Too big for me……

When the boys first came to us it felt a little crazy taking in two babies. After all, our original plan was to just provide respite for other foster families. After turning down three calls for other placements, when we were called about the boys, we couldn’t say no again. Almost exactly one year apart to the day, baby K barely cresting the one year mark and baby J barely out of the womb, I knew this would alter everything about our life. I mean taking in any child alters your life. After two months we are still figuring out a lot and trying to roll with a very inconsistent new normal. No day is the same. Outside of bedtime there is little that I can bank on going as planned. And this week we stuck our feet back into another year of homeschooling. Well if I thought I was crazy before I surely do now. To be honest I don’t really know how we’re going to do this. But as I was reading through the curriculum, organizing folders, preparing myself for our first day, and now having almost completed our first week, I am confident this is the right thing for our family and I trust God is going to make provision for us.

God does this some times ya know? He brings us to places and seasons where we think, “This is just crazy.” We might even be wondering if we need to step back from something or remove something from our plate. And sometimes we should. But other times I believe God brings us to these places where it’s so crazy that only He can get the glory.

Jon Bloom writes in his book Don’t Follow Your Heart, “When God chooses his servants, he tends to give them an oversized workload. Yes, God works for those who wait for him (Isa. 64:4), but you’ll note that waiting on God is rarely experienced as a leisure activity. It typically involves being placed in an overwhelming situation that requires a steeling of the nerves of faith to wait. Yes, we are to serve in the strength that God supplies (1 Pet. 4:11), but that serving can still push us beyond what we think we can handle to show that it’s God’s gracious supply, not our own strength, that is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9) and to show that we hope in the God who raises the dead (2 Cor. 1:8–9).”

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬‬‬

I don’t “do it all” and I definitely do not have it all together. If I ever appear to be any of those things I can assure you it is NOT me and what you are witnessing is the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit. I AM weak. I can’t do this apart from Jesus. I have tried and it’s an ugly hot mess. “I need Thee every hour.” So I hope that whenever we or anyone sees the fruit of our labor that it would be so obvious that it is ALL the work of Christ through us. He gets all the glory. And on the days I become overwhelmed and wonder again, “Can I do this?” (Because for this melancholy those days will, no doubt, crop up) I pray I would look to my Shepherd and say as David did, “He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” Psalms‬ ‭23:3‬

Ryann Is 8

Dear Ryann,

It’s hard to believe you are 8 years old. That cute high pitched voice of yours is nearly gone. Your sweet little baby chunk has disappeared and you are becoming a slender, tall, beautiful young lady. You still sing and dance and smile as you always have. You are a lover of all animals. Which has turned mommy into your modern day Snow White, constantly rescuing and bringing home some critter that we never intend to keep and yet…. well Aly (and Milo) for example. Your artistic skills and creativeness still blow me away. You can pretty much make anything with scissors and a hot glue gun. You are such a good student, your teacher loves you so much😉 and you have shown perseverance when things were difficult. What an excellent quality to have. In life, it’s inevitable that difficulties will arise. I pray that you will cultivate that perseverance through a relationship with Christ, and learn how to press on and overcome in His strength. Ryann you are still the sensitive, silly, and loving child you have always been.

These, too, are wonderful characteristics. You get hurt easily, both physically and emotionally. But this lends itself to be aware of the needs of others. God has made you tender hearted so you can extend that in times when others need it. Look for those opportunities to be compassionate like Jesus. You are such a silly girl and laughter can be the best medicine. You are playful and fun and if mommy needs this in her life (which I do) then other people must too. Share this silly and fun aspect of who you are with everyone God brings your way. And Ryann you are a very loving girl. Remember that we love because He first loved us. I pray you will make Christ your first love and let all your affections flow from that. I pray you will give Him your whole heart because He can be trusted with it more than anyone else in this world and He loves you so very much. I pray whatever you decide to do in life it’ll be in honor of your Heavenly Father and Savior. He created you, He gave you unique giftings and talents, and I pray you’ll desire to be used by Him however He sees best. Ryann, believe it or not even at a young 8 years old you teach mommy things about love, laughter, kindness and sensitivity. I am thankful for your example and so grateful God gave you to us. Daddy and I are so proud of you. We love you so much. Happy 8th birthday!

Love,
Mommy

Flexibility, Compassion, And Grace

The days we have visits, sometimes, are our most difficult days. Lets just say my flexibility gets really stretched and challenged. To be honest, by nature I am not that flexible. No doubt this once very tightly wound girl has become more go with the flow but I still like schedules, preparation, and order. Those are all good things but when you are working with families that come from hard places sometimes you just have to chuck it all out the window and pray for grace. God is working on me in this area.

