0

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

 

2

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.

0

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.

0

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…”

0

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.

0

Christmas Contentment & Confusion!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. Right???

For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been one of my favorite times of year.  The birth of Jesus, the magic of the season, the traditions, family time and all that comes with this wonderful season fills my heart with hope and so much love… after all God sent us LOVE in the form of a baby!

In many ways, having children in our home this Christmas is a dream come true for my husband and I.  It is everything we have hoped for and desired since we married.  This year we are blessed beyond measure to have two beautiful and amazing children in our home.  Experiencing so many firsts with them has brought both joy and sorrow in our home!

I think it is often unrealized or goes unrecognized that many children, whether in care or not, do not have the joy of celebrating Christmas in the manner in which we may be accustomed to in our own little world!  Many think of children in third world countries when they think of children not having a Christmas.  The truth of the matter is, children in our own backyard, in our own neighborhoods, in our own country often go without ever knowing the joys of Christmas.  For them, there is no big feast, no traditions, no tree, no decorating, no caroling, no presents and no Savior to celebrate!  Yes, they may be exposed to these things at school or in some other form, but the idea and the tangible experience of it all is completely foreign to them.  The expectation and anticipation of waiting for Santa, waking up on Christmas morning to open presents and celebrating the birth of the one true king child means nothing to them.  They have never had Christmas, possibly never celebrated a birthday or any other holiday we typically celebrate.  For them, they are a stranger to these new experiences!

So how do we handle this “new” magical and special time of year?  How do we handle the trauma that is still at the forefront even though it is Christmas?  How do we honor their past and involve the children in our tradition?  How do we reduce the anxiety and confusion this time of year brings for many children in care?  I have said this a few times lately… OH, but for the grace of God we get through it.  We get through the accidents, the tantrums, the confusion, the worry, the excitement, the tears, the heartache, the past, with LOVE!

No, every moment is not horrible and much of it is pure joy, but there is never a day without something that happens, that draws us back to the heart of what we are doing!  We are called to love the children in our care, and we are called to help them through the most difficult time of their lives.  We are called to make their world a better place and to ease the pain of this journey.  Simply stated we are sharing God’s love and welcoming a child and in turn welcoming Him into our home!

I don’t intend to paint a picture that we are handling this journey perfectly or that when situations arise they are quickly handled and we move forward.  Some things are on-going while other things are a quick fix.  We try very hard to “think ahead” and to prevent any stressful or negative situations.  For example; we decided to place presents under the tree early.  In our home, we have gifts from us as well as the gifts from Santa.  So the gifts we purchased from us went under the tree a little over a week before Christmas.  We did this for a few reasons.  We decided that we would reassure the children that there would be gifts under the tree for them, we would get a gauge on their reactions, and handle any issues that may arise in hopes of them not surfacing on Christmas day.  The reaction was not quite what we expected, but we were thankful that God has given us the wisdom to think ahead and plan for best and worst case scenarios.  Nope, it’s not perfect, but we are anticipating, with excitement Christmas morning in our home!

Yes, Christmas is a magical time of year and YES it can be a positive thing, but remember, kids in care often have difficulty.  Not because they are not appreciative, rather because it evokes feelings, memories and differences in their world as they know it.  It may bring up the hurt and realization that they have never had a Christmas before… no tree and possibly no presents!  For others, it may evoke bad memories of abusive situations, lack of food or tradition in their prior home.  For others, they move forward as if nothing is different or bothersome to them.

No matter how they react, my advice is to love a little more, show a little more compassion, maintain structure and rules, and be willing to fight through the tears for their sake!  Be willing to be their “hero” during this difficult time.  I believe that someday, in some way they will look back on it and remember one thing… not the presents under the tree, not the food on the table, not the decorations or lights… rather the LOVE, the love in your hearts, your homes and the greatest love of all… Christ’s love… and in that, there is no greater gift!

 

From the bottom of our very grateful and blessed hearts, we wish you and your family a most blessed Christmas and adventurously wonderful new year!

 

John 3:16 ~ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

0

Struggling, Juggling & Balancing

It is so hard to believe how much time has passed since I have last updated.  So much has changed and so much has happened.  So, again, forgive the longer than normal post!

A little over two months ago our lives changed so much.  We were blessed with two beautiful little girls and they have become the center of our world.  From the moment they entered our home, we knew that they were a perfect fit in our family.

It is hard when you are fostering to share the experiences during this journey and honestly, probably one of the top two reasons I have not updated.  The biggest reason I haven’t updated is obviously a matter of finding time.  From the moment we wake up in the morning, we hit the ground running.  Work, school, daycare, after school activities, visits, visitors to the home, appointments, church, weekend family fun and whatever else we can squeeze in completely consumes our days.  Not only do we put very two tired children to bed each night, but we often find ourselves collapsing into bed ourselves!

We absolutely love this busy life and sometimes we long for that sense of normalcy, but we understood what we were getting ourselves into before we completed our certification and before we took in our first placement.  Sometimes juggling it all seems like a daunting task, but at the end of the day, it has been worth every step.  No, not easy, and definitely not perfect, but definitely worth it.  Of course, nothing can really prepare you for this journey, except the actual journey!

