Recipe Sharing

It was once recommended to me to walk into a room and consider myself the worst sinner there. Not to paralyze or dismantle identity or purpose, but to deteriorate the pride and pretense, and diffuse the human condition of anger and judgment.

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Social media is the room these days.

 

I raise my hand as the first among sinners in this room. I will say that I have done all the talking and none of the listening. I have engaged when I should have ignored or just watched. I have been condescending and used my privilege and power in unproductive ways. I have experienced the remorse that comes after speaking online, and after not saying a thing.

I confess this even as I brazenly share what I wish to keep in mind going forward (I know, I have some nerve…), because this environment isn’t ending anytime soon for most of us. And self-correcting, changing our minds and resetting is what keeps us human. I collect and share these things not as a teacher but a learner–humbly, acknowledging my blunders and gaffes. For some of you, this is too conservative advice; for others, you just wish everyone would return to their recipe sharing and crafts, me especially. For the two of you interested, here is where I am working from right now. I am still writing mid-way. This is the recipe I’m interested in and tinkering with and trying to crave.

None of these are original thoughts (obvious considering your unreliable source)…They are conglomerates of advice and note-taking and scripture and reading. Take what you will to your reflection in the mirror, or in the screen; lay whatever sticks before your God and test. I’d also like to hear your approach as we strive to live into this space with integrity.

 

7 Practices in Internet Hospitality

  • Identify truth as holy. Any little blip of it. Celebrate the holy. Dwell on the holy. Proliferate the holy.
  • Bear in mind your relationship with the person, and how much you value them. Affirm this if you can, whenever you speak. We are sensitive people, changing, reacting, hiding. Keep the humanity and personhood of the other in view. You may be doing all right today. Someone else may be at their worst. Don’t compare your best to their worst. Review your relationship. Get nostalgic about the other.
  • Pray about a response. Name what you want to say or not say before the Lord. Ruminate if this is the Spirit prompting or permitting you, or if the problem is a tickling in your sense of identity or pride or fear. Consider the Beatitudes. Would speaking put you closer to one of the groups mentioned that are blessed? Would sharing align with righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness (Eph. 1:6-11)?
  • Consider who has the least power, both in the conversation, and in the topic at hand. Give them extra room. Pass them the mic. Share their stories if you are speaking on their behalf. Accept that narrative or point of view and sit with it for a day or two. It may be packaged in something you could tear to shreds, or in a way you fundamentally disapprove of—the powerful get to walk away and define what is respectful, what is appropriate, how something should come up, and when something should end. Defer to the less powerful. Practice Jesus’ downward mobility. This is terribly uncomfortable and divine.
  • Excuse yourself from the binary tug of war that says speaking is wrong, silence is right or vice versa. Turns out social media is a place where people have to share the Good News, be the light, fight the good fight, apologize, forgive, shut up, laugh and connect over tough stuff. Hospitality looks a lot of different ways and when we make space for another person, we make space for their approach and consider what responsibility and Love look like within that. We don’t control it. We ride it. We avail ourselves here to someone else. “Hospitality means we take people into the space that is our lives and our minds and our hearts and our work and our efforts. Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves.” – Joan Chittister
  • Self-assess your limitations. How is my anxiety today? Am I in a self-preservation mode? Is my conclusion already set? Does this person remind me of someone else that I have unresolved issues with? Do I believe I am an established expert about this and therefore have no space to hear, and, maybe would have been invited if wanted? Some other great questions from Christena Cleveland specifically:
    • Am I believing the lie that if I don’t say it, it won’t be said?
    • Am I believing a lie that this person is bigger than God?
    • Am I remembering all humans are like grass?
    • Am I confusing taking up my cross with placing myself as a martyr?
  • Give and receive grace. What is your heart here? What is their heart here? Conduct yourself with integrity; there are no points. This is not debate class. Remember a time when you believed something wholeheartedly differently than now. Be prolific and sincere in your apologies and vulnerabilities; overlook whatever you can that is offensive and skip the vain defenses. Forgive yourself, and sit with the Lord to receive His forgiveness. Pray for the other person, the other pilgrim. Mercy is poured out each new day over us all. Grace is glory.

 

May the God of hope dwell within you richly.

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1 night, 1 4-inch binder, 1 gentleman and 87 days // 8

It has almost been 8 months since our eyes were changed permanently. When three strangers entered our home, after I had returned from a rare girls night out. We had watched The Fault in Our Stars. It was a late balmy night, unsuspecting and innocent. Almost 8 months since two strangers formed one opinion while the other came with her own established. 8 months since a child was taken and this clawing journey began.

Last night we received a uniformed visitor.

It was one of the strangers from June who has now been at our doorstep 5 times. He does not seem like a stranger any more. He, like she, also walked through our home, examined our children, spoke to each of us separately, and is in a profession of protection, service, and risk. He is a police officer.

His and his partner’s role that night was largely to protect the social worker should things go badly in this then-unknown home. They were not to weigh in on her decisions or process that night. He adhered to his role that night but has since allowed it to become much more.

This police officer and his partner expressed concern, disbelief and regret immediately after she left with the baby. He came by the next day to give us his card and offer help. He came by a few months later to check in after receiving a message at their office from us. He came by last night with a copy of an e-mail he had sent in response to a request for information from DCFS. It seemed that someone, somewhere, had received one of our many letters formally complaining of the conduct we experienced that night. Without him, we would have never known it, as USPS recipient receipts and personal requests for confirmation of our letters have not been returned.

