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The Ripple

It’s been a little over a year since I have updated my blog… so much has changed, so a quick update if you will! The last time I blogged, I talked about forgiveness and it is still something I must choose daily, even more now than ever! I am happy to say that May of 2015 we were overwhelmed with joy to be able to adopt two amazing little girls. Church Mouse and Apple as we have called them on our blog are home forever with us, they are our daughters and we are their very proud parents!

I would love to say that everything has been amazing, but the reality is, it is our very own, complex, challenging BLESSING… and we wouldn’t have it any other way! We love our daughters, to the ends of the earth and whatever that entails, we know that God is guiding us and has called us to them for HIS purpose!   It’s that simple and difficult all at the same time! But there is love, OH so much love!

Now onto my purpose for writing this blog…

It’s been almost a year since our adoption and we explained to our agency that we were taking this year off to allow our daughters to adjust to normal life, outside of foster care. We continue to maintain regular contact with their siblings and are thankful that every family involved has chosen to walk this journey together, for the sake of the children. My husband and I have been talking a lot lately about the right time to start fostering again or possibly adopting again! We fully understand that NOW is not that time. We respect the place that God has us, and while we have a heart to serve children in need, we also respect our daughters enough to know that now is not the right time. So with that mindset, my hunger, our hunger to continue to serve children and even families in need, needs its proper place!

Yesterday, on my way to work, I was listening to our local Christian talk radio station. The host was saying that every single thing we do and say has a ripple effect. That even how we speak to our husbands does one of two things, it can grow us closer together or drive us away, even to the point of divorce! She went on to say that this advice was given to her prior to her wedding and it has resonated in the many years she has been married. Discussion back and forth lead to current events with that mindset, that even the smallest of things like walking into a store and cussing out the clerk can change someone’s day for better or worse, but those words or actions that may not have been directed at you, can in fact impact your life!   That was an “Ah-ha” moment for me… every single choice has a ripple effect! EVERY choice! That’s deep!

In the afternoon I rushed out of work to pick up my oldest daughter and then home because I had a “meeting” planned with the supervisor of our agency! She and I have on-going communication because any opportunity I have to give back, participate, share or whatever else we can do to serve, I try to participate! This is one of those “proper places” for continuing to foster without having children in our home! So as we began to talk, we were talking briefly about the increase in the number of families that have shown interest in becoming foster parents! My heart swelled, people were stepping up!!! She continued to talk and in conversation said that when that campaign launched (Fostering Goodness campaign) the numbers of people signing up to foster and go through the training increased dramatically. She continued in saying that it wasn’t just our agency, but the other agencies involved as well. THEN IT HIT ME… I said, you mean the Fostering Goodness campaign??? She said yes, my eyes swelled with tears and hands went up in victory!   It was the RIPPLE… you see, that campaign was something I was honored and privileged to be a part of… that campaign was something that was born out of the Foster Care Advisory Board that I sit on… that campaign was our words and thoughts brought to life on behalf of children in dire need! It was the ripple in full effect and I can’t wait to hear and see where this all goes because I know that even if only half complete the training, there will be children in need blessed by their commitment to changing a life!

This phase of not fostering has left me out of sorts in some ways. Don’t get me wrong, we are so thankful and grateful that our journey lead us to adoption and we are grateful for forever… but something is missing and that something is this passion deep inside of me that simply wants to serve wherever and whenever I am able to do so! Sitting across the table from the supervisor lead to a conversation about how things were in our home… she meant REALLY, not the pretty smile and lip service of everything’s okay, more like the nitty gritty stuff! It was fine, I knew where the conversation was headed and I was optimistically honest. While blessed, things have been difficult at best, post adoption does not wrap anything up in a perfect little package, if anything it does the opposite and we are fighting (in a good way) through it, for the sake of our child!

The next question was centered on how we are caring for ourselves. That was a tough answer because the truth of the matter is, we really aren’t. My husband walks/runs almost daily and I see not only the health benefits for him, but how he is processing and dealing with life in general. For me, well, I need to get back to making hair bows and finding an outlet that is therapeutic. I am that person who doesn’t do “me time.” Once I became a mother, all bets were off and it’s ALL about my children and husband! YES, I know it’s healthy to have some time alone and to replenish, but I seriously have issue with it for myself! Instead, I feel the need to help others and participate where I can, so my self-care often comes in the form of serving in whatever capacity I can… because I would much rather be “the ripple” in a positive way! I have to say, it was GOOD to work through that with someone who “GETS IT” and was able to offer suggestions and resources. Our caseworker, even post adoption has been fabulous as well… so we are blessed with an amazing agency who genuinely cares for us, even post adoption! It also lead to the question that I knew was coming and that was whether or not my husband and I would be comfortable co-hosting (with one of the caseworkers) bi-monthly support groups! OF COURSE my answer was YES, YES, YES!!!   Like I said, we want to be involved, so this was a no-brainer!