It is hard to admit sometimes that we struggle, but the reality is, if anyone in life tells you they don’t struggle, it’s a lie!  Sorry, I know that’s harsh, but we all have struggles in this world.  The Bible even tells us that we will have struggles in this world in John 16:33, but it is the ending of that scripture I love the most because God tells us to take heart, because HE has overcome the world!  Every struggle is different and while some have commonplace, they are unique because they are ours.  So what is it, I am struggling with?  I have personally struggled in many areas lately.  I have shared my cancer journey to some extent, and yes, I am so blessed and I know it, but there is a fear that grips me and often times is an underlying issue to my frustration or need to control things.  I am learning to recognize those fears and take ownership of what I do when I feel the need to “control” situations.  My husband has also started to recognize it when it happens, and he will pull me aside and give me the reassurance that I need so very much.  Being three weeks away from the one year, five day protocol has been stressful.  We have also been dealing with our own fertility and how that looks a year after treatment.  Honestly, I am very confused… I am fulfilled with the life we have as foster parents and the possibilities that it holds, but long for a baby and to know that experience.  I also think that if we do not find out definitively, we will always question the “what if” in our lives.  I know that at my age there are additional risks involved, which leads me to question whether or not we should pursue it any further.  My husband is extremely supportive of whatever I truly wish to do and has said that he is fulfilled as well in this journey we are on.  I am choosing (daily) to lay it at the master’s feet and to let Him be the guide!  So do we struggle… absolutely!  Those two things in and of itself are stressful, then you add in work stress, the foster care journey and other day-to-day stressors and well, you have a perfect storm!  I am thankful that we both have a strong commitment to each other and our family.  I am also thankful that we are open and willing to admit that yes, we have things we need to work at and NO our marriage is not perfect.  After all, no marriage is perfect.  The difference is, we came to a point where we realized that we either address the things we really need to work on or we risk the consequences of sweeping things under the carpet.  We are both fully committed to our faith, our marriage, the children in our care, our families, our careers and to caring for others.  For this, I am so thankful.  I hesitate in saying we struggle, but the reality is, we all have struggles.  Some of us put on a smile and lock the world out and others let it all out.  We are so not complaining, rather sharing because we know we are not alone and our struggles pale in comparison to others, but they are ours and we recognize the need to simply address them!  I am also thankful that God is at the center of it all and we know that through Him ALL things are possible!  I am thankful that the struggles we do have are all things we can and are willing to work on… so the work continues because there will always be things to work on in life and having a willingness to work on them is more than half the battle.

In the midst of the “struggle” there is a need to juggle everything.  It is kind of funny, so far, this has been the easy part.  We are so very blessed with our agency and all involved with the children.  They understand that we made a commitment to these children and that we are attempting to minimize any further “trauma” in their lives and allow them to simply be kids!  Our oldest is old enough to be involved in various activities and we felt that allowing her to choose two of them was a good thing for her.  So each week, two nights a week, we run to those activities.  She loves them and the smile on her face makes it so worth it.  We also wanted her involved in activities for a number of reasons.  We want her to have positive interactions and relationships with kids her own age, we want her enriched, to learn responsibility, to simply be a kid!  The youngest is a little too young for activities, but she is very active as well.  A typical week in our home usually involves a couple of visitors to the home (there are six people that need to visit on a monthly basis and one that usually visits before a court hearing) at different times, activities, and a visit with their biological parent.  Add into that nightly homework, and nightly routines and you have a pretty busy week.  Once in a while we get a week with a free night, but most weeks this is typical.  Along with the juggling of schedules, comes balancing everything for the sake of the children.

Balancing is often the most difficult part, how do you keep the calm in your home when there is so much going on.  Yes, the children are used to visits, visitors, activities and other things that go on in our home, but I often think about what is going on in their little heads.  While all of this may seem normal in their world, the reality is, it stirs up emotions!  So we have chosen to structure our home differently to meet their needs.  First and foremost we reinforce that they are safe and loved in our home.  We always make it a point to show the children that we have wonderful (which we do) and positive relationships with all involved!  We always try to honor their biological parent and reassure them that we are all on the same team!  We also reassure them that we will always honor their biological parent… no matter what!  On nights when visits occur we have extra cuddle time and family time which usually involves singing children’s songs and other activities that create a sense of calm.  When issues arise with the children, whether it is a feeling of guilt, missing their toys, or confusion about something that happened, we try to balance it with the honesty they deserve and the protection they so very much need at this age.  We find ourselves attempting to heal the hurts and teaching them what love truly means, that our hands are for hugging and helping, not for hurting.  While the girls are extremely well behaved, there are still issues to address.  We have found that a token economy helps them in making good choices.  We balance that with just allowing them to be kids.  It is hard to just re-direct the children when they bring up touchy situations, but we do a lot of listening, a lot of consoling and a lot of reassuring.  I will say that we are blessed. It is not a nightly occurrence and happens at the most once every couple of weeks.  Yes, there are moments in between as they begin to make sense of their world, but we attempt to balance everything for their emotional health.  After all, they are children and they should be about the business of being children… nothing more!

Our oldest will often ask before bed, so what is tomorrow?   She is learning to question us as to what is coming up because we don’t always tell her everything that is coming her way.  The reason for that is, she will focus on that event throughout the school day and not her academics.  We would rather be vague and allow her to be set up for as much success as possible at school.  It may not be perfect, but it truly works in our home and it also diminishes the anxiety that some situations present.  We do not tell them when visits are because then it makes for an emotional and much unfocused day at school.  Rather when the social worker shows up to pick her up from school, she is excited and there is only a short wait to see her biological parent.

At the end of the day, we both feel strongly that God has placed us on this journey for a reason.  Much like He has promised us hope and a future in Jeremiah 29:11, we are committed to providing the same hope and future to these children.  We believe strongly that God has placed these two blessings in our home for a reason and for His divine purpose.  We believe that as they grow and mature in our home that He is making the mess their message and that someday they will testify to the goodness in their lives… for HIS glory!  Yes, God warned us that in this life we will have troubles… but in His goodness and mercy and grace, He finished it by telling us to take heart because HE has overcome the world!

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”