Foster Care/Adoption · Uncategorized

Juvenile Court

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Photo Credit: www.weisspaarz.com.

Today, I attended our foster child’s first court date.  I honestly had no idea what to expect, or what would occur.  I can’t remember the legal term they used, but basically this hearing was to transfer legal guardianship of our foster child to the county within which we will serve as the resource family for her.  I wasn’t sure who all would be there- birth parents?  Family?  I didn’t know if I would meet any of them, or if there would be an uncomfortable confrontation.

Every case is different.  In our case the most uncomfortable part of the day was the wait- court was running behind so we sat waiting at the court house for almost an hour before our names were finally called.

To protect the privacy of our specific foster child’s case I am not going to share any of those details, but more so about the experience as a whole at Juvenile Court with a foster child.

Sitting in the waiting room was interesting.  The room was filled with people- children, birth parents, foster parents, a couple that I’m guessing was a kinship relationship because they looked to be grandparents age holding a baby.  There was a room filled with social workers who worked for the county representing each of the people sitting in the waiting room.  Attorneys, and security guards were also in the mix.  Our social worker from our foster agency was there for support for me.

I tend to be a very intuitive person.  I can feel emotions from other people across a room in a very heavy way, and I find it hard to sometimes shake off these feelings.  One family came out of the court room after obviously hearing bad news- mom was in almost hysterical tears, her kids running after her, dad (or whom I presumed was dad) was spouting off lots of angry words and eventually had to be removed to go outside.  A father and teenage daughter sat off to one side, and entered the waiting area in somewhat good spirits, but eventually I saw tears and muffled arguing from the daughter, and the rest of their interaction was spent on opposite ends of the couch with backs turned to one another.

When it was our turn to go into the court room, our girl started to get clingy which I have learned is one of her coping mechanisms for when she is anxious or scared.  She started to walk really slowing with me, and was very hesitant to enter the court room.  I had to remind myself that this is the first time she has ever even been in a court room like this unlike a foster child who has been in care for quite sometime and this is now their norm.  Which is another sad story in and of itself…up until about a month ago my kids had never even seen in the inside of a court room because this is not most kids norm…it shouldn’t be any kids norm.  We were only in one at the time because we attended our friends adoption hearing.

As I led her toward the judge, and the large group of people waiting at the front of the room, they were all very encouraging to her, and gave her some candy which seemed to win her over.  As I sat down, I saw her turn to look at me…to make sure I was still there….how can I already be her constant…her source of comfort after only 9 days with me….it’s just messed up.  No one from her family was present.

We were dismissed from the courtroom very shortly after entering.  I was grateful for this….I really didn’t want her to hear all the details, or have to think about all the weighted adult things they were going to talk about.  My social worker came out shortly after to brief me on their discussion.  I didn’t really find out anything new.  There is another date next week we are to attend that will discuss all the details- what the birth parents have to do to regain custody, our role, her progress in our home, etc.  That meeting is called a “Full Disclosure Meeting.” (for anyone here who is trying to educate themselves on the process-  part of my hopes in sharing this is to bring some light to things that are rarely discussed about foster care to make it not seem so scary, since there are so many unknowns to a new foster parent).

As I sat and spoke with my social worker the tears came….the heaviness of the whole thing just came crashing down….not a single person from our foster child’s family showing up, the upset parents in the waiting room whose children ran out after them crying, the broken communication between the dad and teenage daughter….a bunch of kids forced to be in a room that they shouldn’t even know exists due to adults bad choices that they now have to have consequences from for things they didn’t even do.

One of the things I am very grateful for that came out of today is more empathy.

Empathy for these kids who need security, and safe places to be…to have a stable life instead of living in limbo and being in constant fight or flight.

Empathy for our foster child as we try to figure out how to attach to a child backwards than our own biological children…it’s no easy task, and in many ways feels like loving out of duty before actual feelings of love come, but today….today brought more compassion to fight for her.

Fight for her right to just be a kid, and not have the knowledge of grown up problems in a 7 year olds body.

Fight to help her have a voice that she has always deserved to have even if she wasn’t given one before.

This bible verse from Proverbs 31 kept going through my head all day:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”

May God give me strength to continue to speak for her, that which she cannot speak herself!
Blessings,
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Foster Care/Adoption · Infertility · Life

When Dreams Die

As many of you know by now, we received a phone call about 3 weeks ago about a little 6 year old girl who needed to be placed into a more permanent foster home, and that it most likely would end up in adoption due to rights of the parents leading towards termination.

We said “yes!”  Remember when I talked about “When Yes’s Become No’s?”  At this point I was still guarded with my “yes,” because our social worker from our foster agency then had to contact the county caseworker overseeing our case and tell her about us.  The county then reviewed our profile (basically a large document with a ton of information about us….basically our entire life story for them to read and make sure that we our family is a good fit to take on a foster child).  After reading our profile they had one question for us and that was to confirm that we indeed were interested in pursing adoption for this child.  I said “yes!” (possibly shouted it lol) and we found out early the next week that we were the chosen family for this child.

The county’s next question was “When can they take her?!”  I said “we can be ready now if that’s what she needs,” and so I was sent into a tailspin of preparing her room, sorting through Abbie’s old clothes that would be about the size a 6 year old would need, friends dropped off car seats, and set up a meal train for her arrival.  I even bought her goodies for an Easter basket since Easter was only a few days later in case she arrived before hand.

