Hope Renewed: Part 4

Part 4

It’s crazy. So much of this journey has felt long. We have had to wait. They have had to wait. Wait for answers, wait for case plan decisions, and wait for direction  from the Lord. And the waiting is not over. We still have so far to go. But we’re in! We’re pursuing them, pursuing making them our boys. I already catch myself referring to them as “mine” or “ours”. I tear up just thinking about it. I feel like in the midst of trying to decide there were some fears that came with the unknown. But the moment we decided so much of that fear has been crushed! God is infusing my heart daily with more love and trust and confidence. I know we will face challenges, opposition even, but, “The Lord is my Light and Salvation, whom shall I fear? Whom shall I be afraid?”

re·new verb

past tense: renewed; past participle: renewed

resume (an activity) after an interruption.

synonyms:       resume, return to, take up again, come back to, begin again, start again, restart,…

When you look at the definition of renew, I think you’ll understand why I chose the title, Hope Renewed. So much of our story with the boys has been “come back to” and “start again”. And so much of their story is about “beginning again”. Of course I wish the world was not the way it was, that children didn’t come into foster care, and that life altering decisions weren’t so complex and messy. Of course I wish they had not experienced so much disruption in their life and no I can’t understand why it all happened the way it did. But then there is hope. There is Jesus Christ. I thought about titling this “All Things New” because that is the hope we have in Christ, that he IS making all things new. Where sin has broken and torn and messed up, Jesus steps in and offers hope and healing. And that’s what he’s doing in the boys life and in ours.

April 10, 2018….. That date probably holds little significance to you. I forgot how significant it was for me, for our family. The Lord didn’t though. I want to share with you one of the most gracious, amazing confirmations I believe we received from the Lord about adopting these boys.

We got a call March 23rd that there would be a permanency hearing for the boys on April 10th at 1:00pm. The permanency hearing will be to officially move them to our home and begin the adoption process. The following Sunday I went to put that event in my calendar on my phone. On that day, at that exact time, I had entered something else. Eight months ago I had put on my calendar for April 10th that baby was due. Ironically the default time was 1:00pm. I mean seriously? How in the world is it possible that these two dates, established eight months apart, after everything we’ve been through, would land together? Because God is just that cool and sweet and awesome. I got chills and tears and could not believe how specific God would be in our future and in theirs. I believe with every part of me he is redeeming and healing all these pieces of their life and ours together. And this is just the beginning of it.

So as my sweet friend so appropriately put it, I am “nesting”. Baby shower anyone?? Hehe! We’ve been having fun rearranging rooms and I love hearing Caleb talk about how he “will not sleep in his new room till the boys get here”. He asks me every day “When are we adopting the boys?” and he also very excitedly informed me, “Now that we are adopting K and J we will have enough kids to play manhunt!” I think he’s excited to get some brothers.

This is not the end of our story though. Please keep us and them in your prayers. Pray for our relationship with the great grandparents. We didn’t always know if we would adopt the boys but we did always know that God was using us in the boy’s lives and in the lives of their family. Pray for strength and wisdom as we jump back into parenting toddlers. Pray that the boys would integrate into our family, both immediate and extended. Pray for protection during the adoption process because we still fall under “adoption legal risk” as they are not officially “freed” for adoption yet. Which basically means it’s not over till the court says it’s over.

I am so honored to get to share this amazing story of God’s faithfulness through fearful, unsure, slow learners like ourselves. It’s been awesome to write and reflect on all the ways God sustained us when we wanted to quit and orchestrated His will through the doubts and fears and imperfect steps of obedience, faith, and trust. I can’t even tell you all the ways I look back and see his hands, “Oh, now I understand…” I look forward to writing “Part 5” and we are so grateful for your support and prayers.

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Hope Renewed: Part 3

Part 3

From October-January we did not receive a placement. I rested, I grieved, I took steps in healing, I spent lots of time with Jesus, I stayed up late with my family, we traveled to Florida A LOT, I ran, I read, we rejoiced throughout the holidays,…… we slowed way down for a season and it was good.

During this time God overwhelmed my soul with peace. Peace about our loss. Peace about the boys. Peace about the future and His will.

Then we got the call about baby E, who was precious and delightful. He was good medicine for this girls grieving heart. I quickly unleashed all this stored up baby love on him and enjoyed (most) every minute he was with us. He was soon placed in relative care and all was quiet and slow again.

