the “broken” system {it’s been one of those days}

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His information came to me in an email.  I opened it up, read the narrative, clicked on a video and my heart sank.  The 9-year old, Harry Potter look-a-like little boy, who my husband and I met at a birthday party over the summer, is in need of a family.

“Watch me do this!”, he said to my husband.  He giggled and played and just soaked up my husband’s attention.  We were there for another boy who was in foster care and now has his forever family.  We met this little guy by chance.

I called my husband and said, “Remember that little boy at the birthday party?  The one with the glasses?”  My husband knew immediately who I was talking about.  “He needs an adoptive family.  He absolutely adored you.”

“You are making me sad.  It’s just one of those days”, my husband said.

My husband also works in child welfare.  “One of those days” is a phrase that we have often said to each other.  I wish I could give you an exact count of the number of profiles of children in need of an adoptive family that I’ve read through the years.  A profile is a synopsis about a child in need of adoption.  One part of my job is to send out adoption profiles to my staff who, in turn, send them out to foster and adoptive families.

It breaks my heart to see repeat profiles – ones of kids whose profile is sent out multiple times in hopes of just one family that might show interest.  The majority of these kids are over the age of five, have significant trauma, and are a handful, to say the least.  However, behind their age, their behaviors and their histories, they are children.  They play dress-up.  They love Lego’s.  They still believe in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.

They yearn for a Mommy and Daddy who won’t leave.

I have worked in child welfare for over seventeen years now and I still fight back tears when I fully ponder what is going on with children.  I get angry.  I threaten to walk away.  I fight cynicism.  Yet, I remain.

Having worked in the system for so long, I have heard “the system is broken” more times than I can count.  Yes, there are many things about the system that needs to be fixed.  Yes, we have a lot of work to do.  I agree with all of this.  However, when I sign people up for foster care classes knowing that they really just want a baby or I see profiles of kids in need of a family sent out over and over again, I find myself wondering if it really is the system that is broken, or if it is just us.  Maybe what is broken is our perception of child abuse and neglect, our vision of how good we think adoption should feel and our systematic way of turning our heads away from the problems at hand.  It’s easy for us to say, “Someone will step up or someone might adopt that child.”  It’s much harder for us to say, “We will step up.  We will adopt that child.”

First, let me state that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to foster a baby.  My husband and I did this and we are glad that we did.  We got to experience the precious love of babies.  We watched them as they walked for the first time, called us “Mommy and Daddy” and began to explore the world.  We were also blessed to be able to adopt them.

Now that my kids are older and I walk every day in the struggles of their lives, I recognize that if they were in need of an adoptive home right now, their chances of getting adopted would be slim.  That reality breaks my heart.

Is the system broken?  Sure, in some way it is.  Are we broken?  Yes.  I wish that every single child and youth in need of a permanent family would find one.  I wish that more people would step up and say “yes”.  I so wish that people understood trauma better, age didn’t make a difference, adoption was understood as being hard and not rosy, and that each kid was given a chance at experiencing what it truly means to belong.

If we want to fix the broken system, then we need to take a hard look at our expectations and desires.  The kids in it are not perfect (no kid is).  They have experienced things that a lot of us haven’t.  Their brains have literally been changed by trauma (scientific fact).  They can’t change overnight.  They can’t undo what’s been done to them.  They cope the best they can.  They are often in survival mode.  They may not even realize any of this.  We can, though.

We can accept non-perfect kids.  We can learn how trauma changes the brain.  We can change our expectations of adoption.  We can empathize with children who have been forgotten and given back by too many people who promised forever.

We can understand that it won’t feel good all of the time and that a child’s history matters, but their futures matter more.

Their futures matter more.

I don’t believe for one second that God intends for children to be without families; not for one minute.  This is why after all of these years I still have days like this.  I know that Jesus leaves the ninety-nine to seek out the one.  I pray that we do this as well.  I still have hope, though.  I know that nothing is impossible and as long as there are children who need families, there are those of us who wake up day in and day out and do our best to end the scourge of abuse, neglect and children without families.

It’s been one of those days, but it will pass…until it happens again.

Six Years Away

Son,

Six years away.  This is all I can think about right now.  As you turn twelve, the thought that we only have six more years until you are a (legal) adult keeps coursing through my mind.  Oh, my.  Time fleets and flutters its way through our lives, especially when we are not paying attention.