Almost 8 months ago we found an unlikely friend, one of about three we have encountered in the dozens of people we’ve communicated with–in the Department and in the force–since that night. We have a 4-inch binder documenting all of our correspondence and the reports and visits that have occurred since we brought baby girl home to this day. We have been waiting 87 days to learn if the Department will correct its decision to put our home on hold, closed to children to need it, closing our hearts to this dream. Despite the state’s decision to re-license us, we may not be allowed to support the county family welfare system again. We don’t know if the long debate in the upper ranks is encouraging or alarming given the past 8 months.  We don’t know all that she endured since leaving and how she has developed and healed now. We don’t know if anything will come of this officer’s report that collaborates our own and if anyone is looking at both the social worker under question and our home approval at the same desk, though one certainly determined the other.

Much has happened in the past 8 months to change our understanding of law enforcement and power in our city. We have encountered many officers and read many news stories that have robbed us of prior confidence and a feeling of safety and justice. On a personal scale and on a grand scale, grave wrongs have occurred due to the negligence of officers and their organizations.

However, there is a foil to these accounts that we had the chance to encounter last night–someone we are happy to see at our doorstep and who has come to our aid in one way he can. He has seen this story and vouched for us, and this is no small thing. He is a leader and a gentleman and we are grateful–whatever the effect of his letter, whatever the decision is about the social worker or our own foster home status–we are grateful that he became involved. That he did not brush off the discomfort and offense to his integrity that started that night. That he did not let fear or the next call, the next task, the next drama, to sweep away his attention to the last. That he maintained his values and truth in a complicated situation just because it was the right thing to do. We are incredibly grateful for this hero in this story and for the contradiction he bravely offers to so much of our experience.

I am thankful that today I will add one more page to that binder that is truthful. That today I can write a personal and positive account of an officer in our city. That today I can know that there is one outside person added to our corner since we found out we needed a corner.

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May light find a way.

Life on Trial

I have a real fear of inspiring people in all the wrong ways. Like the “what not to do” type of almost-cool/daring/yadahyadah Christian woman who tried a lot of things that did not go real well and therefore, inspiring people to not do x, y or z.

So there’s that.

One of those variables in the back of my lovely mind is foster care. Like, golly gee, in the midst of the advocating, the scheduling, the documenting, the crying, the monitoring of visits, the actual, you know, parenting, there’s this concern that someone in the crowd of witnesses is deciding if they will foster-to-adopt or not, and this uncontrolled mess of a scenario is screaming “NOT.” And, like the first-born, over-achieving child-in-a-big-body that I am, I would like to raise my hand and take responsibility for that. Somehow.

And then I think, maybe telling it like it is will only help people make a better decision, not necessarily a different one, than they were already going to make.

Or maybe not.

But this blog is about telling the truth and being open about crisis and struggles and victories and feelings. It is about permitting the ands of life to breathe in recognition that the Shepherd is good and close and big and that He sees things fully. That dichotomies are almost always false choices and there is so much stinkin’ room in Grace for and.

There are about 10-100 articles right now that you can read about the beauty of fostering and the meaning and purpose and theology of opening your home and your heart to a scenario beyond your control for whatever amount of time you are given to nurture and protect that child. They are great and compelling and they are true.

And this is also true: some days, I am a wreck. An externally-composed, inwardly-spiraling wreck.

Here are a few thorns:

  • We feel that this baby is our child, our family, and she probably is not and there is nothing that we can do about either of those things.
  • I have been made to repeatedly feel like I was on trial while trying to protect her from being hurt by someone who actually is.
  • Being a foster parent includes all of the responsibility of being a parent to a child and an assistant to an array of social service professionals, with almost none of the power or choices of either role.
  • Usually, we are her only worldly advocates. And our communication is mistaken for asserting our personal will and for a desire for convenience. Which is actually laughable.
  • I am one of her birthparents’ only friends.
  • One of our time-sensitive financial forms is currently frozen because of being given invalid information and then not finding any help from the powers-that-be in correcting that information.
  • Our personal information was shared with others who should definitely not have received it period, let alone by mail.
  • She has had as many social workers as the months she has been in foster care.
  • We are expected to be highly-trained, capable parents coming into the game but on the field have to defend our spot and perspective in every scenario, in front of every walk-on, with no real back-up.
  • Left at home, she enjoys 2-3 good naps each day but she usually cannot have more than one because of her demanding schedule.
  • She, unlike thousands and thousands of children, has a line of people who want to care for and love her as long as (or as soon as) they possibly can.

Everyone knows that becoming involved in foster care or foster-to-adopt methods of family planning is risky and scary. In broad strokes, we knew it. We knew it would require more patience, more faith, more risk, than we could know. We knew that no matter what scenario we found ourselves in, that loss was part of the story. For the baby, for the birthparent(s), or for our family and our community.

What I didn’t know was all the specifics. (And I LOVE specifics.) All the ways that an originally straightforward case would unravel and unwind and extend and unwind me and extend me to the end of myself, over and over again. I couldn’t know some of the numb places, the silent places, and the yo-yoing of this lifestyle we were catapulted into. I also couldn’t know that peace could somehow touch me in the oddest, most awkward, and unsettling situations. I would have never thought we could do this. But this is something you don’t do until you have to. And even then, it’s through no strength or sometimes even willingness of your own.

I am traveling a mysterious marathon with no pace-setters and no mile markers and no medals. And I still don’t know the specifics I want to know.

Chances are, if you were not scared out of a desire to do foster care or foster-to-adopt by other information and the daunting approval process (“You want to examine my pen drawer?”), you won’t be deterred by our bouquet of and specifics–this and side dish to the beautiful entrée about love and meaning and tender moments. So here it is. In spite of that nagging fear of being the anti-inspirational writer, I share this part. This ashy, confusing and true part of a complicated blessing we treasure and walk through day by day.