An open apology to my friends with kids.

Dear Friends, Family and Loved Ones with children,

Please accept this note as my formal apology if you have ever felt judged by me on your parenting skills. At any point in our friendship. Ever. Let me also apologize for any comments I have made to you or your child that felt hurtful, unhelpful or unkind. Especially those that might have come in the heat of battle. Or in that last moment of sanity. Or after the crappiest day possible. Please accept this heartfelt and humbled out apology. Forgive me, I had no idea.

Love, Love, Love,

Your childless friend who just fostered a teenager

 

Six months ago, I became a foster person to a wonderful freshman girl who I affectionately refer to as the FFK (Future foster kid) It’s a term I started using before fostering and it stuck.

How fostering a teenager has changed my life.

  1. I am now constantly aware of the status of my leg hair. “Ooo, your legs feel like wana.” (Hawaiian for sea urchin)

  2. My eyebrows are analyzed on a daily basis. Never underestimate Kylie Jenner’s influence on the next generation.

  3.  I have laughed more in the last six months than I have in the past six years. And we are talking good laughs. Belly laughs. The soul cleansing kind. The kind that catch you off guard and make you smile every time you remember them. This kid is funny. Witty. Sharp. And she keeps you on your toes. Trust fall.

  4. I am learning to pick my battles. For example, not so long ago, my beloved FFK was sitting a few rows ahead of me at church. Shooting spitballs. Slightly mortified, I turned to the veteran foster mama sitting beside me and said, “What do I do?” She whispered back, “You choose you battles.” Now my gut reaction was spitballs in church? Heck yes that is a battle I am going to fight! But then I remembered this little girl isn’t my flesh and blood. I did not raise her. She came to me with ideas and notions and a way of life that I am not privy to. So in the big scheme of things, the  fact that she turns in her phone at night without a fuss,  faithfully cleans the bathroom without complaint and is kind, thoughtful and respectful in her interactions with me, are way more important. And as much it killed me to do so, I could let the spitballing slide. And I did. And not a few seconds later one of her friends regulated her behavior. Thank you Jesus.

  5. I am learning to extend way more grace to others. Before the FFK, there have been many times I have wondered why a parent would let their child _(fill in the blank)_. Sometimes I have commented on it. Other times I have just wondered in my head. After the spitballing incident of 2016 I realized that maybe parents are just picking their battles. Because no one wants to be the heavy all the time. And no child responds well to constant correction. And good night nurse there are so many things I want to correct. But I’m learning that picking battles, enjoying the moment and embracing them for who they are is what make shepherding so challenging and so rewarding all in the same breath.

  6. I am learning to care less about my couch. Right before the FFK arrived, I got a brand new sectional couch. It is blue. It is lovely. And it was not cheap. Within the first month of our time together, I heard myself on more than fifty occasions repeating phrases my mother said to me growing up (and possibly last Christmas). Don’t set your bowl directly on the sofa. Be careful. Hold your fork over your plate. Please don’t spill that on my sofa. Don’t use the pillow as a dinner tray. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. I was making myself crazy. And it wasn’t very fun. So I realized I had a choice to make. A) We could  eat at the table. Nope.We have manners night. That is enough.  B) I could make her eat on the rug. Not fair. C) I could just not care. Nope. D) Continue what we are doing, stop obsessing and have her clean any spills she makes. Ding. Ding. Ding. Mind you, I have a 10 year warranty so anything crazy would be taken care of. But that wasn’t the point. So I learned to relax. And she learned to be careful. And how to clean a couch cushion. Properly.As well as how to get Mexican candy juice of the carpet. But that, I am learning, is part of the deal. Messy grace. Messy lives. Messy love.

  7. I am learning when to panic. And when to keep my cool. The FFK is one pretty steady cookie. She sees the glass half full, likes to keep things light and fun, and focuses on the sunny side of life. She is not one to sit around and talk about feelings. Ever. But one time she thought I had accidentally disabled her phone. Boom. Waterworks. I was shocked. I had not seen so much as a tear in our time together so far but the fear of losing her music, photos and Instagram streaks brought on huge tears, a trembling voice and hiccups. It was bad. And it was fixable. Thanks to Brene Brown I have learned to ask myself, “Do we have enough information to panic?” and then go from there. We made it through.