Her room had become somewhat of a catch all zone in the past few years of waiting.  It typically serves as our guest room, and we did get it ready 2 years ago when we first finished our licensing requirements.  Then it sat empty, and then we had guests so we ended up putting the Queen bed back in there, and figured we would switch the beds once we officially had a placement.  So in my mind I always knew it was her room, but there was no sense leaving it empty when it wasn’t being used.

When our “yes” officially became the county’s “yes” we were excited to get things ready.  I made the bed.  I moved the dollhouse into her room, and barbies too.  I made plans in my head that once she arrived we would make a trip to pick out her favorite paint color, and decorations for her new room.  About 2 1/2 years ago, Abbie picked out a present for her someday “sister” and stashed it away in her room, and I was brought to tears when she brought the gifts out completely on her own, and left her this note….

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I think that was the first time I cried after hearing the county’s “yes.”  Prior to that I felt numb.  Wanting to still hold my breath, not trusting for real if she would actually be here, but when Abbie wrote that, I knew that regardless of what happened, whether she was here in our home or not, that this child deserved to be loved, and wanted, cried for and prayed over regardless of what happened, and so like any “expectant” mother….dreams were beginning to form.  Plans were being made.  My mind was already weaving this new child into the tapestry of our days, and the dynamic of our lives.

As we waited for the news from the county of the actual date of her arrival, I kept in contact with our social worker who periodically gave me updates as she had them.  Initially I found out that the county was closed on Good Friday so she would not be coming prior to Easter at that point.  I expected the Monday after Easter then because that is originally when they said she would be placed.  Monday came and went.  Nothing.  I knew her brothers were being placed in their permanent foster home the following Friday.  Still I heard nothing.  I checked in with our social worker at that point because she was with her brothers when they were placed and she did give me an update that the county told her the little girl was doing really well in her temporary home, and that they reported already in a short time seeing lots of progress and that she was really a very loving, sweet girl.

Two days later, on May 1st, I received a call from our social worker as I was driving Alex home from preschool.  I’m sure that was honestly a dreaded phone call for her.  She knew we were making plans.  She knew our hopes were high, and that this child was already so wanted, and loved by us.  I can’t remember entirely what she said.  Most of her words were a blur, but I do remember the obvious conclusion of what was being said “She is no longer coming.”

I think I said two words to our social worker in the context of that conversation.  One was “Ok” and the other  was a very choked up “bye.”   She was encouraging in that she said that the county really liked our profile, and that they were very excited about our family, and would definitely be keeping us in mind for another placement.  Since this technically was the first time the county had ever even looked at our profile because all of the other times we said “yes” by the time our social worker responded to them they had already found another family which means that they most likely never even knew a thing about us.  Now they do which is great, but also we aren’t the only family they are looking at…they look at hundreds so while we are fresh in their minds this week…as time goes on, probably not so much.

That afternoon I was of course sad.  Dave was shocked when I called him.  He didn’t even think that them changing their minds was an option at this point.  I just honestly wanted to be left alone.  It’s how I process, and I knew in due time I would want to process with people, but in that moment I just couldn’t.  I needed to just be.  My heart just hurt, and though I would never ever compare my grief to another person, for a moment I wondered if this was a tiny glimpse of what it felt like to struggle with infertility and miscarriage.  Though this baby didn’t grow inside of me, the love for our future child has been growing for years.  We prayed about potentially adopting even before we ever had biological children so this desire has been growing now for over 10 years, and there was definite growth in my heart of a deeper love for her as I learned her name, her race, and her story.  I imagined what her sweet face looked like after being told she was Caucasian and Hispanic.  I envisioned her having a mop of dark curls and fitting in with our current curly haired ratio of 3:1 (sorry Dave!  Though her skin would surely not even be close as white as the rest of us!)  But this love…these dreams for her, for a child that I finally let my guard down for, and allowed more love to grow since my “yes” was met with a “yes” from the county…that dream was now gone.  At least for this child.  Not for any child ever, but for this specific child that I prayed for, longed for, and already loved so much….the dreams I had that I thought were God’s plan were suddenly gone as quickly as they started with a phone call, they ended with a phone call as well.

The day after our news I woke in a much better place sadness wise.  I really and truly was happy for her.  I’m so glad she doesn’t have to transition to yet again another home.  I’m grateful that her respite (temporary foster care) family fell in love with her and she with them, and could finally have a forever family, but Day 2 brought more anger in my grieving process….it wasn’t the loss of specifically her that I was mourning, it was the death of this specific dream, these plans, and my expectations that was really what I was wrestling with.  “God what are you doing?  I know this is a good desire, but why this waiting?  Why all the yes’s turned to no’s?  Why this false hope only to have to lay it down once more?

I’ve cried a fair amount of tears this week, and I really appreciate all the love and encouragement many of you have shown me.  As with all grief there are triggers that I didn’t expect.  Evidence of a love already growing much deeper than I anticipated even before her arrival.  Like when I walked downstairs in our storage room in the basement and saw her Easter basket still sitting there, or the clothes I sorted out for her, and her room…I can’t touch that yet, nor do I really plan to for awhile.  Events beginning to happen in our lives that I thought she would be here for and she’s not…there’s an empty spot in our car that I thought would be full, or a vacancy on the sidelines at Abbie and Alex’s soccer games, or the mother daughter pajama party at church on Friday…I thought I would have another with me that night…..

I didn’t expect any of those triggers, but they are there.  Reminders of the plans I thought we had that no longer will be.

I really am ok though.  I really am happy for her.  I’m not much of a wallower.  I am more of an “It is what it is” type of person so I tend to focus more on “Ok what’s next…if not this, than what?”  So my sad moments are fleeting, and far less in number than they were on Day 1, but it is still a loss none the less, and grief is a part of loss.

