play makers

“I’m a play  maker,” he replied with a grin when I asked him what position he played. Around his neck was a medal. He showed it off to anyone who would listen. His enthusiasm was contagious. I couldn’t tell if it was the sport or the excitement of winning, but there was passion in his eyes as he talked about the other teams.

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Sure, he was a play maker. His football team had won their last game and he had the joy of playing multiple positions. But the foster dad and mom who took the time to sign him up, buy the equipment and deal with post-practice stench, they were play makers too.

Giving kids in crisis something positive to look forward to and a sense of belonging, now that’s a game changer.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take any athletic prowess to be this kind of play maker. No pads, mouth guards or cleats necessary. No speed drills or weight lifting.

A foster parent is a teacher, mentor, parent and advocate. They are game changers and play makers. Why not become a play maker today? No wind sprints, I promise.

Unless, you’re Tony Dungy. Then you do both.

Finding Room in the Car

“So how did you end up fostering?” I always smile when someone asks me this question.

It was a Saturday night. Our family was walking to our car in a dark parking lot. We piled into the large sedan. It wasn’t quite blue and it wasn’t quite purple. We fondly dubbed it the blurple car. We recently downsized and routinely squeezed our family of five into the Elantra. Our goal was simple. Pay off debt and save more money. The low gas mileage would help us achieve our goal. Plus, my husband could literally walk to work. It would be a small, but livable sacrifice. We knew we’d upgrade later to a larger vehicle, but for now we were a one vehicle family paying off debt and saving for the future.

But something was nagging at me and surprisingly it wasn’t one of our three kids squished in the backseat. Someone had mentioned foster care earlier that evening. It was a casual conversation, nothing fancy or spectacular. Nevertheless, it caused a spring of desire to well up within me. The idea of becoming a foster parent was foreign and surprising. I kept pushing the notion to the back of my mind, but it kept coming back like a hound dog sniffing it’s way home. I needed to say something.

“Honey, I kind of feel like we are supposed to get involved with foster care,” I mentioned to my husband.

“Me too,” he replied. Then he expressed the same concerns I had. They were the same thoughts that made me reluctant to even mention the idea. “But how would we do that? We just downsized our vehicle. It doesn’t make sense.”

“I agree. I don’t think we should purchase another vehicle. We made a commitment and I think we should keep it.” He nodded in agreement . “I guess if it’s something God wants us to do, he’ll just have to provide.”

The stars were shining high in the sky while we cruised down the interstate. There wasn’t much more to discuss about the topic. Our hearts had plenty of room. But there was no room in our car.

The following morning was Palm Sunday. There was nothing unusual about the day at first. We wrestled clean clothes on the kids and fed them breakfast and scurried to church to serve.

My husband was chatting with a musician and casually mentioned getting another used car.

“I don’t know where you can buy one,” the musician said, “But I have one I’ll give to you.”

My husband was stunned. Later, I was stunned when he told me. Then we both were stunned when we saw the white Jeep parked in our driveway on that sunny Palm Sunday.

“I think we’re supposed to become foster parents,” he said.

“I think you’re right,” I replied.

Love Makes Room At the Table

 

She’s a caregiver, a spiritual mother, a pioneer in the work force, ministry and her community. She also happens to be the reason I met the man of my dreams. Colleen Benway runs circles around women half her age. Her wisdom and contagious laugh are a gift to all those she meets.

One thing that stands out about Colleen is her deep commitment to hospitality. I’m not talking about just inviting people over for meals. She invites people into her life. She’s never turned away anyone in need of a meal or bed. She’s so known for her open heart, her home is dubbed Hotel Benway.

Because of her stellar example, it was natural for my husband and I to say yes to opening our home to kids in need through foster care and adoption.

We watched her.  Grandma Benway miraculously always has enough. She knows you simply can’t out give God. Her example declares the joys of abiding with Jesus.  And  her table?  It’s always full of good food, laughter, and encouragement.  Why?  Because love makes room at the table.

 

All great change in America begins at the dinner table.  -Ronald Reagan

Blank Slate

January offers the hope of a blank slate.   All the mistakes of the last twelve months are captured in the past and suddenly the prospect of a new year lies before me.  January is full of promise, hope and de-cluttering.

This year I decided to make a list of 18 things to do in 2018 rather than traditional resolutions after listening to Gretchen Ruben’s podcast Happier.   I’m pleased to say I’ve marked several items off my list and feel like I’ve got some good momentum going for the year.

Today is the second day of February.  I have to admit, that wonderful blank slate feeling is starting to fade.  chalkboard

It got me thinking, though.  It sounds crazy, but sometimes I am unforgiving with my kids.  I chalk up their transgressions for future “teachable moments” or better yet “preventative strategies.”  It feels wrong on so many levels to admit this, but it’s the truth.

Sometimes I am guilty of holding on to  my irritation from  undesirable behaviors (euphemism for tantrums, outburst and fits).  It leaves me feeling on edge.  Here’s the sad thing:  When I don’t let go of the past, it shapes how I treat people in the present.

Walking in forgiveness is more that a Sunday morning sermon.  It means I give  the littlest people in my life permission to be human.  It means I extend grace and forgiveness it the trenches of child rearing.  Forgiveness frees me from the mistakes that defined the past; it grants permission to change.

I don’t have to wait for January or a new year to give my kids a blank slate.   I can forgive now.

 

Picture credit- Hobby Lobby  (aka my happy place)  Check out their website to buy a blank slate which is not the same thing as creating a blank slate, but it feels pretty good too.

