Entire Span of Life….

Years ago, I heard Christie Erwin give a speech on fostering and adopting and it completely changed my thinking. She began her talk by saying she realized she had to do more than just say she was pro-life. She had to put action to those words. I’ve been thinking lately about what that should really look like for those of us who are pro-life.

If you’re pro-life, you’re pro-family. Period. The 12 year old who is raped by a family member and has no one to turn to? She needs food stamps, free childcare to attend school, help finding a job, and housing as she ages. She doesn’t need judged if one kid early, leads to multiple kids later. It might mean multiple kids on food stamps or standing on the corner asking for money. But, she didn’t abort.

If you’re pro-life, you don’t rejoice when families fall apart. This is a controversial topic and one you may think hypocritical coming from me. However, although I cannot imagine life without 3 of my kids, I wish even more their family would’ve been restored. That hurts even typing it. It really does. Don’t get me wrong. As Christians we are called to stand in the gap when reunification doesn’t happen. But, it’s a family born out of loss. Period.

If you’re pro-life, your thinking changes from: I need to call DHS on that mom, to I need to help that mom. Again, don’t misunderstand me here. There is no tolerance on abuse, sexual misconduct, etc. But most kids enter foster care due to neglect. That typically means poverty. Lack of food. Lack of housing. Etc. Our mind usually goes to worst case scenario when we meet foster kids. Myself included. We picture kids locked in closets and starved to death or beaten. And make no mistake, that happens. But, we tend to only hear about those stories because they spread around Facebook like wildfire. Reading about a child locked in a closet is more interesting than reading about a mom struggling with alcohol and homelessness. Sad, but true.

When sin entered the world, there became a need for foster and adoptive parents and that need will not go away this side of Heaven. If you have always considered fostering or adopting you should do it. Especially if you are pro-life. However, just be prepared to do it with eyes wide open. Fostering may lead to adoption and that can be a great thing. We just tend to stop there. But pro-life means so much more than stopping at birth. It means helping the moms who chose life when the world told them not to. It means helping the children who are affected by addiction. It means helping a foster family BUT it may also mean helping a birth mom. It might mean buying her clothes, food, etc.

If being pro-life meant it ended at birth, we would call it pro-birth. Or pro-pregnancy. But, we are implying that we are pro birth-death. The entire span of life. So, maybe we should either change our thinking a bit or be honest with where we really stand.

Life of Privilege

I don’t write about our oldest son Trey often because he’s easy. You know what I mean. He’s that child who is friends with everyone, kind by nature, and a true momma’s boy. That’s not to say he’s without any faults….he’s still human. In fact, when we were mulching our flower beds, I actually understood why some mothers eat their young. He continually stood in one spot while I worked circles around him. He was also talking my ear off and I realized he had a major man flaw; he didn’t have the ability to talk and work.

Anyway, that’s not the point. This week we came to the beach to just get away. The fact that we even have the ability to do this is not lost on me. We have the ability to pick up and leave without worrying about things left behind. J.O. is out of a job, but we still have money. That’s not the reality for most Americans who are out of work. In fact, it’s why I find myself so torn on the coronavirus crisis. Not torn on the precautions we should take (masks, social distancing, hand washing), but torn on my personal opinion. It’s not life changing for us to alter our lifestyle and stay home but for a ton of people it is. Childcare is a necessity for Americans to work so I refuse to judge people who send their kids to summer camps or daycares. Staying home is not an option for all. It’s very easy for me to have a strong opinion when I don’t face the same reality.

I digress again. This week Trey has found a new found freedom on his bike. This is the best place to ride for miles because it’s extremely flat. We’ve allowed him to take off and explore on his own. I went with him the first two days, but then he took additional rides solo. Yesterday, he grabbed his wallet and rode to the ice cream shop down the street for some ice cream in private. It gave him a taste of independence while still (hopefully) being safe.

However, yesterday when I sent him off and told him to call me when he got there, I realized something. I was worried about his traffic skills, but not worried at all about him riding a bike through neighborhoods. Not at all worried about people thinking he’s suspicious or up to no good. Or questioning his motives. Or drilling him at the ice cream shop about paying with cash and where it came from. None of that was a fear for me. Even when he pulled over in a neighborhood and took a break and was on his phone. Nothing concerned me about that at all.

