The Journey Continues

Well happy July everyone! It’s been several weeks since I’ve written here and boy is there a lot I’d like to share. Today was one of those days that I wasn’t sure I would make it through. For starters we are in the throws of potty training and all in all K is doing GREAT but on the days that he poops his pants and decides to finger paint his crib…. Oh and bonus, the power went out as I discovered the mess and I got to learn how to clean and disinfect in the dark. Yay! But I’ve got the little ones safely in bed and currently can hear my big kids above me having a blast jumping off furniture. Sounds like someone might fall through the ceiling or possibly a baby elephant. (Two story home owners feel me?) I don’t know what it is about tough days that bring me to write….. although it IS one of the healthier options to decompress. I guess I fear you will think we only ever have tough days and that’s not true at all.

In fact, we’ve had some very good days. In the middle of June we spent a glorious week at the beach. It was the boys first trip and our first trip as a new family. The boys absolutely loved the water and sand. Our extended family loved them. And it was a very needed time of bonding for us all. We had each other day in and day out and I didn’t realize how much we needed that week together. In fact I would strongly encourage families who are adopting to consider planning a vacation specifically for a special time of bonding. I wish I could share pictures but since they are not legally ours yet I still am not allowed to do that. I also am out of storage on my blog here. :bummer:

I wish we were still at the beach. But alas, we are home and reality is in full swing. Upon returning I was made aware that our boys biological mother requested visitation. Since DFCS has yet to terminate parental rights, (they have filed three times and keep messing up paperwork) she can not be denied this privilege. We went a few weeks with no action and then I received a phone call from a transporter who would pick the boys up and supervise the visits. My heart sank. It feels so wrong and unfair. All because of “policies” the system allows these children to be yanked around and thrown into confusing situations that will only deepen their trauma. While I’m trying to build and strengthen the boys trust in me as their mother, caregiver and protector now I’m having to put them in a car with a stranger, to go have play time with another stranger, who will claim to be their “mommy”. I don’t mean to come off harsh but I struggle to call her their mother when she hasn’t been a mother to them for two years. Their great grandmother was their “mother” for the last year and a half. (which is another story) This is all just hard and I’m human and oh so fallible. I did the best I could to explain to K that he was having a visit with someone he may remember and that a helper would come to take him and brother. I told him they would play with toys and then the helper would bring them home. And then I cried in private and called out to my Helper. I know God is sovereign in all this and it’s another opportunity for us to rely on and trust in Him. Thankfully, the boys did well and it sounds like the visit went something like when they get dropped off at the church nursery. They played and were pleasant and excited to come home to me, mommy. Please pray that the TPR hearing would be expedited quickly. These children need normalcy and stability and consistency. And as long as we are waiting for rights to be terminated all of that is very difficult to have.

I have so much more to write about. I am learning SO MUCH in this foster to adopt journey. Like boundaries you must set, conversations you can’t avoid, things you just have to say no to, and so much more. I also have some fun stuff to write about like how we acquired a puppy, a pig, and two bunnies in one month. And tomorrow is Calebs 6th Birthday! I hope I can get a birthday letter in for that boy. Heck I hope I can get his birthday in period! This momma is off her game lol. Lesson number 465 in the adoption journey…… Grace. Grace. Give yourself lots of grace.

Advertisements

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)

The Joy of Ministering to Birth Families

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

One thing that I have found surprising joy in with fostering is connecting with the birth families. I say surprising for a few reasons. For one, I admit, I pretty much think about adoption with every placement right away. “Could we adopt this child?” “What would that look like for our family?” “How does their name sound with ours?” Fostering is about reunification though. The initial goal is not adoption. It can lead to adoption but that’s not the intended purpose. Secondly, interacting with birth families is scary at first. You never know how the relatives of this child are going to respond to you.

I really want to encourage those that are fostering or thinking about fostering to embrace the ministry of the birth family. Because these kids are coming out of hard, tough situations. Some really bad, horrific even. But that doesn’t disqualify their family altogether. Sometimes, yes, there are no suitable family members. Not one. And thank goodness for the beautiful act of adoption and for the families who step into that role. But a lot of times there is family. Family who has been loving or fighting for what’s right. Family that wants to break cycles of abuse and addiction. And this is a unique opportunity for those of us as foster parents. To give people the benefit of the doubt. To encourage. To uplift. To point them to Jesus.

