To Live and to Love

Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Deuteronomy 30:19-20.

The Day I Became A Mother February 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — mrsschrage @ 11:07 pm

The job search has finally come to an end. It has been a crazy past month with major life changes but God, in His sovereignty, miraculously provided salary, housing, and health benefits for me and Jeff. But really, all the perks are secondary to what God has given us. Yes, indeed, in just nine months of being married, Jeff and I find ourselves in our third city, fifth address change, and parents of four children.

We got the job interview, then offer in mid-January and then we took a week or so to pray about our decision and struggle through our choices. As we had become attached and committed to our church in Asheville, leaving the youth group after just getting it going was a very difficult thing to do. In the end, obviously, we decided that it was time to leave and that we had to recognize God’s provision with the new job offer. February 1st was our final Sunday at Fairview Christian Fellowship, and we moved on February 2nd. A quick trip to Pittsburgh to see friends, and then we started our training on February 9th.

Our new job is located outside Statesville, NC (45 minutes north of Charlotte, 1.5 hrs east of Asheville). We are house parents (technically a Family Teaching Couple) at Barium Springs Home for Children. Formally a Presbyterian orphanage, BSHC is still a PCUSA ministry but now serves at risk children who are mostly diagnosed with mental health conditions, no longer strictly orphans.  The children we care for range in age from 9 – 17. Each of our children is under custody of the Department of Social Services (DSS) and our house is “Level 1” at BSHC, which means that it is the lowest level of security and the children have the fewest problems or diagnoses.

When we first interviewed for the job, our picture was quite different from what we have found reality to be. We had lovely pictures of family outings and dinner and a little bit lovey-dovey. We got to training and realized that it was far more intense and the reason being mostly because we are primarily responsible for teaching each child his or her personal focus skills and that we would be much more involved in treatment than we knew. Our first year here is a training year and at the end we will be certified in the Family Teaching Model.

In spite of the often overwhelming information overload, Jeff and I are thrilled. We are exhausted, but we are very excited about what the Lord is doing. We are already amazed at how much the new job has affected our relationship in a good way. As I told Jeff the other day, I finally understood what it felt like to be completely exhausted but at the end of the day, what matters is not what the kids did or said, but us. It was a pretty cool feeling. We have a LOT to learn about being parents and following the “model,” but it has been rewarding, even in the fact that we get to see each other in a completely new way than before. I feel like every day, I gain even more respect for Jeff because he does such a GREAT job with the kids.

A typical day:

6:30 – The kids check in, eat breakfast, and do chores.

7:30 – We drop off four kids to four different schools.  

8:00 to 2:00 – We get to use the on-campus YMCA, organize, unpack, grocery shop, study, read, whatever.

2:00 to 3:00 – Kids start returning home. Some walk or bus, others we have to pick-up.

3:00 to 5:00 – The kids do homework, have snacks, play Wii or outside, try not to get in trouble…

6:00 – We have dinner. (I’m trying to be super organized about menu planning. I have one week done so far.) Evening activities include things like free time, family night, or deep cleaning. We hope to incorporate church youth group sometime in the next few months.

7:30 – Bedtime routines start.

This is very much like any ordinary school kids/stay-at-home mom schedule. The difference is that we have to follow lots of protocol and a highly organized point system to teach positive social behaviors. We have children who cannot be out of our eyesight and who need constant monitering. They either earn negative or positive points for basic skills, such as, following instructions, peer relations, and accepting feedback.

Happily for us, one of our job requirements is to take the children to church to foster spiritual growth. Another one of God’s provisions for us was a solid Reformed church nearby (New Perth Associate Reformed Presbyterian) where Jeff already knew the youth pastor through seminary. So after a three month diversion in the PCA, we are back in the ARP where Jeff is still under care as a seminary student. So far, we love the church and we are very excited to give the children in our care the opportunity to hear the gospel and experience truth.

If you are really interested, I would encourage you to look at the websites. Barium Springs is a great agency and we are impressed with the quality of staff. We would certainly appreciate your prayers as we fumble our way through this drastic lifestyle change. The information that we are learning continues to be overwhelming at times, but slowly, we are getting the hang of it.

Sorry for not posting, but now that the silence has been broken, hopefully it will return to regularity. If anyone had told me while I was busy wedding planning this time last year that I would be a mother of four in less than ten months, I don’t even know what my reaction would be. It has been a wild ride but thankfully, the tracks are in line with God’s will. No matter how fast it rolls, we’re rolling right along with it…I still can’t believe I’m a “mom!”