In February, 2018, we were on our way home from Florida. Great grandma calls needing someone to watch the boys. They had to be removed from their adoptive placement and DFCS is no longer considering the family for permanency. They are back to square one, looking for a forever home for these two little guys. Everyone is shocked, the boys and grandparents are a bit traumatized, Jason and I are bewildered. “Lord, what are you doing? What’s your plan here?” At this point, Great Grandma and Grandpa are emphatic, they do not want to put these babies through any more trauma. I don’t blame them. My heart hurts over all the upheaval in their short lives. She expresses to me that the only family (outside of them) she would consider for the boys is us. She knows we’ve been through a lot, is sensitive and not pressing us for an immediate answer.

So we start praying and talking and praying.

Throughout this process I’ve learned a valuable lesson as it relates to adoption. It’s not always immediately crystal clear. Maybe some times it is, but in our experience there has been just A LOT of working through it, questioning, hypotheticals, etc. We want to do what is in their best interest and we can’t just automatically assume that’s us! I share that to encourage the ones considering adoption that didn’t get the “lightning bolt” moment or “know instantly this is my child”. I’ve heard those phrases a lot in fostering and adoption circles and it made me wonder if something was wrong with us because that was not our experience. We’ve known we LOVE the boys, but we had to really work through if we were the best family for them.

As we continued praying and talking through this again, and learned more details of what happened I did wonder things like, did we made a mistake the first time? Did the boys have to go through all that? What was the point of everything that happened? Did we just need more time? I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say it a hundred more even at the risk of sounding cliché, God works in the most mysterious ways. It’s not cookie cutter, it doesn’t always make sense to us. We take one step at a time, striving for obedience, trusting God with the outcome, and sometimes it doesn’t look how we expected…. And we just keep walking, taking the next obedient step of faith.

All we knew was God was still weaving their story with our story which kept drawing our eyes to HIS story.

We had a lot of concerns to work through before we would fully commit. The situation we are in (having relationship with biological family) made me wonder how that would look in the future. How do we navigate this relationship?  Would they respect and support our decisions as parents? Would we agree on waiting till the boys are old enough to tell them their story? Would they allow people in their life that we aren’t comfortable with? Will they finally let us cut baby K’s hair? It wasn’t just a matter of adopting the boys. The great grandparents and all their history are part of the deal, too! We start spending more and more time with K and J and it becomes more clear. Peace and confidence are growing stronger as we talk more about adoption. Each time we’re with them, each time we get in God’s Word, every time we pray, every time Jason and I talk, the only reasons to NOT call these boys are own, are fear driven, selfish or worldly. But you guys, we have JESUS. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 Fearful, selfish, or worldly reasons don’t work! Our hearts begin shifting into “Yes” mode. I start asking the great grandparents some of the tougher questions. There’s this miraculous unity between the grandparents desires and ours. Every step we take, every question we ask, God is affirming our yes.

(to be continued)

Hope Renewed: Part 2

Part 2

Fostering was different for me following the allegation. I wasn’t naive anymore. I knew what hurting, desperate people were capable of and willing to inflict on innocent people. I was overwhelmingly anxious every single time baby K bumped his head or got a bug bite. I continually placed my fears in the Lords hands. Often times these fears kept me from the joy and freedom I once knew, as I anxiously tried to prevent toddler injuries. It totally went against my “free range” parenting method that my children flourished under. It was hard but ultimately it allowed me to exercise an area of my faith that needed strengthening.

In December of 2016 the boys were placed in relative care, with their great grandparents.

I wrote about saying goodbye.

I’ve written about how we’ve maintained relationship with them.

Their great grandparents have relied on us for relief and we’ve been more than happy to provide it. When it was obvious that these boys could not be reunified, we all started wondering what their permanency plan would be. At their age the great grandparents knew they could not provide the level of care the boys needed. Our family had formed quite a bond with these boys. We loved them, our kids loved them, it all just seemed to fit. From May-September of 2017 we were having conversations about us possibly adopting them. There were still a lot of loose ends in their case plan, paternity to prove, parental rights to terminate, and so on. I felt very strongly that this was God’s will for us to pursue adoption, we just had to let it work itself out.

During that time Jason was very busy with Papa Johns and a partner in a new contracting company. We had baby C who, to no fault of her own, was very emotionally taxing for me. I was caring for all these kiddos, in large part on my own and had a lot on my plate. I was fixing my coffee one morning and suddenly felt weak. I knew I was about to pass out. Fortunately I made it to the couch and avoided serious injury. When I came to, I was freaking out. I had been eating fine. I hadn’t been sick. I was really concerned about what had caused me to collapse. I felt horrible. My chest was super tight. I was on the verge of throwing up. We tried going to the walk in clinic but they instructed me to go to the ER. After they ran every test possible (and we racked up a pretty hefty bill) it turned out I was severely dehydrated. Obviously we were relieved, but I was puzzled. I have never been dehydrated. How did this happen? And what good am I to all these kiddos if I’m neglecting my body and it’s shutting down? Doubt was starting to creep in. Was it too much? Could I handle all this?