Have you have ever experienced the death of a dream or your plans?  Shattered expectations?  This isn’t the first time that’s it happened to me, nor will it be the last, but each time it happens doesn’t hurt any less than the time before.  The only thing that is different now than when I was much younger is that I have had the gift of time on my side to see how faithful God is even after our plans are shattered.  I have come to know full well that He is good all the time even when my circumstances don’t feel good or favorable to what I wanted…He is good, and worthy of my praise.

My desire to control, and plan wants what it wants, but even in the middle of grief, in the midst of broken dreams, and changed plans…God is always working.  God is always good.  His plans are much greater than mine.

Psalm 55: 8-9

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

My devotions this week have been rooted in a theme of “Faith and Trust…”

 

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,’ and it will move.”

Matthew 17:20

 

“When I am afraid I put my trust in you.”

Psalm 56:3

 

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11:1

One of my closest friends and greatest prayer warriors reminded me this week of something that brought me to tears.  She has faithfully been praying periodically for every single child they have ever received a call about.  Our list of kids has been added to her list as well and in total that list has 29 children on it.  Some we know the names and ages of, some we don’t, but she reminded me this week of how much of an honor it is that we get to pray for these kids.  That if nothing else….kids that may have never had a single prayer uttered for them in their life…now have people praying for them.  I’m humbled to think of the impact that could bring in each of their lives, and our girl….the one we thought was God’s “yes,” had so many people praying for her that I am just in awe that God would be gracious enough to provide her respite home parents with a change of heart to welcome her home for forever.

And so whats next for us?  We press on.  We wait, because for whatever reason THIS wasn’t God’s plan even if we thought it was, and someday it will make sense, and we will understand.  Possibly not on this side of eternity, but it doesn’t matter…We are to be faithful even in the waiting.  Even when the dream gets shattered.  Even when our expectations don’t get met, because He is faithful, and good, and worthy of all of my praise.

 

Blessings,

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Foster Care/Adoption · Life · parenting

Foster Placements: When “Yes” Turns Into “No”

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I’ve been pretty quiet about foster care lately.  We have actually had several phone calls from caseworkers lately that were cases we could say “yes!” to, and we did.  Which honestly felt great to actually be saying “yes,” to something because for awhile it felt like every case we received a phone call about were cases we had to say “no” to.

Only problem is, when you say “yes” in foster care it still doesn’t mean a child is going to show up at your house that afternoon.  It just means you are saying “yes, we are willing to take this child in,” but what you don’t understand when you aren’t walking the road of foster care, is that many other agencies are all reaching out to their own foster families who could be a match for this particular child at the same time our agency was calling us.  So it really becomes a race against the clock….whichever agency finds a family that matches this child’s description, and gets that family to say “yes” wins.  Well….not really wins, but from my seat as a spectator that is what it often times feels like.

The first few times we said “yes,” my heart was beating faster.  I was waiting in anticipation to hear back from our caseworker.  I was envisioning what our supper table would look like that night with one extra face sitting around it.  I was wondering how hard the first few weeks might be.  How much sleep will I lose?  Juggling around schedules in my head of how we would make this next season work, and right about the time when I was coming to a place of peace with it all, I would get a phone call back from our caseworker saying “The county chose another family.”

It kind of feels like a big punch to the gut.

So I would mentally shut the door in my brain to knowing that child was no longer a possibility for being a part of our family, and would pray for trust in God’s timing for the child He had chosen for us.

Until the next call…then I did it all over again.

Two weeks ago our caseworker reached out about a child we will call “L” (for privacy purposes), whose parents rights had been terminated so she was legally free for adoption.  I started sobbing when I received the email with information about “L.”  The ups and downs of foster care are no joke, and a huge part of the hardness in it all are ALL the unknowns that as a foster parents we have absolutely no control over.  One day the county rules for increased visitations for a child that has been placed with you, and you know how hard the shorter visits have been for this child, let alone increasing the length of time and frequency, but you are at the mercy of the county to have to follow the rules, and do what they say even if your instinct as a parent would choose something completely different for them.  To know that “L’s” parental rights had been terminated meant that it would be a much shorter road to get from point A to point Z to actually adopt her.  That’s one of the reasons why I was sobbing….the thought of potentially not having to go through all of that was relieving.  The other reason why was because this time I had a picture of her, and a name….often times when you receive phone calls for placements you don’t even get a name before you say “yes.”  They tell you age, gender, and pertinent information, but very few details before they are placed with you.  I saw her sweet face, and now not only did I envision another person around our dinner table, and in a bed in our home, but she had a name, and I knew what she looked like!

We said “yes” to submitting our profile to “L’s” caseworker, and even though I knew better by this point, I got my hopes up, only to find out within hours that her caseworker didn’t think our family would be a good fit due to our biological children being so young, and the attention she would probably need.  I literally had just told a few of my closest friends, and then worked up the guts to tell the girls in my bible study, only to find out minutes afterward that our answer had come quickly….

“L” would not be joining our family.

That time it felt like a much larger punch to the gut.

You see, my heart breaks a little bit each time our “yes” turns into a “no.”  Knowing that more often than not, the “no” is probably coming, makes it really hard to want to tell anyone.  When I was talking with one of my foster friends about this she empathized and said she knew how much it hurt, but she encouraged me to still share, even though it’s hard, because it helps people on the outside looking in understand more the emotional roller coaster that this can sometimes feel like.  It helps me lean on others for strength when I don’t have it, and helps them know how to more specifically pray for us in this process.