We fought hard for you.  I want you to know that.  I don’t mean in physical words spoken out loud for others to hear.  I mean in words whispered and cried out to our Father in Heaven.  It wasn’t that our fight was just about you.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it was also about us, about our own desires to become your forever parents, for an answer to the barrenness in our lives and for the abundant clarity of it all that only the Lord can bring.  We also spoke those words for your birth mother.  Please believe this.

Six years away.  In this short amount of time, we will face obstacles.  We will deal with middle school angst, puberty (I know….SO embarrassing), first loves and high school antics.  As your parents, we will worry and fret about you becoming a driver.  We will always worry a bit about you.  Sorry.  That’s just how it is.

Son, only six more years until we release you into the world.  There are moments when my heart just can’t take it.  I think fondly back to our early days.  Sweetness seemed to follow you everywhere you went.  Your curiosity about the world, whimsical expressions and overall silliness absolutely captured the hearts of many.

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In so many ways, I still think of you as that little Mamma’s Boy that you once were.  I know.  I know.  You are growing up.  You don’t need me as much as you once did.  You grimace and get embarrassed at me…often.  Here’s the deal, though.  I may embarrass you at times or get on to you about things, but I will never not love you.  Ever.

Six years from now, you are declared an adult.  Where has the time gone?  What happened to yesterday and the day before that and the day before that?  I used to believe that fostering you and not knowing what was going to happen was the hardest part.  I now know that witnessing you grow up, dealing with the issues we have faced, and watching you crawl closer and closer to leaving is the hardest part.

I never understood the idea of half of my heart living outside of my body until I wrapped my arms around you.

If able to, I would go back and repeat each and every single day just to hold you and capture those moments one more time.

There is a lot of life to be lived between now and then.  I know this.  I also know that even though you will be an adult sooner than we are prepared for, you will always be our little boy, our first baby and one of the most important parts of our lives.

Son, on your 12th birthday, I want to say that I love you more each day.  I am proud of you.  I adore your quirks (even when they drive me crazy).  I appreciate how you methodically think about Every. Single. Thing.  I crack up at your goofy laugh and the many excuses you can come up with to not clean your room.  It pleases my soul to see your gentleness with animals.

It both breaks my heart and fills it with joy to watch you grow into the person you are.  For you, kiddo, are a good human being.  You, son, are a blessing.

Happy Birthday, Bubby.  Love you forever.

Only six years away…

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Foster Parenting is a Mission Field

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I was co-speaking at a women’s conference and the person speaking alongside me said this, “We seek foster families who love God.  It’s important for families to love children, of course, but we first seek families who love God…and because of their love of God, they want to serve and love children.”

It seems like it should be obvious but it jumped out at me as an often-missed message when it comes to foster parent recruitment.  For me, it appears that it would be nearly impossible to love God and not love children, but I wonder if we get it switched around when it comes to trying to find foster families for children in need.  We call people to the ministry of fostering because they love children.  Perhaps, we should focus more on calling them to it because their first love is God.

I’ve long thought that foster parenting is a mission field.  How can it not be?

Sure, foster families are not necessarily giving up the luxuries of first-world living that most missionaries are, but they are giving up privacy, control and that part of them that once thought child abuse and neglect is not as bad as it really is.

They are giving up their own family time and sleep-filled nights.  They are giving away pieces of their hearts that may have been sealed with the belief that trauma isn’t as bad as they once thought or that love can cure just about anything.  They are giving up their own plans and instead, walking step-by-step in the muck and mud of child abuse and neglect.  With each child that comes and goes, they are carrying away with them all that has been poured into them by their foster families.

Yes, foster parenting is a mission field.  And, it should be.

When considering the walkabout of Jesus while He was on Earth, each step He made was a purposeful, mission-minded ministry.  When others advised Him to stay away from people who were considered difficult, misunderstood or downright lowly, He walked towards them.  Did you read that?  Jesus walked TOWARDS them.

When it comes to children, Jesus’s actions in Scripture exemplified how precious they are.  He healed a child.  He set them as an example of how we should view faith.  He cast a demon out of a child.  He blessed them, fed them and in many ways, honored them.  Jesus’s ministry was very-much geared towards children; towards all of us.

When considering becoming a foster parent, it is important to undergo a heart-check – not a physical one, but a spiritual one.  Do you have to be a Christian or believer in a faith in order to be a foster parent?  No, absolutely not.  However, if you feel foster parenting is a ministry and calling in your life, then you have to act like it.