Yesterday was a “turning point” if you will! It made me realize that what we do has an impact and we never truly know where it will stop. Yes, I know that and words can speak life and death because there is such power in the tongue, I guess I just never looked at it from the perspective of the simplest of things and how they can change people’s lives! So now we continue to move forward, not fostering children at this time, but I will continue to serve on the advisory board, help with the orphan’s ministry at church, mentor foster parents, and now help with support groups with our agency!  We are also still working on our duffle bag project to rid the trash bags upon removal… so this is still our “do something” and hopefully our RIPPLE!

One thing I know for sure, is this… Any time we choose to say yes, we choose to make a positive change or step up to the plate for someone in need, there is a ripple effect. We may never know the full impact of that ripple, and that’s okay, but the good that is sent out may continue far beyond what we ever imagined. This includes the negative, but I would so much rather focus on putting the good out there! Sometimes it’s hard to deal with the negative, for me personally, I am learning to walk away from it, pause, and ignore it to the best of my ability… but I have to believe that the good far outweighs the bad and this entry is truly about the ripple effect that occurs when we engage in positive things!

One last question… What is your ripple?  

Hebrews 13:16 ~ Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Fostering Goodness Commercial…. https://vimeo.com/album/3373266/video/152440366

 

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Forgiveness

“It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have to say the word… 

Forgiveness!”

There are so many things I would share with perspective foster parents or those who are curious to learn and understand more of the journey that foster parents walk on a daily basis.  One of the biggest things I think I would share would be the act of forgiveness.  Which, for us, this has by far been one of the hardest things to come to grips with.  I might add that my husband and I are at different places in this area of our lives.

Growing up I was taught to forgive quickly, never to hold a grudge and to move forward.  I really knew no other way, because that was HOW we were taught and HOW my parents truly lived.  As an adult, I still live by that today and tend to hold little in when it comes to not forgiving.  I tend to be less forgiving towards things and diseases rather than people.  That was all very true until we began fostering.

Up and to that point, I could forgive and walk away if needed, or I could forgive and move forward.  In this journey, that came a little harder.  It was, and still is an on-going process.  You see the word FORGIVE is a verb… it’s what you do, and it is something (I believe) you have to do daily.  You have to choose it, sometimes daily and sometimes by the second…it’s not easy, it messes with your thoughts and questions HOW you could ever offer someone that kind of grace when they have done what they have done.

“It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
Its always angers own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
Its the whisper in your ear saying Set It Free”

The grace we have is not ours that grace comes from the Lord.  He extends that beautiful gift to us, not only because we need it, but because we are to offer it as well.  I think once we understand that, we are able to extend that gift more freely.  Additionally, Matthew 18:18 tells us that what we bind on Earth, we bind in Heaven.  So with that thought, it is grace and finding peace that allows us to set it free!

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you erase what has happened, it doesn’t mean that you continue to ‘entertain the circus’ and allow yourself or your children to be continually subject to those actions, but forgiveness allows you to move forward, to see things differently.  There is much power in forgiveness, it is actually very freeing.  I also believe that while you may not want to ‘entertain the circus’ sometimes you must… against your own will… when you would rather walk away, well, run away!

“It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what its power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you”

 

In the realm of foster care, there MUST be forgiveness.  Not only for yourselves as adults, but to teach your children.  When you show them how to forgive, their lives improve.  They can ‘clear the bitterness away’ in their own hearts.  That can more effectively deal with their past, present and subsequently their future.  It doesn’t matter if it is a story of reunification or adoption, forgiveness is a MUST!  There comes a point where you have to understand that the biological parents are NOT the enemy, rather they are an opportunity.  As a Christian, it is our ‘duty’ to live out our faith.  To show mercy, love, give grace, and to offer them everything Jesus would offer us.  In essence we show them Jesus, we introduce them to this amazing savior who can right every wrong.  Not only do we offer that forgiveness to the biological parents, we teach the children in the process that there is something greater at work.  It truly is a powerful thing when the children can witness those positive, forgiving interactions between the foster and biological parents.

