Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Baby Girl A....

J. O. and I are a great team.  We really are.  We have been an open foster family for almost 5 years now and we know the age that works great with our family.  The age that is slightly younger than Grace, but older than teeny, tiny, baby.  That age.  We never really settled on the exact age, but we both have it in our heads.

In these 5 years, we have probably had around 4 infants and 10 or 11 toddlers.  The youngest infant was 4 weeks old (if you will remember, we had him for 7 months and I was awake the entire time) and the oldest infant was Grace at 10 months.  We would probably call this age range our "sweet spot."  Anything from the 6-9 month range.  These babies typically sleep through the night, they take bottles on a schedule, they are old enough for child care, they smile, laugh, and are beginning to move, they are just more fun.  They have graduated from the "oh my goodness is the baby breathing" stage, to the " oh wow...that's a real smile and not just gas pains" stage.  They are fun.  If you are lucky, you can even teach these infants token words like "mama" "dada" "ball" "dog" and so much more.

But unfortunately, we have only had a handful of these.  We get mostly toddlers.  You know these kids.....they are ages 1-3.  They are opinionated.  They can't really talk.  They are learning to walk so they are dangerous.  They are trying to decide if everything they see is food.  They are basically a literal, walking, time bomb.  One minute they are happy, one minute they are sad, one minute they are ready to punch you in the face.  Toddlerville.  This is where we have lived for 4 1/2 years of our fostering.  I have changed more diapers that should've resulted in a toilet being flushed than I care to think about.  You know these diapers.  The ones that are on the cusp of potty training, but they don't quite care.

Then, last night I got THE call.  The call for a newborn being discharged from the hospital.  They had a foster family lined up for today, but they needed a stand in.  So I did it.  I knew what this call meant.  It meant I would be up all night.  I knew it meant a baby who might spit up all over me and my bed.  I knew it meant a baby who would be more shriveled than cute.  But I was excited.  Addison and I started mentally pumping each other up and we started the waiting game.  DHS pulled in around 8:30 and Addison and I started chest bumping, high fiving, and running out to meet the car.  We could do this.  And then little baby girl Adams was dropped off.  She was tiny.  She was So. Brand. New.

And I got something I have never gotten before.  The hospital discharge papers.  And it told every little thing.  It told about how many times mom had given birth before.  It told about the strongholds that were gripping mom by way of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.  It told a story that was so very different than any discharge papers I had ever seen before.  And I slowly felt my love of sleep roll out the window.  I settled in for a night of holding, feeding, rocking, cuddling.  But....I wasn't expecting the other emotions that would accompany this baby.  Around midnight I turned off my alarm that I had set to wake the baby to eat.  I knew it wouldn't be necessary.  I got her out of the pack-n-play that she was in and laid her on my chest.  She started moving closer to my chin, and I let her settle in and I prayed for her, and her mom, for the next umpteen hours.  Between feedings, diaper changes, and her grunting, I just prayed.  I prayed that I would never get in my "sweet spot" and quit seeing the hurt.  I prayed that I would never become so complacent that I didn't think this was hard anymore.  I prayed that as we enter our 5th year of fostering it would be my most memorable yet.  Not because we add more kids in and out.  Not because more people see what we do.  But because we bring kids in from circumstances that we can't imagine and we put them under our chin and we physically hurt too.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Struggling.......

I am in an odd place.  You have probably all been here before.  Maybe, it's with your work or maybe it's with your kids or spouse, or maybe it's just feeling stuck in the same old stay at home mom routine. Whatever it is, we have all felt this way before.

I always struggle with what my next step should be.  Always.  It's most likely why I started my college career as a social work major, switched to psychology, switched to pre-law, switched to public relations, and decided on communications.  It's probably why I went back to school and received my teaching degree and am now taking classes in seminary.  I really wish I had time to be a lawyer, nurse, PR rep in NY, pastor (I know, I know), and still be a stay at home mom with a chef and nanny.  Too much??

I am reminded of how Scripture tells us, we can constantly be learning and searching without ever coming to the saving knowledge of the truth.  Sometimes, I feel like that's where I am.  I am looking for things and not because I don't know the truth, but because I don't want to land there.  It's easier to fill the uneasiness or void with things I am good at or enjoy.  For me, it's surfing on the internet and looking up interesting articles while holding Easter candy in one hand.  Nerdy?  Yes.  Interesting?  I think so.  Ultimately fulfilling?  No.