Then in August we got our surprise positive pregnancy test. I was excited, but also freaking out. We’re talking about adopting two boys, 1 and 2 years old, and now I’m pregnant! We would go from 3 to 6 children in less than a year. Were we ready for that? So many questions loomed. I mean I questioned EVERYTHING. Myself. My husband. God. My motives. My faith. We didn’t know what to think. We went back and forth trying to figure this out, wrap our brains around our situation and what to do. And then I lost the baby. My heart was hurting and broken. Because I had never suffered a miscarriage before, I wondered again about my body. I know I didn’t do anything wrong and I was in good health, but these experiences left me feeling weak and fragile. At that time we decided to back away from any major decisions. I wasn’t in a place where I could confidently move in either direction. I didn’t want to say no or yes. And it wasn’t just about me, it was about everyone, including the boys. Again I wondered if I was in a place of being able to give everyone the care and attention they would need. I just needed time to grieve, heal and process.

During that time, their great grandma called to tell me that some relatives came forward and want to adopt the boys. What could I be but excited? The boys needed permanency and stability. This family wanted to give that to them. Of course I had moments where I doubted and wondered. “Is this family right for them?” “What about our family?” “What’s in the boy’s best interest?” But I laid all those concerns over to the Lord. I entrusted them to Him and prayed for them; their protection, their future, their salvation.

I reminded myself that in this ministry, so often, loving them is letting them go.

(To be continued)

Hope Renewed: Part 1

I have been working on a story. A true story. A story about our family and two little boys we’ve grown to love and care for. A story that has unfolded in miraculous ways. It’s God’s story and you will notice his sovereign merciful hands, patience, attention to detail, and amazing love. This story has been happening for awhile and within each post you will find links to click on and read about what he has been orchestrating for several years. I have broken it up in parts to make it easy to read. I am excited to have written this all out and I pray you are encouraged by how great and mighty our heavenly Father is.

Part 1

When Jason and I decided to get back involved in foster care, we intended at first to only be a source of respite for other foster parents and possibly take short term emergency placements. Our experience with fostering in 2013 was eye opening and we felt this time we had a better understanding of our capabilities and limitations. And then I got a call about a long term foster placement. I felt compelled to say yes but I needed to see if Jason felt the same way. I told him the information I was given and he said “If you think you can handle that then let’s do it.” So we said yes. The irony is Jason was still under the impression it was “short term.” It wasn’t till a couple days later that he realized there was no end in sight.

Already, God is intervening and orchestrating for these little lives to make their way to our home.

June 24, 2016 two baby boys came into our life. If you’ve been following our blog you likely remember them. Baby K was 13 months old, all chunky and sweet, and baby J was 1 month, 5 pounds and as frail as I’ve ever seen an infant in person. They needed safety, compassion, care and love. Their family history is hard, broken and full of sadness. In the beginning we made great efforts to support reunification. I wrote their mother a note of encouragement. I gave her my phone number to call and text. We tried to be as open and supportive as we could. It was a challenge. They missed visits and court dates and weren’t doing what it takes to get their babies back. And then they became hostile.

One evening I was cooking dinner and a DFCS worker shows up at our home unannounced. I cheerfully welcomed her in, thinking she’s just doing a pop-in visit, to quickly discover she was with Child Protective Services. She was here to investigate US. I was shocked. I didn’t understand. I burst into tears. Baby K, who was just learning how to walk, had taken a spill which resulted in a bruise. I assume out of vengeance, his parents called CPS. It was an absurd allegation.

For a brief moment Jason and I considered closing our home. Here we are trying to help and now we’re being attacked. How could we put our own family at risk? But this is exactly what the Bible told us to expect. Persecution, suffering, slander, ….. There is a cost when you choose to follow Jesus. Had we counted it? Did we trust Him? Did we believe Romans 8:28? Were we willing to take the risk, to put ourselves out there? Were we going to live out what we claimed we believe? Or were we going to shrink back in fear, when it gets difficult, hard, uncomfortable, and painful? We wrestled. We worked out our faith with fear and trembling. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the mercy of God we chose to press on; To not give up on fostering, these little boys, or their broken family.

Once again, God was intervening on behalf of those babies, to keep them in our care.