It’s not easy, it can take a long time, and it is even cyclical.  This song I have been referring to throughout this blog was written about a woman who lost her daughter in a car crash when she and a friend were hit by a drunk driver.  The families not only forgave this young man, they asked for a reduction in his sentence and shared Jesus with him.  Today Renee (mother of the child) and Eric (driver) tour the country TOGETHER sharing their message about the consequences of drunk driving and beauty of forgiveness.

I am sure that Renee never imagined this journey, nor did she ever imagine the depths and breaths of her forgiveness.  I am quite sure that she never imagined an artist taking her tragedy and turning it into a popular Christian song that shares a beautiful message of what can happen when we learn to love the unlovable and reach the unreachable.  If she can offer that forgiveness, if she can face the one who caused that unbearable pain every single day, then why can’t we as foster parents, why can’t we as human beings?

“Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible”

I feel that I have finally reached that point in our journey.  It took time, it was and is an on-going process.  I prayed, analyzed, cried, got angry, screamed, and went through every emotion imaginable.  NOT for my own pain, but for what children endure.  God broke my heart long ago for children.  I believe that’s one of the reasons I became a teacher.  I wanted to make a difference in the life of a child.  Now as an adult, having fulfilled my ambition to teach, and now our calling into foster care, I feel that same way, to make a difference in the life of a child.  I can’t change their past, but I can love them in their present situation and offer them the hope for the future.  It’s not perfect, it is often quite messy and at times unpleasant, but I found one thing to be true.  You can absolutely hate the sin and not the sinner.  And when the time comes and you are standing face to face with that person, you can offer them grace, and show them Jesus.  It’s a difficult lesson, but a powerful one and necessary one.  There comes a point where being angry isn’t being productive and your energy spent on that anger is damaging more than just yourself.

“I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me”

My final thoughts are simple, and while it’s not full-proof in my own life, and there are several situations that I would love to see changed, I can honestly say, in any situation I am involved in, whether it is family, friends, work, or foster care, I absolutely have come to a place of forgiveness in my life.  I hold nothing in any longer and pray daily that in spite of the forgiveness I have chosen, that it may not be reciprocated, and that is fine.  We all have fences that are in need of being mended, some choose freely to mend those fences and restore those relationships and others choose to mend those fences and walk away.  I never like to walk away, but I understand that sometimes it is necessary.  I also believe that even after you have chosen to walk away, there is always opportunity restore those relationships… at least that is how I see it.  Jesus wouldn’t turn you away if you chose to come back to him, he would restore that relationship, so why should I be any different!

Matthew 6:14-15 ~ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Song – Forgiveness by Matthew West

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Called, “Not” Qualified!

This is an exciting update… at least for me this is REALLY EXCITING!!!

Throughout our journey, I have found myself terribly bothered by certain things.  So much so that I have been praying and working towards making a change in the foster care system!   In an ideal world, I would overhaul any bad parts of the system, make it work FOR the children and ensure that anything else that needed changed, got changed!  I would also live out my “BIG DREAMS” of what has been placed upon my heart for kids in care!

A little over a month ago, I received a letter from our agency.  In the envelope where two letters. When I got to the second letter, I became so excited that I could hardly stand myself.  I had been praying so hard for an opportunity to make a difference in the realm of foster care!  The front of the letter detailed information about a newly forming Foster Care Advisory Board for our county!  I was so excited… until I turned over the paper and read the requirements to be considered for the position.  After looking at the requirements, I realized that I did not meet two criteria.  I also realized quickly that the deadline was the next day and you were to call for an application!  So when my husband got home from work, I quickly discussed it with him. Always supportive of my dreams and having knowledge of my career history, he convinced me to call for an application.

The next morning, I left a message with the gentlemen concerning the position.  Upon returning my call, we discussed my interest, my experience, and my concerns regarding the criteria. He encouraged me to fill out the application, as they had extended the deadline through the end of the month.  Of course, I was willing to throw my hat into the ring fully knowing that it may be a long shot.  A few days later I had received the application, I immediately filled it out and attached (since the application didn’t ask) a letter stating what I felt qualified me for the position.  I mailed it off the same day and honestly, put it out of my mind until the actual due date!   That day I gave it a moment’s thought and said, “Lord, whatever you have for me.”

Well, yesterday, I received a phone.  It was the same gentleman, He asked me for my email address, so that he could send me the information and meeting dates for the board.  Me being, well, ME, said, “Wait, so I am on the board?”  He replied, “Yes!”   It was kind of funny, I believe there was a chuckle with that yes as if I was asking a stupid question… I mean after all, I was (by their standards) not qualified.  Of course I was overwhelmed, humbled and excited!  Here’s my chance to do some SERIOUS work and help kids in need!  My first text was to my husband, his response… “WOW!”  I think we both thought that it was a long shot, but worth a try!  My second text was to our agency caseworker!  Of course she congratulated me and told me to get to work!  My third text was to my parents and well, they were just plain old proud!