Most of you know before we started going to the church we attend now, we were happily settled at a different church in Little Rock.  We were involved, active, and loved it.  We had friends and settled into a routine nicely.  When we moved back to LR we really assumed we would head right back to that same church but God called us to where we are today.  And I didn't really want to go.  I wanted to be back with my friends....at a church where I already had a friend group.  It's a great church so surely God would allow us to go back.  But, no.  He wouldn't release either one of us so we settled in and got plugged in to our current church.

And we love it.  We know we are exactly where God wants us to be.  But, sometimes it's hard knowing you can't just blend in to the background.  I started working at the church 6 months ago (I think) on a very part time basis.  However, the more I do it, the more I know God is calling me (and our family) to a life of ministry.  And it kinda sucks.  Not because I don't love it.  I really do.  But because I have been here before.  I have been in the uneasy and it led to fostering.  Then, I was uneasy and we are now a family of 6.  Then, I was uneasy and I pressed forward with our orphan ministry at church.  And now, here I am again.

Today, I forced myself to come home and spend some time alone praying.  Not with my phone beside me, not on my computer, not doing school work, but just me and my floor.  After I got up, I was reminded that this is exactly how our foster story started.  With me falling to the floor in the kitchen and knowing God was calling me out of my comfort zone.

For lent, I have given up sleep.  Sound dramatic? Well, for me it feels that way.  I am getting up early to spend time alone with God before the house is awake.  And one thing I know is this....God is always faithful to show up when we ask.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lots of things happening....

Can you really start a post with how long it has been since your last post, if you haven't really consistently blogged in forever?  No?

Well, regardless of the rules....it has been a very long time since I blogged but rest assured I am still here.  A lot has happened since my last post.  I now work very part time at our church, I am taking some online classes at seminary, I still have 5 kids, I still try to run (some), for some reason people still expect to be clothed, fed, and cleaned but that's another post for another day.  So in short, once again I have added things to my plate without taking anything away.  Well, that is a complete lie.  My Christmas tree has 3 ornaments on it.  Certain things have gone by the wayside.

This morning I got up super early (for me) to start on a paper that is due Friday.  It's long and confusing and I still don't understand the concept.  Fortunately as a communication major in college that was not a problem.  I could add fancy words, make a 5 word sentence turn into 15 and get glowing remarks.  Seminary is not like this.  These people genuinely use words I have no clue what they mean, and they are serious about their writing.  So far my sentence of..."God's word is super, awesome, amazing, and I super duper love it..." is not thought of as highly as when I wrote in college.  Whatevs....

I say all of that to say this...I am learning a lot and I am not as smart as I thought.  There.  I said it.  Only, deep down I just secretly think these people live in all brown houses, with brown paint on their walls, brown bedspreads, all brown clothing, and no bright lipstick.  They are really dying for someone like me in their class who will bring a little fun to their otherwise super serious conversations.

Which somehow leads me to our sweet toddler C.  Some of you know the story of her, but for those who don't let me give you a little background.  Last December, the 22nd to be exact, I received a call from DHS asking me if we could take a 1, 3, or 4 YO.  They were sisters and they all needed a spot.  I said we would take the 3 YO and then instantly changed my mind.  I called back and said actually we would take the 1 YO and then I started scrambling for Christmas presents.  Christie Erwin showed up at my house within hours and dropped off tons of new clothes and presents and DHS pulled in shortly after.  They dropped off a scared little girl who screamed when I laid her down at night.  We spent the first month with a pack n play next to our bed and I "slept" with one arm in her bed so she could wake up and feel me.  This lasted for awhile until she gradually made it to her crib and only needed to come to our room in the middle of the night.  This lasted until she was comfortable enough to sleep all night in her crib and feel safe.