  8. I’m learning to live with an open hand and engaged heart. This 13 year old girl will hopefully be reunited with her mom. Very soon. Which is a wonderful thing.  But it is also bittersweet.

God bless you. To all the parents. Of all types. You amaze and inspire me. What you are doing is such a worthwhile use of your time. Keep the faith. Keep running your race.

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives in my Head

Since writing this post, the FFK has been reunited with her mom. Yay!! It was such a joy to be able to offer her a safe place to land while her mom worked through some things. I loved everything about the experience. Some people have asked if I will do it again. Heck yes! I’m planning on spending some quality time with the fam this summer in Tennessee. And then come fall, I’m up for another adventure.

The Best Thanksgiving Episodes. Ever.

So as part of my new Thanksgiving tradition, last year I scoured the web for the best Thanksgiving episodes. This year I plan on watching them while I cook on Wednesday night and Thanksgiving day. These episodes are either nostalgic or classic.

Please feel free to include any you think I am missing in the comments. Spread the joy!! Share the tradition.

The one with all the Thanksgivings

Friends “The Ones with All the Thanksgivings”

Stuffed to the brim, the group start reminiscing about Thanksgivings past. I love this episode because of the 80’s flashbacks.

season 5 ep 8 netflix

turkeydrop

“Turkeys Away” from WKRP in Cincinnati

This year was first time viewing this episode and I laughed out loud. I have faint memories of WKRP from childhood but actually started working my way through the first season because of this episode.

Season 1 ep 7 Hulu

Big Bang Theory “The Platonic Permutation”

I love BBT. Enough said.

Season 9 ep 9 (Try youtube. It moves around)

MadAboutYou_Giblets_L

Mad About You “Gibblets for Murray”

Trying to make everyone happy at Thanksgiving is impossible. But these two will die trying hosting Thanksgiving for the first time at their home. Cranberries come from a can.

season 3 ep 8 youtube

happyslapsgiving

How I Met your mother  “Slapsgiving”

The show in general is sketchy but the whole concept of Slapsgiving is brilliant.

season 3 ep 9 netflix

bewitched

Bewitched   “Thanksgiving to Remember”

It’s a classic. Like pumpkin pie.

season 2 ep 4 youtube

amy's speech

Brooklyn 99  Thanksgiving

Boyle Bingo, Amy’s toast and a clogged toilet. Triple threat.

Season 1 ep 10 hulu

Cheers225ThanksgivingOrphans

Cheers “Thanksgiving Orphans”

Another show I remember from being little. This one had me in stitches last year. And also very thankful that my holidays have never been this dramatic.

season 5 ep 9 hulu

Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving

Gilmore Girls “A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving”

Can you believe the Girls are getting back together!!! Dreams do come true!!!

Season 3 ep 9 Netflix

George Thanks for the Memories

Greys Anatomy “Thanks for the Memories”

I will also love the first 3 seasons of Greys. This episode is fall to me.

Season 2 ep 9 Netflix

Last one…

josh-lyman-episode

West Wing “Noel”

This is a Christmas episode. But it is amazing. And an important reminder that the Holidays can be hard for others. Josh is struggling with PTSD after the shooting. And he finds healing. It also has one of my favorite recovery dialogues of all time.

Season 2 Episode 10 Netflix

Please feel free to include any you think I am missing in the comments. Spread the joy!! Share the tradition.

Love, Love, Love

The Girl Who Lives In My Head

P.S. Here is a list I found of a best of Christmas episodes on Netflix. Can’t wait to check them out!!!

Singlish for the Holidays. Part 1.

This year, I’m not quite single for the holidays. I’ve got the FFK* with me.

But as I mentioned last year, I have learned that I need to be intentional about the holidays so that I don’t end up singing Blue Christmas. As a singlish person living on a tropical island, fall and the holiday season can create a little sadness, loneliness and longing. For home. For more. For a simpler time.  And lets be honest…It doesn’t feel like the holidays when the sun is shining and everyone is wearing bathing suits.

So may I present to you this years….

CREATE THINE OWN HOLIDAY TRADITIONS 2016

October 1.

Decorate for Fall. Start drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Light a fall scented candle.

img_7469img_7468img_7470

Mid-October.

