Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Weary World Rejoices

...The thrill of hope, 
the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees,
Oh, hear the angel voices
O night divine,
O night when Christ was born...

Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ..the King of Kings..the Prince of Peace..our Counselor..our Deliverer..our Strong Tower...our Mediator...our Messiah...our Redeemer...our Saviour. 

He is our Hope in this weary, broken world.

We celebrate joy and hope and love and family.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
Isaiah 9:6

"Unto us a Son is given"

He is the greatest Gift of all.

Let every heart prepare Him room...

Wishing you and your families a wonderful Christmas.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

You Can't Save Them All

There are several things you hear on a regular basis when you're a foster parent. 

  • "I could never be a foster parent..I'd get too attached."
  • "How do you not get attached to the children?"
  • "You guys are awesome for doing what you do!"
  • "You can't save them all, you know."

And there's many more. Each of these quotes deserve a post of their own really. Truthfully, some things that people say slightly annoy me. For example,

 "How do you not get attached to the children?" 

The sarcastic side of me wants to say, "How do I not get attached? Because I'm a heartless, cruel, evil woman who can let children come and go and never think twice about em!" I mean really...anyone who knows me knows that I'm attached as soon as I lay eyes on these kids or as soon as they are placed in my arms. They become mine in every way but one. We have been chosen to care for this child for as long as He deems necessary. Any child that He sends our way is ours..I don't care how long they live with us. I'm attached instantly....and forever.

Another good one is:

"You guys are AWESOME for doing what you do!" 

Now this one doesn't really annoy me per say. I know that people are being nice when they say this and I REALLY appreciate the compliments. I just personally think the word awesome is grossly overused these days. We are not awesome.

The definition of awesome is: 
inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear; causing or inducing awe

Now I don't know about you but I don't think I have EVER left anyone in awe with anything I have said or done.

We are not awesome. Our God is awesome. The free flowing grace and mercy that He gives to us is awesome. God sending His son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for you and me and every other sinner in the world is awesome. God showing up on time every time in our hour of need is seriously amazingly awesome. 

There is no POSSIBLE way we could do what we do without God. He is my strength, my comforter, my refuge when things get rough. When behaviors get so bad and I just want to quit...give up..throw in the towel..throw up the white flag...He reassures me.."Keep going..finish the task I have set before you." When even the mere thought of one of my kids going back to a not so ideal situation completely blasts me to my core..He is there..comforting me..reminding me again that His will will be done..in EVERY situation. Oh, how I love Him.

And then there's the "You can't save them all, you know."

This one doesn't annoy me at all. When someone says this to me, it opens a door...A window of opportunity to tell people that maybe I can't save them all but....

About a month ago, my family and I were at Wal-Mart. Just a regular trip to good ole Wally World to pick up some needed items. It was Mark and I and the kids. As we were standing in line at the checkout, I noticed two small children sitting on the floor in front of the customer service desk. They appeared to be between the ages of 4 and 6. They were wearing dirty, disheveled clothing and looked as though they hadn't had a bath in several days. They looked a bit frightened and seemed to be holding on to each other. There were a few Wal-mart employees standing over them..looking around. I remembered hearing about 10 minutes before an announcement going out over the intercom. "Two lost children are at the customer service desk. If you have lost your children, they are up front at the service desk." I brought them to Mark's attention and gave him the sad face. "I know it's sad, honey", he said. "But they are being cared for. There are employees with them." God bless him. I really don't know how he puts up with me sometimes. "What if they've been abandoned?", I asked him. "You know that does happen. We should do something." I have no idea what I thought we could do.  He replied, "Well, they are going to be fine. If that is what's happened, they will call the authorities and they'll be taken care of. I mean, they're not just going to give them to us to take home. You can't save them all, sweetheart."

So see, we even say it to each other. It's true. It's absolutely 100% true. I can't save them all. I so desperately wish I could. There is nothing I'd like more than to take every child in need of a loving, stable, secure home in and love on them 24 hours a day. It is my wish that no child ever have to feel alone or be abused or feel unwanted..EVER. But the sad truth is that I can't. It's just not possible.

There are so many children in need of a good home. The numbers are staggering. Every single day there are thousands of children being abused and neglected in their own homes by the very people that are supposed to love and care for them and protect them from such things. There are so so many.

Just for an example, I found statistics showing that there are 4485 children in our state that have been removed from their home for whatever reason and are in foster care or with an alternative care giver (this was as of 1/26/12). Living with someone other than their parents. 1500 in the upstate alone at any given time. I also found statistics showing that there are currently over 5000 active "Christian" churches in our state. See where I'm going with this? If only ONE family in each church committed to walking out God's commandment to care for the orphans there would not be ONE child in need of a home. You're absolutely right...one person cannot save them all. But the body of Christ..those of us who are called to be His hands and feet..absolutely can.