The Cancelled Visits

We have already experienced many of these. We orchestrate our entire morning around getting the babies ready; Timing everything just right so they are perky and pleasant for mommy and daddy and then we get the call, “They won’t be making it today.” Well yes, that can be irritating. I typically am thinking of the ways I can capitalize on not having two children 1 and under. “Maybe I’ll take my kids to the park.” “Maybe we can go to the library.” “Maybe I’ll bury my weary soul in Gods Word for the.entire.time..” “Maybe I’ll go grocery shopping, or clean, or take a nap.” All those awesome plans get jettisoned and it usually takes me half an hour to move on and figure out how to re-work my day. Not to mention the disappointment in the parents. All the thoughts that run through my head. Primarily, “What could possibly keep you from seeing your children? What is more important than spending time with these sweet little guys?”

The Visit and the Aftermath

On the days where we have “successful” visits the babies come home a mess. They are tired, over stimulated, and very fussy. They’ve been passed from person to person, some they don’t know, some they do. I can’t even imagine the effects this has on a 1 year old. How confused he must be….

Grace and Perspective

It would be very easy for me to develop resentment towards the parents in both situations and to become negative and lack hope in them. Yes I do see a difference in the boys when we’ve gone a week with no visits and they have kept a consistent schedule. Yes I do wonder if they’d be “better off” staying with us. I am sure these thoughts are natural. But as soon as I start thinking that way God reminds me that He is bigger than missed visits and disrupted schedules. That He loves these boys and their parents, too. That He has all power to heal and redeem and change the trajectory of an entire family. So I reject the hopeless thoughts and the compulsion to try and control and I pray for the babies and their parents. I ask God to give us opportunity to invest in the mom and dad and pour His love out on them as He has so graciously on us. And then I wait expectantly for those opportunities to arise.

A Lesson In Judging

Dear Woman at Walmart,

I sensed your disapproving glares as I was checking out. I’m so sorry I was holding up the line. I thought I had all my ducks in a row, all the right WIC vouchers set out accordingly but I’m pretty new to using this program and well it was a mess. I had all the dates wrong, didn’t know you had to pay as you go and additionally I had a newbie cashier who was as confused as I was. I smiled politely and apologetically and yet that stare seemed to draw sweat beads out of my body and panic within my chest. Maybe you noticed by my lovely wedding ring that I’m married. Maybe you saw this nice coach wallet my mother bought me and yes I do have an iPhone. Maybe you were wondering why your tax dollars are paying for someone’s groceries who obviously can afford life’s luxuries. I get it. I’ve been there. And today was a great reminder for me about not being a person who judges others. It’s not my place and I simply can not even begin to know the extent of a strangers situation. You see while you frowned upon me you didn’t know that I’m a new foster mom. That my family just brought in two sweet babies that need a temporary loving home. And while we welcome these babies with all the emotional and physical challenges that naturally come with fostering, the state would like to alleviate us some by assisting us financially. It’s not much mind you, but it’s something. So while I fumble through my WIC folder looking for that precious check that will supply my foster baby with formula, I hope you will now understand that not everyone takes advantage of government assistance. Yes, there is fraudulent use of these programs but there are birth and foster parents alike who use the help of our government as its intended to be used. And at any rate it’s not our place to pass judgment on who we deem should be using it or not. Our glaring looks of disapproval have never changed anything have they? Today I was reminded of how important it is to extend patience and kindness even to strangers. And it occurs to me now that while I felt like you were disapproving of me, maybe you weren’t. Maybe you had a very traumatic day. Maybe your harsh expression had nothing to do with me. Maybe my overthinking is just my own conscience reminding me of my own sinful judgment of others. Maybe I was simply seeing a reflection of myself in years past. Maybe I am the one who needs to get over myself and extend compassion to you.🙂

“Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke‬ ‭6:36-37‬ ‭

Foster parenting and your marriage

We are not seasoned foster parents. We may have done this once before but we are still newbies. So we don’t really have a lot of wisdom yet. But I would like to share some of our experiences thus far for other newbies or for those considering foster parenting.

Prepare to be unprepared.

We can plan, read, receive counsel and training until the cows come home but when you enter into a new season with unfamiliar dynamics there will absolutely be things that catch you off guard. Just like marriage or having your own children when the unexpected arises you might be tempted to wonder if you were “ready for this”. Satan would be the one whispering that lie to you. God called you to this, he is sovereign, you didn’t make a mistake, and he will equip you for every good work.

One thing that surprised me when the boys came to us is it really threw Jason and I off kilter. Obviously I expected that to happen to some degree with us all, more so with our kids. But for two weeks I felt like he and I were on two different planets. He was doing his thing, I was doing mine and I began having thoughts like “Umm, I thought we were doing this foster parenting thing together?” Jason’s always worked very hard, usually owning his own business, which allows me to stay home with our children. Naturally with me staying home I do a lot of the “leg work” within the home; cooking, cleaning, teaching, correcting, bathing, reminding, directing, etc. That is how it’s always been with our children and it’s always worked. But taking in two babies to make a total of five was a huge adjustment for me and I needed help. At first I tried to maintain all the order on my own. This only led to resentment and exhaustion. I started breaking down. I tried making it about Jason knowing what I needed from him. Isn’t it obvious?? Maybe. But God had something else in mind. After a few emotional conversations I finally realized that I needed to be humble enough to ask for help in whatever specific areas I needed it and also inquire about Jason’s needs as well. Now the doors of communication are open. The Lord has been gentle, faithful and definitely working on both mine and Jason’s heart.