You must choose to be humble even when you don’t want to be.  You have to show resilience, patience and restraint, even when your body and mind are screaming not to.  It is hard.  It is emotional.  It will challenge nearly every aspect of your life, but keep in mind that for some people, you may be the only example of Christ they have witnessed.  No pressure, right?!

The willingness to serve God by loving children and youth through foster parenting is a calling.  The desire to step into the darkness of abuse and neglect and do so because of faith is remarkable.  Foster parents do this.  They step out of their comfort zone and right into darkness.

Yes, foster parenting is a mission field, and an important one at that.

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of care I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” -Forest E. Witcraft

 

6 Lessons I’ve Learned From My Beautiful Children

I wrote an article for Adoption.Com recently regarding the lessons I’ve learned from my children.  It seems that as each year unfolds, I find myself learning more and more about children, adoptive parenting, parenthood (in general) and myself.  Thank, goodness!

1. Children have the desire and right to know where they came from. Adoption is a part of our language. Despite the openness or maybe because of it, our children feel comfortable about asking us questions. They know we may not have all the answers, but we welcome their questions. My kids taught me that history is important, and it is okay (more than okay) to want to seek it and understand it.

2. Children don’t expect perfection. They yearn for presence. I have found myself comparing the parenting of others to my own. I have carried guilt and grief over not showing my best side all the time to the kids. The truth is that my children do not expect the “best of me” all the time.  Instead, they just need “all of me”—my time, my love and my presence.

3. Resilience matters. My children did not have the best start at life. They each suffered less-than-ideal womb experiences (and describing it that way is being gracious). They each have struggled in various settings, socially and academically. We have had multiple specialists, medication regimes, and evaluations. Despite a few odds being against them, they are all incredibly fierce in their own ways. My children have shown me resilience, and I do my best to show it to them as well.

4. Love is greater than biology. I know that seems like a no-brainer, and if you are a parent through adoption or provide foster care, you live in this truth. It is hard to fully explain to people, who question the ability to love a child not born of them, how deep and true loving an adopted child is. Sure, there are areas and kinks that must be worked out. There might be lots of behavior problems and attachment issues, but sometimes, these things only deepen the feeling of love and protection. I have experienced this and continue to do so as my children get older.

5. Parenting does not have a one-size-fits-all standard. In our family, we allow certain things to fly. Our schedule is different. We are stricter about bedtime than other parents we know. We must advocate in a different way per the needs of our children, and we discipline in ways that others may not understand. It is not wrong, and it may not be completely right, but it is what our children need.

6. Adoption is a humbling experience. The statement, “Those kids are lucky to have you” often stops me in my tracks. Sure, they are safe, and we do our best to provide them stability and love, but I do not consider what they have experienced in their lives to be lucky. Instead, the reasons they needed adoption are heartbreaking. I know that while my husband and I strive to be the kind of parents our kids need, we will never be able to replace who their biological parents are, nor do we want to. So, yes. Adoption is humbling.

For the full article, click this link:   https://adoption.com/6-lessons-learned-from-beautiful-children

Blessings,

Caroline

Happy Father’s Day, Dad (jumping in the deep end)

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When I was 3-years-old, my dad threw me into the lake and yelled, “Kick, kick, kick!”  My mom was not pleased (to say the least) as he scooped me out of the water.  He did this to teach me how to swim, to not be scared, and to learn what to do should I find myself in the water again.

When I was five-years-old, my dad pushed me off and ran behind me as I learned to ride my bike without training wheels.  “Peddle!”, he yelled as I excitedly conquered riding on two wheels.

When I was 9-years-old, my dad looked up at me on the diving board of the deep end  and yelled, “You can do it!” as I did a gainer off of the board.

When I was 11-years-old, my dad held my hand as he told me I would never have children.

Waking up from my hysterectomy, in a daze, I saw him and the doctor standing over me.  The courage and strength he must have carried just to mutter those words overwhelms me.  It breaks my heart and fills it with pride all at the same time.  Actually, I do not recall one time waking up in the hospital without him present.  Even as an adult, if I have a serious medical issue come up, he is there.  He has always been there.

As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend in the US, the times my dad has told me to “jump” or held my hand when I needed it the most, have flooded my mind.  My dad is not perfect.  He was not as a young father and he is not as a grandfather but he is always there and always giving his two-cents-worth (or more).