After our home was cleared of the allegation we moved forward with a bit more wisdom and a lot more caution. I had boundaries now, my walls up a little higher. I continued to pray for the boy’s parents, but things only got worse on their end. We continued to deal with their irresponsibility, missed visits, and lack of progress. I prayed for the boys future. I worried what it would look like. Would they end up perpetuating this cycle of addiction and abuse. I asked God to be merciful in their life.

(To be continued)

Micaila is 11 years old

To Micaila for memory:

Here we are again, another birthday. Today you turned 11. You are becoming an extraordinary young woman. You have surrendered your life to Jesus and I am so proud of how diligent you are to be in His Word and have your quiet time every morning. This is the most important discipline you can ever develop because it is from this discipline that your perspective, attitudes, and actions are shaped for Gods good and glory. I pray that no matter what happens in your life you would remain rooted in His Word and always come back to your Savior and Lord.

Micaila you are kind, caring, smart, ambitious, beautiful, and talented. You are so willing to help and you consistently put others before yourself. I can’t even express how grateful I am that you set such a good example to your younger siblings. I appreciate how you lead them, play with them, help them and encourage them. Today you were trying to help Caleb ride his bike. You are such a good cheerleader and like your daddy, you’re good at teaching others. I already see God using this gift he gave you every day but I pray you will continually surrender your gifts to him and his purposes. You love our foster babies like they are our own. You help mommy out BIG time by playing with them, holding them, or watching them so I can catch a potty break! What would I do with out you and your sister??? 🙂

For awhile now you and Ryann (and now Caleb) have LOVED legos. You have a whole LEGO world in your bedroom. It use to drive me nuts that these legos would never be put away but now, I’ve embraced it and I am thrilled that you all enjoy playing for hours in your LEGO world. For your birthday you were given the LEGO Hospital, so tell your LEGO friends “your welcome”. Now they don’t have to go to the Animal Hospital. 😉

You still adore your stuffed animals, playing outside, riding your bike (and now skate board) and of course riding Duet.

But I can tell you are getting older. You like to accessorize, especially with bracelets, and you smell good from new perfume. Also, it’s totally weird that I asked to borrow your lip gloss…. soon it’ll be shoes. 🙂 Speaking of feet! You have taken up running with me. You, me, and Ryann ran our first 5k over Thanksgiving and it was so fun! Now we are training for a 10k and you will probably leave me in your dust because again, you’re like your daddy, a natural athlete and an over achiever. 😉

All these qualities have the potential to be used for Gods glory or your own gain.

The world will tell you to seek self and promote self.

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs‬ ‭14:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The Bible tells us to die to self.

“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I pray you will yield everything to Jesus, loving and trusting Him so much and with Paul one day say,

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” Philippians‬ ‭3:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There is so much more I could share about you. You are a delight. Your daddy and I love you so much and are so proud you are our daughter.

Happy 11th Birthday.

For My Mom on Her Birthday

Today is my mother’s birthday. I haven’t written in a while but today I felt impressed to honor my mom here. Something about this year,… Maybe it’s the loss we’ve experienced and watched others experience. Maybe it’s being on the heals of Christmas when we reflect on the greatest Gift ever given. I just want to express how grateful to God I am for my mom.

I have always gotten really choked up when I listen to Taylor Swift’s song Best Day. My secrets out, I do enjoy listening to Taylor from time to time. I was playing it this morning and even though her story and relationship with her mom is different than mine, in this song she encapsulates the mother/daughter bond in a really sweet way. She communicates how much she looks up to her mom, how her mom has always been there for her, and how beautiful and strong her mother is. I would say the same of my mom on all those points. I don’t know if Taylor’s mom knows Jesus but my mom does and that makes each of those points all the more meaningful and beautiful.

Being the only girl and the youngest my mom really doted on me. She might even say too much, but I’ve always felt loved, cherished and adored in healthy proportions. And now as an adult I’m very aware of my mother’s unconditional love for me. This year in particular, in the wake of losing our baby my mom has been there for me in all the ways I’ve needed and at times when no one else could know I was in need. The Holy Spirit works through her to lift my eyes to Him. She’s one of the very few that sees my deep, dark, ugly places and she graciously, tenderly, gets my gaze back on Christ. She doesn’t just tell me what I want to hear, or what will make me feel better. She is honest, she speaks Biblical truth when I need it,….which is all the time. Her love helps me understand Christ’s love.

I look up to my mom more than any other woman in the world. And I know that my even being able to say that is a gift from God; A great testimony of his goodness and graciousness in my life. I could probably write a book on all the ways her life has positively impacted mine but I want to hone in on one thing.