I guess I’m rambling to say this. It’s never been more evident than now our society is still in favor of families like mine. That’s just a fact. It’s not Trey’s fault that this is his reality, but it gives him a responsibility. Responsibility to at least recognize it and acknowledge it. It should change the way he does things. Change the way he looks at things. It’s going to be tempting for him to read articles and think, “I wonder what really happened?” or think, “I would never do that.”

You know, we have all become experts during this time. We are all sharing some pretty amazing articles and statistics with little thought to their accuracy. And the truth is, we share what is relevant and helpful to us. Want the world to stay completely locked down? Find a statistic to back it up. Conspiracy theory? Share something to support that. Think we should open up tomorrow and the most vulnerable stay home? Find some doctors who agree with you.

I could find any statistic I want on fostering and adopting. And if I couldn’t find what I wanted, I could write a pretty convincing article and label myself an expert.

During this time, we shouldn’t be naive. Ask yourself questions and do some scholarly research. But make sure you acknowledge your own privilege while doing it. It’s easy for me to enjoy this week at the beach. It really is. I have some amazing in-laws who are here too and J.O. has been more relaxed than I’ve seen him in some time. I’m not worried about our ability to go home and pay the bills. At least for a while…. This will go down as a great vacation although it came from a storm in our life. That’s called privilege.

This is one of the hardest things to teach Trey without making it his fault. It’s not his fault he was born a middle class white boy, but it’s our responsibility to make sure he’s not the man chasing the jogger in the truck one day. It’s our responsibility to help him see all sides of the coin and to help him see our reality is not the same for most. My biggest hope and prayer is that he grows up so focused on Jesus that this is not hard for him to grasp. Because truthfully, that’s everything Jesus embodies. It’s much easier to teach our child to see others through the lens of grace and love when he is looking at others through the lens of Jesus.

When you don’t see the ram..

I wrote a post last week about God’s provision and specifically used the story of Abraham. I made the point that Abraham knew God would provide when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac. Either by providing a replacement, or bringing him back to life. In the end, God told Abraham not to harm his son and there was a ram in the bushes to fulfill the sacrifice.

But, what about when the ram isn’t there? What about the times you pray specifically and there is no visible way out. J.O. has been blessed with an amazing job the past 14 years. He went to work at this place when Trey was a baby. The way the door opened for him to work there was nothing short of a God thing. J.O.’s dad met a guy through his John Deere business that was in the exact field J.O. was looking to get into. This man wasn’t looking to hire anyone at the time, but said J.O. could come in and talk with him. J.O. had another job offer at the time, but wasn’t too excited about it. It was a grant writing position and the epitome of a desk job. J.O. couldn’t imagine sitting behind a desk all day, but he was also terrified to turn it down.

When he met with this man David, they hit it off immediately. David decided to take a chance on him and the partnership was born. J.O. loved this job. He was good at it and thrived in the environment. He worked a lot and was often stressed, but it was easy to overlook because it provided a great life. I often felt like a cheat when people would tell me how great it was what we were doing with fostering and adopting. I knew so many others that sacrificed so much financially and it wasn’t that way for us. It felt wrong to put us into that category.

Time marched on and and things were going really well. Until they weren’t. Seemingly overnight things at work got more stressful and no matter how hard we prayed they just weren’t improving. We had friends praying with us, and one of our friends put it best: “It seems the harder I pray, the worse it gets.” J.O. and I started praying for God to show us what to do. But truthfully, we were praying without really expecting anything to change. Really, what I meant was this: “God help the stress to go away and the money to come.”

Looking back now, I was praying bold prayers with my own thought process of how they should be answered. I assumed the ram was there but just hidden for a bit longer.

Then, on Friday, J.O. was called into the office and let go. You could’ve hit him with a ton of bricks. He was hurt, devastated, and lost. He still is. I was mad. Still am. That ram isn’t stuck in a bush. It’s not even there. 14 years, 5 kids later, seemingly down the drain.

