Sunday, January 26, 2014


Maybe I will finish our story at some point, but every time I think I will, God lays something else on my heart.

This weekend was the 2014 Hope Conference at Geyer Springs.  When I was first asked if I would be interested in helping with the committee that was organizing this event, I said sure.  Truth was, I was more excited about the concept behind the coalition and knew nothing about Michael and Amy Monroe (yes, I know…I'm sure I am one of the few dark ages people who didn't).  However, I did look them up and thought it all sounded great and learned more about their training and background.

Fast forward to months of work and the conference was here.  However, so was one of the most hectic weeks we have had in several months.  Seriously…it was crazy.  J. O.'s birthday was Tuesday, Anna's was yesterday and Addison's is Wednesday.  I also had things to finish for the conference and a day of activities Friday that involved tons of errands for Anna's party at our house that day, subbing at school in the am, and a meeting at 1:00 for the conference.  It. Was. Crazy.

The week had also been tough with some behavior issues with Anna.  I felt completely overwhelmed and just felt alone.  For me, that was a completely new feeling.  I am generally pretty laid back and even though things get stressful, I don't put too much thought into them.  Overwhelming days get me down just like the next, but typically I can shake them off (or at least complain for awhile) and then move on.  However, I just wasn't able to get that brick off my shoulders on Thursday and Friday.  I felt like I had no clue how to handle a 2 year old.  Now, don't get me wrong….I am raising one of the most strong willed girls with Addison.  There have been days (more so in the past than now) that I have cried and wondered how I would make it to adulthood with this child.  But it was just different this week with Anna.  We had new behaviors exhibiting, night terrors return, and a slew of reactions that I just hadn't expected.

Needless to say after having Anna's family and a few friends over on Friday afternoon for pizza, I was not itching to run out the door for the conference.  I knew I had missed the dinner at 6:00 and wouldn't get there until around 6:45 and wondered if anyone would notice if I missed.  I was just so tired and didn't really want to listen to someone talk (honesty here people).

Well, I ended up going and wasn't able to sit in on the session because I needed to help at the registration table.  After the conference was over a lady came up to me and asked me a question and then just stood there.  It was awkward at first but then she just started spilling the beans about how she had paid a baby-sitter for a certain time and since it was over a little early she just didn't want to go home yet.  Her foster child had been difficult this week and she just needed some time away to talk to other adults who understood.  As we sat and talked forever and people were leaving I realized this was just what I needed.  I needed to get out of my own pity party and realize this is a part of the bigger picture God has called us to do.  We are not only called to take care of these children but we are called to support each other.  Sometimes, that looks different than what we think it will look like.  This lady was single and had an older child so her situation looked very different than mine.  I had no advice or anything to tell her, but she was just glad someone else was there that felt as overwhelmed as she did.

After the conference was over yesterday (which was amazing by the way), I left with a whole new burden.  The mission of the conference was hope for foster and adoptive families, and it was centered around learning techniques on how to parent these kids from hard places.  It was also about supporting the families as well.  The attendance to this conference far exceeded our expectations or what we could've imagined.  It was great.  However, there is now such a burden for supporting these families in our community.  Trust me, I'm not exactly sure what that looks like, but I am praying over time God will reveal that to all of us.  We have to recruit families and make them aware of the need, but we also have to find a way to support the ones who are "In the Trenches" as Christie so eloquently spoke to yesterday.  This has to be a community thing, and not just a family thing, if that makes sense at all and it needs to start with the local churches.

Friday, January 17, 2014

How we got the girls…..

I really intended to finish where I left off but for some reason I have been asked a lot lately how and when we decided to take siblings.  A lot of people have asked how that worked out, so while it is on my mind I thought I would get it out!

Most of you know we received B the last day of school last year in May.  Literally, we had early dismissal that day, I received a call that our house had been opened and that I could get B whenever.  I ran upstairs to the school office where Rachel and I ran to Target to get a few items (notably a carseat), ran back to school and poor Jennifer worked on installation with us and off I went.  I picked him up and realized the house he had been staying in was literally within a stones throw of the school.  Figuring that out, like any proud mom, I swung back through the school parking lot after I picked him up because I saw Rachel standing there, and showed off my new baby.

