conversations…support. I just didn’t know if I was ready for all of that. How silly to think that way. I’m tremendously thankful for the tender words I’ve gotten from everyone, including you: my online community. Some of my very closest friends I have never met face-to-face.
The follow up question to my sharing of the news was what I was dreading: “How are you feeling?” I just don’t know. It’s cliché but the best answer: I’m feeling all of the feelings. I actually appreciated the “You doing okay?” question better because it’s more manageable. Yes. I’m doing okay. I will be okay. Then a dear friend (the kind of friend who will just hug you and let you cry) who invited us over for dinner and/or to drop Ali off for dinner so Jason and I could talk—I can’t even express how much that means to me.
After the initial shock, the first thing I felt was relief that the waiting was over. We’ve been waiting, putting our lives on hold in some ways, for 8 months. It’s been a long and exhausting fight. The last 10 days of the wait between the trial and the phone call were the most difficult.
Then I imagined her current caregiver—who I’ll now just refer to as her mom—getting the phone call at work on Monday morning just like I did. I imagined her weeping with relief and joy that the baby she loves so deeply and has poured her life into the past 7 months is with her for good (most likely…permanent custody is a tricky matter). I felt joy for her. And joy for baby girl who will go about her day just like any other day without any disruption.
But the grief and loss of the sibling relationship—a real, living-in-the-same-household-everyday sibling relationship—is intense. I feel the weight of it for my daughter who doesn’t really understand it all yet. She prays at night, “Thank you for baby [Trust] to come here and be with us.” She’s going to keep praying it every night and I’m going to have to keep reminding her everyday that it’s over; she’s not coming here to be live with us. Ali has had so much loss in her life already—both girls have—and I had hoped we could alleviate that one for them.
I won’t unpack all of my emotions here but suffice it to say I have disappointment, anger, frustration, confusion, grief, hope, trust, love… and it’s changing by the minute. I know that God has a good plan for our family and for baby Trust. I’ve never doubted that for a minute. I know He could have moved her to us. I believe that one day we’ll look back and it will make more sense.
This journey was not all a waste of time, money and energy. I can think of three significant, very personal things that God has taught me through this process. I know our involvement also sped up certain parts of the case that led to faster permanency for baby Trust. And now we have the confidence to look our daughter in the eyes when she asks, “Why didn’t you try to get my sister?” and we can answer her, “We did everything we could do.” When I hold her and dry her tears, I’ll cry too because I’m familiar with sorrow and I’m acquainted with grief, just like the One who holds me now and dries my tears.
Easter was beautiful this year. The weather. The church service. My people. A quiet afternoon. Dinner with family. My two-year-old daughter’s simple understanding of the meaning of Easter.
I wasn’t necessarily planning on explaining death to her at this age but between one of our chickens dying around the same time as her great-grandmother (and namesake) died, we’ve had some conversations about it already. She understands that dead means gone, we won’t see that person or animal anymore, and their bodies are buried in the ground. Her understand of Easter (thanks very much to the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones) is this:
Jesus died on the cross. The whole earth was sad and the rocks cracked. They put him in a tomb with a big stone. The stone was rolled away. He’s not there! He came back and He’s alive!
On Saturday as we were driving to the pharmacy I heard her singing in the backseat, “Thank you for the cross. Thank you for the cross.”
The wait is over. We did not get the news we were hoping for. I’m devastated for our daughter and her little sister and what this means for their future—visits a few times a year rather than spending everyday together. But I also have peace knowing that littlest sister is deeply loved and wanted where she’s living. I trust that God has a plan and it’s a good one. I have a lot to process and I need some time to do so. Please forgive me in advance if I don’t respond for a little while as I’m letting go of 8 months of praying, hoping, fighting, phone calls, letters, hearings, trials, research, preparations…