 

 

 

 

 

Losing It: Be Kind to Yourself

The first red leaves are emerging from the tree in our front yard, a hint of autumn approaching. It’s a new season and seasons are primarily about change.  I’m beginning to see there is an area I need to change in – so let’s get to it!  Fair warning- it’s about to get real.

I’ve gained some weight during my years fostering.  Not just a little weight.  A lot.     I know there were more than a few nights of eating cookies and milk with my husband while watching Netflix after a rough day.  And there were other days when I opted to sit on the bench and watch the kids play when I was just too physically exhausted to do anything more. Then there were those early mornings when I decided to sleep in instead of workout.  On top of that, there are some hormonal conditions at play.

So that being said, I’m losing it.   Not losing it, but losing this unhealthy weight that I’ve accumulated.  For months, I’ve delayed taking action.   I’ve put other projects  and other goals ahead of my health.   That’s changing.  I’m not starting some radical diet or training for a marathon.   I’m making lifestyle changes so I can live and love well.

I’ll be posting weekly updates on how I’m taking charge of my physical health as a part of my Losing It series.  This week I’m being kind to the one person I often forget- myself!

7 Ways I’m being Kind to Myself

  1.  Eat Grown up Food.  I don’t even like Goldfish.  Why am I putting them in my mouth?
  2.  Go to Bed.  Even if it’s just SO nice sitting quietly on the couch.   Or if I get a wild hair to organize a closet.  I’m going to mother myself and get the sleep I need.
  3. Move More. Catch with the kids.  Laps in the pool.  A walk to the park.  Any and everything counts.
  4. Get more protein.  I’ve always struggled to get enough protein in my diet.  I’m a bread and veggie girl.
  5. Smile in the Mirror.  My body does amazing things for me everyday.  I am generally healthy and able-bodied.   I don’t need a wheelchair or crutches or bottles of pills   That’s something to smile about!
  6. Drink Water.  Coffee is my friend.   And when it seems excessive to drink another cup of coffee, I resort to tea- iced and hot.   I don’t play favorites.   But this leaves me feeling like an icky prune at the end of the day.   So water is my new friend.
  7. Think Good Thoughts.  Okay, so maybe this seems a bit much.  But I can be pretty hard on myself.   If I wouldn’t think or say something about someone else, why would I treat myself that way.  It’s a no brainer.

I set a good example when I’m kind to myself.

Maybe you’re wondering….. Will I be able to finish a Pilates video this week without being interrupted?  Will I sneak out of the house early Saturday morning to walk 3 miles to have coffee at Panera?   Will I finally make that nagging doctor’s appointment I keep putting off?  Will I post pics?  Tune in next week and find out.

 

Vacation

Vacare is the latin root of the word vacation.   It means ‘to be unoccupied.’  There are many things that occupy children:  school, friends and family.  Children in foster care, however, are often occupied with worry about their families.  Maybe this is why they can benefit so much from a vacation and time to be unoccupied.

I’ll never forget one Sunday morning.  Two teenage girls were hanging out by the coffee and donuts in our church.   I introduced myself and learned they were foster sisters.   I awkwardly tried to make conversation and keep things light. I started talking about our upcoming vacation to the Georgia Mountains, just a few hours away.  Their eyes lit up as I talked about an old cabin.  One girl spoke up.   She went on to explain that they have never been on a vacation.  Ever.   These girls were about to graduate with no memories of long car rides with siblings, getting lost in a new place, laughing at silly mistakes or standing in awe of a new discovery.

In that instant I was tempted to try and squeeze two more people into my already full minivan.  I desperately wanted to give them the quintessential family vacation, complete with all the quirks.  Since that moment, I’ve always been very intentional to give the kids that come into our home a vacation.

A vacation doesn’t have to be a lavish trip to Disney.  Whatever fits your family culture will do.  If budget is an issue keep in mind you can have a vacation without breaking the bank.  Just be creative!  A “staycation” can be an exciting time as you explore new places in your hometown.  So take a vacation.   You deserve it. Think about taking your kids too.  It might be the first vacation they experience.

What are some of your vacation memories?  How have they shaped your worldview?  What type of vacation might be most beneficial to the kids in your home?   What time frame makes the most sense?  A day or a weekend or a week?

 

 

 

Coincidence

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” -Einstein

Time and chance can be strange bedfellows.  My husband and I were sitting at a Foster Parent Association training at our local DSS.  I was bouncing a sweet baby on my lap.  She had just entered foster care.  On top of that, she was the first child to come into our home.  I was doing my best to focus on the class. But the chubby cheeks before me were a delightful distraction.  I guess that’s why I didn’t notice someone walking behind me.   Then I jumped a little when someone tapped me on the shoulder.  I’ve always been one to startle easily.

“Are you Ms. Verwers?”  I suddenly felt like a kid wondering how to answer.   Did I do something wrong?

“Yes. That’s me.  Can I help you? ”

“The baby’s mom is here and would like to see her.”  I was a little befuddled and a lot unprepared as I followed her though a maze of gray cubicles where two women sat nervously.

“Baby,”  the mother reached out and started kissing baby as grandma sat nearby, trying to hold back tears.  I introduced myself and asked about any allergies or things I should know.

“She likes to dance,” mom said.

“Oh yes, we noticed that.  If there’s a beat she starts shakin’ it.”  We smiled for a moment, our lives now intertwined because of this little dancing baby.

I spent the next 40 minutes or so with this family.   Even though I missed the class,  I was learning.   When baby came to us, it was all about her.   There in that cubical it became clear this was about her and her family.     The fact that I just happened to be attending class while the caseworker was developing a family plan was a coincidence.  Baby was home in three months.  Yes, time and chance are strange bedfellows.