In July, we first met 'Anna'.  B's case was kinda falling apart and we were set to have him for awhile and we found out about an aunt who needed help with a new 16 mth old she had for a few days.  The toddler went to daycare and literally days before I had written in my journal…"toddler???"  I had no idea what it meant but when I saw this respite request I knew we had to answer.  (The request had actually been filled earlier but the lady couldn't do it and resent the request out).  I pulled in to daycare to pick this baby up, saw her, and thought…."woah…we are in trouble."  She was tiny, feisty, precious and calling me "ma" by the end of the 3rd day.  She went back to her aunt and I couldn't get her out of my mind.  The really bad thing was neither could J. O.  So, that's when I asked the aunt if we could just get her on Sundays.  That could be our day with her and her aunt's day with her own 2 bio kids.  It worked great for awhile.  Then 2 of 'Anna's' siblings came into care.  We told the aunt we just couldn't take any more than one for the day or night because we had B and that was all we could handle.  She understood and we just slowly started helping with her more and more.  Days turned to nights, nights turned to weekends, weekends turned to me taking her to the doctor and picking up from school and so forth.  All the while B was still ours and we were committed to his case.

Over time, I asked J.O. what we would do if the aunt decided she could no longer keep 'Anna' and the siblings.  We knew if that happened, although it would be heartbreaking, we would have to let her go to another house because we couldn't take more than one at that point.  

Fast forward a few months and B's case took a different turn.  A relative came forward and it became clear over time he would be going with her.  We were still getting 'Anna'  like normal but just didn't know what to expect long term.  We found out when B was leaving, and booked a short get a way before we jumped back in.  In between B leaving and our vacation, we also found out 'Anna' and the siblings had a court hearing (literally a few days after he left).  Her aunt asked me to attend and I was able to find out more of what was going on.  During this 3 week time period between B leaving and our trip, our house was still open.  I told J. O. my plan was to tell DHS if we got a call that we were taking a short break until we got back, but I was worried I would cave if I was asked.  My secret plan was to take the child regardless and then figure out the rest later.  

However, our phone never rang.  During this time I even called our resource worker and she confirmed our paperwork was good to go and she was showing us open to take a baby.  She said she really wasn't sure why our phone wasn't ringing??  I just remember telling J. O. that was so odd and I wondered what was supposed to happen next.

Well, during all this, there were plans being made to move 'Anna' and her siblings.  The case took a turn and the aunt decided it was in their best interest.  We made our strong wishes known that we wanted 'Anna' and I actually got a call from her caseworker, while we were in the airport, saying she was going to work on placement of all 3 first and then we would go from there.  It was the longest week of my life.  We had no idea what to expect and I even asked J.O. if we could take all 3 (even though technically we can't with Addison's age) and was really expecting to move forward in a new direction.

Then, one day her caseworker called and said she would try a new route.  If we could take the girls, the brother would stay with the aunt and we would move forward.  She was trying a couple more avenues to place all 3 first but that was what she was working towards.  It sounds so dumb to say, but we had never really considered that.  Even though at times we had B and her together it hadn't really crossed my mind to take both girls.  As I sat back and looked at all the divine intervention along the way we knew we couldn't say no.  The fact that both court cases lined up together, B left when he did, our phone never rang in 3 weeks, and so forth and so forth.  

I was nervous when we opened our home and took B, but I was sick to my stomach when we took the girls.  This was unlike anything I thought I could and would do.  However, our pastor always says he isn't scared when the hand of God is on him, it's when it's removed from him that he is afraid.  Knowing that these girls were placed in our house by a complete divine intervention lets me know that God's hand is all over this.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Story-Part 1

Lately, I have been surrounded by the idea of telling "My Story".  Our pastor is doing a series on it, and then today we started a Bible Study and the first video was all about Kay Arthur, Priscilla Shirer, and Beth Moore's story.  Ways they were raised and how they got into the ministry.  What I always find so amazing is that each of them talked about God derailing the path they were on to lead them in a different direction.

I have talked before about how we got into fostering but didn't really go farther back than that.  On Sunday mornings part of the sermon is about living the life you want to tell.  Sometimes I can get so caught up in the life I am living right now, that I forget it's just as important to proclaim how far God has brought me.

So, here is a bit of my story.  It's not fascinating and it's not amazing, but it speaks volumes about God calling the ordinary.

I grew up in a small town with more churches than people it seemed.  There was a church on every corner and Sunday morning the town was dead because everyone you knew was in one of those churches.  The 2 restaurants that were in town were packed at noon because everyone and their brother had just gotten out of church.  We were a member of a local Missionary Baptist Church and my dad was a deacon as well as music minister (we called it song director at the time) and my mom played the piano and taught the children's group (she would be a present day children's director).  My sister and I grew up in church and back then you went Sunday morning, short break in the afternoon, back for 2 hours on Sunday night and back again for Wednesday night preaching.  You wore dresses and combed your hair and sat still beside your parents (man, I sound old).  If I acted up too many times, I was taken out for a spanking and brought back.  If you were me, you were taken out multiple times a service and left with a bruise.  I couldn't understand that if I would just be quiet for an hour it would be easier.  As I grew up, I started asking if we had to go to church on Wednesday nights or Sunday nights and the answer was always the same, "Are the doors open?"  I hated that answer by the way.