However, once I somewhat calmed down, I realized J.O. would’ve never walked away from this job and I would’ve never encouraged it. But, I could see the stress and strain this job put on him. The time it took away from our family. The burden he carried for everyone he worked with. The way he and I had both allowed his identity to be caught up in his job.

He was on the phone with someone after this happened, and I heard the person say “but this is who you are.” And it stopped me in my tracks. This is NOT who J.O. is. J.O. is the man who for the last 15 years has gotten up before me and made my coffee, who has fixed breakfast for kids for the last 13 years. Who has prayed with me, for me, and over me. Who has looked the other way when I spent too much, or came up with crazy ideas for our family. That’s who he is.

The ram wasn’t there. It never came for us and that’s okay. Because the Lamb was already sacrificed. God knew this day would come and that we would be hurt and lost and wondering what to do. We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know if we will have to make major life changes as painful as that would be. But, we do know this. Just because our prayer didn’t turn out the way we hoped, doesn’t mean it wasn’t answered. We have a choice to make. We can be bitter, angry, and resentful that God took something so important from us. Or we can praise Him for His answer. And as hard as it may be; we are both praising Him for His answer.

Provision

J.O. and I were recently talking about some things that seem to be going in the opposite direction of where we need them to go. It led us to talk about all the ways God has provided in our life, and how we had to trust He would continue. But did I believe that? Or did I only believe that when I wanted Him to fix something? How often did I trust in God’s provision now matter how things were going?

One morning, I decided to look up every time the Bible talked about God’s provision. One of the hardest stories for me in the Bible is when God told Abraham to place his son on the altar. Do you remember that one? If you don’t, here’s a quick refresher: God told Abraham to take Isaac into the woods and build an altar. As they were building it, Isaac became curious what they would sacrifice. Can you imagine being Abraham in that time? Honestly, this story has always made me a little aggravated. Why in the world would God expect Him to sacrifice the child he had waited on for years. That seemed so unfair.

If you continue on with the story, you know that Abraham obeyed. He strapped Isaac onto the altar and was getting ready to sacrifice his son when he was stopped by a voice. This voice told him not to harm Isaac and suddenly a ram appeared for the sacrifice. As hard as this story is to believe, I do think it’s literal. I believe this actually happened even though some argue it’s an illustration. I mean, I get why it’s so hard to understand. If I tried to strap Trey onto an altar of wood and light him on fire, I would be arrested and Trey put into protective services. And rightfully so.

However, while this is hard for us to understand, for the first time it hit me: Sometimes, we have to be taken through things we don’t understand to be reminded there is a ram in the corner. Now, I’m not naive enough to think all our hardships look the same. Some seem extremely unfair. I look at friends who have lost a spouse, a child, their house due to finances, and grieve with them, but I can’t understand it.

However, I know that in my own life I am so guilty of becoming complacent and putting my trust in other things until they are slowly stripped away. There’s more to the story of Abraham that is easy to miss. When Abraham was told to go sacrifice his son, he told people they were going to worship God, but that they would be back. Now, you can think one of two things here: Abraham thought God was just playing (we have no evidence that God had tricked Abraham before so that’s a reach) or he knew God would provide.

Here’s the hard reality in our life all these years later: Sometimes, the ram doesn’t show up to save the day in a way we would expect. Pain and suffering happen. Jobs are not good and money is not there. Illness strikes and people die.

Sometimes, we don’t see the ram waiting in the bushes. Sometimes, we see no way out of a situation. But make no mistake….the ultimate sacrifice has already been made on our behalf. The day has already been saved. We don’t have to wonder what God will ask us to do next. We already know. Sometimes His provision is hard to see. Sometimes we may not understand it this side of Heaven. But, it’s always there because it’s already been done. That is provision we can count on even when we don’t understand.

Write About What You Know

My friends and I were joking around one morning because I sent them a picture of my “gourmet” dinner being prepped in the crockpot. It was a Friday morning which meant it was whole bunch of random things thrown in. I was joking about spicing up the meal with garlic cloves and even offered to bring them a taste. Neither took me up on the offer, but it led to some of the funniest texts and started my day in the best way.