I can come up with a thousand words to describe my dad but that would make way too long of a blog post and I’m sure you would get bored with it.  I’ll just say this.  My dad is loyal.  He is opinionated (even when you don’t want to hear it).  He has a soft heart (even if he doesn’t want others to know it).  He is exactly the kind of Earthly dad that I need (even if that irked me as a teenager).

Throughout my life, I have had this notion; this juxtaposition that I need to be careful and brave all at the same time.  I have carried this feeling that life is precious but also worth taking a risk.  I learned this from my parents – especially my dad.

When it has come to making decisions that might elate and break my heart at the same time, I have always tended to go for it, despite the risk.  When it comes to expressing my opinion even if it means being misunderstood or ignored, I have usually leaned towards just stating it.  A big part of this is the faith I have in God; my Heavenly Father, Keeper of my Secrets, Whisperer of my dreams.  Another part, of course, is my Earthly Father; my dad.

As I get older and watch my parents get older, I have come to recognize the full measure of what it is to have a dad (and a mom) who are still active in parenting.  They give me advice.  They help around my house.  They celebrate special events.  They cry when I cry.  They laugh when I laugh.  They worry…just like I suspect I will when my children are adults.  I know our days are numbered.  I know that one day, I will wake up without my parents to call or cry to or just be there.  It is becoming more real as we all traverse this crazy thing called life.  I do not know how many Father’s Days I will have with my dad but I do know that each and every one is special and that I appreciate him more and more as time passes by.

Looking back on life, he has always been there.  When we fostered, he was immediately at my door step the minute we accepted our children into our home.  As a grandparent through adoption, he has never wavered in his love for my kids.  Not once.  Not for a second.  Never.

Back in 1983 when my dad held my hand and whispered truth and encouragement into my ears, I would have never guessed that we would be where we are today…three kids…three lives touched by adoption…three lives influenced by my dad…hearts that were once filled with grief, now at peace.

On this Father’s Day, to my dad, I want to say, “Thank You”.  Thank you for throwing me in the lake at 3-years-old.  Thank you for pushing me off on my bike ride at 5-years-old.  Thank you for yelling “You can do it!” when I was 9-years-old.  Thank you for digging through your own grief and finding the wisdom to tell me at 11-years-old that I would never have biological children.

As an adult, when considering choices in front of me, I usually go with the attitude of “go for it”.  I know this came from my dad.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  Thank you for encouraging me to always jump into the deep end.  

I Am the Least Likely

Your story - whatever it is - may be used to spurn future generations into faith

Can I take you back somewhere for a moment?  Like, way back…

Lying in my bed with my fat cat “Cupcake” resting nearby, nestled in warm covers, and dim lights, I wondered, “Maybe God knows I would make a horrible mother and that’s why this happened.  Maybe, it’s because I was a bad person in a past life or because I should have been born a boy.  Maybe, it’s because the doctor made a mistake.  Maybe….”

These thoughts raced through my mind shortly after my hysterectomy.  They ripped and raged at my heart.  I didn’t understand what a lifetime of barrenness would look like, but oh boy, did I believe that I was destined for shame, anguish and never being a mother.  I understand now that these dark whispers were not of God but of the face of darkness.  They were from the Enemy, who likes to nip and chew at every single vessel and cell of our existence.

I carried around this heavy blanket of thoughts for many years.  It seems odd to even call it a blanket, though.  When we think of blankets, we think, “warm, soft and comforting”.  However, like a blanket, these thoughts wrapped themselves around me and engulfed my body.  Soon, I began to cling to them – much like a child clings to a blanket.  After all, I was a child when barrenness knocked on my door.

These thoughts often brought shame, confusion and resentment towards a supposedly loving God.  Even after all of these years and being a parent, I still have moments where my mind escapes back to those nights in my bed and of the times where I could not stop the tears from flowing.  Besides, why would any loving Father ever allow this?

The truth is that I am the least likely to be typing this and to be speaking of spiritual freedom.  I am the least likely to work with children, promote the importance of adoption, advocate for foster children, share in support of foster families and play a small part in the molding of new families.  I am the least to be doing any of this.

The reality is that I had already envisioned a life minus anything to do with children.  It just hit too close to home.  I went to college and got a degree in Gerontology – the study of aging.  I didn’t want anything to do with children.  I even told my mom, “I don’t want to work with children; especially abused and neglected children.”

(I’ve since learned that we shouldn’t tell the Lord what we won’t do.)