Fast forward to April and we received word that the foster parents who had her other 2 siblings, had an opening to take C.  You may remember this blog post about me never crying, but that I bawled as I drove away from dropping her off.  Then fast forward to end of July and we received word that all 3 girls were being moved again.  We were at the beach and I got a message asking if we were willing to take her back.  I showed the phone to J. O. and I thought he was going to leave the beach right then to come get her.  Everyone was so excited to see her again and have her back in our home.  We fell right back in a routine and many people fell in love with C for the first time, or all over again.

I have often talked about how we have to be willing to let these babies go and that God entrusts them to us for a season, but to be honest this is our first case I am having to put my money where my mouth is.  C and her sisters are set to start their first all day visit on Thursday.  They will do this for a time period and then transition to weekends and eventually home.  I will be honest....only the mom and dad feel good about this.  Everyone else involved is very uneasy.  On the inside, I have wondered what I can do, who can I complain to, who can I yell at?

Don't get me wrong, I have documented and made my feelings known to the caseworker and ad lidem.  I have let it be known that I do not agree with this nor do I think it will be what's best.  But, at the end of the day, I am doing what God has called me to do.  Love C in this moment and pray for her family.  I am not going to stomp my feet, close my home, refuse to take another child, or so many other things I may want to do.  I am going to cry, hold my kids when they cry, pray for C and her siblings and parents, and re-iterate the message that this is hard.  We grieve when they leave, we hurt for their families, we disagree with Judges and the system a lot, but we don't throw a temper tantrum and refuse to try.  We remember these kids with pictures and videos and art they have made.  We talk about them.  We love them forever.  But we remember why we started doing this in the first place.  We hope that C will know how to love because of all the love that was shown her.

There are so many things we could quit, or never start, because it hurts too much.  I wouldn't take back that day in December or July for anything.  How selfish would it have been of me to miss out on C's love because of my own discomfort.  Hard things happen.  Things do not make sense.  However, I don't need a seminary class to teach me that God loves her more.  I most likely will not understand this side of Heaven the purpose behind this, but praise God I don't have to.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Such a Time as This.....

You don't have to spend much time around the little one we currently have to fall in love with her.  She's funny, smart, outgoing and just a "good" toddler.  If there is such a thing.  She has been with us before and now that she is back, we realize why we were so quick to say..."yes....send her back."  She is just a joy.  There is really no other way to put it.

And it has been decided that unless something drastically changes, she will start transitioning home in December.  She will start transitioning home to a mom that is scary.  And rough.  And just not nice.  Now, I do not say that lightly.  I am a reunification cheerleader.  I really am.  I know that regardless, these kids are looking at a home life that is not what I would choose.  I mean, most of us live a 'rose colored glasses life', and I understand that.  Even in the best of reunification we are still looking at tough times and even tougher kids.

But this mom.  And this dad.  They are just not very nice.  They really aren't.  They are rough, have very questionable character, and honestly just seem like they would rather hit people than talk to them.  But they are smart.  And they are working the system unlike anyone I have ever seen and they know how to do the basics to get their kids back.  And it is working.

The other day I was reading Esther and she was talking to Mordecai about being queen.  She was telling him all about how she was not sure and there were lots of unknowns and so forth.  And he made the statement that maybe she had become queen for "such a time as this."  And honestly, I thought of C.  It's a very hard way to think, but maybe she is going back to her family for such a time as this.  Maybe, just maybe, she is going home because she will rise up and bring the gospel to a lost family.

Our church staff went to see Insanity of God a few weeks ago, and one of the things I will never forget is the missionary talking about losing his son on the mission field and asking the question...."is God worth it?  Is He worth our family?  If the resurrection truly happened, then what now?"

It is a hard pill to swallow to see a child so smart, so bright, so cute, going home to a family so rough, so mean, and seemingly so undeserving of a second chance.  But, if we believe God is who He says He is, God can do what He says He can do, and the crucifixion and resurrection happened, then we have to say that He is worth it.  And our little Esther will go home....for such a time as this.....

Friday, September 2, 2016

Advocate....

I am not sure why this has been on my mind so much lately, but when I can't get something off of my mind, I usually blog about it.  Sometimes, it turns out well....sometimes, it turns out not so well.  This one has the potential to go either way.  Today, I am going to write about what I think it means to be an advocate. 

ad·vo·cate

NOUN


  1. a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy:
    "he was an untiring advocate of economic reform"
    synonyms: champion · upholder · supporter · backer · promoter ·
You will see the definition of advocate listed above.  You will also notice some synonyms listed below such as: champion, upholder, supporter, backer, and promoter. 