See, there’s something these friends know about me: I don’t really like cooking. It’s not that I can’t. I can follow a recipe if I have to, but it just stresses me out. If I pull something up and it calls for tons of ingredients, I’m immediately out. I don’t even care if it’s simple stuff like salt and pepper. Once you start with a laundry list of items, you should know you’ve lost me.

There’s also something else you should know. My kitchen is equipped much like a college kids. I have very limited utensils and even fewer pans in which to cook. Trey wanted to make a round cake for Easter and I had to go buy some round cake pans. True story. He also made homemade mashed potatoes which were great, except I had no way to mash the potatoes.

So you may be wondering, how do the Norman’s survive? Eat out? No way. We have 5 kids who act like they’ve never been in public when we leave the house. Take out? Sometimes, but not often. That’s pretty expensive. So, I do what any subpar wife in the kitchen does. I cook subpar meals and live for the weekends when J.O. fires up the grill. We eat a lot of spaghetti and “chicken in the crockpot” as my children have so lovingly named it.

During this time of early morning texting, I joked that I might just start a food blog. I made the comment that people always say, to “blog about what you know” and from the looks of my crockpot I clearly know about food.

But, I started thinking. What does that really mean? Write about what you know? Does that mean only foster and adoptive moms can blog about fostering or adopting? No. That only Racheal Ray can blog about cooking? No. Of course not.

However, it does mean that sometimes we become experts in an area we never dreamed we would become experts in.

Honestly, when we started fostering and eventually adopted I knew things would look different. I knew my world would be open to things I had never encountered before. Poverty, addiction, abuse, and that’s just to name a few.

I never wanted to become a self made expert in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Or parenting kids from trauma. Or how to navigate the prison system. Or walking the fine line of keeping biological ties open, but safe.

But yet here I am. And you know what? As much as I wish some things weren’t a part of their story, it’s a part of their story nonetheless. I imagine my friends who have experienced unimaginable loss would say the same thing. No one wishes for tragedy to enter their lives. There are things we never want to become the expert in. Cancer, losing a loved one, losing a job, losing your house, abuse, neglect, etc.

So, while it might be fun if I could blog about an amazing meal and show beautiful pictures, the reality is…..that’s not our reality. Our life actually resembles what was cooking in my crockpot. It might not be the prettiest, or most appealing, but it works. And not only does it work, but it’s actually pretty good.

Lessons During Quarantine

My mom and I were talking the other day and our conversation of course turned to the quarantine. She told me her and dad had been talking about lessons learned during this time. So many people were talking about learning and growing so she thought maybe she was missing something.

She wanted to know; what was I learning? What was my dad learning?

This made me think. What lessons have I learned during this time? Anything? Everything? Nothing at all?

This is the short list I came up with:

Things can change in an instant. No, really. One day you can be dropping you kids off at school, heading to work with makeup on, and the next day you are all at home. All of you. Like everyone. All day long.

Your job is not that important. Unless it is. Most of our jobs can be done at home.

My kids never need me until I sit down. This is not an exaggeration. It’s almost like they can feel my bottom hit the chair.

It’s become evident that most of my kids will never move out. Ever. One of my kids ask me today what the purpose of her ear was so she could complete her science sheet. I told her for earrings. And she almost wrote it down.

One of my kids is a street smart ninja and she will be just fine. I’ve moved all my hopes to her. It only took her one day to figure out shortcuts for everything.

There have never been more people with an inside look into our lives until now. The Bible says money is the root of all evil, but I feel certain ZOOM would now be added to that list.

Tele-therapy is the funniest, most stressful thing I’ve ever done. No, really. It’s like I can see all my self respect slowly draining out of me as I jump like a bunny on our physical therapy calls. I see it happening, but am powerless to stop it. Even better….I’m typically jumping alone because my 2 year old has run out of the room.

The amount of people who act like hand washing is a new thing is mind-blowing. Truly. We aren’t an overly clean family, but at least I knew the importance of hand washing.