Last Thursday when I was traveling to Chicago, I received an email from our caseworker about another little girl whom we will call “R.”  Her current foster family is unable to adopt her, and they are looking for a family to permanently place her with before terminating parental rights.   So though “R’s” case is not as far along as “L’s,” the situation is very similar.  There would still be hard things if she was placed with us, but not as long and drawn out as a placement can be when they are placed with us from day 1.  We said “yes” to “R,” and have not heard anything yet.  It could be days, or months before we do.

I’m much more guarded this time, after realizing that even saying “yes” to these types of cases, doesn’t mean anything until the county says it does.

Through all the waiting, though it can be tiresome, and emotionally exhausting, each time what makes me pick myself back up is thinking of these poor, sweet faces, and all that they have lost, and all that is broken in their families in a way that God never intended them to broken, and I’m over here with 2 healthy, biological children who get to grow up in a stable, Christ centered home, and I’m sad that “our family doesn’t feel complete yet.”

My gain will be because of their loss.

Our family’s wholeness will be because of their family’s brokenness.

Perspective.

And I know it’s ok for me to be sad.  It’s ok to wrestle with God on these feelings of control, and timing.  I don’t have to numb myself to that.  It’s ok to mourn that, however it’s not good to stay there forever.  My hope is, and always will be in the wholeness that Jesus brings to each of our lives, not in my biological children, or future children.  Only in Jesus.

You see, before Jesus died on the cross, He had a moment with God where He asked Him to “Take this cup from me,” but then went on to say “Yet not what I will, but what you will” Mark 14:36.  Jesus knew how excruciating the next days of His life would be, but He trusted His Father despite the hard that was to come.

Whether God places a child with us who has had parental rights terminated and is nearing adoption, or if we will get a placement who is just starting their foster journey….we trust that our God is good, and has a bigger plan than we can see despite the pain that it takes to get there.

Take a listen- this a great reminder of where our hope really lies: Cornerstone- Hillsong

 

Blessings,

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Foster Care/Adoption · Life

Waiting Expectantly

 

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We put up our tree today.  Yeah, I know- it’s November 10th.  I’m fully aware that Thanksgiving still hasn’t happened yet.  I just like putting it up early!  When we moved here a few years ago I put it up early out of practicality, because Dave’s family was coming over Thanksgiving, and I didn’t want to interrupt our time spent with them, by feverishly decorating while they were here, so I did it early.  Then I realized how much I liked putting up the tree early.  It allowed us to really savor Christmas more.  To slow down, and enjoy the moments instead of fitting everything into 4 weeks, so honestly…I’m never going back to putting our tree up after Thanksgiving again 😉

On a more serious note, putting our tree up this year was more emotional for me than normal.  I got the tree up without a problem, and hung up the lights.  Then I started with the ribbon.  Placed the angel at the top, and as I stood back to make sure everything looked just right before we placed the ornaments on, I got sucker punched right in the gut, because I realized this is one more Christmas without our little girl here.  I started crying, and I grabbed the kids, and said “Can we pray?”  They asked me “What’s wrong mommy?” And I told them, “I’m just sad that Christmas is coming, and our little girl still isn’t home.”  By the end of the prayer Abbie was weeping too.

Earlier this week, we had another phone call for a foster placement.  This child fit the description perfectly of everything we were hoping for….we finally got to say “YES!!” and yet another family was chosen, and my heart was a little bit more broken, but then I realize in my brokenness, how selfish I am.  My empty home pales in comparison to how empty this poor sweet girls world must feel.  I weep for my loneliness, and yet a child is about to be taken from her mother, because of her mother’s bad decisions.  My arms ache for a little girl to hold, and yet her whole world is about to be shattered.  In the same moments I will celebrate to bring a child home, a child is internally broken for all that is lost.  

As I stare straight into the face of another holiday without a sweet girls face around our table, I’m reminded of how many others are waiting in their own expectancy….for a long prayed for baby, for reconciliation in a relationship, for a new job in a season of nothingness, or for the pain to subside after the loss of a loved one.  So many wait in anticipation, longing for hope…for something to hold onto despite how painfully hard life can sometimes be.

At the very base of our Christmas tree, I place an empty manger.  On Christmas morning, we wake up, and see that what we waited for…what we had been hoping for in expectancy all Christmas season leading up to this day….Jesus is finally there on Christmas morning!

Our sad moment by our tree this afternoon reminded me that in our season of waiting,  in this time of expectancy, we aren’t alone.  I realized that God’s people waited for the arrival of Jesus for thousands of years….

The first reference to the Messiah comes at the very beginning of Genesis, right after the Fall, and God speaks to the serpent (satan).  He curses Him, and in vs 15 says “And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.  He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”  (This is referring to the ultimate restoration and fulfillment that will come in Christ’s death, resurrection, and final victory over Satan).  In the book of Isaiah CH 9 vs 2-9 we see a famous passage in reference to the Messiah:

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.”

There are many other passages referencing Jesus coming in the bible besides these, but the point here is….they waited, and waited, and waited….a VERY long time for Jesus to physically come to earth!  As I pondered this I could not get the words from this hymm I sang as a child out of my head…

  Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

You can also listen to Meredith Andrews version of the song here: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

The waiting can feel lonely, hopeless, and very dark, but this reminds me that even in the loneliness of waiting, when hope seems too far gone, and when there isn’t even a flicker of light in the dark, our God is still there…we may question His presence, and His plan, because things aren’t happening the way we want them to, but He is there and at work.