I was so humbled, excited and completely overwhelmed to be a part of this.  I truly believe that this group can have an impact on HOW we care for kids!  I can’t wait for the new year and cannot wait to get started!  I am really looking forward to working with the county and others who share the same passion.  One thing was confirmed to me, HE doesn’t always call those who are most qualified, but HE certainly qualifies the called!  Part of me feels badly for being a doubting Thomas, or showing my insecurities like Gideon, worrying like Martha or being impatient like Sara.  God used each of these and many more.  Moses stuttered, yet he led boldly.  Now here I was praying to God and telling him of my lack of qualifications… yet there was no reason to feel insecure, to doubt, and worry because God already had a plan long before it was ever a desire in my heart!  My only prayer as I start this new adventure… is that I, along with the other board members make a difference in the life of a child!

 

Jeremiah 1:6-8 ~ “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

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For Everything There Is A Season…

I am honestly not sure exactly how to even start this blog entry.  There is so much swirling in my head, God is truly bringing things that have been on my heart into fruition.  I am excited and feeling blessed as we embark on these new endeavors that have been placed on our hearts!

When my husband and I decided to become foster parents we realized quickly that there were things that didn’t sit well with us.  As time has grown and our journey in foster care has taken its own path, we realize more and more each day how much change is needed FOR the children.  We are not speaking specifically to the children in our care, but more so in our own community and in the long-term, globally.

While that is not the purpose of my writing today, it was just too good not to share!  I often times find myself standing in awe of God and how HE calls us and for His purpose.  I also thought I would share the good before I shared something that has been heavily placed on my heart!

Over the past few weeks I have been hearing a lot of comments about how joyous or exciting it is to adopt.  While I would tend to agree with those comments, I also feel burdened to share the entire picture with you.  This week, via social media a fellow foster parent asked a question surrounding termination of parental rights (TPR) and feeling sad.  This seems to be the theme in my heart for the past few weeks.  So I thought I would take a moment to share with you the reality of what this leg of the journey looks like.  Again, I do NOT speak in specifics to our situation or where we are in our journey, this is me sharing my heart, and reality of not only myself but others as well.

The post on social media surrounding the case of termination of rights and whether or not we should feel sad has sparked quite a few comments of varying degrees.  As you may expect it varied quite a bit, from people who were elated that this occurred to people who were devastated and cried at the TPR hearing.  These are foster families I am referring to, not biological families.  I think that while I don’t find myself on either side of the spectrum, it is safe to say that like anyone grieving, there is no canned response as to how we are to react to this situation.

If you will, allow me to explain for a moment the process of (TPR) Termination of Parental Rights.  TPR occurs when the courts make the decision that the biological parents are unfit to care for their children. The termination process begins with a motion to move to TPR, at which time the judge grants the motion.  The county must then file the proper paperwork and advertise for any unknown fathers of the children.  A “Show-up” hearing is scheduled.  At this hearing the biological parents are informed of the intent of the courts to terminate their rights.  At that point, the biological parents have two choices.  They can consent to the termination at which time termination is granted and the goal is changed to adoption, or they can contest the decision.  If the parent contests the decision it then proceeds to a full court hearing.  From the show-up TPR hearing to the final TPR hearing things usually remain the same as far as visitations and any other items put in place.  Once the actual TPR hearing is held and the judge makes a decision to continue or terminate, nothing changes.  When the judge makes the decision to terminate the parental rights, all visitation is to end.  Appeals are filed, in our state the biological parents have 30 days to file the appeal from the date of the TPR hearing.  On average (again in our state) is about seven-eight months for the returned final verdict.  Once that final verdict is read, the adoption, IF a pre-adoptive family has been fostering for six months, will occur roughly within a month.  That is the general process, it may vary from state-to-state and you would want to speak with your agency caseworker, county caseworker, or child’s lawyer to have a better idea.

All of that brings me to the word, in Ecclesiastes 3:4 it is written that there is “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”  In this moment, it is a time to weep.  We weep for the loss our children are experiencing, we weep for the loss of the biological family, we weep out of sadness for the entire situation.  It is not a time to laugh or dance, it is a time of respect, a time to mourn a great loss in the lives of the children, even if they are not fully aware, there is loss!  It is also not a time to laugh and dance in the face of someone else’s tragedy.  Maybe it is a relief that it is over, but it is definitely not a time to celebrate!  Please don’t bash me on this, it is my opinion and I FULLY understand that there are so many scenarios, but at the end of the day, no matter how horrific the situation is, loss is loss and with that comes a tremendous amount of grief.