Head to the Pumpkin Patch with the FFK and a few friends. Wear a sweater. Drink lavender tea at the Lavender Farm. Snuggle up with Finding Father Christmas and a blanket (and the AC cranked).

November 1.

Begin Operation Random Acts of Kindness. This addition is inspired by my friend Jenna. Something happens in my soul when Christmas starts shining in the distance. All of the sudden I am aware of all the things I want. This year, I want to focus on meeting the needs of others. Hopefully with the FFK  in tow, we can get creative and spread a little light and a little joy. Don’t tell her though. It’s a surprise.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Because I travel for Christmas, I have found that decorating early makes all the difference. So bring on the Christmas music and lets deck the halls!!!  I am one of those saps who needs at least 6 weeks of Christmas music to feel like I got my moneys worth.

The night before Thanksgiving.

Last year I struck tradition gold. I compiled the best Thanksgiving episodes of all time (in my humble opinion).  The FFK and I will while away the evening watching these classics as we cook our Thanksgiving delights. There is a slight chance that the FFK will roll her eyes and mock my television brilliance. If so, we will end up watching The Walking Dead. But here’s hoping.

Thanksgiving.

This year I’m planning on attending Gluten-Free Thanksgiving with the usual suspects. The FFK decided she wants to join us because, “that way I can have two Thanksgivings. One with you. And one with my mom on Saturday.” I’ll be honest. I choked up a little when she was making the plan. This fostering thing is tricky. You have to keep both an open hand and an engaged heart. It’s an interesting balance.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving.

2 words. Gilmore Girls. 3 more words.  All day binge. Thankfully the FFK will be feasting with her mom all day.

December 1

To be honest. That’s about all I can get my head around at this point. I am a born antcipator but life has gotten a little more full. So the plan for December…will have to wait.

In the meantime…

How do you celebrate fall and the coming holiday season?

I’d love to know!

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives in My Head

  • FFK=Future Foster Kid. It started as a way to refer to whomever I would end up fostering. As in, here is the FFK room. Once she came to live with me, I still call her that in my head at times.

 

Why I Became a Foster Person

About six years ago I was lying in bed at my new apartment. I was all snuggled up under the covers, the last box unpacked and everything in it’s place. And a thought popped into my head.

If I’m still single in five years…I should look into fostering.

And then I drifted off to sleep.

Time passed.

I met people who told me that the system is horrible. That it is broken and they send kids back to terrible situations. “Don’t do it,” people said. “It will break your heart.”

And I thought, “Ok. Maybe I won’t.”

More time passed. And I was invited to help out with Camp Agape, a weekend camp for kids whose parents are incarcerated. My first year there I was blown away. I was in a cabin with little girls ranging from five to fifteen. And as the weekend progressed and the walls came down, the stories that these little girls shared…broke my heart.

But I realized something.

There was a common thread woven through their stories.

No matter what their parents had done to them, these little girls wanted their parents. The just wanted them whole.

I should really foster.

Now by this time, God had already changed the trajectory of my current life. I was studying for the Praxis and headed back to school to become a teacher.

And in a surprising plot twist, I got hired to teach on the OTHER SIDE of the island. This was not what I had signed up for when I agreed to change jobs. Because when I felt the call to teach, I knew I wanted to be invested in the community. I wanted to see my students outside of school and be able to build relationships with their families. So a job on the Westside, meant moving to the Westside.

I’m already giving up my life at the church. Do I really have to give up my life in Kihei?

I’ll be honest. This whole process has been very baffling to me. Because in a million years, I never imagined I would become a foster person. (I hate using the word parent because these kids have parents. I’m their person. For a season.) It was never on my list of things to do. Ever. But I knew in my heart that the Lord wanted me to keep moving forward with it. One step of obedience at a time.

So I did.

And as I began my first year teaching on the Westside, I realized how much space I had in my life. For another person. I could easily foster a high school girl. The middle school where I teach is right down the road from the high school.

So I made a little petition of the Lord. If you want me to foster, will you find me an affordable two bedroom in Lahaina? The words affordable and Lahaina don’t really go together.

He did.

I moved October of last year. And started the training to become a “Resource Care Giver” which is the states new way of saying foster person.

The training.