I often recall those moments in time where I wondered what in the heck I was going to do about all of this trauma – medical and barrenness.  I believe that these are the times when the Enemy wants to steal progress and remind us only of what we struggle with, what breaks our hearts and where our fears lie.

Still….the Lord is there to hush those whispers and calm the waves of painful remembrance.

Ending up in child welfare (because the Lord closed every single door until the one to child welfare opened up), being around children, and working with kiddos who needed homes, forced me to confront that part of my life that I had always hidden away; never showing to others what I was dealing with.  This is why I am the least likely.

God takes the least, wipes the slate clean, clears the fog and reveals a truth that pierces through the darkest of places in our hearts.  It was He who put me in child welfare.  It is He who has kept me in it.  It is He who continuously reveals so much of who He is and who I am in Him.  It is He who hushed those horrible, slithering whispers that tried to capture a future without children.  It is He who took a hold of my barrenness and threw it off of me; declaring a new identity.

Imagine being bound by chains of self-doubt, grief, and angst.  Now, imagine those chains being broken.  This is what the Lord is capable of.

Yes, I am the least likely to testify that a faithful and all-knowing God took a hold of my barrenness and shaped it into what my life is today.  I am the least likely to proclaim that motherhood is important, infertility is not a result of being a bad person, and that God is out to punish us all.

It is just the opposite.  Listen closely.

The VERY thing that the Enemy used to devour my spirit, the Lord used to not only create a new life but also to fill it with exactly the opposite of what the Enemy desired. 

The Lord took what ripped my heart out and turned it into a lifetime of devotion of working on the behalf of children.  He took the biggest void in my life and blessed me.

What was meant to harmmeant to stealmeant to boundwas turned into a revelation of the all-consuming love of God.  It turned into that incredible feeling of true freedom – know that you are exactly who the Lord intended for you to be and that you are living out His story of your life.  Not only did it become a revelation, it evolved into a lifetime of doing the exact opposite of what the Enemy wanted.

Did you read that clearly?  A complete opposite of what the Enemy wanted.

If you ask me about the presence and proof of God in my life, all I would have to do point you to where I was versus where I am now, and that would be sufficient.  None of this happened by accident.  It still catches my breath.  It still feels so raw and real and beyond belief.  For me, the proof of the Lord is revealed daily.

My story.  My personal journey.  My medical problems, surgeries and barrenness turned into a testimony of what a truly loving and forgiving God can do.  My life is an example of redemption (over and over again), of the glory of God revealing Himself, and of answered prayer.  This is my testimony and I refuse to hide it away.

Yes, I am the least likely to proclaim the beauty of adoption, to advocate for children and to pursue the heart of God.  It is not by my works that I am a parent and an advocate for children in need.  It is the Lord who is working through my barrenness.  It is the Lord who has taken away my doubts about motherhood.  It is the Lord who declared Himself in my life.  It is He who has sustained me through working in child welfare as long as I have.

Friends, if you are going through something that is tragic, life-changing or appears to have stolen your future, I’ve been there.  I understand.  While I may not know your exact pain, I do understand how quickly life can change and how rapidly you can succumb to desperate thoughts.

Friends, in Jesus, nothing is impossible.  We are made new.  In Him, our futures are just getting started.  Don’t give up.  Your story – whatever it is – may be used to turn future generations to faith.  

 

If you met me many years ago, I would have convinced you that I am the least likely to talk about spiritual warfare and the faithfulness of God.  It is not that I didn’t believe in that stuff.  I just didn’t want to feel it.  I didn’t want to talk about it.  I didn’t want to do the hard work to discover myself and the Lord in it.  I wasn’t ready.

I am the least likely to share any of this, but… the Lord has this incredible habit of taking the least and using them to proclaim the full measure of His grace.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” -John 15:5-8

 

A Letter to My Daughter on Our Adoption Anniversary

Happy Adoption Anniversary, Sweetie!  It’s been eight years since we were declared your forever parents; the ones who would walk you through the rough times and celebrate with you in the good ones.

There has been some rough times, hasn’t there?  There has also been some incredible times.  I know this.  You do, too.

I watch you.  I see the way you watch my every move, as well.  There is great pressure raising a girl in this world; raising one who is strong enough to be fierce when it matters and soft enough to be empathetic when no one else will.  Well, I’m here to proclaim that you are both of these things.  You’re fierce when you need to be and you are soft when it is necessary.  (Although, Mommy wishes you were a little more soft with me…especially when our shared strong-wills clash.)