ALL of that said, the process of termination is NOT a joyous occasion, in fact it can be downright heartbreaking.  While outsiders (meaning people who have little or no experience and understanding of how the system works) this may seem wonderful and an exciting time… after all, they have been “rescued” from the trauma right?   NOPE, nothing could be further from the truth.  Typical children in care do not feel rescued or saved, typical children experience further trauma.  They must confront their past and look to the future… and attempt to heal and move on!

Yes, you read that correctly, they must confront their past, as they have more than likely been doing all along while in care.  Many of these children in care receive some sort of therapy (not all) and have dealt with the many issues they have going on.  Many have more than likely acted out in response to what they cannot figure out or make sense of in their minds.  It truly varies from child to child.  They must also look forward to a future with a new family and may ask themselves where they fit in, in all of this.  The children will have (depending on age) MANY questions.  They will want to know WHY and most frequently WHEN.  They themselves will go through the grief and loss process in their own way.  As their foster parents, you should fully expect to go through that as well.  As for the biological parents, I can’t even imagine the heartbreak.  Even with any of the reasons a parent can lose a child, I cannot imagine their pain and grief.

No matter how horrific things may have been, no matter how much you may want to take the information you have gathered and want to demonize those losing their children, you can’t, well, you shouldn’t!  It does not come easily in saying that.  So if you are walking this journey and you haven’t reached that level yet, hang on, pray, it will come!  Everything in your body wants to SCREAM out for these children you want to hug the pain away, but you can’t, you must embrace the past, honor (YES, honor) their past and find a way to begin to heal and move forward.  You must realize that, even and a very young age, they are confused, angry and full of an entire bag of mixed emotions.  It’s not all bad, but it is part of the grief and loss process.  Children who are attached (there are children who do not attach) will have a more difficult time severing ties and beginning on a new journey!  For some kids, they have been in one, long-term foster placement where those foster parents wish to adopt them.  For others, they have bounced from home to home in hopes of finding forever.  Remember, each time there is a change in placement, a child experiences grief and loss.  What I think is common for ALL kids in care is that they truly wish to have permanency in their lives.  No matter the age and level of awareness as time moves forward they become more aware that it has been a “long” time and surely the judge will make a decision soon.  There are children who will seek to leave their past in the past and there are those who will leave kicking and screaming.   Either way, there is grief and loss.

My caution to friends and family and well, perfect strangers interested in ones journey, be careful/mindful in your excitement, it’s not always the season that family is walking through!  In fact, while most families walk this journey they tend to live in the land of ‘bitter sweet’ and that’s not always an easy place to live.

Yes, there is a season for everything and yes there is a time to grieve and a time to rejoice, but let the family lead you in that season.  Ask questions before blurting out how exciting this time is for everyone.  Ask how things are going, where they are in the process, ask them if there is anything you can do, but be gentle with your excitement, do not attempt to demonize the biological family because it is likely you don’t know the entire story.  My final advice, be mindful and respectful of little ears, they need and deserve the most gentle of care always, but especially during this time.  In the right season, there will be much rejoicing, and that will be for God’s glory!

Ecclesiastes 3:1 ~ There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens

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Fostering Faith!

It’s amazing how life just happens and the day to day can consume so very much!  I always say that I am going to update my blog regularly, but honestly, extra time is rare these days!   This one is more of an explanation to some curious friends, family and well perfect strangers.  I don’t believe that I have to justify my time, but I do believe in helping others understand a journey or reason why we do what we do!

Many of you know that recently I decided to start selling my hair ribbons.  I didn’t come to the decision to do it easily, it was just a hobby, just a way to make our girls feel special and just a way to work out my frustrations!  Quite frankly, it is/was one thing I could control in this rollercoaster of a ride!

Recently I had set up at an event and there was a lady next to me who was really wonderful.  She and I talked about our products and then she asked about the name of my little bow adventure.  I explained it and she got all teary eyed as I told her.  I told her that after several months of making them and many requests to sell them, my husband had encouraged me to give it a try!  He even came up with the name for this little adventure and helped my dad to build the display cases.  She smiled, as did I and we continued to talk about why she sold what she did.  Both of us were sitting there BECAUSE of our journeys in life.  She was sitting there as a mom of a child with autism.   Her business reflected it and she was passionate about what she did and why she chose to sell the product!

I was sitting there for all the same reasons.  Out of our passion came something that made us feel productive, gave us control and made us feel like we were doing SOMETHING.  All of this leads me to my “explanation.”

When the children first came to us, we were so naïve to the system, to the day-to-day happenings, to the ups and downs of the journey, not to mention the fact that we were now parents and we had gone from a married couple to two children who were not infants!  Yes, I have spent more than half my life working with children as a teacher, nanny, mentor and so many other things, but NOTHING prepares you for motherhood.  I am thankful to God for the wisdom he has imparted on my husband and me as we strive daily to make wise choices for the children.  Yes, we fall short and yes we let our minds run wild, but we truly love the children and want to do what is best for them!

So why hair ribbons?   Well this momma decided that she was going to wash all of the hair ribbons that she purchased for the girls.  Well, long story short, I ruined EVERY last one of them!   I remember having put the children to bed and pulling them out of the drier (hindsight is 20/20 and I now realize the stupidity of it) only to find that every last one of them were ruined!  What was I thinking?  Well, I probably wasn’t at that point and I made a quick decision and I ruined them!  I looked at my husband with tears in my eyes and said, “I can’t do this, I can’t be a good momma.”  He looked at me and said, “They are just hair ribbons, it’s not a big deal, things happen and who knows, maybe you can fix them.”  Well that was all he needed to say.  He was right, maybe I could fix them.  So I began to play.  I whipped out that hot glue gun, got my scissors, went into my craft bin and got out felt and the ribbon I had on hand and I went to work!  I went on YouTube to figure out some things and there is where I discovered a whole new world of bow making!   Yes, my husband in his supportive words had just created a monster!

All my life I have loved crafting.  I don’t like to scrapbook, but most other crafts I will try!  I had made hair ribbons in high school for my majorette and colorguard squads, so certainly I could buy some ribbon and learn something new!

What I found in those moments was this.  I found out that it was VERY therapeutic for me.  It allowed me to process things differently and even take my mind off of the unknown!  It allowed me to have some control of something completely ridiculous and yet feel like all was right with the world.  I mean after all, if the children left the house with matching hair bows to their outfits, certainly we had it all together right?   NO, but you can understand what I am saying.  It’s not about the hair ribbons… it’s about so much more.

I noticed something about the children as well.  To them it showed them how much I care and love them.  Our oldest said to me one day, “You always make everything perfect.”  I wanted to cry, because that something as simple as a hair ribbon made her feel good about herself.  It’s not about the material possession, rather the love that went into making it… and for her, that was enough!

So why hair ribbons?  Because it gives me a chance to foster faith, to share with them and to connect with the children.   It gives me a sense of control that suites this type-A personality very well and it is an outlet to the frustrations of this journey!  I think even my husband would say that making bows has made me a happier person.

Yes, I had to let some things go to fit this into my life.  Not because I wanted to, but because the greatest work that I will ever accomplish in this lifetime, will be with the children in my home, with those I love and with those I can touch with our journey!   So when you see me, my husband and the children with their hair bows that match their outfits, know that a prayer was said, a problem was solved and my faith was strengthened enough to get through the next mountain we climb or valley we walk through!

It’s not about the hair ribbons, it’s about fostering faith in our home!  The only reason I even began selling them was because I was encouraged by others, by our children and by my husband.  I always joke and say, “I work the 7-3 shift at school teaching, the 3-8 shift with the children, and the 8-11 shift making hair ribbons.”  It’s not a job, it’s an outlet that allows me to be creative, calm the waters, pray, solve problems and so much more.   I just thought I would share how Fostering Faith Ribbons and Bows came to be, why I throw myself into it and why I do what I do…❤

 

Matthew 5:16 ~ Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

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A Typical Week

The other day, a few people looked at me and said that I had look exhausted!  Normally I would have been offended by the comment, but instead, I just agreed and kept on rollin!  I think our pastor’s message this past Sunday actually caused me to smile a bit at the comment.  Apparently I had that “tired parent look” mastered!  So instead of being offended, I kind of took it as a compliment!  Strange, I know!

Like so many parents who choose each day to wake up and be an active and involved part of our children’s lives, my husband and I can say, we run the race each and every day like many parents, and often collapse in bed each night!  While we attempt to give the children in our care every ounce of normalcy, we are also mindful that we must work through the often heavy and thick layer of foster care.  I see it all the time on various social media sites with parents giving the run-down of what their day entails.  We cannot share that information on a daily basis, and I am not sure I would, but I often sit and think about what it would be like to run our kids to activities and some other fun things without trying to juggle the appointments, visits, and visitors that literally run in and out of our home each week.  Not to mention working on homework and fitting in some fun time or family bonding time each night.  I have learned to appreciate our weekends on a totally different level and look forward to that short bit of time without worrying about something related to foster care.

One thing is for sure, I won’t complain about the caseworkers or others involved with our children, they are ALL amazingly wonderful people who have become more like family to us.  The children are excited to see them and often times they love to share things going on in their lives.  The children also understand that this part of the journey is necessary.  One thing we do not do is tell the children what our week entails.  Even though our oldest is beginning to understand the concept of time, we do not announce visits, visitors, appointments or anything else.  It is in their best interest and helps to establish a sense of calm in our home.

I think often times there is a misconception that when you become a foster parent, you receive a phone call, make a choice as to whether or not you will accept the placement and then that is the end of it until the children are either reunified or placed for adoption.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Since some friends have asked or realized how crazy our lives are, I thought I would share with you a typical week in the life of a foster family.  In writing this, I write in generalities and not in specifics as to the children in our care.  I am also writing this with a single child in mind.  Now, bear in mind that often times sibling groups are placed in care and multiply that by the number of children you have in your home, in care.  It can be daunting and overwhelming, but we have found that somehow there is always a way to make it work!

So what does a typical week look like for most foster families?  Here we go, hang on and buckle up and keep in mind that we are asked to treat the children as our own… in which case that would add more activities to our list because after all, children should be about the business of being children… right?  Like I said, this is NOT our specific schedule or plan, but this is what we see many/most foster families juggle on a weekly basis!

A typical week can and usually involves anywhere from one to three visits with the biological family.  These visits can take place during the normal school day or in the evenings depending on scheduling.  The length of visits are dependent on the court order.  We are not required to take the children to visits and those are handled by the caseworker.  Upon return of the visit, there is a brief debriefing, sometimes what is called a home visit.  A home visit is basically the caseworker watching the children in the home interact with their foster family, and ensuring a safe environment  These are required a minimum of two times per month.  I think it is important to note that in many cases children in care require some down time or quiet time to process the visitations.  These nights can be long and sometimes difficult as they are processing all that has happened in their lives.  Sometimes it takes a few days for things to return to “normal” before they are ready to talk and move forward!  Also don’t forget that these visits also occur on a school night and homework and bath times also need to take place.

We often joke that we leave the front door open and the light on because of the number of visitors that come to our home on a weekly basis.  Again, we are not complaining and we really do love each and every one that is a part of this journey.  Here is a list of people, or friends as we like to call them, who are required to be in our home a certain number of times a month.  These numbers are based on our experiences and those of our fostering friends.

  • Child advocate – 1 time per month, some choose 2 times per month
  • County case worker – 1 time per month
  • Agency caseworker – 2 times per month
  • Life book – 2 times per month for a 3 month session (12 total visits for 1 round of services – services are often extended when a need is shown)
  • Wrap around services – Determined by need and can be 1-3 times per week
  • Caseworker for the lawyer – As needed, mainly before a court hearing or major decision is being made!
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters (or any type service) – Determined by need
  • Therapy (Sometimes one time per week, sometimes times more and sometimes every other week.)
  • Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech, Vision, etc.

 

In addition to these required or court ordered visits, many foster families attempt to involve their children in some sort of sport or activity like dance, Girl Scouts, Tai Kwan Do, or church activities.  Remember, this is based on one child, if you have multiple children in your home, you may double that caseload.  Most caseworkers cover a sibling group, but if you have two children in your home from different families, then you are literally doubling your caseload.    While agencies will often help in transporting children to and from appointments, it is not always feasible for them to accommodate the schedule for other appointments and it may be imperative that you attend those appointments as well!  Our agency transports the children to all visits, they also are with us anytime there is a meeting, court appearance, appointment or otherwise.  We are grateful that they are extremely actively involved in our case and acting in the best interest of the child.

Another thing worth mentioning would be the parental involvement.  As a foster parent, your involvement is mostly up to you.  We decided early on that we were going to be an active part of the lives of the children in our care.  So we do attend every court hearing and every permanency planning meeting.  This is not for our own benefit, rather the benefit of the children in our care.  As a foster parent, we believe it is our job to advocate and share the information that we have gathered while having them in our home.  Sometimes that is great news and sometimes that requires reporting difficult things.  Either way, your focus remains the children and what is best for them!  You may also be asked to participate in things like interactionals.  Interactionals are an opportunity to demonstrate that you have bonded with the children in your care.  There is also often a question and answer piece to that appointment.  Interactionals are mostly a pre-adoptive service, but non-the-less it is something that can be added to your long list of items to take care of in a given week!  Not to mention the routine, doctor appointments, dental appointments, school meetings (like IEPs, 504 Plans, etc…) that would be considered the norm in most families!