I pray for each of us as the holiday season approaches, that we will hold onto the hope we have in our Savior, and wait expectantly on Him!  To know that even if our own manger lies empty from whatever thing we have been hoping, and praying for, that God brought the long-awaited Savior into the world in the form of a baby to fulfill His long awaited promise, and He is truly the only hope we will ever need!

Blessings,

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Foster Care/Adoption · Life

My Random Whereabouts and Updates

So it’s seriously been like 6 months since I shared anything here.  Good grief!  For a person who can say about a million words a day you would think I could find more time to write, but alas…life happens, and this got pushed to the back burner 🙂  And for the sake of giving a picture update, here is one of the 4 of us taken at a wedding reception in Illinois a few weeks ago:

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In all honesty, though a lot of life did happen in those 6 months.  I made some big life decisions that changed a lot of things.  I started off the end of last year planning to teach a few community ed courses at our local community college in hopes of that turning into starting a veterinary assistant program there.  The initial conversations that I had with the college were had with that being understood, but as we moved into the spring semester, the courses already 3/4 prepared as I readied myself, the conversations started to change, and it became clear to me that this wasn’t the direction the college was headed, and if it was it was going to be a 10 year plan to get there….that did not line up with my timeline at all.

I’d been there before- trying to work odds and ends jobs to make ends meet while trying to stay home with the kids, but honestly Dave and I were both tiring of that lifestyle.  We both knew my season of being home on a limited income could only last so long, and I was ready to take the next step, but I just wasn’t sure to where or to do what.  For the past year I had been working from home in a job that paid decent, but was not working with my schedule of being a mom as much as I had hoped.  In efforts to find better balance, and higher pay I pursued the teaching option, but that obviously wasn’t going to work either.  So we prayed, and brainstormed a lot.  We have talked about me pursuing other careers for years, but the timing didn’t seem right, and honestly I was afraid of change, and if I am being really honest…afraid of failure.  I have pursued a lot of niche hobbies, and careers over my adult life, because honestly I didn’t really know who in the heck I was when I left home.  I went to Vet Tech school because I love animals, but had no idea that being a vet tech is not a living wage, or of the high physical demands and stress of the job.  Once I became a mom, most of my priorities changed.  I didn’t mind working, but work seemed to get the best of my time, and I came home to give my family leftovers.  Me becoming a mom was honestly the first step in really finding me.  My whole life I had set my goals based off of what others accomplished, and what I was given praise for, but had never taken into consideration what my real passions and talents were or what direction God was leading me in.  The more experiences I had in different jobs the more I discovered what I loved and hated, and what my heart really desired.

The list of changes was long guys….like seriously…really long….

Initially I returned to school to get my undergrad and hopefully teach biology.  When I realized that wasn’t for me I took a real estate class, but my heart wasn’t in it so I never even tried very hard to pass the exam.  I sold Mary Kay, but quickly gave up because I hate selling things like that.  Once we moved to the Chicago suburbs I had to quit my vet tech job (which I had been doing full time while pursuing all of those things), and I did some work in veterinary academia which I really enjoyed but alas as I mentioned before, pursuing that just wasn’t working out.  I became a doula for a season, but after attending 3 births that I was at for over 24 hours, while having a nursing baby I knew I could not do that anymore.  I loved birth work, but I need more structure than that, and 3AM wake up calls was too much.  I worked for a non profit women’s ministry for awhile, and I loved my work in women’s ministry….still do honestly, and from my work there, and attending a speaking and writing conference back in 2011 I really felt God revealing to me a big piece of my heart- that I love working in women’s ministry.  The company I worked for then closed down last year so I needed to find something else to do.  I knew I wanted to work from home so I became a virtual assistant, but the work was just not a good fit (as I mentioned before).  So that leads us to this past January.  I felt stuck.  We both wanted me to have more income, but how….how to find balance with that in a way that works for us.  I couldn’t fathom working in an office again.  I love working from home far too much, but my current job was making me feel like I had to be “on” all the time, because of the type of work it was, and tied down for certain hours that made me feel like I couldn’t leave my home.  We prayed, and talked about this a lot, and ultimately decided to have me pursue real estate again. This time I was actually excited about it though.  We honestly had continued talking about this career path for years after I initially considered it.  I had gone through so much in all of my other career experiences that I realized what I really valued in my work, and that was to find a job that was flexible, with good work life balance, good pay, something I could do from home, and if possible that I could be my own boss

During all of this I kept labeling myself as “flighty” expecting others to think all of my choices were ridiculous, and perhaps some or many did, but honestly it ultimately didn’t matter.  What mattered was my journey that God was taking me on to reveal His plan for me.  It was Him revealing parts of me that He wanted control of, and helping me see passions and purpose that I didn’t see before

Of course we have had discouraging comments, but I have had many more encouraging ones.  Ultimately there are always going to be people who disapprove of something which is why I have to let go of one of my biggest struggles- people pleasing, and work only to please the Lord. His way and His plan for my life are ultimately what matters.  Each of our lives is so different from others and that’s why comparison can be so bad for us to do….His plan for me, isn’t your plan, and it shouldn’t be, because He has uniquely designed a plan and purpose for you!

I recently was in contact with a person that I could just tell had some judgemental thoughts about all of those changes, and this time actually verbalized all of those thoughts outloud to me…. for most of us that is one of our worst fears, someone saying outloud to our face our own deep seeded insecurities, but this time when I heard them, though it stung a bit, I realized I had grown enough to realize what was being said didn’t matter.  Someone’s perception of me doesn’t matter.  What God asks me to do, and my obedience to that is what matters.  There are people who have had not very nice things to say to us about foster care, but that doesn’t mean we should drop everything just to make one person happy, it’s about trusting God with all the pieces of your story.  To know that He knows His plan, and purpose even when it doesn’t make any sense to us.