My husband has the ability to work in our bedroom and tune out everything happening around him. It’s like he thinks if he’s quiet enough we might not think he’s home. My favorite is when he shuts the door. As if that means anything with kids.

My kids suddenly think we are Little House on the Prairie. They act like game nights, movie nights, family walks, art projects are their birth right.

My whole family eats as if Kroger isn’t having a meat shortage. Me included. It’s like a snow day on crack.

Other people are reading books and I’m just praying my phone usage doesn’t triple when Sunday rolls around and I get the report.

On a serious note…I have loved slowing down. I really am thankful for this time together. However, it’s hard to enjoy it when so many people are truly hurting. Hopefully we will get back to a somewhat normal life soon. But maybe keep the family walks and movie nights. Just don’t tell the kids.

I’m Not a Special Needs Mom

I’ve never considered myself a special needs mom. I felt those titles were reserved for people doing far more than me. Or moms raising kids with physical disabilities. It almost felt like I was cheating other mothers by even thinking that way.

Now, here’s the thing. I will call myself a “trauma mama” all day long. Give me the t-shirt, the badge, the sticker, whatever you want to give me. That one I will acknowledge and tell anyone with pride. All my other foster/adoptive mamas can raise their glass to that and clink with an understanding that only few can understand. That much I can guarantee.

But special needs mom? That one felt reserved for those doing the really hard work. The moms who never get a break and sit by their children’s bed at night to make sure they are still breathing. The moms who have to get special vans to accommodate all the medical equipment.

I looked at them from afar, raised my glass, and toasted them with deepest admiration. But I would have never tried to put my own glass in the mix. Besides, we all know that one person. You know what I mean. You talk about your dog dying when you were 12, and they talk about watching their mom accidentally run over their dog when they were 5. You lose a loved one and they constantly remind you of their own pain from losing a loved one.

I didn’t want to be that mom.

Then, the Covid hit and it closed our developmental daycare that my 2 year old attends. And things got real.

You see, I am for ALL the therapies. Sign us up. Henry has attended a developmental daycare since he was 10 months old (outpatient since 2 months old) and there is no shame in that. I am not a mom in denial when it comes to medications or therapies.

But did I consider myself a mom to a special needs child? No.

Until this week.

It took me becoming the therapist in my home and seeing how much he struggles to acknowledge it. And it was so hard. Not hard for me to admit. That I’m okay with it. But for me to acknowledge the things he will continue to have to overcome.

We’ve known for over a year that Henry struggles from the effects of alcohol during pregnancy. In fact, he’s one of the “lucky” ones in that he was diagnosed early and has all the physical features that make it easier to spot. We’ve also known he has medical issues that make him more susceptible to respiratory illness. We thicken his liquids, give him multiple inhalers daily, and see multiple specialists. He also has global developmental delays and major speech delays that qualify him for a developmental preschool and 300+ minutes of therapy per week.

But special needs mom? That title is only reserved for moms doing WAY more than me. That title is only reserved for moms caring for the needs of their child 24/7. Those moms are truly the heroes.

Then, this happened……

This week I was texting one of these hero moms about teletherapy. You see, we are both in the trenches right now trying to figure out how to make it work. Her child was struggling and she was beside herself trying to help him. The same was happening here so we were supporting each other over the phone and passing along tips and tricks.

Then, she ended our text with a fist in the air and the words “special needs mothers unite.”

And I paused. This hero mom was calling me a special needs mom? Me? That title is only reserved for people doing so much for their child. Those who eat, sleep, and breathe therapies and doctors appointments. Mom’s doing a way better job than me.

But, you know what? She was right.

I am a special needs mom. I’m raising a toddler who is not developing typically and it’s hard. I am up late at night googling FAS, CAS, chronic lung disease, etc. I’m balancing the difference in strong willed fits, and neurological damage and doing my best not to screw up.

I’m tired, I want a break, and I literally find myself consumed with Henry. Our plans are often altered for his schedule and keeping a routine is so important. My other kids have to sacrifice two parents attending their events because it’s too much for him. They have given up a lot and sometimes that guilt hits me like a ton of bricks.

So you know what……My name is Tamra and I’m a mom to a kid with special needs. I am a special needs mom.