I will also say this, on days we do not have something going on, which can be a rarity, we are thankful. Like I said, we LOVE all involved with the children, but there are times it is nice to just be a family and do family things together.  I also think it is healthy for the children to learn and know what it is like to be part of a family unit!

My final thoughts… I didn’t share this with you for any other reason than to inform!  There is no WOW factor in it and this is not seeking recognition for all that happens in a given week!  My goal of my blog is always to share, enlighten and be a blessing to others!  I never want to publish anything that is self-seeking!  Yes, we are exhausted, but there are many AMAZING parents that are wearing their “exhausted parent look” quite well!  There are many families who are busy with therapy, OT, PT, speech and other appointments in a given week for varying reasons.  I share this because in the midst of attempting to heal the hurts and to give the children a “normal” life, there is often an extremely thick layer of foster care that dictates much of your week!

The biggest point that I can make… while we are often overwhelmingly busy, we are also overwhelmingly blessed!  Given the opportunity to change the life of a child is not only the most difficult thing we are ever done, it is also the most rewarding thing we have ever done and we run the race every day in hopes of giving ALL the glory to God… not ourselves!

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”

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Broken

There is so much I want to write about, so much I want so share and so much I simply cannot!  I truly wish that I could put into words how foster care has changed our lives.  I wish I could convey the millions of emotions and changes that have transpired over the past several months… but the truth of the matter is, I cannot.  There are no words and there is no eloquence in conveying the message of what it truly means to be a foster parent!  I would also venture to say that for each of us involved in the system, it has a very different meaning and response from us individually and not collectively.  It is not easy, it is not for the faint of heart, it is not a bed of roses, and it is not simple.  Everything about it is complex, trying, and often broken and what breaks your heart the most is the brokenness in the eyes of the children you are caring for each and every day!  It is also the most rewarding and remarkable experience of our lives.

We do not seek a pat on the back, an atta girl, or to be nominated for sainthood.  We do not expect others to understand this journey we have chosen.  We don’t expect people to agree with it and we do not want to be admired for anything we have freely chosen.  We also understand that there is far worse things out there in the world!  While we fully understand why we chose to become foster parents, we often wonder why we would ever be so very willing to have our hearts ripped out, torn up, and shattered in the way they have been in so many ways!  I do not say this for dramatic effect, and I do not say this to gain sympathy, but in the past several months we have been asked on more than one occasion WHY we chose foster care.  WHY would we put ourselves through this?  We are doing this because we feel strongly that God called us for the sake of his child!  We are, because we can, obeying his instructions written in James 1:27.

I know that may sound foreign to some, but it has been a little over a year ago since we asked God, in prayer, to break our hearts for what broke His.  We ourselves were in a place of brokenness.  We were newly married with all the hopes and dreams that often come early on in marriage.  Instead found ourselves in the middle of completely different journey, one we never expected and certainly never prayed for.  Our hopes were for children, not cancer coupled with unknown fertility issues.  However our brokenness came, I have realized one thing, God allowed us to walk through those circumstances for His purpose and his calling, because I believe otherwise we may not have responded the way we did!

Despite our frustrations, we find ourselves blessed beyond measure.  Our home is filled with two beautiful children and all they bring to the table.  It is sometimes messy and miserable, and sometimes happy and delightful!  It is a rollercoaster and the ride we willingly get on each and every day.  We are often told how “lucky” (I don’t believe in luck) the children are to be in our care, but ask them if they feel that way and think about it from their perspective.  We are the ones who find ourselves blessed.  We do not like every twist and turn, we do not agree with every step that is made, we do not like some of the things our children have endured, but we willingly climb to the front seat of that rollercoaster each day and know that despite the direction of this journey, we are blessed!  When God places a burden on your heart, He doesn’t promise that it will be easy, He doesn’t guarantee that it will be smooth sailing, He doesn’t even promise that we wouldn’t be broken hearted, but He does promise that He will be there on time, and to be your ever present help in time of need!

After all, he came to this earth and lived life to die for our sins.  To be crucified for everything that he never did.  He hung on a cross on Calvary and paid the account for all of us!  He was mocked, chastised, berated, beaten, betrayed, conspired against, vilified, and denied!  Jesus owned his journey and never walked away, he fulfilled his purpose and suffered the consequences of OUR actions willingly.  He knew his fate, accepted his path and would do it all again and again to save one broken child of his!

Psalm 34:18 ~ The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.