It’s different raising a daughter.  Not bad, just different.  Us girls are complicated.  We feel every ounce of emotion that enters our psyches.  We over think and overthink until our brains are just done.  We love big and we grieve big.  Often, we are our worse critics.

It’s because of this that I want to tell you to never underestimate yourself.  Allow those strong emotions to come but do so in a way that will always respect yourself and those in your life who matter.  Don’t stop grieving for the homeless and others who are in a bad place.  That kind of empathy may not be rewarded on this Earth, but I believe it will be in Heaven.

Stick to your guns.  Stand up for what you believe in.  Don’t shy away from expressing your opinion (even when it’s not how others think you should feel).  Don’t give yourself away; to a job, to men, to anyone.  It’s hard to get yourself back once you do.

You, by far, have challenged me more than your brothers.  However, you, by far, have taught me more about myself and about this parenting life.  You question everything.  I mean EVERYTHING.  Don’t stop doing that.

You leave me nearly exhausted each day but you also give me the gumption to get up at each new dawn and try harder.  This, sweetie.  This is what it is like to watch your heart dance and prance around in the form of a little girl.  This is both challenging and incredible all at the same time.

It’s been eight years since the Judge declared you to be our forever daughter; although you were always “ours” from the minute you were brought to our home.  I need you to know that I’m constantly thinking of you.  I’m constantly considering how I can make a positive impact in your life and how I can protect you from the harshness of this world.

Yes, it’s been eight years since the Judge declared you to be ours forever, but to me, time is sifting by at too quick of a pace.  If there is anything I can teach you, it is this.

What you are right now is not who you will be in the future.  You will grow and stretch and sometimes, it won’t feel good, but it will be good for you.  Life is neither easy or hard.  It is both at the same time.

There will be times when you feel less than the girl sitting next to you.  There will be other times when you feel that you can climb the highest of mountains with ease.  Both are relevant, but both are fleeting. 

No matter what, always remember that as much as we love you, you have a Heavenly Father who loves you more.  Our love will never compare to His.  While we are your parents, you belong to Him.  He knew you before we did.  He knew you when you were in your birth mother’s womb.  He was present when you were born.  (We were not and that is something that has always grieved my own heart.)  You are wanted and you are cherished by us and by the Lord.  Don’t ever forget that.

It’s been eight years since the Judge declared us as your forever parents; eight years of laughter and tears.  Eight years of talking-back and saying “I’m sorry”.  I literally cannot imagine my life without you.  These years seem to have come and gone so fast.

Eight years from now…well…I don’t even want to think about that, yet.

Happy Adoption Anniversary, Sweetie.

We love you.

We always have.

We always will.

Eightisgreat

 

If Your Son or Daughter is a Foster Parent

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I love this picture of my dad and my oldest son sharing a shake when he was just a little guy.  We fostered him for close to two years and we all underestimated how deeply we would fall in love.  We didn’t know how hard the road would be or how complex feelings are when you want biological parents to succeed; yet, you also want so desperately to hold on to the kiddo that captured your heart.  It was close to two years before we were declared his (legal) family and on that day, our entire family exhaled a collective sigh of relief, belief, and appreciation.

My parents absolutely 100% poured everything they could into our children while we were fostering them.  They did so with zero promise that they would be their “forever” grandparents.  Looking back, it seems a bit selfish to have asked them to do this.  Their instant adoration upon meeting our babies was apparent and a bit heartbreaking.  They understood that reunification was the goal but it didn’t make things easier.  They asked “when will you know anything” for months upon months.  Yet, we could not promise anything nor could we give a lot of details.  

With each step, our parents just went with the flow.  I saw the concern in their eyes.  I saw the worry covering their expressions.  Even so, our parents accepted, celebrated and cherished each child and each moment with them as if it would be their last.  

Foster care and adoption brought us closer as a family.  We were stretched in faith and in our worldview about what family means.

We know that FAMILY is more than blood. 

LOVE is not defined by DNA. 

Children are the best GIFTS anyone could ask for, regardless of how they come into your life.

Most people remarked about how hard it must have been for us to love our children without knowing what would happen or how long they would be in our lives.  To say it was hard is quite an understatement.  It was painful, full of worry and just plain exhausting.

Looking back, I recognize that no one really asked how our parents were holding up.  Sure, we were asked a lot.  We were offered prayer and assistance.  Our parents, however, were not.  At least, not to the level that we were.  Yet, fostering is hard for the entire family.