So when I started this process of getting my real estate license, it was the beginning of March.  I chose an online program because I knew it would fit best around our lives right now, but ultimately it also meant far more hours of studying.  I pushed myself, and when I say pushed myself, I mean that I pushed myself really hard.  I was still working my other job, had family visit during that time for 2 weeks, and ended my course work by the end of April.  Almost every free moment I had was spent studying.  I studied to take my state and national exams mid May, and passed the first time!  Seriously guys I broke down sobbing in the bathroom of the testing center afterwards.  I was so happy to finally be done, and know how hard I pushed myself to get there!

Now I tend to be a workaholic, and have to watch myself because I can become so driven that I lose sight of my priorities, but my drive during this seemed to be fueled by something else.  Never in a million years did I think that Dave would ever be ok with me quitting my job before I had another job lined up, but we sat down towards the end of April and talked, and he told me that it was ok for me to quit.  He could see how hard I was working towards getting my real estate license, and had no doubt in his mind that I wouldn’t be able to pass even though I was doubting myself the entire time!  I also had this inner gut feeling that I wasn’t sure whether it was a God thing or not, but I was sensing God was trying to clear our time to be more available for foster care.  I knew my other job was much harder to balance than we had originally hoped, and a more flexible schedule with real estate would help provide that balance.  So I was beyond motivated to finish, not just because I wanted to be done, but because I felt like God had something waiting for us.

So almost as soon as I finished I brought it up to David.  Here we are almost looking at a year now since we went on the foster care list, and still no placement.  When we originally went on the list we told them we would only take placements from our county (the visitation center for birth centers is 5 minutes from us!) so we felt like that was a huge answer to prayer….we don’t have any blood relatives here to help us out so we knew driving far out of our county into another could mean 45 minutes to an hour long trip 1 way, and we knew this would mostly be on me.  We knew that was something we couldn’t do so we waited….I think in all in the last year we got 5 or 6 calls all from out of our county until finally I told the social workers we only wanted calls from our county. Since that last call I have literally gotten 0 calls about potential placements, which basically means in a years time I have never received a phone call about a placement in our county for the age range and gender we want.  We obviously don’t want to bite off more than we can chew in taking a placement, but the reality is, we had become really comfortable with just being comfortable.  Taking a placement means being open to how it may disrupt our family, our lives, our schedules, and we want to control it, but we can’t.  We felt safe in taking on only what we knew we could handle, but we were forgetting about trusting that God would be our strength in doing this, and submitting to how He specifically wants to grow us in this process.  So we prayed, and honestly we weren’t on the same page.  I was trying to be open to whether or not this push to open up the cases we take on to be from another county was just me being impatient and tired of waiting, or if it was a God thing.  In the middle of June our case worker had to do our annual home study to make sure our file was up to date, and while she was here she basically told us “if you want to get an actual placement, then you need to loosen up your criteria a bit.”  We would never choose to do something because someone pressured us into it, but I left that meeting realizing how much control we were trying to have over this, and how much we weren’t just letting God be God.  Regardless, it gave us more to discuss, and last week on our loooonggg drive to Illinois and back we had plenty of time to talk, and we both decided it was time to open up our placement search to the county next to us as well.  I checked the GPS- it’s 23 minutes to the visitation center instead of 5, but that is much better than 45 min to an hour one way.  I think we can handle that.  It seems ridiculous that that small of a decision could that long to make, but 23 minutes one way turns into almost an hour of travel time, and of course once there I can’t just leave….I have to wait for the visit to be over because if I drove home it would be time to turn around and come back again so it honestly it turns into much longer time committment.  If the visit is 1 hour or 2 it can be a 3 hour comittment once a week or twice a week if that is the situation that our placement has…it is much bigger than just a 23 minute drive.  We were just trying to wrap our brains around how to fit that into Dave’s work, my work, kids activities, and our family activities, and didn’t want to stretch ourselves too thin, but we feel confident in this, this will be a stretch for us.  It will not come without struggle.  We will have to sacrifice, but it’s a sacrifice worth pursuing.

During the weeks that Dave and I weren’t entirely on the same page a lot of discussions took place, and one in particular stands out in my mind as we were discussing if this lull in time for this particular pursuit meant something different.  What if it meant we were supposed to do something else in orphan care?  Perhaps not foster, or maybe not adopt at all, and I can honestly say my heart broke at the thought.  This child that I have prayed for, for so long….I just started weeping.  Our family doesn’t feel complete yet, and though we may not know all the steps that God wants us to take to orchestrate that, or what twists and turns He may have in store, I am confident that we are pursuing Him the best we know how, and though that sometimes involves wrong steps, and reevaluating…I know He is faithful, and will continue to lead us as we keep pressing into Him.

So today, I contacted our social worker to ask her to update our file to take on cases from one of our neighboring counties as well, as well as being open to counties even farther away with children in our age group whose cases are moving into termination of parental rights meaning they will be finding permanent homes for these children to move towards adoption.  I’m feeling a little nervous now to be honest.  Knowing that we most likely will get more calls now, and a much greater possibility of one of the children from these calls being placed with us.  So it’s scary-  I feel very comfortable in this place where I am at right now.  We both do, and for as much as I like my comfort, I know that much growth and ultimately joy can come in the harder places God walks through with us.