It’s not complicated. It’s just hard. On the heart.

Because the reality is, there are children who are trapped in terrible situations. Because the adults in their lives make selfish choices born out of their own brokenness.

And the foster care system is designed to give those kids a safe place while their parents heal. That is the big vision.

It doesn’t always work that way.

But it can.

So last May I completed the training. And got my certificate.

And in the Lord’s amazing timing, two weeks after my ACL surgery, just when I could start driving again…

I got the call. To become someone’s person. And offer a safe place to a very vibrant and intelligent 13 year old while her mom gets some things figured out.

Next week, it’ll have been three months. And it has been a blast.

Not always easy but so very worth it.

I’ll tell you more about that later.

 

Love, Love, Love

The Girl Who Lives In My Head

 

What Makes A Really Great Story?

I’m kind of in the process of writing a book. A novel.

I say kind of because it feels a little like playing house.

So no one hold their breath.

I’ve never considered myself a writer.Especially not a storyteller.

I have friends that weave stories in their daydreams and always seemed lost in plot. Haha. See what I did there? Imagining characters and creating their stories while they drive, sit at work or space out while you are talking. It’s in their DNA. Crafting stories.

It is definitely not in my DNA. I am a consumer of story. I love to read. I love fiction and real life stories. I am always amazed at people’s creativity. And God’s. He writes really beautiful stories. And empowers others to as well.

Well, when I decided to go to the Writer’s Conference with Andrea, I started praying for a story. Just one. That might someday turn into a book. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much. But then as I was taking out my trash one night, God whispered an idea in my ear. And I’ve been toying with it ever since.

At the conference, I met a lovely lady named Nancy. I was immediately drawn to her. She struck me as vivacious, inviting and wise.

The conference was very stressful for me.

From the moment I got in the van, I had to come to terms with the fact that I might possibly be a writer. And if I was willing to be honest with myself, that I have dreamed of writing since I was small. But the desire to write was so precious and fragile that I had locked it away in a treasure box in my soul. Tucked away safely. Where moth and rust and criticism and failure could not touch it.

And at the conference I felt like God was giving me a choice. To open the box and give the dream to Him. Or keep it safely tucked away.

I left the conference with it safely tucked away. I’m not a writer. I’m a blogger. And I love blogging.

But late at night, I would listen to the sessions from the conference on my phone. Laying safely in my bed, I listened to author after fiction author talk about their process. And I realized that I wanted to learn more. About writing. A Fiction. Book.

So I’ve started a program. With my new friend Nancy Rue. To learn the craft of storytelling. For those who don’t dream in stories. But feel like they might have a story to tell.

What hooked me was when she used this verse from Psalm 48 in her workshop.

Circle Zion, take her measure,
    count her fortress peaks,
Gaze long at her sloping bulwark,
    climb her citadel heights—
Then you can tell the next generation
    detail by detail the story of God,
Our God forever,
    who guides us till the end of time. 

So anyway.

I’ve started learning about what makes a really great story. And it is blowing my mind. The crazy thing is we all learned (and possibly forgot) this structure in school.

Every story starts with the hero/heroine living their everyday life.

Then, there is an inciting incident that propels the story into motion.

Here’s what I didn’t know.

There is a question that drives every story. It is hidden in the heart of every hero/heroine. That leads and guides every choice they make. And the question varies from story to story. Hero to heroine. But it must be answered for the story to find resolution.

Doesn’t that sound like life? We all having a driving need. A hidden question. That we ask God over and over and over. And I’m convinced it different for each of us. There are themes and similar desires. But the way we phrase it is so personal.

And our lives are a beautiful story where God graciously answers the question of our soul, over and over.

The other thing I’m learning in my class is that in order to have a really great story, your hero/heroine has to be flawed. And real. With hopes, dreams, desires and fears.

And in order to truly tell their story, they will have to face their fears. You have to put them in situations that bring them to their knees.

Well. All of this knowledge has been rocking my spiritual world.

Because in my youth, I thought the Christian life was about getting it “right”. Trying to make the right choices, do the right thing, follow God without error or deviance from his path/will. And I believed that if done “right”, you could live a life free of pain, sorrow or heartache. I now see how this contradicts scripture.