I stayed the course through High School and always longed to be a part of the Big Baptist church in Lonoke where all my friends attended, but my parents stood their ground and I was an active member of our youth group.  I probably didn't let them know, but I secretly loved our group.  I left and went to college and wouldn't you know it, but my mom and dad were no longer there to wake me up on Sunday mornings.  My dad had always gotten me up on Sundays and that wasn't an easy job.  Sometimes it took several tries to get me up and going and usually by then, my extremely soft spoken dad would raise his voice and I knew, this time, to hop up.  Well, in the dorm room and sorority house, no one made me get up!  Sure, there was a group who continued to get up and go every Sunday and I would always have good intentions on Saturday night, but it rarely panned out.

As college went on, it became the new "norm" for me to sleep in.  I would make it every now and then but any little excuse could keep me away.  Out too late night before, homework I needed to do (which I wouldn't look at until noon anyway), no clean clothes (I had a laundry service do my laundry), and so forth.  My list of excuses were amazing and ridiculous at the same time.  Looking back now, I couldn't have been more where the devil wanted this small town Missionary Baptist to be if he tried.  I graduated college and entered the work force.  I had great intentions of getting into a local church but once again, social activities got in the way.  Who knew how exhausting a 40 hour work week would be?  I needed Friday night to crash and Saturday night to catch up on Dickson Street with my friends.  That left Sunday to sleep in, do laundry (laundry service expired with college unfortunately), head to Wal-Mart and prepare for the week.  Little did I know, by allowing myself to be out of God's will and sliding down a slippery slope just how far away I would get…….

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I graduated from college (the first time) with a Communications degree.  Let me be the first to say I LOVED my major but it's a hard degree to know what to do with.  When I graduated there was really no clear cut job for me to go find.  I interned in Marketing/PR but really couldn't figure out what I wanted to do.  So, I did what any person living in NWA does when they graduate and went to work for Wal-Mart corporate (I can still do a mean Wal-Mart cheer by the way).  I loved the division I was in, people I worked for, etc, but I knew that wasn't what I wanted to do long term.  So, I left and got into sales.  I loved the hours, flexibility, income potential and interacting with people.

I quickly learned though, that I was great at making new friends but I wasn't great at selling.  I could get appointments and talk to people all day long, but when it came time to closing the sell I wasn't good.  If someone said it was too pricey I would agree, apologize and leave.  I was always so scared they would spend a lot of money and not be happy.  That's when I decided I better go back to school.  I knew I was good at that at least.

I've determined I am the same way with fostering.  I am great at telling you our story and the ups and downs but when it comes to someone saying "I could never do that" I just get quiet.  However, I've decided I need to lay out the reasons why everyone can get involved.  

You do not have to be a stay at home mom to foster.  In fact, most people aren't.  Children can go to daycare or they are in school and DHS has people who can help transport to visits and court and so forth.  I just choose to help out with all of that because we did choose to stay home.  Would it be super busy to add more kids with appointments and so forth in the mix when you work?  Of course, but I have found life is super busy regardless.

I have heard so many people tell me they wouldn't want to expose their children to this type of environment.  Really?  I mean, we aren't allowing our kids to read their case files or anything but they do know some of the story.  It's also one of the reasons that while our children are so young, we are only fostering young children.  However, I know of people with young children who have also fostered older children and that's gone great as well.  You have to remember, that although the parents have made bad choices, most of these kids are just innocent bystanders.  Our 'Anna' is Addison Norman at age 23 mths.  She stares at herself way too long in the mirror, drags out every baby she can find, throws fits on the floor at the first hint of being told no, etc.  The only difference is God allowed Addison to be born into a stable family (most of the time).  The other day I heard Trey and Addison playing caseworker.  They may not understand all of it, but I can almost promise you they are learning a love for these children and their families that will carry over into adulthood.

You don't have to be in a position in your life to foster.  You can help in so many ways.  My parents and in-laws (and family and friends for that matter) have jumped in and taken whatever kids have been added to the family, whenever they are added!  Already, "A" prefers my mom over me.  It happens.  You can help support the ministry at your church, you can help start a ministry at your church, you can write down names and pray for them, you can go through the training to do respite care, you can offer to babysit, you can donate items.  You can do so many things.

We are not all called to foster or adopt but we are all called to do something.  I have not been called to go on a foreign mission trip but I am called to pray for those that do and support our missionaries from the church.  I have not been called to adopt internationally but I can pray for those that are.  We can all help out in some way but it's not enough to just read something and say good job.  We all have to act on it no matter the size of the action.