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.

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an honest update

I really shouldn’t be blogging right now. So many other things I should probably be doing. But when the Lord leads….. I came to my computer to print off a “sleeping log” because our two year old is not sleeping through the night. I have been aware of this sleep issue. Every time we’ve kept K and J we would experience night time waking. Grandma would even share with me that they would get up and “play” in the middle of the night, have a 3 am snack, whatever. I thought it was a product of bad habits and we could quickly correct it with a few nights of letting him cry, self soothe, get himself back to sleep. You know, instead of intervening with gold fish and mickey mouse clubhouse. It’s been a month and I realize once again how ignorant I am. This is a much deeper and bigger problem than I thought. We’re not only experiencing sleepless nights with J but he’s also exhibiting behavioral issues, aggression and anger. I mean can you blame him? I just got off the phone with my parents (in tears) having an “I don’t know what to do!” moment. I’m discouraged. I’m tired. I know the parenting tools I’ve utilized for 11 years aren’t completely useless but in this moment I feel like I have no tools and no clue what I’m doing. And it’s different with K and J now because they are here to stay and I want to give them the very best and what they need to benefit them for their whole life.

You know how it is when you bring home a newborn baby and you’re figuring everything out. You’re unsure, you’re trying new things, trial and error,… I look back and think how sweet it was to bring home this blank canvas of a newborn that I carried safely in my womb with no trauma. It was hard and we made some mistakes but they weren’t devastating. I feel like I did then, a new parent we’ve brought home a 2 year who’s canvas is not blank, in fact at conception someone took a bunch of black paint and dumped it all over and for the last 2 years people have been putting their brush strokes on it trying to “fix” it. He’s not this clean, white canvas. He’s been hurt, neglected, yanked around, has trust issues. He doesn’t know how to sleep or self soothe or deal with his big emotions. Just because J has lived in two “good homes” (ours and great grandparents) doesn’t mean that he’s unaffected by every move, every visit, every strange face waltzing in and out of his life.

My heart has so much compassion for him.

But I’m human and we’ve had some hard days with this little guy. I’ve felt defeated and insecure, I’ve been impatient (with everyone), I’ve been waking up bewildered on how to go about my day. Some days I have felt like we’ve been in time out all.day.long. and I go to bed thinking “What a waste of a day? Did I accomplish anything?” I have felt like a tyrant raising a tyrant. And then of course there are the other four imperfect children to shepherd as well. So yeah, I guess you could say, one month in we are DEFINITELY still adjusting, to say the least.

In the weariness, hopelessness, defeat and exhaustion I finally made myself get out of bed early enough to cry out to Jesus. Psalm 62:5 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” I picked up Paul David Tripp’s book “Parenting”. In it he writes a sweet reminder, “Here is the single redemptive reality, right here, right now, that makes parenting possible: God in you……This means that God is with you in the morning when you dread getting out of bed and facing another hard parenting day. He is with you when you have to break up the seventeenth squabble of the morning. He is with you when you have an opening for a very important talk. He is with you when your children are in your face and disrespectful. He is with you when you fall into bed with a combination of exhaustion and regret. He gifts you with His presence. He really does live inside you. You aren’t left to yourself. And he will not turn his back on you until what he has called you to do is complete.”

Today I checked out from our library the No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and have already dove in. Apparently sleeplessness can make for one difficult toddler! No kidding!! I know we have a long road ahead, with lots more to learn. I don’t have a neat little bow to wrap this blog up with. But I am printing out some sleep logs and taking the next step and God is in me. I do want to leave you with this song though, because it’s a new favorite of mine and a reminder of how I should love others, as Christ loves me, but it’s been a really timely reminder in my parenting and love for little J. Oh I pray that God would continue to strengthen me with his Spirit and his reckless love.

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.

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)

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.