But at 22, if I were the author of my story, here is how I would have written it:

There once was a girl named Leslie. She grew up in a loving home and met Jesus at an early age. Her childhood was filled with love and laughter. She had lots of friends and they never had any conflict. She went to college where she discovered her life’s calling-sharing Jesus with kids through the mission of Young Life. She married a man who shared her life’s passion and together they served the Lord wholeheartedly. Leading people to the feet of Jesus.  They never fought, experienced zero heartache and no tragedy ever touched their world. They had four lovely children who all grew up, safe and sound. Their children all fell in love with Jesus at an early age and followed Him all the days of their lives. And everyone died peacefully at a ripe old age.

But that is not the story of my life.

And that used to bring me great sadness. And shame. And a sense that I had somehow failed God. Because how could this be the story he wanted my life to tell.

And yet, the more I learn about what makes really great stories, the more I see my life through a gracious lens. The lens of love. And my life tells a beautiful story.

I can see the inciting incidences that have shaped my journey.

-In middle school, when I felt like the world ended when my friends stopped talking to me

-In college, when I had a car accident with a Young Life girl in the car

-In ministry, when I didn’t know how to talk to men in authority so I bailed  instead of learning a new skill

-In marriage, when the person I loved chose not to love me

-In divorce, when the church I expected to bench me, invited me to partner with them in ministry

-In Young Life, when God sent key people to heal old wounds and invite me back to a ministry that is in my DNA.

-In teaching, where God called me to a job that is as challenging as it is fulfilling which is where I love to live.

Each one of these incidents, has forced me to face my fears. They have driven me to my knees. They have broken me. And forced me to cry out the same question over and over. Which comes from my hidden need. And God in his kindness, has answered it every time. Not always how I would have preferred. Because He sees the bigger picture. And has the greater story in mind.

I could write about this forever. But I have to stop somewhere.

One last thing that amazes me about our lives, is all the sub-plots. And how there are multiple stories that are being written as we live on this earth. And how God is actively at work in each one. And His timing is perfect.

Look at your life.

What have been inciting incidents?

Have you allowed them to drive you to your knees? Are you in a season where you need God to answer that driving question that rattles in your soul? Again? Is whatever you are walking through an opportunity to face your fears? Perhaps it isn’t a punishment or a result of failure. But perhaps the Author of Life wants to being you freedom. Resolution. Redemption. In that area of your life.

Something Wanda Beth said recently stuck with me,”Answered/unanswered prayer has absolutely nothing to do with God’s love for you and everything to do with his plans and purposes for your life.”

Still chewing on that one.

 

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives in My Head

 

 

 

Picking up where we last left off

I just had the best 24 hours*.

My dear friend from high school, Mary Kay, flew over to Maui for the night. She and her hubby have been in the islands celebrating 15 years of marriage. She took the time to get on a plane, rent a car and drive to see me. It was not an easy “I’m just passing through” kind of visit. It took effort and intention.

The Girl Who Lives in my Head MK.Les

Now MK and I have not seen each other since sophomore year of college. Christmas cards and an occasional Facebook message have been our only touch points for the past 18 years.

And yet from the moment she knocked on my door, it was as if nothing had changed.

We picked up from where we left off and continued the conversation of our souls.

It was so sweet. So life giving. And refreshing.

She and her husband, Danny, are living a beautiful life of intention. They have made their home in the inner-city with a community of like mind believers, who don’t want to just talk about change but actually do the work that is required to bring it about. Which is really, really hard. And messy. And painful at times. But so worth while. And they are doing it well. Hand in hand with the Father. And each other.

The Girl Who Lives In My Head MK fam

What I loved about our time was there was no pretension. We got raw and real and vulnerable. Because as amazing as life is-no one leaves this world unscathed. And living a life of intention is painful. And takes work. And battling our demons. But I also believe it is what sets us free to experience the abundant life that Jesus promises. Life to the full, comes from emptying ourselves. And being willing to be broken and poured out. Finding that balance of intimacy and service.

I’m so grateful for good friends. Unexpected moments. And deep connection.

It makes me look forward to Heaven all the more.

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives In My Head

*P.S. Thankfully we live in a world where the are a lot of bests. Because I also just had the best week at Woodleaf, a Young Life camp in California. But that is not what this post is about.