As foster parents, we are advocates for these kids.  We support and a lot of times publicly back what we believe in.  But here is where I am noticing some disconnect.  There is no part 2 to this definition that says....."and then all policy that the advocate is advocating for will be changed in their favor." or "the advocate will be fully satisfied that everything will change for the better and in their favor."  That is strangely missing.  But, what I have noticed is that when things do not go our way, we tend to speak out in a different manner.  We seem to have forgotten what we were originally advocating for!  Confused?  Stick with me.

Too often, situations do not go the way we think they should in the foster care world.  We may have a child and we KNOW that going back to family will not be a walk in the park.  We have witnessed the parent say and do things that we simply do not agree with.  So, as their advocate, we do everything we should.  We document, we email, we print said email, we call, we record said call (kidding) and then we sit back and pour a Spark, or a glass of whatever makes you happy, and relax thinking of a job well done.  And then the child goes home.  To the family.  That you just wrote about.  And called about.  And documented about.  What in the world?  Where did you go wrong?  What detail did you leave off?  Surely, someone made a mistake.

But, no....the child goes home to live a life you could never imagine in a million years and you are wondering why you ever signed up for this in the first place.  Slowly begins the shift from 'full time advocate' to 'fair weather advocate'.  You no longer vocalize the needs of the child, but the incompetency of DHS.  You become a new type of advocate.  One who will stop at nothing to make sure everyone knows how bad a certain caseworker is.  How terrible the system is.  And so forth and so forth.  Somewhere along the way, you become mad and find fault with everyone involved.  All the while, the fact that you have limited time and influence with this child is secondary. 

Trust me, this journey is HARD.  I've had moms accuse me of allowing their child to fall and get hurt, I have had a worker chew me out because she said I was trying to do her job, I have cleaned my house from top to bottom only to have a no show.  I have asked for clothing vouchers until I am blue in the face only to go purchase/borrow the items myself.  I have sent babies home that I knew were going to live a really, hard life. 

But, through it all, I have had to rely on a support system that is great but a God who is even greater.  I have had to remove myself so many times and realize, that I am the advocate for the child.  Does that mean change needs to happen?  Absolutely.  Should I work hard to be a part of the change?  Yes.  Will change happen by closing my home or never opening because I don't want to deal with the ugly?  No.

I am currently reading through the Old Testament in my Bible readings.  More specifically Leviticus and Numbers.  Ouch.  Talk about hard and confusing.  Now, I have an advantage.  I have read ahead and know what happens down the road so I will not stop reading.  I know that at some point I will read about the God of grace and mercy.  In some small way, fostering is a lot like this.  There are days I am so confused by what I hear or see from the people involved.  I do not understand and honestly, some of it makes me mad.  But, I will not give up and will press on to the end.....where I can imagine there is hope, grace and mercy waiting on the other side. 









    Thursday, July 28, 2016

    Being on a Break.....

    This was written a while back, but just getting around to posting.....

    When we were in the process of finalizing the adoption with the girls, taking new foster placements wasn't an option.  We were at our limit of 2 placements and my phone did not ring.  DHS came out for their quarterly visits, but honestly it was much more relaxed.  Their caseworker and I knew each other pretty well at this point so even those monthly visits were short and to the point.  Everything was settling in to our new sense of normal.  Life with 4 young kids settled, I could leave J. O. at home at bedtime and not worry....we were good.

    Then, one night J. O. and I were talking and he and I agreed that after the adoption was final we would not take another placement.  We would help out with respite but that's it.  We decided we would keep our home open though, because one day the kids would be past baby and toddler stage and we didn't want to reopen.  Then, the phone started ringing and emergency turned to temporary, which turned to as long as necessary.  And we are great with that.  We have a spot for a placement and love taking new children and getting to know them, and their story, for however long they may be with us.

    But right now, we are on a break.  I feel like Ross when he was shouting to Rachel post break up...."WE WERE ON A BREAK!!" and I can totally relate to him.  DHS number calling?  No worries..."WE ARE ON A BREAK!", I see a post on FB, no big deal...."WE ARE ON A BREAK!"....people asking who we have right now, I got this...."WE ARE ON A BREAK"....