Grandparents (aka – the parents of foster parents) play an oh-so-important role in the life of a foster child.  They attend birthday parties, help out when one is sick, celebrate holidays, bake that special little goodie that the child devours, and nurtures the child just like most grandparents do.  They do all of this even while knowing how devastating it would be to lose the child they have grown to love.  They also do all of this with the knowledge that reunification is a part of foster care and absolutely does happen in a lot of situations.

If reunification occurs (and it should if the biological parents are healthy and able), not only do the foster parents grieve the child moving (even though they are aware this is a reality), grandparents also grieve, worry and wonder about the child’s future.  It’s a loss that is manageable but also life-changing.

Will the child remember them? 

Will they ever see that ornery little girl with dimples in her cheeks or that sweet little boy whose eyes could melt the world again? 

Will that spunky 6-yr-old think back fondly of baking cookies or playing catch with “grandma and grandpa”? 

Will that pre-teen still yearn to hear “grandpa’s” goofy jokes?

Will that teenager call when he needs some advice?

Will they know how deeply they were cherished and loved?

Foster parenting affects the parents of those who foster and anyone else who is a part of the child’s life.

If your son or daughter is a foster parent, you know how it has affected your life.  You have so many questions that have to go unanswered.  Your heart breaks with pain and leaps with joy all within a few days.  You did not sign up for this.  Sure, you were excited and worried all at the same time but you really had no idea what to expect.  You get frustrated, even angry, as you watch your child ride an incomparable wave of emotion.

Your support during the tough times and your willingness to listen is so important.  Of course, a few nights of babysitting always come in handy but at the end of the day, your unwavering commitment to be there during the bad days and the good ones is vital.

Even when you are anxious and angry, you put on a brave face.  Instead of showing your sorrow, you lie in bed at night thinking about the love that has entered your life.  You fear what could happen in everyone’s lives – yours, your child’s and the little one that you adore.

If your son or daughter is a foster parent, I hope you know how valuable you are.  Like our parents and the untold numbers of other out there, your input in a child’s life increases the output of love they will feel.  You matter.

Thank you for loving (foster) children without the promise of tomorrow. 

Just know that what you do for the life of a child can change the course of history for generations. 

This is something we should all be thankful for.

 

 

 

Be Bold {let your light shine}

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I wish I could tell you that it is “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy” (as my 5-yr-old likes to say) to parent children who have been adopted or to be a foster parent.  I’d love to say that once a child enters your home either for foster care or adoption, all problems go away and it’s just downhill and smooth-sailing from there.  It would be fantastic for me to declare that I never second-guess myself and that we are all about lollipops, rainbows, and laughter.  However, if I were to say any of these things, my words would be false.  They would not bear a truthful witness to what it is to be a parent through adoption.

A few months ago, I started praying/speaking these words to God, “What do you want me to do with my life?”  “What do you want from me?”  One morning while praying, I heard the words, “BE BOLD.”  A little startled at the immediate response, I asked, “What do you mean?”  

“BE BOLD.”  The words were clear, concise and not complicated.

Several months have passed and to be honest, I just kind of ignored this answer.  I know the Lord told me to be bold but it was just too simple of a declaration.  I am a detail-oriented person and the two-word response to my prayer just didn’t cut it.

With the dawning of a New Year, the Lord’s answer of “Be bold” has never strayed too far from my mind.  I wonder, friend, if His words are not only meant for my ears but also for yours.

For prospective foster and adoptive families, you need to know that being bold is imperative.  It’s more than just declaring an injustice in what you are witnessing.  It requires a stillness of faith AND a movement of courage.  

Being bold, in the sight of others who do not understand, is necessary.

When you are asked, “Why in the world would you want to do that?”, be bold.

When people say to you, “I would never subject my own kids to that”, be bold.

When you are quivering in fear over what is going to happen with a child you love, be bold.

When you have the opportunity to love on biological parents, please, by all means, be bold.

Foster parenting and adoption both have this funny way of knocking people to their knees.  We fall down time and again, but we get up.  We wonder what we are doing and why in the heck are we doing it, but we keep on.  In the face of many obstacles and trials, we stand up.  We are bold.

When parenting children who come from extremely difficult situations, we learn of our own blessings and our own stumbling blocks.  Their histories collide with ours and we realize how different life could have been for us if we were handed down the same hardships these children have been dealt.

I know the saying of “What would happen if you weren’t afraid?”  It’s fine and everything but I like this version better:  “What would happen if you were bold?” 

