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Provision…

To say that today was an awesome day is a complete understatement.  There is a feeling of being overcome with the goodness of God and knowing that your expectations are nothing in comparison to HIS blessings!  It leaves you speechless in tears and standing in awe.

Today we had the privilege and honor to be a part of our Arts for Adoption event at our church.  So much thought, hard work, love and prayer went into the planning of this day and God completely honored every effort that was made.  Guests had the opportunity to support our orphan’s ministry in many ways, whether it was our food, bake sale, vendors selling items, raffle baskets, silent auction items or pampering donations people were active and involved.  We also offered information about adoption and foster care and had three agencies on hand to answer questions and talk with interested families.

On several occasions we witnessed the provision of God today.  We were blessed by so many different things and amazed how it all worked out in the end.  Our biggest blessing of provision came from our agency today.  While they may not know it, we are honored to be a part of the agency and truly believe that God has chosen them for us.  As we concluded the day, we were talking to our representative from the agency and the supervisor.  You see, we had to miss our last class that would was held today because of this prior commitment.  They recognized that the Arts for Adoption event was to honor the children, promote awareness, and help families in need.  Because we were participating in the event, we were offered the classes to complete our training time in a way that will allow us to not slow the process of getting approved/certified down.  With the exception of one clearance form and the completion of our medical forms (which will be completed by weeks end) we are ready to proceed.

When this was offered we stood in awe of a mighty God once again.  We knew at that moment that His provision is part of His perfect plan and that He certainly has called us into this season in our lives.  That He has replaced our broken hearts with abundant joy!  When asked about my favorite part of this journey… I could list many things, but the greatest most wonderful thing has been, knowing that we are in the will of God!

2 Corinthians 5:17 ~ “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

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Loss & Grieving…

There are many times in our lives where we grieve over many things, while some of those losses are visible, such as the loss of a loved one, others are not.

Today as my husband and I were getting ready for our day, he mentioned that today was his father’s birthday.  My heart broke in that moment, because I know that at the age of 27, my husband lost his father and days like today aren’t easy.  At some point we have all experienced this type of loss, and although painful and heartbreaking, it is a part of life.  I usually ask my husband to tell me a story about his best memory of his dad, they usually brings tears for us both and often a smile of remembrance for him.  I never had the opportunity to meet my father-in-law, but I know he would be so very proud of his son and the wonderful man he has become.

I think back over the years and the many different types of losses we experience collectively and personally and we talk of most of those losses, but the ones that are unspoken are the most difficult.  In my personal journey, the greatest “loss” has been watching my mother battle cancer and the horrific aftermath that has ensued.  In my eyes she is the most amazing person I know and it is an honor and privilege to be her daughter.  God has truly blessed me with amazing parents.  Watching her go through all of the treatments, and the now two year battle with the after effects of the radiation have brought me to a point where I feel that I lost the woman I once knew to be my momma.   While I am blessed beyond blessed to have her here with us, I see how, over these past few years their lives have changed so dramatically.

While I could spend page upon page detailing personal losses and the grieving process, I instead find myself beginning to focus on these children that will be brought into our home.  How do I as a mother, help them through this extremely difficult time in their lives?  How do I honor them, love them and help them to heal?  They too are going through a huge and rather unnatural loss in their lives.  Some may never heal from this journey and some may never get the answers they seek.  I find myself reading blogs written by former foster children and taking notes on ways I can help them to adjust and begin to heal the hurts they cannot possibly express.

Children often will not come out and say that they are mad because their mom and dad left them and they don’t feel they belong anywhere, they often lack the ability to express themselves in spoken word.  Instead of speaking their frustrations they often act out and manifest behaviors that are considered problematic.

Having served as a special educator for the past eleven years, I have daily dealt with behavioral issues.  In some respects they have become second nature in how I react.  I tend to stay very calm and not show any reaction.  I try to analyze the behavior and begin to work towards a solution or healing that is positive and protective to the children.  While I know that we are not prepared for every situation that we will encounter, I know that establishing a support system and resources is a key component in this journey.  I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God never gives you more than you can bear and that His plan is always perfect.

Psalm 34:18 ~ The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.    