Will He find us faithful?

There’s so much information about Covid-19 going around. You can find everything from government conspiracy, to we are all going to die. It can be pretty overwhelming and very bleak at times.

I’ll be honest, at first I couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. We were still planning on going on our short Spring Break trip, and we knew others still planning to head out on cruises. The news from Italy was devastating but no measures were taking place over here.

Then, it all seemed to hit the fan. We saw how easily, and how quickly, this thing was spreading. It also didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason on who it affected and how. Schools were starting to close, vacations cancelled, and people were panicking.

And as only Americans can do, we decided the treatment for not getting sick was: Food, alcohol, and 24/7 news.

I’ve done a lot of thinking during this time about what we should do as Christians. Now, I’m not meaning whether or not we should take this seriously. That part is a no brainer to me and I’m happy to listen to the professionals on this.

The one thing I can’t shake is this though: Will God find us faithful through this time?

When our church made the tough decision to cancel in person services, we all went into overdrive figuring it out. We made videos, put out information on our website, and assembled a team to help others. It almost felt like Easter week with the amount of work there was to do.

But then I started getting excited. Not for the “time off” (remember…more work than normal), but for the opportunities. For the first time, we are taking church into homes around the world. People who would never step foot into church have the opportunity to “attend.” People who have been burned by the church and hurt by leaders and Pastors, have a non threatening way to tune in. They can give it “one more shot” without worrying about darkening the doors of the church. They can watch from their couch or bed and see people on the other side also trying to figure this thing out.

What if we, as Christians, used this time to tell even more people about the love of Christ?

People are hurting. People are scared. And unfortunately, Christians are allowing this to be one more thing that divides us. We are either mad church is open or we are mad church is closed. We think Christians don’t have enough faith or Christians are being arrogant and not using common sense. We love the President’s decisions. We hate the President’s decisions. We think our state is full of idiots. We think our state is the best ever. Millenials are to blame. No, Gen Z is to blame. And so forth and so forth.

Am I ready to be back to normal? YES! I miss physically being in church with my friends and family. I miss my kids going to school. I miss not second guessing myself every time I cough. I am truly praying this ends soon.

But in the meantime, will God find us faithful? Will He find us serving Him in this time? Worshiping Him in this time? Or have we tied our identity up so much in our routine that we don’t even know how to worship outside of the church walls?

Why do I keep doing the very thing I don’t want to do?

I’ve been thinking a lot about why we do things we don’t want to do. For instance, I don’t have a deep desire to get so sucked into the Bachelor that my weeks revolve around Monday night. But yet it happens. I also don’t envision myself watching said show with a package of Oreos in my lap. But there they are.

I also don’t plan to yell at my kids, but before I know what’s happening I hear things like: “If you don’t pick up your clothes, you’re grounded for a month.” Let’s be real…..that’s never gonna happen. The picking up of clothes OR the grounding for a month. And we all know it.

But here I am…..doing and saying the same things over and over again. The things I say I won’t do again, I continue to do.

Paul had this same problem as well. You know, Paul from the Bible. That makes me feel a little better. Even Paul continued to do the very thing he didn’t want to do.

So, if we apply this to our own life, why are we so quick to judge this very thing in others. I’ve thought a lot about our birth parents navigating the system. Navigating a system that means well, but is hard for anyone to navigate, let alone someone battling addictions, poverty, and mental illness.

I was talking to Henry’s mom the other day and realized the massive hurdle she is facing finding a job when she’s released. I’ve been asking around and keep getting the same answer….”yes, we have a lot of programs that will hire unskilled labor. Things like sanitation, late night clean up after concerts, physical labor, and so forth.” Now, don’t get me wrong…these are good programs.

But, for someone already battling physical pain and addiction, it’s probably not the best idea for her to be in a labor type job. When I’m on my feet all day, the first thing I want when I get home is a stiff Tylenol and melatonin. These are my drugs of choice.

However, that looks very different when that’s not your drug of choice. It looks like relapsing and doing the very thing you don’t want to do. It looks like a statistic and we can’t figure out why they can’t break this habit, or remain clean.