For any other newbies out there: Be patient, be humble, and be open with your spouse about each other’s needs. Jason helps me by doing the bulk of grocery shopping or helping clean house. Since he’s not much of a newborn kind of dad you won’t see him doing night time feedings. But he will do breakfast with the other kiddos so I can possibly sleep an extra hour if I need it. He’s also great at taking the kids on car rides or to play outside just to give me some quiet time. We also try to make it a point to connect with each other on a more intimate level 2-3 nights a week. This is crucial! We are better parents when we are emotionally, spiritually, and physically connecting with each other. Every family will have different dynamics. Don’t be discouraged if you feel like you aren’t on the same sheet of music yet. It may take some time to figure out new schedules, roles and responsibilities but keep communicating and openly discussing what works and doesn’t work for each of you.

“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:6-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A Thank You And An Invitation

To the ones who are praying on our behalf, your prayers are felt and so appreciated. I know with out a doubt, there is no way we could do this with out prayer. Every time I hear “I am praying for you” or am sent a passage of scripture, my mind and heart are encouraged, strengthened, and directed to the One we are doing this with and for. Please keep praying!

To the ones who have brought us dinner, our bellies thank you. My restless body thanks you. And my children and husband are especially grateful for the back up cooks. It may not always occur to people that taking in foster children is a lot like bringing home a new baby. Especially when one IS a new baby😉 We not only appreciate the night off from cooking but we love the company that comes with the meal.

To the one who babysat for us so we could take Caleb bowling for his 4th birthday, Caleb REALLY thanks you!🙂 It’s tough being the baby prince and getting dethroned times two. But in truth, we all needed a breather, the time to reconnect as a family unit, the time to celebrate our little boy. Thank you for allowing us to do this with out dragging the little-bitty’s around a loud bowling alley. In fact, they thank you, too! They thank you for loving on them and keeping them in their new calm environment, on schedule, not a minute after bedtime. Everyone was happy! You are a tremendous blessing.

Thank you to the ones who have given clothing, blankets, bottles, pacis, car seats and money for all the other essential baby items. Because these sweet little guys came with absolutely nothing. And yes the state does reimburse for certain items but honestly, I haven’t exactly mastered going shopping with five kids so my sanity thanks you! Your generous example has been a source of edification and reminded us why we should be generous people. Thank you!

As my title says, this is not only a thank you but this is also an invitation to those who are wondering how they can be a support to children and families in foster or adoptive situations. These are just a few ways that you can be a huge blessing to a child and their care givers. If you know a foster family consider being a support to them in one of these ways. If you don’t know a foster family, consider going to your local DFCS office or a private Christian agency and asking if you can encourage and give to one of their existing families. This is something you could consider doing with your local church, small group, or even just a few friends. We are so incredibly thankful for all the ways people have loved on us and these two little ones.

I am linking Bethany Christian services because it is a national organization that likely you can connect with in your area. But there are several organizations like it so feel free to research and ask around and allow God to lead you to the right ministry. (We have chosen to work with the state this time.)

https://www.bethany.org/

I’m also linking their Safe Families ministry. I have a good friend who is a host family. Consider being a host family or a host family friend.🙂

https://www.bethany.org/other-services/safe-families-for-children

If you have any questions feel free to ask me and I’ll do my best to answer.

Nothing Special 

About a year ago Jason and I began talking and praying through whether or not we would step back into foster parenting. James 1:27 is pretty clear about Christians caring for widows and orphans in their distress and while we know you don’t have to be foster or adoptive parents to do this it was still heavy on our hearts. So we prayed and began pursuing what would be required to become foster parents again. Which in case you are wondering everything was required all over. We attended orientation, 20 hours of training, and began our home study. Around every requirement we saw opportunity for God to open or close the door and reveal His sovereign will. We encountered a few hurdles and lost paper work but ultimately God would say “yes” and we officially became foster parents on June 3rd. We already have our 2nd placement, two baby brothers, a one month old and a one year old.

Now before your head starts spinning as you consider the ages and number of children currently in our home I just want to let you in on a secret.

We are normal.

We get tired. I am in fact, very tired. We need time outs to regroup. We all, Jason, me, and the kids, have to adjust to new visitors and how it throws off our groove. We are learning a new level of patience, we don’t just have it. We are learning new ways to sacrifice and share and love. We are not super parents. We are not saints.

All I can say we are is willing. God most certainly is our strength, joy, patience and provision. It’s just not us. It’s Him. It’s the Holy Spirit.

I have no idea when or what I’ll write about. Of course I have to be careful of not sharing personal information about the children but I do hope to write to encourage foster parents and also give insight to how others can obey the call of James 1:27 with out having to be a foster or adoptive parent. We have been loved on in so many ways by the body of Christ and my heart is full of gratitude for Gods people. We can’t do this alone and I hope to share about how we aren’t.🙂