Baby E has family that loves him. Family that was there when I picked him up from the hospital. Family that has been here for him long before I was and pouring into him in ways that make him healthy and happy in my care. They long for him. They have attended every court hearing and are fulfilling every requirement to have him placed in their care. Today we met with them at the park. They were kind and caring. They were attentive to Baby E. Their children were so thrilled to see this little guy. They showered him with love and kisses and snacks and toys. And Baby E was happy to see them. He knows them and he knows he’s loved by them. What a tremendous joy to see this family reunited with this baby boy.

I stated in my first post about Baby E that we must resist the temptation to jump to conclusions. We must. Every time. Every placement. We can’t allow prior experiences with birth families to dictate how we respond to future ones. Which is hard. But every placement, every family, needs fresh eyes of grace.

I don’t know how normal it is for foster moms to get a baby and within 3 days attach their name to baby’s name just to see how it fits. You start dreaming of their future with you, and yours with them. Obviously I do this. I’m not saying it’s wrong. In fact, I wonder if it is Gods grace in allowing this little one to be loved as naturally as I love my own children. But given the opportunity we must make every effort to connect with the child’s birth parents and/or relatives. We have to give them opportunity. It can be nerve racking, talking with strangers that YOU have their family member. Baby E has my heart but he has a few others even deeper than mine. And the more I correspond with his family and see these adults AND children that love and cherish him, how can I not want him to go home to them? It would be selfish of me to want to keep him from that. They’re his family. So when we think about the hard thing of letting them go, think about the times we are giving them back to the ones who loved them first. What a blessing in this child’s life that there ARE people who came before us, his foster parents, that are doing whatever it takes to bring him home with them. I recognize this is not always the case. Sometimes these children return to unhealthy environments. Sometimes we do need to advocate fiercely for their safety. But a lot of times we need to strive to encourage and support the birth family. Maybe in ways they’ve never felt it. Ways Jesus would.

Today Baby E’s relative asked me, “How do you do this? Is it hard when they leave?” And I told him through tears, “Yes. But I think about, what if no one did it? What if no one was willing to bring this child to a safe place because they were too concerned about it hurting when they left? I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting E. Or meeting you. So I consider it worth it. And even though it will be sad when he leaves, it’s happy because he’s going to family that is striving to do what’s right for him.” I didn’t get to share my testimony of what Jesus did for me and how Jesus gives me the courage to do this and how Jesus mends my heart to do it all over again,…..yet. We have another visit for that. 🙂

But after spending that time with them I am so full of joy. Joy that comes from the love of Jesus. So Christians, foster parents, I implore you, to courageously, mercifully, and lovingly navigate the waters of foster care and birth families, for the JOY awaiting you. Because it IS so worth it.

Not So New Resolution

It’s January. I love the New Year. Does anyone dislike the New Year? I mean who doesn’t love the idea of fresh, clean slates. New mercies. New season. I can’t explain why a simple change of date and month causes me to feel so invigorated but it does.

I don’t have a resolution…. I don’t even have a word this year (or last year apparently!) I do have scripture though. God plopped me down in Ephesians and for a little over a week has basically said, “Stay put.” It started with Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, that it may benefit those who listen.” I began refreshing my mind with this passage. Asking questions like “What IS unwholesome talk?” “What would or would not benefit those who listen?” And getting tough, convicting responses from the Lord.

One of the most memorable sermons I have ever listened to is one John Piper preached entitled, Make Your Mouth a Means of Grace. That pretty much sums it up. In any and every situation I want to ask myself “Is my mouth a means of grace?” “Am I imparting grace to the people around me?” It makes perfect sense for Paul to continue in that chapter with these words, verse 31 and 32 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Jesus taught that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart,….” Matthew‬ ‭15:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬ Whatever we are holding onto in our heart is going to determine whether our mouth can be an instrument of grace. So that got me thinking…. when my mouth is NOT being a means of grace, what is the sin I’m holding onto? Is it resentment, a sense of entitlement, impatience, or unforgiveness? When my words are tender, humble, and loving, it’s because my desire is to love and honor Jesus. And when my words are uplifting, beneficial, and gracious, you can trace it directly back to Who is on the throne of my heart. But when my words are ugly, negative, harsh, or sarcastic it’s not a reflection of my love for Jesus, it’s just me unyielded to the Holy Spirit. This has been a powerful time, meditating on Gods Word and doing my own heart check. God has made me keenly aware of how desensitized I can become to my own sin, justifying these “little” grievances that are detestable to him. Bitterness, greed, resentment, envy, slander, etc. can infiltrate our hearts slowly and subtly and really begin to wreak havoc on our spiritual life and relationships. As I began reading these verses, fully aware that I’m not immune against these sins, I asked God to bring it all to light. Sometimes we have to pray that so we can confess and repent and truly “rid” ourselves of it all.