As a Christian, it looks like me constantly asking for help to navigate the things in life that I can’t seem to give up. It looks like a support system, a church family, a loving husband, etc.

Peter (the disciple, not the bachelor) cried out for help with this very issue. Maybe we should realize that if he struggled with it, we are guaranteed to have a hard time. Perhaps it’s time to recognize the struggle. Call it out. Get some accountability. Open up your walls to those around you. Invite them to your table.

And for goodness sakes; quit putting certain expectations on people who are thrown back into the exact situation that got them there in the first place.

Who’s Your One…

I’ve written, and scrapped, two posts recently because I couldn’t figure out how to put my thoughts into words. The first one came out so vague that even I got bored reading it, and the second post was way too “holier than thou.”

However, I think I’ve finally been able to put it into words. I hope.

We recently had a series at church titled, “Who’s Your One?” It was about someone you know you need to connect with, all in the name of Christ. It may be someone that needs the hope of Jesus, it may be someone you need to make things right with, it may be someone in your family you need to minister to, etc. Someone that needs reached.

While I was sitting in church I knew who one of my people needed to be: Henry’s mom.

Several months ago, I asked our staff to pray with me about all our kids biological parents. I wanted them to pray about my role in their life and specifically for restoration with Henry’s mom. The dad and I have kept in contact, but not so much with mom. She was always in and out of treatment or jail and we never connected at all in court. There was this overwhelming sense that I was the bad guy, and that I worked with DHS to keep Henry. After all, I had all the advantage.

So, during this time I asked our staff to simply pray for her not to hate me. That was it. I continued to text dad and one day I felt prompted to ask him if she needed money or anything (she’s incarcerated). He told me a little money on her card would be great so I took it a step farther. I told him to please let her know she was welcome to reach out anytime.

One thing led to another, and the mom and I started communicating. Then, as the Lord often does, this sermon series started at church. So, I did what any good Christian would do….I decided I would pray harder for her. Maybe we could chat about church on the phone, but what else could be done? She’s incarcerated and I’m not. Our paths just wouldn’t cross. I could love her from afar, but should probably choose someone local to “witness” to.

Even as I type it, I realize how hypocritical this sounds. I had asked the staff to pray for our relationship, I was convinced she was “my one,” but I wasn’t willing to do anything hard.

So, one day I asked if she would like for me to visit. She was very honest that it made her extremely nervous and scared, but the answer was a resounding yes. I sent in my application to visit and added Henry to the list too. She was always too scared to ask me if I would bring him, but I knew she was hopeful. I think deep down she really never thought we would actually come.

My application was approved pretty quickly, and last Sunday I loaded Henry up for the 2 hour drive to visit. We went into the room and I really wanted to puke. So many questions were racing through my mind. Would she hate me? Would Henry willingly go to her? Would she judge me? And so on, and so on.

Instead, I walked in and there was just a mom sitting there. A mom who has had a terribly hard life. Made some terribly dumb choices. And walked a terribly different road. But still just a mom. She was desperate to hear all about Henry. She also wanted me to understand her past a little better. There’s a ton of regret and guilt about things that only time will be able to heal.

I’m not going to lie. I did not expect to leave the way I did. I went because I was convicted I needed to quit praying at arms length. I thought we would have a great visit, she would decide to totally lean on Jesus, and BOOM….life changed, dust off hands, walk out the door.

But, I’m the one that left completely different. I left LOVING this woman. I really did. I was sitting across from someone who’s life choices while pregnant are the reason Henry will have a lot of challenges. But the amazing thing is……I didn’t blame her one bit.

For 2 hours on a Sunday, I was able to catch a TINY glimpse of the love Christ has for me. There was no blame, no condemnation, no judging, nothing. Just grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Will I continue the relationship? I hope so. It’s the healthiest thing I could do for Henry. Will there be a lot of responsibility on her when she’s released? Yes. It’s why I tried email contact with Anna and Grace’s parents but unfortunately had to stop.

There’s no perfect or easy solution. But I do know this. Sometimes God calls us to pray for people from our seat. And sometimes we have to do it while getting up and getting uncomfortable.