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold… -2nd Corinthians 3:12

How could your courage and boldness literally change the course of a child’s or adult’s life?

What would your boldness show to children who look up to you?

How could you make an eternal difference for someone?

What if you took that darned thing called infertility, grabbed it by the neck and said, “No. I’m not going down that way”?

What if you become a foster parent and take in kiddos that absolutely soak up your love and attention?

What if you step outside of your preconceived comfort zone and foster a large sibling group, older youth or ones with special needs?

What could happen if you decide tomorrow to wake up declaring that boldness is the only way to live?

We are well on our way into 2018.  We don’t know what we will have to face or overcome as the year unfolds but let’s live this year with a boldness that leaves an impression.

Shine your light, friends.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

 

If you are considering foster care or adoption, my wish is that fear would not stop you.  It isn’t easy, but it is so worth.

Goal for 2018:  Let others see that boldly living and courageously loving is a remarkable way to live.

Question:  How are you going to live boldly this year?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Momma-in-Waiting {at Christmas time}

pexels-photo-76931Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you.  Christmas is all around us, isn’t it?  You overhear your co-workers talk about the sweet surprises for their kiddos.  You are forced to look at picture after picture of your friend’s little one’s first Santa visit.  It’s not that you don’t think the images are cute or that you don’t want to see them.  It’s just that it hurts…really hurts.

Christmas morning in most houses is filled with chaos, giggling children, and mounds of bows and wrapping paper.  Weary parents get up at the crack of dawn to watch their children excitedly rip open that special gift from Santa.  Christmas morning at your home is a little different, though.  You get up whenever you desire and exchange presents with your spouse or anyone else staying the night.  It’s quiet and calm and in that stillness, your heart plunges to a depth a lot of people just don’t understand.  Your mind races with the same questions you’ve cried out for way too long…

Why is this happening?  When will it end?  What is wrong with me?  What if I never become a mother?  What if every Christmas is this quiet?

Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  My own house is now filled with chaos at Christmas.  I hear my giggling children and clean up mounds of bows and paper.  I watch as the kids rush to the tree to see what Santa brought.  I wish I could tell you that it’s not that big of a deal and you’re not missing much, but that would be a lie.  You know it and so do I.

It’s a little ironic, isn’t it?  We celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas; yet, you are wailing, wanting, and desperate to celebrate your own miracle; your own gift to the world.  You are waiting to celebrate the birth of your baby.  I don’t really know what to say except I was once where you are and I know that it is miserable.  I knew I could never birth a child but I did not know if I would ever be a parent.  It is so incredibly hard.  It’s one of the worst pains any human can experience on Earth.  I believe that.  I really do.

From Hannah and on, barrenness is noteworthy.  If it wasn’t, then I suspect it would not even be mentioned in Scripture.  People tell you, “God has a plan for you.”  They say, “If it’s God’s will, then it will happen.”  Do you want to know something?  I loathed those words.  I could not stand them.  I despised every single time they were said to me (and they were said more times than I can count).

Only now, after adoption and actually being a Momma-no-longer-in-Waiting, can I say that I “get it”.  I understand that the Lord did have a plan and adoption was His will for my life.  Yet, this knowledge does not erase the pain that I felt nor does it wipe my memory clean of my existence when I was a Momma-in-Waiting.

Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you.  Christmas is hard but so is just about every day when your steps are padded in confusion.  If there is one gift I can give to you this Christmas, it is this – your feelings are valid, your frustration is justifiable and your grief is not lost on those of us who have been there or who are there right now.

At this Christmas and every single day after, I want you to know that even though it feels like it, God has not forsaken you.  He never will.  Even though you do not feel His presence, He is there.  He is near you when test after test shows a negative, or when your doctor tells you news that you just don’t want to hear.  God is with you when you are lonely, tired and weeping the most sorrowful, thick tears ever imaginable.

Perhaps, Momma-in-Waiting, this is the best gift I can give you; the hope of the Lord.  

Be strong.  Be fierce.  Be courageous.  Don’t let anyone stifle your feelings or your voice.  Keep talking about infertility.  Keep asking questions and all of those other laborious things you need to do when you are meeting with doctors.  Don’t let others tell you how to navigate this journey for it is your own.

Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you.  At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a child who changed the world.  Today, Momma-in-Waiting, I’m thinking of you and I believe that the very baby born so long ago is thinking of you as well.

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. – Isaiah 41:13