    And I have to admit, it's kinda nice.  Our reason for this short break is because we just had a placement leave last week and we are heading to the beach in a few weeks.  It would just be hard to send a new placement to another stranger immediately.  So our break consists of around 4 weeks and I will take it.  Like today.....let me just tell you what happened today.  As you read this, I imagine there are Angels singing.  Trey had basketball camp from 1-4, sweet Bethany took Addison and Annalise swimming during this time and Grace slept.  The whole time.  And I watched tv.  Alone.  And laid down.  And ate almonds.  And drank Spark with no one sneaking a drink.  And I cried at Keeping up with the Kardashians.  True story.

    And meanwhile, we are still on a break.  But the harsh reality is, there are kids who are not on a break.  They are not attending basketball camp.  They are not swimming in a neighborhood pool.  They are not asleep in a safe house.  They are wondering who will take them for the night, weekend, or in extreme cases, forever.  They are scared.  They are lonely.  They are mad.

    The reality is, we are home and living on easy street.  But other kids are not that lucky.  The harsh truth is....we may not be taking placements but kids are still entering care.  Summer is hard.  Summer is hard for families to take new placements, but summer doesn't change the fact that kids still enter foster care.  Maybe this summer you SHOULDN'T take a break.  Maybe you should attend an info meeting.  Maybe you should volunteer at DHS.  Maybe you should look at the Heart Gallery.  Maybe God is saying..."Hey, break time is over.  Get up and move."

    We are confident that this month is our rest.  We are to be a family of 6, pray, rest, watch tv, play, go to the lake, etc.  But, we are only to take a break.  We aren't supposed to go to sleep.  And I feel safe saying, you shouldn't be asleep either.

    Friday, May 6, 2016

    Ugh...waiting...

    This was written a couple of weeks ago, but just got around to finishing and sharing today......

    Waiting.  It's not fun.  It's not thrilling.  In fact, I would call waiting one of my least favorite activities.  I don't like to wait in line for rides, shows, on the phone, or anything of the sort really.  It's just not fun.

    But sometimes, God is revealed to us the most in the waiting. 

    J. O. and I are once again in a season of waiting.  About what you may ask?  Well, we really aren't sure.  But, we have been here enough times to recognize when it pops back up.  J.O. actually came home a couple of months ago and said he wasn't sure what he was supposed to be doing, but it was something.  What he didn't know was that God had also been stirring my heart as well.  However, for a brief moment I thought...oh goodness...he is being called to the mission field or something crazy and I am about to have to be a single mom of 4.  Because, me going overseas just probably wouldn't happen.  Honesty people.  But, I just cautiously ask him what was going on, and he said he thought he should be giving more, doing more, and he would start there.  Perfect.  I can handle that.  So he has and we have watched a lot of what God is doing in our life around us.  And we are praying.

    The other day, I was praying for God to reveal some things to me and I was reading a chapter in John.  The chapter was about the man who was paralyzed and sat outside the pool all day waiting for a chance to get in the water and be healed.  Everytime he would get close, someone would take his spot or get in first.  So, when Jesus saw him he asked him what he was doing.  The man told him, he was trying to get to the water to be healed.  Jesus then told him to pick up his mat and walk.  Just like that.  The man didn't need to get wet.  The man didn't need to wait on the 10 people in front of him to get finished, or call over friends and family, etc.  He just had to stand up and walk.

    Now, I have read this before.  Several times actually.  But, as I read it this time, I thought....man, to be able to sit by the pool and wait.  For a long time.  And I imagine it was hot and tiring.  And I would be cranky.  And irritated.  And I would have the desire to knock a few people out of the way or even knock them into the pool before they were ready.

    But, all we know is this man faithfully waited his turn.  How hard to do.  But.....look at the end result? Jesus literally spoke and he got up.  He was able to be healed by the words of Jesus.

    Even in waiting, God is faithful.  He is faithful to give us one faith step after another.  He is faithful to show up and talk to us when we are listening.  He is faithful to say....hey....I see you waiting.  Get up. Walk.  Come to me.