My mom loves Jesus SO much. We all know that there are, actually, a lot of people that say they love Jesus. But very few people love Jesus so much that it changes their whole life. Jesus has changed my mom’s life and she is unashamed to live it for Him and His glory alone. Her love for Christ affects her marriage. My mom has shown me that a deep, lasting, Christ exalting marriage comes from abiding in Christ. It comes from living out truths like 1 Corinthians 13 and Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition….in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” She’s shown me that the best thing we can give to our children is not only the knowledge of Gods great love for us but a life lived in response to God’s great love. My parents are 62 years old. To God be the glory, my dad has a thriving ministry at a local church and my mom recently “retired” from the orthodontics field. They could easily coast through the rest of their life as empty nesters, enjoying the fruit of their early labor. But instead of slowing down in this race they are picking up the pace, running harder. Recently they have responded to the call of caring for orphans and became foster parents. And it’s not duty for them, its delight. Of course it’s hard, but my mom shows me every day that even in the hard, when we obey God’s Word, and live sacrificially for others, we “count it all joy”. My mom’s joy and her example make me want to know and love Jesus even deeper. Oh how I pray my children say the same for me one day.

And this is the thing that makes my mom’s example so powerful, so Christ exalting. She doesn’t just talk about her love for Jesus, she lives it. When she’s encouraging me and speaking the truth of His Word, I don’t just acknowledge it and quickly forget it. I hear it and I want to live it, because she is living it. I see her joy in Christ and her joy in sacrificial love for others and I want to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” with her. My mom gets Hebrews 12….. “fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the CROSS….”  She gets Philippians 3:8 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And I am ETERNALLY grateful for this.

Mom, your godly example to me is truly priceless. There is nothing on earth that can measure the value of the spiritual inheritance that you have passed on to me. I love you so much, I still want to be you when I grow up 😉 and wish you the happiest birthday.

Caleb is 5 years old

Dear Caleb,

Today you turn five. This past year you graciously gave up your position of being the baby of the family. Little ones have come in and out of our home and for the most part you’ve done well with sharing. Sharing your room, your toys, your sisters, your daddy and your mommy. Since you were born you have been the center of attention. We probably definitely are guilty of over indulging you at many points. So it has been very neat to watch you become less self-centered and more others centered. You have become more aware of how you can serve and be helpful, not only to the smaller children but to the rest of us as well. You also have grown in your independence. Which is a relief because I thought you might end up taking Ryann and Micaila to college or something. In March it was your responsibility to be the sign bearer at Uncle Michael and Aunt Jessica’s wedding. You had to walk the aisle alone. Rarely do you ever do anything apart from me or your sisters but you owned this role and executed it with perfection.

This past year you also experimented with lying. This resulted in loss of privilege playing the playstation. Which is like dying for you because you are a serious gamer. Indeed you are becoming familiar with good and bad choices, consequences, and most importantly confession. I pray your daddy and I can lead you in the path of true repentance, pointing you to the One Who paid the penalty for our sin, and that in Him you will find life, freedom and joy.

Caleb you are still all boy. All super heros, all fight, all wrestle, all dirt and noise and big, loud trucks. You are fascinated with Luke Skywalker and love running around in your halloween costume fighting the Dark Side. When Daddy comes home from work you immediately go into wrestling mode. You maaaay need to work on your receiving of punches or water squirting or nerf dart shooting but you sure love dishing it out.

You have a sharp mind, Caleb. By memory you counted every day for 14 days how long we had till it was time to go to the beach. Without a calendar! Maybe I’m easily impresed but I can hardly keep my days straight! You remember things from years past that I have a hard time recalling. Like getting your finger stuck in the door at church when you were 3 or that bad storm at the beach last year or that time Jesus held you when you were a baby…..????? Not sure where that last memory came from but you seem to enjoy recalling it. You came home from VBS quoting the scripture and songs you learned. You LOVED VBS. That made my heart so full. And speaking of songs you are much like your sister, Ryann, and are always singing. Never stop making that joyful noise to the Lord buddy.

This coming school year we have decided to enroll you at a private Christian school. I’m so excited for you to experience learning outside of our home, making new friends and adoring your teacher. I think you are going to love it and grow in so many areas as we explore a new territory. And of course I’ll likely cry because you are growing way too fast. But growth and the passing of time with you are things I’m so thankful for. I’m grateful God has entrusted you to us and for every single second we have with you.

One of my favorite prayers is Psalm 119:33-37. I pray it’ll be your prayer throughout your life.

“Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.”