So if you think of it please pray- for our hearts and home to be open to whatever child God wants to place with us, and for us to not be afraid for the Lord says “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid!  Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go!” (Joshua 1:9)

 

Blessings,

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Foster Care/Adoption · Life

Missed Call

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Wednesday night was a really hard night for me.  At around 7PM that night Dave and I realized we had both missed a call from our foster agency at around 3PM that afternoon.  I listened to the voicemail, and immediately was internally beating myself up.  Dave at the time was getting ready to take the kids outside to play in the hot tub before we put them to bed for the night, and I was glad for the peace, and quiet because I just needed some space.

The house was quiet, and within moments, I found myself sobbing and weeping in an all-out ugly cry.  “How did I miss the call?!” I heard myself say.  Guilt laced internal blame for what I fool I was for missing it.  “What if I missed ‘the’ call?” came soon after.  “What if this was our assignment, and I missed it!?”  I sat this way for awhile just crying, and praying, and I realized the very root of what was making me so upset…

You see we haven’t had a call in months now. The last call we received, was another call for a child in another county, and I told the social worker that we really only wanted calls for this county, because we were unable to commit to a child out of county that would require more driving, and accommodations being made from our family.  So when I found this missed call, I assumed it was a child from our county…the first call we had had in months, and they come so seldom, that I feared that we had missed our chance, and really buried underneath all of these layers, was that I am so scared….scared for our potential future child who is somewhere right now, that I don’t even know, in a probably not so great situation, and she is scared and helpless, and I might be her mama someday, and SHE.  IS.  NOT.  HOME….. My scared mama heart just WANTS HER HOME where I know she will be safe, and in my arms.

Man this foster to adopt stuff is hard.  It’s different than fostering…..where a family knows it’s probably temporary, but they are a safe place, and a family for a child in need, and it’s a role that is so needed.  They love on kids, and they pour their lives out, and fostering is such an important role too.  It’s also very different than adoption, but it’s so very similar in that your heart is aching for a child that is not yet yours, but that you can’t yet have, and that you so desperately want to just be home in your arms.  Fostering to adopt is letting your heart live in this place where you pour it out to love on a child that isn’t yours, working to reunite them with their birth parents, while at the same time trying to break down walls in your heart to love them and welcome them into your home, because they may truly someday be yours….. my heart doesn’t know how to deal with these feelings yet.  It’s uncharted territory, that there is no right or wrong way to walk through these muddied waters, but it’s a necessary course.  Either way people end up broken…birth parents losing rights to their children was never God’s design.  Reunifying children with birth parents is mending brokenness that never should have been.  It’s grace, and forgiveness, and starting over.  Fostering to adopt isn’t us saving children…it’s God bringing wholeness out of brokenness, but either way it started out as broken…

Time spent with Jesus that night was just what I needed.  My heart calmed down a bit, and I received a few encouraging texts from friends, and one wise friend, in particular, said:

“God does not let His children miss His voice.” 

I just love that image….absolutely nothing, can keep me from missing the call that will be God’s assignment for us, and even if we miss it, and it is His assignment for us, she will eventually come to us missed call or not.

Missing this call, and experiencing these emotions was really good for me.  My reaction that day seemed so dramatic though….why in the world was I ugly crying about a missed phone call, but it made me realize how much I had compartmentalized and numbed myself in this waiting to not feel anything.  I distracted myself with busy, parenting, and work, and wouldn’t let myself feel towards this.   Another dear friend helped point out that God may be using even this to ready our hearts, and stir up a deep longing for this child to prepare us even more.  Dave came inside that night to a wife with mascara dripping off her face, and he looked at me slightly terrified, and said “what’s wrong?!”  It gave us time to process, and unravel feelings that we haven’t been letting ourselves feel in this time of waiting, and honestly was a unifying moment in this process that helped us both realize that we’re in this together, and in his own way he feels the very same way I do, he just doesn’t talk about it as much 🙂

On Thursday I got another call…..go figure…no calls for months, and then 2 in a row.  I honestly almost thought this call was it, until the social worker revealed at the END of the call that this was an out of county case…. I hung up the phone, and like every other phone call from the foster agency, was overwhelmed with emotion at the notes I had scribbled about this girl on a page of paper that summarized her life in horrid words that no child should ever have used to describe anything about her, but this….this is foster care.  Kids with hard pasts that they don’t deserve, who just need someone to come alongside them and show that them that they aren’t worthless.  That they aren’t defined by their parents choices that have littered their pasts, but they can have a much greater hope in a God who mends the broken hearted, and finds them so worthy of being loved.

Would you pray for these kids?

For their safety, for God’s protection over them while in homes that may be harming them.

Pray for the foster families- that God would ready their hearts, and give them wisdom to help the specific children He has assigned to them.

Pray for God’s plan for your family in orphan care- is it to support a foster/adoptive family?  To walk beside them, give of your time, and resources to help?  Maybe God’s stirring in your heart to consider adoption or foster care….it’s ok to be scared of that.  I was.  Terrified actually, but God is so very good to gently walk me down this path in His time.  He will for you too.

Lastly, pray for our girl, and my mama heart, that so desperately just wants her home….that God would keep her safe, and that ultimately we would trust that His timing is perfect.

Blessings,

 

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Foster Care/Adoption · Health · Life

When God Changes Your Plans

I’ve done a lot of planning in my life…

Planned to go to college.  Get a degree.  Get married.  Buy a house.  Have kids.  Stay home and raise kids.

My plans did not include buying 3 different houses within 5 years, or moving across the country 850 miles away from our family.

My plans did not include developing multiple autoimmune diseases that often times mess with me physically, and mentally.