Bring it to light, Lord.

This morning I honed in on the beginning of Ephesians 4, verses 2 and 3, “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Does that not just knock you out of your chair? Thats a pretty heavy commission for us! I mean, every day I have to fight the inclination to be the antithesis of that passage. I love the people in my life but the fact is relationships are hard. If we’re honest, people we love can be annoying and hard to love sometimes. I know I can be!! My sinful knee jerk reaction to frustrating situations is anger. I get hot, physically, and my chest gets tight with angry feelings. And then if it doesn’t get dealt with properly I might just get bitter or resentful. You can usually tell this by whatever comes out of my mouth and it’s not grace. But I want to speak grace and life. In joyous times, in the mundane times, and in the uncomfortable, hard confrontations I want my heart to be right with God and my words to “build others up, so it may benefit those who listen”.

God didn’t put all this in his Word to make us despairing, feeling as though we can not possibly do this. He put it there because through Christ we are more than conquerors. I have experienced how powerful it is to pray through these passages. I have felt a complete shift in my attitude, outlook, and speech when I apply these truths to whatever is going on in my day. Be humble. Be patient. Bear with one another. According to their needs. Keep the unity. Don’t grieve the Spirit of God. Filtering my thoughts through those truths is the key. It also takes a lot of diligence! But God is faithful when we actively put our trust and heart in his hands. And it is life giving when we live according to his Word!

I’ll close with this because our heart, mind, and mouth are all connected. What we put in our mind nourishes our heart and soul. This year, as every year, I pray I would put more and more of the precious, life giving Word of God before me.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians‬ ‭4:4-8 NIV‬‬

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.

He Is Enough

“I was walking blindly into a new season, a place that didn’t line up with my plans and dreams for the coming new year. A place that I never would have chosen, never wished or asked for. But God’s promise to Abraham spoke to me. God wasn’t promising me ease. He wasn’t promising that things would go as planned. He wasn’t promising a world without trouble, without heartbreak along the way. He was promising me Himself.” Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

If you are looking for a good book I encourage you to read this one. It was appropriate timing that this book arrived in the mail for me today.

Today I recognized that I still have some grieving to do. I told my mom that I was having a strange urge to cry that I didn’t understand. I’ve been “fine”. When my miscarriage has come up I have felt “okay.” But today it was like the flood gates unexpectedly opened back up and my heart is aching like it did the day I learned of our loss. This is still all so foreign to me. I’m starting to learn that when you experience loss, it never stops resurfacing. And sometimes you can handle it emotionally and sometimes you just can’t.

I long for another child. I long for our family to continue growing. It also doesn’t help that Caleb asks me every other day, “When will we get a baby?” He tells me he wants a brother, after all “Micaila and Ryann have a little brother. I want one, too.” I mean who can argue with that? We pray for God to grow our family (however he chooses) and right now I’m struggling to be patient as I wait on his revealed plan. Before I found out I was pregnant we thought God was leading us to adoption but that door closed. Then we were having a baby naturally,…….then we weren’t. Now we are waiting for a placement. Which isn’t meant to be permanent but I certainly wouldn’t mind lavishing all this love on someone temporarily. And yet, here we wait. And the thing God whispers over and over and over is, “In your grief, in your waiting, you have Me.” Because so often when I want something, good somethings, I tend to start thinking Jesus + said thing will make everything better, whole, satisfied. And I have certainly searched my heart wondering, “Is Jesus enough for me?” I want to say whole heartedly “yes!” I guess maybe that’s the point of this season. Maybe God keeps us in these places so we will truly understand deep down that He is in fact enough. He is enough when we have and enough when we have not. He is always enough and He is always good.

“His desire is for us- that we would know His love in these unexpected broken places and that we would know the true hope found only in His Son Jesus, the Lamb, who never, ever stops reaching out for us, who cups our pain in His nail-scarred palms and cradles our hearts close to His. He wants to be our reward.” Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope