“If my life were a Hallmark movie, yesterday was day when the lead character learns the ropes of farm(ish) life from her dad. The montage would include her learning to drive a tractor. Red of course. Pruning lilac, weigela and rose bushes. Dropping off loads of brush at the burn pile. Wrestling a giant blackberry bush and losing. Giving the neighbors dog a bath. Said dog shaking off bath water in the kitchen. Laughing on the porch with her dad. Dad losing his balance and falling. Resetting dad’s dislocated pinky. Girl driving to town to grab dinner for the family and randomly running into her love interest where they banter and grab a quick drink.”
You read that right. I RESET MY DAD’S PINKY! FINGER. It was no longer parallel to his hand. It was perpendicular. And turning purple by the second. So I channelled my inner Doc Martin and yanked that bad boy back into the socket. (Side note: It had happened to him once before a few years ago. But I didn’t know that)
This is a genuine snap shot of my new life (minus the love interest and the grabbing the drink and all) But hey, if my life were a Hallmark movie there would definitely be a love interest. How do I know? I have watched EVERY SINGLE ONE curled up on the couch with my mom. That’s how we roll on Saturday nights here at Green Pastures. That and SEC football. And bull riding. And baseball. Throw me in the briar patch.
Just to catch you up: Four months ago I moved back home to Tennessee to take care of my parents. Indefinitely.
Due to some health issues, they needed a little (or a lot of) extra help, depending on the day. So I volunteered. Why? Because I love them. Because I watched them take care of their parents. Because I’m a homebody at heart and loved the idea of being back with my family. Because the Bible tells us to honor our parents. And because, honestly, I really like them. A lot.
Every day has been different. Unpredictable. Unprecedented.
At least for me.
Everyday has been filled with laughter. Grace. Adjustments and apologies.
Growing up I dreamed of caring for and nurturing a family of my own. God in his kindness has answered my prayer. Just a little more creatively then expected. And I am loving it.
But I’m not going to lie. There have been some growing pains.
Going from a full-time career to a full-time caregiver was a huge mental shift. I’ve had to redefine productive. Often. Upright, medicated and well-fed are the new #squadgoals.
In so many ways, this new season is giving me repeated opportunities to live out what the Lord has been teaching me over a lifetime. He’s so sweet like that. In fact, I feel like I am taking a final exam. “Ok Les. We’ve been learning and studying and walking through some big concepts. It’s time to put it all together and see what stuck.” Some days I get an A. Some days, I get another chance. Like the day I flicked my dad in the forehead at the Walmart check out line. Whoops. Try again.
I miss you guys. And getting to catch up over coffee. But life looks very different these days. SO I’m going to work harder at writing more faithfully. So we can stay connected. I wish I could fly to you and sit face to face and we could have long meaningful conversations.
But I just tiptoed past my parents bedroom and I think they are up.
Time to make some coffee!!
I would love to know what the Lord is teaching you this season… drop a line in the comment box if you feel like it.
Love, Love, Love,
The Girl Who Lives in My Head.
PS. This picture is from Engaging Father Christmas which is just one of the MANY Hallmark Christmas movies I can’t wait to see this season.
PPS. It it based on my friend Robin’s Christmas novella which you can check out here.
PPPS. She talks about what it was like for her book to become a movie in her book I like to call Ask for the Moon!!! but it’s really called “How my Book Became a Movie”. It is one of my favorite books because it fills me with hope. Not about writing or movies. But that God loves us, hears us and NOTHING is wasted in His Kingdom.
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.
I am now constantly aware of the status of my leg hair. “Ooo, your legs feel like wana.” (Hawaiian for sea urchin)
My eyebrows are analyzed on a daily basis. Never underestimate Kylie Jenner’s influence on the next generation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I can smell it in the air. I can see it in the sunsets. I can feel it in my bones.
As a teacher, the last few weeks of school carry a very special energy. Students and teachers alike are little extra squirrelly.
And I love it. I love the anticipation. Of something new. Something special. Something different.
Since my students are quickly changing from sweet little sixth graders into sassy seventh graders, I like to change things up to keep them on their toes.
So every Monday for the last four weeks of school, we head to the garden.
Our school has a partnership with an organization called “Grow Some Good.” A wonderful lady named Tricia comes and teaches our students all about the garden.
For social studies, we look at the Ancient Hawaiians. We learn about the plants that are native to Maui as well as the ones that were brought over on canoes by the first two-way voyagers. We also plant based on the Hawaiian Moon Calendar which is an incredible tool for any gardeners or fisherfolk out there.
Fascinating things I have learned in the garden so far…
Comfrey and Lemon Grass are amazing!! Their roots stretch out up to 35 feet in search of nutrients they need. So if you plant them in your garden, they will seek out what is missing from the soil and bring it up into their leaves. Then, you can mulch the leaves of the comfrey/lemongrass around your garden. And BOOM, the missing nutrients get added to your soil.
Monkey Pod beans make great fertilizer. They add nitrogen to the soil. So rake ’em up and spread ’em out. You can also use cardboard to kill weeds. Doesn’t look very pretty but gets the job done. Apparently worms love it. And make all kinds of natural fertilizer as they break it down.
The Crown Plant is what Monarch butterflies eat. So if you want to see caterpillars and attract butterflies to your yard, this is a wonderful addition to your garden.They eat the leaves. And the flowers make lovely leis.
So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Well, that and grading. And teaching. And planning. Oh and that nasty bout with the Black Plague. But the end is in sight.
I may or may not have bought new underwear yesterday to avoid doing laundry.
I’m too scared to change the cockroach traps in my cupboards.
Every time I am in my kitchen, I can hear them mocking me.”
I have a special method for eating candy.
Skittles: I eat the orange first. Then red. Then yellow. The rest I share.
My friend Leeann thinks this is weird. She recently watched me eat a Twix with disbelief and slight disgust.
I used to drive a gold Sebring convertible named Blanche, in memory of my grandmother. I miss both of them dearly.
My first car was a navy blue Mustang, aptly named Sally. She died in a car crash.
I name my cars.
I live in Maui but my skin violently rejects the sun therefore I spend very little time at the beach.
I would rather drink soda than alcohol.
Eating wheat makes me sneeze.
I sneeze a lot.
I used to be a professional matchmaker for a dating service.
I was a Young Life intern in Bermuda with a girl named Anne.
Our best friends during that season were three accountants named Paul, Paul and Phil. They were Irish, British and Scottish in that order.
Anne married Phil (the Scot) and they have two beautiful children.
I went to a Quaker boarding school my freshman year of high school. It was creative and quirky which I loved.
I failed three classes in college. Art and Architecture of Ancient Greece and Asian Art History (twice).
I now teach 6th graders about ancient art and architecture of Greece and Asia.
My first real concert was Dave Matthews Band. My Young Leader, Elizabeth, took me to see them outdoors in Newport News. It was a Tuesday night my junior year of high school. We were front row, crushed in a crowd of college kids. It was magical.
My dream in high school was to see the Grateful Dead live. My mom said I had to wait until I was 18.
Jerry Garcia died 19 days before my 18th birthday.
I just used a calculator to do that math.
28 is my favorite number.
That’s a little bit about me.
Now, it’s your turn.
Be brave! Tell me three things about yourself.
Love, Love, Love,
The Girl Who Lives In My Head
P.S. I really would love to get to know a little bit about those of you reading my blog.