I never planned to work while trying to balance raising a family, nor was the family we have today the family I dreamed that I would one day have.

There have been so many times that I have sat in the presence of the Lord crying, sometimes yelling “This is not what I wanted!”  “This is not what I had planned!”  “This is not what I asked for!”

I’ve found that what is at the root of me gripping my plans so tightly is control.  I often times don’t trust God enough to realize that He is in control and that He ultimately, even when life feels really really hard, has my best in mind.  You see we don’t grow as much as we could when life gets handed to us on a platter.  When I look back, it’s been in my times of brokenness that God has grown me the most.  Sometimes, just like children, God lovingly disciplines His children in order to align them within His will, to make us look more like Him.

This morning I was pondering these thoughts because something triggered in me a memory, back when Alex was a baby, and how hard that season was.  I was a new mom of two.  Trying to adjust to life with two kids, and acknowledging now what I didn’t know then, that I’m positive I had an undiagnosed postpartum anxiety issue.  It was a really hard time for Dave, and I.  Dave was struggling a lot with his commute to work and came home pretty much useless in helping with the kids, and Alex was so hard.  Fussy, needy, sooo clingy.  I felt so trapped and stuck, but I couldn’t get away because someone had to take care of the kids.  I remember not actually feeling “love” for Alex until he was around 8 months old.  Before then I just loved him out of duty, because that’s what you do when you are a mom whether you feel like it or not.

Before then Dave and I talked about having more kids, but once you have kids the realities of parenting set in.  Financially it’s hard.  Emotionally….I felt so alone.  Pregnancy…my body hates being pregnant….I throw up for 9 months, can’t eat anything, and then I have the baby and 3 days later I can’t eat whatever I want again.  It’s beyond morning sickness.  It’s hyperemesis gravidium (you may have heard of Princess Kate’s struggle with this in the news).  There are varying degrees of it.  Mine was mild compared to some moms, and even at that, I felt awful.  I was hospitalized at one point when I was pregnant with Alex for it in preterm labor due to dehydration.  I remember watching moms with the same struggle I had who just kept having babies, and I seriously wanted to die…..I had hoped after Abbie that pregnancy couldn’t be worse, but I was wrong….my pregnancy with Alex was so much worse.  I knew once I had him that I wasn’t sure that I could do this again, but I felt so guilty.  We wanted more kids, but then not only was my pregnancy hard, but he was a really hard baby.  So hard that I kid you not, ended up with us sitting in a doctor’s office when Alex was 3 months old for a vasectomy appointment for Dave.  I imagine we were quite the sight….me sitting in the waiting room with a 3-year-old and a crying infant, as we waited for my husband’s “appointment.”

We had talked and prayed, and both of us knew what our dreams of what we wanted our family to be were, but we also knew biologically we couldn’t have more children.  I remember vividly praying about it one night, and it was then that I knew, our marriage couldn’t do this again. We prayed and entrusted to God that if He wanted to expand our family more He would do so through adoption.  Nevertheless a dream died that day.  We had always talked about adoption, and at one point considered adoption before we had biological kids, but when it gets taken away, and you had always hoped for more…it feels much harder.

One absolutely amazing thing about a dream dying though is that God always has a plan.  Although it may be different, once I come to, and submit to His plans, not mine, I realize His way is best whether I understand or not.  He sees the entire picture.  He knows what I need, and what I don’t need.  He knows what will make me more like Him, and what will cause me to stray from Him.  So even though His different plans may be a hard pill to swallow sometimes, I have enough experience to know that His way is always best.  Sometimes with time some of my “why” questions will be answered, and some of them never are, and may not be on this side of heaven, but His word is true when He says in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Maybe our plans died that day, but not God’s.  He knew He wasn’t finished with our family yet, and though I have no idea what His timeline looks like for completing our family, I know once again fostering wasn’t my plan, but it was God, and I have to trust that He knows what He is doing and that He is good despite knowing that this will be hard, and though it took me awhile, I’m pretty excited to see this hole in our lives be filled with an actual sweet little person.

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Friends whatever your hopes, and dreams were for your marriage, your family, your career, your home, your health….whatever they were, it’s ok to mourn.  Its ok to grieve what was, and what you had hoped would be.  Let yourself cry out to Him however many times it takes, but at some point, we must release our control of what was, and cling to what He has for us instead.  His plans for you may not appear to be shaped the way you had hoped, and they may not be as sparkly as you think they should be.  Remember though our purpose here is not for ourselves.  We forget that sometimes.  We tend to focus on our comfort, our desires, our wants, and we forget that we are here to worship our Creator, and fulfill His purpose for us in His kingdom:

Colossians 1:16 says:

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”

Hearing this truth doesn’t change the fact that it is hard to let our dreams die to His will, but I pray that these words will point us to who and what our hope is really in.

Before we moved to Pennsylvania I found this children’s book that Lysa Terkeurst had released titled “It Will Be Okay.”  This book makes me cry, as it tells a beautiful story of two friends (a fox, and a seed) who were living their comfortable, happy life, and in an instant, their life becomes uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and even scary at times.  You see these two friends caretaker was a farmer, and when the time was right the farmer planted the little seed and separated the friends.  They were terrified.  They were lonely, but they soon realized that though things were different and a bit uncomfortable, they were still okay, and as time went on, they both found how this farmer’s plan to put them into a hard situation grew them in more ways than they could have had they stayed in their happy, comfortable old home.

On the inside front cover of this book I penned the following:

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May you take great comfort in knowing, it really will be ok.

 

Blessings,

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