The Lenhart Family

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Story Of Us

It is June 8th 1995 and you are being handed to me in a quiet labor and delivery room at St. Joseph Hospital in Wichita Kansas and as I look at your little cone shaped head, I am scared shitless (not just because I’m worried that your head will never be “normal shaped”) but mostly because I’m scared that I will never be the mom that you deserve. Love at first sight was something that I had romanticized about my entire life but had never experienced until that moment when they placed you into my arms…

It is August of 1995 and I drop you at the babysitter for the very first time and I'm crying so hard I cannot see as I drive off to school. But I am determined to not be another statistic of teen moms who never graduates high school or goes onto to college. I am determined and you are my motivation…

It is September 2nd 1995 and the day we officially and legally become a family! Most children only hear about and see pictures of the day their parents were married but you were there, experiencing it with us (and peeing through your diaper and on the best man during the ceremony). One thing you may not know is we planned on getting married BEFORE you were born but I got cold feet. And we postponed the wedding. But the day you were born and the precious moments that followed, seeing the way Dad loved  and cared for you removed any lingering doubt that this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. All three of us had some growing up to do but we committed to God and each other that day that we would do it together…

It is a fall day in the 1995 and we are taking a big step in our spiritual journey. I made the decision to get baptized. It is also baby dedication day at First Baptist Church so freshly out of the baptism water, your dad and I stand before our church family and make a commitment to raise you in church and to one day hopefully lead you to a relationship with Jesus. I have finally surrendered my life to Christ, no more looking to the things of this world to fill a God shaped void in my heart. I am also surrendered to the fact that not only do I desperately need Jesus in my heart; I desperately need him to be able to raise and parent this precious gift He has given me in you…

It is May 1996 and I am graduating high school (yay we did it!) You were there for ALL the most important and life changing days of my life as I hope to be there for yours. People say my life ended the day I became a teen mom but I know that that’s when it really began. You gave me the motivation and desire for a new life...

It is February 1st 1998 and your stubborn and strong headed sister decided that she was ready to meet us (six weeks early). So back to St. Joseph hospital we go and as soon as she is placed in my arms, your dad brings you into the delivery room and we have a quiet precious moment just the four of us before she is whisked off to the NICU (which happens to become our home for the next 17 days).

It is February 18th 1998 and you are exploding with joy as your little sister comes home from the hospital. You insist on holding her (for the first time) the minute we walk in the door. You keep removing the little pink hat on her head so you can smoother her with kisses and keep repeating “oh my sweetie pie”. I know it may not seem like it now but she was your FIRST best friend!! You absolutely adored her. They say your siblings are the people who will be in your life the longest (outlasting your parents, spouse, and any friendship). Remember this and continue to treasure and protect her as the years go on…

It is summer 1998 and you officially become a pastor’s kid as Dad accepts his first job in youth ministry. Of course you LOVE the attention you get from all the youth groupies and ham it up every time they are around, even putting on performances that include singing and dancing in your underwear just to get some laughs. I guess the seeds of your becoming the “class clown” you are today were planted during those early years of youth ministry. You made people laugh everywhere you went and nothing about that has changed over the years…

It is fall 2001 and you're beaming with pride as you walk into the first day of Kindergarten at Benton Elementary. You insisted on a Rugrats backpack and light up tennis shoes despite the fashion faux pas I knew it create looking back on it now...

It is May 2002 and again you are forced to attend another boring graduation ceremony as I graduate from nursing school at Wichita State University (yay we did it again!) There were so many times, I wanted to quit. I wanted to give up because the sacrifice it required of US was too much. But I am so glad we stuck with it. Being your mom was always my ultimate calling but this nursing gig has sure provided for our growing family over the years...

It is August 2003 and you are playing flag football for the first time at the YMCA. Dad is your coach and Ashlyn and I are your biggest cheerleaders (not much has changed in that aspect over the years either). While this won’t come as crushing news to you, you didn’t inherit any tremendous talent or Olympian athlete genes from your dad and me. But your heart when you play sports makes up for what you may lack in talent. You have always been the kid on the sidelines getting his teammates pumped up or running out to high five the person that just made the big play. You were an encourager on and off the field from the beginning. Gosh I love that about you…

It is spring of 2003 and we are in the car driving home from school listening to the song “Big House” by Audio Adrenaline (one of your favorite songs at that time). This song prompts you to start an impromptu conversation about what heaven will be like. Right then and there you tell me that you want to invite Jesus in your heart. That night we talk about what being a follower of Christ looks like and what it means to make Him “boss” of your life. The next Sunday, it is youth Sunday at Westside Christian Church (where daddy is preaching that week where he is currently serving as youth pastor there) and you get baptized. I love and treasure the fact that some of our most important conversations have happened in the mundane commutes we shared over the years…

It is March 2005 and your dad and I just returned from going to Haiti for the first time. We tell you about this little boy we met there named Jimso and how he needs a family and a home. Without hesitation you are ready to become a big brother again even though it will mean a lot of sacrifice from all of us. The wait during the adoption process is exhausting and overwhelming at times but your excitement and joy never waivers. You later tell our neighbors with soooo much excitement “I’m not getting much for Christmas this year because my mom and dad are trying to buy me a brother instead!”