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This Little Light of Mine

As a child my father would sing the song This Little Light of Mine almost every night with my brothers and me.  Looking back, I cherish those moments of holding up our little (finger) light and singing with much love and laughter.  Because of this cherished memory, this song has become our song.  Even on my wedding day, I was able to find a beautiful ballad version to dance with my daddy!  What I didn’t realize was that this hymn became a seed that was planted as a child, that one day, God would give a specific light to be shone.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Won’t let Satan blow it out. I’m gonna let it shine. Won’t let Satan blow it out. I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Let it shine til Jesus comes. I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine til Jesus comes.
I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel – NO!  I’m gonna let it shine.  Hide it under a bushel – NO!  I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Let it shine over the whole wide world, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine over the whole wide world,

I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

If there has ever been anything I have felt truly called to in my life, it has been my work with children.  From a young age I knew that I wanted to become a teacher.  I am thankful each day that I get to go to work and do what I love.  Now this new desire has been rooted deeply in my heart, it is a desire I never really knew I wanted.  For me, I can’t ignore the statistics and I can’t let opportunities to help children become missed opportunities.  I can’t let circumstances and other situations become a barrier to helping these children and spreading the word.

Matthew 5:13-16

 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. 

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Nobody’s Child

These past couple of days, I cannot get the “statistics out of my head!  I am easily brought to tears, and dreaming of ways we can save every child, because in my opinion, ONE child lost is one too many!

This year, 28,000 children will age out of foster care, meaning at the age of 18, they will be sent on their way, to live their life.  These 28,000 children do not have forever families, forever homes and technically have no belonging to anyone.  There are few that are blessed to be able to stay in the system until the age of 21.  For those 28,000 aging out, 21,000 will in the first year find themselves in jail, homeless or dead.  70% of these women will find themselves pregnant.  They are technically “nobody’s child.”  They have no place to call home, no family birthdays to be celebrated, no holidays or any of the other things we often take for granted.  While some keep in contact with their foster families or even attempt to reunite with their birth families, most will try to go it alone!  They are, at the very young age of 18, on their own.  The statistics push a little further to say that 1% of these children will attend college.  That is 280 children out of 28,000!

These statistics keep me awake at night, they keep me fighting and wanting a change.  I want to be the change in these lives, if it is empowering other families to explore foster care, or adoption, then I am up for that challenge.  I find myself in constant conversation with others about our journey and about these children.  I have come to one conclusion tonight.  Whether it is serving in our orphan’s ministry at church or beyond those wall, I have come to the conclusion that I am called to advocate for these children… until the whole world hears.  I know that alone, I cannot do this, and I know that God places these desires in our hearts to bring change and fulfill HIS purpose.  Nobody’s child is unacceptable!  We are all somebody’s child, we are all children of the one true king and I am grateful that He is breaking my heart for what breaks His!

Please, take a moment and listen to this beautiful song… Nobody’s Child by Amanda Williams ~

 “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” 1 John 3:18 (NLT)

 Matthew 6:21, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (NLT)

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Expecting…

My husband and I have differing opinions about a certain website where you can pin ideas onto a board!  He jokes that it is costing him a lot of money, while I say that I am inspired almost daily on ways to improve organization, help others, recipes and other such wonderful ideas, thoughts and inspirations!

While on the website, I will often type in foster care and adoption to see what new information and inspiration I can gather.  Yesterday, (Sunday) I came across an article on expecting women, and how different it is for women when they are expecting a child through adoption or foster care.  There is no visible bump, morning sickness, cravings and all of the other things pregnant women experience.  Instead there is an undefined waiting period from the time of approval to placement, anticipation of the possible age and race of the child. There is a huge unknown as to whether or not the process will be successful or if it fall through.  There are even the thoughts of healing the hurt child, and honoring their birth family and the child’s heritage.  The article mainly talked about being recognized as an expectant mother, whether it is mother’s day or other ways that moms are honored and how others can make the “adoptive/ foster mother-to-be” feel honored as well, while they are in the process of this journey.  For me, it is a non-issue.  I fully respect both sides and opinions and while anxious to become a momma, I am learning to enjoy this process and time before children enter our home.  Am I an expectant mother… Yes I am an expecting mom, even though there are those that feel foster care is merely babysitting.

