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)

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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.

Baby E

Sunday morning we got a call at 3 am. A 9 month old little boy needed a safe place to stay. He was at the hospital and I was told I could pick him up at 9 am. Jason and I had been up late having one of those long, deep talks about everything under the sun (or moon). So I was pretty tired but trying to fall back asleep after that call was rather difficult. So I prayed and dozed and awoke repeatedly all the way till 7 am. Then I began to get ready for an hour drive to go pick this little guy up. I had a lot more time to process and lift up this placement before meeting him and it was very cool to see how Gods hands were with me and him when we finally met.

When I arrived I was caught off guard by some of the family that was there. I wasn’t given the impression anyone was there with him. I was nervous to meet them. This kind of circumstance is not really ideal for greetings and pleasantries. Initially I was hoping to avoid it. “I can wait until they leave.” Of course they weren’t leaving. I looked for courage and grace from the Holy Spirit, recognizing God was sovereign in this and walked in the room. I assumed it was Grandma, she was understandably very upset. I could tell they really cared for this fella. One thing we must resist is jumping to conclusions. We just have no idea what brought these individuals to this moment. Seeing the family first hand as their tiny family member was released into my care, a stranger with DFCS, it gave me a perspective I hadn’t experienced before. I introduced myself to grandma and just wanted to hug her but opted for a touch on her shoulder. I sympathized with her, acknowledging how extremely difficult this is for them and that baby boy would be in very good hands. She was concerned but kind. I felt that we connected in that brief moment and she knew, even through her grief, he was going to be safe and loved.

The baby and his cousin were sitting on the hospital bed. I went over and got down to his level. Said hello and waited to see his reaction. He reached right for me, which is a blessing. As much as you don’t really want kids to be that comfortable coming to a stranger, I think it put everyone at ease that he wasn’t leaving in complete outward turmoil. I talked with the family for a short while and then it was time to go. It’s such a sad thing, walking away with someone else’s child, leaving his family in tears and uncertainty. But I’m grateful to have met them because they are impressed on my heart now. I know their names and faces and can sincerely pray for them.

I don’t know how long we will have Baby E. What we’ve learned so far is he’s all boy, active, and into everything. He has THE sweetest smile and big blue eyes, with the longest eye lashes I’ve ever seen. He grunts and laughs and gets really mad when he’s tired. Dressing him is slightly like wrestling an alligator. And every time I pick him up he wraps his arms around my neck so tight and buries his head in my shoulder, which is the best. Needless to say, I’m hooked. And yes, I know, we’re only 5 days in. 😉

Jason Johnson Blog

I promise…… I will write something of my own soon 😜

I am sharing this particular article today because as a foster parent I want people to understand why Jason and I are doing this. I want people to understand our thought process and the things God has revealed to us. And often times someone else articulates it better than I can. Jason Johnsons website has truly been an invaluable resource to me. If you know someone who has fostered or adopted I believe this may help you better understand their decisions. And with greater understanding comes greater support, encouragement and prayer, which we definitely need. 🙂

http://jasonjohnsonblog.com/blog/counting-the-costs-of-fostering-or-adopting

Foster Care Article

Today I would like to share with you an article on foster care that was posted on Desiring God. Probably one of the most well written, well summed up, articles I’ve read on foster care and the Christian’s response. If you are a foster parent, you’ll find it relatable and I believe encouraging. If you are interested in fostering, you’ll find it helpful. If you know someone who fosters, you’ll find it extremely insightful. 

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/foster-care-for-the-least-of-these

Where am I and who are you?

There are so many things that did not cross my mind about children in foster care until we were in the thick of it with them. On one hand we “knew” they would have suffered trauma and we “knew” there would be things about them that are different than our own children or our friends children. But until we started serving these kiddos day in and day out, we couldn’t possibly really know.

On Monday we got a call about a nine month old baby girl. And she is every bit as precious as you are probably imagining. She has the sweetest, softest baby chunk I’ve ever snuggled. She has wavy auburn hair and smiley blue eyes. And when she smiles she crinkles her nose and shows off her two pearly white bottom teeth. But like most babies in foster care she didn’t come smiling. She came screaming, confused, and unsure of everything. And though the screaming has lessened with each day, I still find myself wondering what happened and why.

When these children come, you want them to understand they are safe. That whatever happened to bring them here, they can trust you. But that understanding doesn’t happen over night. So you have to be incredibly patient as they learn to trust you and feel safe and secure in this new place. And having that patience is easier said than done. When certain odd behaviors persist, you think to yourself, “Why are they still doing this? Don’t they know they don’t have to do that anymore?” I constantly have to reset my mind and perspective, reminding myself that, though I know they are safe, and there needs will be met, they don’t necessarily know that yet.

We went to a church fellowship and of course everyone was gushing over baby girl. And like a lot of normal baby loving people, there were some who wanted to hold her. Which is absolutely fine, except, she didn’t want to be passed around. And I realized why. Monday strangers came to her rescue, brought her to a strange DFCS office and gave her to a bunch of unfamiliar faces. Then she was put in a car with a transporter, some man she’s never seen, to be brought to another new environment with more new people. Our house. Her life for the next several months now will be a series of going from one stranger and strange place to the next. I had never thought about this, and how it effects these children, until we witnessed it first hand. It’s unique to every child how this scenario impacts them but make no mistake, it does. Now my face is becoming familiar to her. So it’s understandable why she holds on to me for dear life when we go places. She can not speak but you know in her infant mind she’s thinking, “Who is gonna take me next?”

Our prayers, your prayers, over these children in foster care are vital. Will you pray with me for them? Pray for protection over their hearts and minds. Pray for healing and redemption no matter the outcome of their case plan. And pray that these children and their families will find hope in Jesus Christ.

“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.” 1 John‬ ‭5:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