It is January 2007 and we are driving south on I-35 in a U-Haul loaded down with all we own. We just said good-bye to all our friends and family in Kansas and are starting a new chapter in our lives serving at Cherokee Hills Christian Church in Oklahoma City. Saying good-bye to your beloved Papa is what hurts the most. You have spent nearly every Friday night with him since you were born and even though we are only a short drive away, it seems like a world away on Friday nights…

It is September 19, 2007 and we are driving home from Will Rogers’s airport.  You are in the back seat with Ashlyn and your NEW brother Jimso and our hearts are literally bursting with joy. You beg to skip school the next day to stay home and play “machines” and “foutbòl” with him. His eyes glow when he is playing with his big “frè” (brother). Even though you just met, it’s like a missing piece of the puzzle that is our family is finally in its intended place...

It is April 2008 and our Jayhawks won a national championship ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK BABY! We are in Lawrence watching the game at Allen Fieldhouse. Oh what a night?!

It is December 2008 and you are crying in bedroom. You have just weeks prior gone on your first mission trip to Haiti and your heart is trying to digest all you saw and experienced there. You begin your relentless pursuit to convince me and your dad to adopt again. But this time, you want to adopt two. “But they are already my brothers!” you plead. We try to tell you all the reasons why what you are proposing is impossible. “They are too old, it will take too long and Haitian law clearly prohibits the adoption of children after a certain age, we don’t have the financial resources to fund TWO more adoption”, and our list went on and on. But your unwavering faith and tenacity wins out the end and we begin the process not knowing how God would provide...

It is March 2009 and we are walking through intense suffering and loss. Your beautiful baby cousin Hope Elizabeth Maus was born with a condition called “hypoplastic left heart syndrome.” After one successful surgery to correct the defect, we thought we were “out of the woods” and God was going to bring complete healing to her precious heart but that was not His plan. While still grieving the loss of Hope, we have to somehow say “goodbye” to the precious foster sister, Belle Belle that become like family to us. By deciding as a family to foster children in January 2007, we made a conscious and willful decision to get our hearts broken at some point. It was a privilege to get our hearts broken by “Belle Belle.”  In the midst of grief and heartache, we hunkered down clinging to each other and ever clinging to Jesus. That season taught us that grief does not CHANGE you but REVEALS you.

It is January 2010 and we are glued to the TV. Haiti has just endured a catastrophic earthquake. We are desperate to find out if your brothers are ok. Dad and Grandma B are able to get to Haiti within 48 hours and we can do at home is wait and pray for a country and a people we deeply love. Word finally comes that the boys are ok and then we find out that they temporarily are granting humanitarian parole visas for children currently in the adoption process. We frantically begin gathering the long list of needed documentation just in case by some miracle and twist of fate your brothers might be able to come home. Just days and several thousand miracles later, you are headed to Will Rogers airport to once again bring home your Haitian brother(s). God orchestrated a chain of events in the midst of great of tragedy and loss that would once again grew our little family...

It is June 2011 and the dust has just settled from the adoptions of Jedone and Jackson. This season was one of the most difficult seasons of our lives but God was faithful through every bump and roadblock along this journey and season. We are all craving “normal” and “peace” when God brings a little piece of sunshine into our home and hearts in the form of a baby foster sister named “Zoe”. She has the ability to light up a room with her smile and giggle and immediately has us ALL wrapped around her little finger but especially you. I look at the way you play with and care for her and my heart skips a beat because I KNOW you will one day be an AMAZING daddy…

It is August 2013 and you have your last “first day” of school. I am a blubbering crying mess as usual. And you are no longer a boy but a man. We spend every Friday night watching you (and the group of football players that have become like family to you) play your hearts out for the Bethany Bronchos. Oh gosh the season and year flies by in the blink of an eye and I desperately want to find the “pause” button...

It is April 2014 and you are stunningly handsome and grown up and on your way to the prom. Dad holds my hand as we take pictures of you and your friends. We BOTH cry when we get in the car because we are so proud of the person you have become. And can’t believe that you are weeks away from graduating...

It is today and I am about to watch you graduate from high school and I am wondering how it all passed by so quickly and I am wishing I could stop time...

When they hand you a baby after you have performed miraculous feats of superhuman proportions to bring that little person into the world, they don't tell you about what is coming; the greater pain of letting them go. They don't tell you that those hours and hours of contractions and pushing are just the warm-up, eighteen years early, for the real pain.” Tara Livesay

It is today and I am thinking about your future and I am praying with all of my might that this world will be kind to you... It is today as I reflect on the “story of us” that I am overwhelmed again that God chose ME to be your mom.

It is today that I know with all my heart that it has been a privilege to love you the last 18 years!!!

Because you know how I love quoting cheesy song lyrics, I wanted to share with you my wish (my prayer) for you…

My Wish- Rascal Flatts

I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow
And each road leads you where you want to go
And if you're faced with the choice and you have to choose
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you
And if one door opens to another door closed
I hope you keep on walkin' til you find the window
If it's cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile
But more than anything, more than anything

My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it toMy wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you're out there gettin' where you're gettin' to
I hope you know somebody loves you
And wants the same things too
Yeah, this is my wish

I hope you never look back but you never forget
All the ones who love you and the place you left
I hope you always forgive and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get
Oh, you'd find God's grace in every mistake
And always give more than you take
But more than anything, yeah more than anything

My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you're out there gettin' where you're gettin' to
I hope you know somebody loves you
And wants the same things too
Yeah, this is my wish, yeah yeah

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Nameless Faceless Babies

“Over one third of all Americans have considered adopting or fostering but less than two percent ever actually do.”  This statistic popped up on my Facebook feed earlier this week and I can NOT stop thinking about it. This statistic has haunted my heart all week. What prevents would be adoptive or foster parents from taking that step and moving into action? As a foster and adoptive mom, I can come up with a list a mile long of barriers that stand in the way. When God placed a call to adopt and foster upon our lives, I had my own personal and extensive list of excuses that I was prepared to rattle off to God every time I felt Him tug at my heart for the orphan. When you are “considering”, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the process and paperwork. Overwhelmed by the financial aspect. Overwhelmed by what people will think. Overwhelmed by the naysayers. Overwhelmed by an unseen future. Overwhelmed by the vastness of the need!!

I love the movement that I have seen within the church over the last decade to rise up and take to heart the commands about caring for the orphaned, widowed, and fatherless. The church has been caring for orphans for centuries but I think we just forgot about it for a minute.  The cross, in its reunification and redemption, is orphan and foster care at its best! But I wonder how many believers get stuck in the “considering” phase. It is easy admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. The great tragedy of the church is not that Christians do not care about the fatherless but that Christians do not KNOW the fatherless.

A fellow foster mom and dear friend of mine and I were lamenting the other day about how hard tempting it is to dishonor the confidentiality agreement we sign as foster parents. When you have the cutest child on the planet living in your home, you want to show them off (but you cannot share their precious faces or names or cute little corks on social media). You want this precious child to be known, not for selfish or vain motives, but because you are utterly convinced that if they were KNOWN the shelters would be empty and our homes would be full. If the public knew what a blessing it is to foster, if they looked into these babies beautiful brown eyes, if they held their chubby little hands, if they heard their precious little prayers the foster care crisis would not exist. If only they were not nameless faceless babies, if only they were KNOWN…

David Platt said it best when he said, “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”

Disclaimer: I am not trying to guilt anyone into doing anything! Guilt is not a sustaining motivator. I will be the first to admit that not everyone can or should foster or adopt. But there are sooooo many other ways to love on orphans outside of opening your home to them.

I ask you, no I urge you, to watch this video. It's 12 minutes long and it presents the plight of many kids growing up in the foster care system. Children in your neighborhood, in your churches, in your child's classroom are living and breathing this "nightmare" that they consider "normal" life. They are removed from their home, their parents, the familiar in the middle of the night. They are separated from their siblings. The "lucky ones" get placed in a strangers home but many of them will be placed in a shelter. If there is no room at the local shelter (which all too often is the case), they get to spend the night sleeping in at DHS office and then possibly moved a shelter in another part of the state the next morning. They travel with whatever belongings they managed to grab in the rushed chaos when they were removed from their home. Their belongings are carried around in a trash bag (a trash bag!! what kind of message does that send to them about their value and worth? a trash bag for God's sake!). For the "lucky ones" placed in traditional foster homes rather the group homes, institutions, or shelters... statistics show that they will not be there long enough to become settled or create any sense of stability because the average child in foster care for greater than 18 months has three or MORE placements.

Many foster children enter a system in which further damage, trauma, and abuse are heaped upon their already wounded hearts. This is one of their stories...

Like a ostrich who buries their head in the sand, we can not pretend away the plight of the precious children growing up in the foster care system allowing them to remain nameless faceless babies anymore.  

Once our eyes are opened,
we can't pretend we don't know what to do.
God, who weighs our heart and keeps ours souls,
knows that we know and hold us responsible to act.
~Proverbs 24:12