Choosing to foster children was a very deep and personal decision for my husband and me.  I have said lately, that we did not “choose” foster care, God has chosen it for us.  We truly believe in our hearts that we were called into this ministry or “mission field.”  Otherwise I believe we would have first attempted to try for biological children or attempted to adopt a baby.  While we still plan to try for a baby when we are cleared in July, we feel no less called into foster care.

I have heard on two occasions since we have begun this process that fostering is equivalent to babysitting and both times have found myself overwhelmingly bothered by the comment.  I refuse to think of myself as a babysitter in this respect.  Having babysat since the age of twelve, I believe there is a huge difference and while there are some similarities in the care that is given, there is more to fostering children, you are expected to treat them as you would your own.  The words that immediately come to mind when I think of fostering include; advocate, nurturer, unconditional love, consoler, and healer.  The list goes on and while there are rules and policies in place that we will have to abide by, I will think of myself as that child’s mother, if for only a moment.

So where does that leave me?  I am an expectant mother and while I am not with child, this beautiful child is forming in my heart.  I am beginning to think as if I were a parent and what exactly I would want for my child.  I am beginning to think and wonder if we have what it takes and how we will meet their needs.  When I look at the room we have created for this child or these children, it is what I would want for my own.  In this room, in my heart, I see what my husband and I have longed for over the past year, I see the tears of frustration in infertility – although undetermined at this point, and I see the tears of joy and sense of satisfaction that comes from the preparation.  I see a sense of wonderment and worry and I see a husband and wife that have been joined together for a purpose far greater than our own.  We are not perfect, but we are perfectly His, and we while we sometimes consider ourselves weak and imperfect, we are strong and more than conquerors in the eyes of our beautiful savior.  His grace is sufficient for us all, His mercies are new every morning and His love endures forever and ever!

Psalm 136:1 – Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.

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Fairytale & Reality

With each step, our journey seems to become more intense.  Tonight while on the way home from classes and shopping, Jason and I had a heart-to-heart about the reality of this journey!  I asked my husband if he was apprehensive about anything that he has been learning about.  His response was yes.  I asked him if he thought it was weird that I wasn’t apprehensive.  He replied with a yes again.  It bothered me to some extent that I was not having the same reaction, but then he said that his only thoughts were that it was because of my education and work with children.  I mostly agreed, but found myself a bit bothered by the fact that I have little apprehension.

I feel that unlike Jason, I have had more time to read, research and delve into the world of foster care and adoption.  I have over the years as an educator established limits and preferences as to what I feel I can handle.  Having had foster children in my classroom over the years has allowed me to see things from a different perspective as well.  The other side of feeling the way I do goes back to my faith.  Knowing and believing we are in the will of God has given me an amazing peace about this journey.  That is not to say that I think this will be a fairytale and everything will be simply perfect, it is to say that I know that I serve a God that is bigger than anything we could encounter.

In our classes today we were asked a question.  “What kind of fairytale do you want?”  In my mind I had constructed what I envisioned to be the “perfect” child, knowing full well that there is no such thing in this life.  Our instructor answered the question with a simple statement.  “A fairytale that involves difficulty” It makes sense, as we are attempting to heal the hurts that this child brings to the table.  There will be difficulty, struggles, successes and triumphs.

In our classes today we also had an amazing opportunity to meet a young woman that was adopted from Columbia.  Although I am pretty sure she does not realize it quite yet, God has blessed her with an amazingly beautiful testimony.  Her insight and wisdom is something that I will carry with me on this journey!  Jason and I would also love for her to be a part of some of the amazing things our church is doing in the area of foster care and adoption.

All of this takes me to a place where once again I stand in awe of God.  He, in His perfect timing has placed some amazing people on our path.  He has given us hope, a future and peace about our journey and our reality has become our fairytale!  I have never been more thankful for a peace that truly surpasses all understanding, and for that… I am humbled and blessed!

Philippians 4:7 – And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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Faith & Immersion

Growing up my mother would tell me that faith without works is dead.  She would remind me of the scripture frequently when I would tell her I wanted to do something or accomplish a goal.  I remember in college our countless phone conversations.  When she would ask how my classes were going, I would respond with a childlike voice and say “Makin A’s mom, makin A’s.”  She would always follow that with, remember, faith without works is dead.

For whatever reason, today that seems to be the theme running through my head.  We have stepped out in faith on this journey.  We fully recognize and accept that this will not be easy and that this will require much work… and much faith!  As we prepare our families, friends, our home, a room, our minds, and our hearts for each step in this process, I am reminded that our faith is nothing if there are no works.

Now, anyone that knows me, knows that I am on top of things.  I very much have a “Type A” personality.  I also like to get things done quickly and done right!  I like to have everything prepared and not delay a process because we did not take care of something.  I recall the planning of our wedding and my now husband saying to me, “Babe, you realize that our wedding day is not going to be perfect, that something will go wrong.”  My response was simple, but direct.  “It will not be because of lack of planning and preparation.”  My faith was in the fact that God had brought us together and that He would bless that day, and that the hard work that went into planning that special day, would pay off.  Needless to say, we had the most perfect wedding day… not one single glitch!  Now I fully understand that you can prepare down to the finest detail for anything in life, and sometimes it does not work the way you hoped, but like I said, it won’t be because of something we did not do to prepare!

So what are we doing to prepare for this child?  Of course we are preparing a room, it is about half way done and should be completed before the end of this coming weekend, minus a few details.  Our home is also in the process of being child ready and should be done before the end of the month.  We are fully immersed in the classes, paperwork and other items we are required to be completed by the agency.  Yes, those things seem to be what should be happening, what we need to be doing in order to be approved.  But there is more… we are busy preparing our hearts and our minds for this huge transition from married, to married with children, and more than likely not a baby.  We are both avid readers so anything we can get our hands on to read and educate ourselves has been downloaded onto our iPads.  If there are movies or documentaries to be watched, we are attempting to find them.  Using the internet as a resource and simply learning all we can in a short time.

We understand that the true learning will come when a child is placed in our home and we are parenting, and that NO amount of preparation we attempt will ever truly prepare us for our children.  We also understand that even though we have prepared as much as humanly possible, that we will need support, advice and resources to help us along the way.  We embrace those things and know that nothing is impossible with God.  That He has set this journey before us and entrusted us with His children.  That He already knows the path we are about to walk and that we submit our human works in faith to Him.

James 2:26 – For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

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Room Ready

In the midst of starting our pre-service classes, working on our paperwork and completing the million other tasks it takes to become foster parents, we have decided that we would do a makeover of what will become our child’s room.  For the last 8 ½ years the room has been a guest room and an office.

When I bought the home I had always dreamt of having a red room and now that we are preparing it for a child, my husband and I agreed that we would leave the room red and design around it… after all, red is kid friendly.  With new carpet on the way, we have completely gutted and reorganized the room.  Over the years I have collected many things and memories.  As I went through the boxes, pulling out pictures and packing away the items I wanted to keep, I found myself very emotional.

My hopes and dreams of preparing a room for a child were here.  Letting go of some of the past, carefully boxing away treasured items and memories, I realized our lives were about to change.  Soon there will be a child in this room, soon there will be prayers, laughter, and bedtime stories and possibly tantrums and tears.  Soon there would be a child looking for safety and love in this room.  For a moment I closed my eyes and imagined it all finished and ready, for a moment, I imagined a child reading a book, playing on the floor, I imagined my family for the first time.

Mark 10:14 – “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them ” Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

 

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Anger, Love, & Action

There are many routes to parenthood.  Some are blessed with the ability to birth children and others go through countless rounds of fertility treatments, while others seek babies through a surrogate or birth mother, and some choose adoption of some kind.  No matter the journey to become a parent, there are challenges, obstacles, joys and sorrows, but in the end, most will say – every step of the journey was worth it.

Yesterday we began our first pre-service class.  It was an all-day training from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm and involved three separate classes.  It was an exciting, overwhelming and informative experience to say the least.  It raised questions, concerns and rocked us to the core in so many ways.

Our first class was entitled Who Are the Children?  We talked about the different types of children in the foster care system, why and how they come into the system, how to build attachment with a “broken” child and the various issues or concerns that arise from being removed from the home.  We also looked at what happens to most of these children when they age out of the system.  It was eye opening, raw and made my husband and I want to drop to our knees in prayer for these babies.  It was overwhelming, but in the end, it reinforced our desire to be foster parents.

Our second class focused on the birth parents.  This was as equally a difficult class as the first.  Knowing that addictions are stronger than love and often, brokenness leads to brokenness with their children.  We learned of three mothers, the fathers were either unknown or nowhere to be found.    All three mothers dealt with several issues, anything from being crack addicted, nicotine addiction, prostitution, alcohol use, and mental health issues.  All three had their children removed and two had parental rights terminated.  I found myself shaking my head and could feel a sense of anger growing within.  These beautiful innocent children do not deserve this start in life; they deserve a happy, healthy environment in which they can grow.  Unfortunately, these addictions often over power the good intent and their wanting to get better and be better for their children.  I found myself struggling as did my husband.  Here we were sitting with several others and we were seeking children and were willing to do anything for them to help them grow and to love them unconditionally.

Our third class was about child development.  It took me back to my college courses and reminded me of what we are going to encounter.  This was one class I felt completely comfortable with and it was nice to have the information refreshed in my mind.

Often when I get angry, I recall various scriptures to help me cope with the pain that is felt from the anger and wanting to change the circumstances.  The verse that came to mind today as I write this is from 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  Today I choose to love and pray for these parents in distress, because HIS LOVE covers a multitude of sins… including my own!  I have no right to be judgmental, but to love them, and care for their children when they cannot and that is sufficient for me.

Our whirlwind of a day was rounded out with an evening spent with two of the most wonderful people and their beautiful family!  They are in process for their second international adoption.  It is exciting to watch their story unfold and have someone going through similar things.  We spent some time going through an upcoming adoption event to be held at our church, and were able to share and just spend quality time laughing, talking and sharing.  Leaving their home late in the evening with the biggest smile on our faces, we knew that God has brought us to this point, for HIS purpose and HIS timing.

There is a song that I have been able to relate heavily too lately.  It is by Matthew West and is entitled Do Something.  It has been a really powerful song in our home!  Remember, HE created you… you are HIS hands and feet, and when HE calls you, it is time to DO SOMETHING!

I woke up this morning

Saw a world full of trouble now

Thought, how’d we ever get so far down

How’s it ever gonna turn around

So I turned my eyes to Heaven

I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?

“Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of

People living in poverty

Children sold into slavery

The thought disgusted me

So, I shook my fist at Heaven

Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”

He said, “I did, I created you”

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Preparation…

After last evening there was a moment of “reality” that really set in.  For me, this was that step I had been waiting for since feeling that calling six years earlier.  For my husband, this is not only exciting, but overwhelming and rather quick.  There are so many questions swirling in our minds.  Will we be good parents, will we be enough for them, will we be able to meet their every need, how many can we handle at once, do we consider more than one child, is it time to put our home up for sale and look at a bigger home… and the list goes on, as I am sure it does with anyone that becomes a parent!

Several months ago, I purchased a little desk calendar for Jason for his office at work.  Each day it offers a scripture verse.  Yesterday’s verse offered encouragement and reassurance to Jason as did today’s verse.  He took a picture of it and sent it to me.  It was my life verse Jeremiah 29:11.  For him, it was confirmation that we are in God’s will, for me it was additional reinforcement that brought a smile to my face.

My devotional today was all child centered as well.  In Proverbs 22:6 the Bible tells us to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  The author of the devotional was talking about taking her daughter college and leaving her to face her faith on her own.  I can only imagine being given eighteen short years to pour out your best into your children, to love them and guide them in their faith and then like an eagle, allow them to soar.  I long for that opportunity, and remember… we may not have 18 years; we may have less, quite possibly only a moment! 

Today’s power verse hit me pretty hard, it is from Lamentations 2:19.  It is a wonderful reminder that in all things we must prayerfully petition the Lord.  That HE is the author and finisher of our faith, our redeemer, savior, our Jehovah Jireh, He is a way maker and path guider, even when we are not obedient.  He is, the great I AM, the one from whom all blessings flow!  So today, as we have in the past, we continue to pray for the children in our lives, the ones known and unknown to us.  We fully understand that this will not be an easy journey and that our future children will come with challenges, but we know that we serve a God greater than any of these circumstances.  God knows these children and He knows we may only have a moment and that is sufficient for HIS purpose.           

Lamentations 2:19 “Prayerfully ask the Lord how you can pray for the children in your life.