I read a short story one time that really laid it all out there for me. 

It made a difference for that one. It mattered to that one.

 It mattered to E. He knows he is loved by SOMEONE. He now knows that not every home has a Mommy that chooses drugs over him. He now knows that not in every home do you have to stay half awake at night just to make sure no one comes through the window. He now knows that there are homes where there is plenty to eat and you don't have to fix it yourself while Mommy is passed out in the living room floor.

 It matters to G. He knows that he is WANTED and CHERISHED by someone in this world. That not in every home are hugs given infrequently or never at all. That there is safety and security in a Mommy and Daddy's arms. That saying "I love you" a hundred times a day is very much okay. 

 It matters to a 20 month old little girl who is finding out very quickly that she is LOVED and ADORED by so very many people. That when she cries there is SOMEONE who comes to tend to her needs and tell her that everything is going to be okay. A Mommy and Daddy and a family that is there to kiss her boo boos away. It very much matters to her.

No, I can't save them all. But WE can. The body of Christ can RISE UP to meet the needs of these kids who want nothing more than to know that they are loved and cherished and WORTH the time and effort it takes to pour in to them.

Not every one is called to foster. Not every one is called to adopt. But we are all called to do SOMETHING. You may not be able to save them all...but isn't saving just one better than doing nothing at all? 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"I Dropped My JESUS!"

Every day with our G is an adventure. It really is. He is just FUNNY sometimes! To not be speaking at all 13 months ago to the things he says these days is just crazy to think about...

And sometimes, the things he says comes back to me later..and I think, "Wow! Out of the mouths of babes"...Kids do say the darndest things...and sometimes they turn out to be great lessons for us grown folk.

This past Sunday is a wonderful example. We had just arrived home from church. As we were getting out of the car, G dropped the craft that he had made in his preschool class at church that morning. It was a paper that had a picture of Jesus on it. I'm ashamed to say that I'm not even really sure what the lesson was about that morning. But small things like dropping his paper..or his shoe being untied..or others walking faster than him...or anything at all really..affects G differently than it does other kids. It sends him into a tailspin sometimes. He gets terribly upset over what the rest of us may not think is a very big deal..

"I DROPPED MY JESUS!!", he wailed.

I turned around just in time to see him fall to his knees. (right beside the paper he was so upset about dropping) He threw his head back and wailed again..this time even louder...

Now, being that we've had G for 13 months..we know how to handle this type of thing. Trial and error has taught us the best route to take. If you get upset and speak loudly to him he's gonna wail louder. For example, "G! Pick up that paper and COME ON!" is kinda like saying "Okay, let's prolong this episode for at least another 10 minutes." You first have to get his attention by speaking softly to him (which is hard to do over the wails..I've learned to wait until he takes a breath) and calmly calling his name.

"G. G, calm down...look at me." (You got to get him to look at you or nothing happens)"What's wrong?"


"Okay, you dropped your Jesus?"


"Look, G. There it is. Right beside you. See it?"

(He's wailing the entire time)

"See it? Look G..there's your Jesus. Do you see it?"

Wailing stops. Bottom lip still stuck out. He looks down.

"See it? There's your Jesus. Do you see it?"

"Yes, ma'am." Sniff Sniff

"Ok, good. Pick it up. Got it? Ok, let's go in the house."

"Okay, Mama", he says, smiling ear to ear as he skips happily up the steps.

And there you have it. G dropped his Jesus. And it upset him terribly. But once he calmed down and was able to think about the situation, he realized it wasn't THAT big of an issue to begin with. He let himself get so terribly upset when all he really had to do was bend down and pick his Jesus back up and go on with life.

Today, I started thinking about this encounter in a different way. We as Christians do sometimes "drop our Jesus" too. I know, I know, it's crazy but hear me out...

Have you ever dropped your Jesus? I have. I try not to. I try very hard on a daily basis to hold Him tightly to me...to adhere to His teachings..to treat others the way I want to be treated..to speak kind words in love..to recognize the needs of those around me and do whatever I can to help...to never judge others or their actions..to try to understand others points of view before I open my mouth to tell them how very wrong they are and how very right I am. I try. I really do. I fail sometimes. In fact, I drop my Jesus more times than I'd like to admit.

A couple of weeks ago I recieved a phone call from the grandmother of E. E is our 2nd foster son who went home at the end of March.  You can read a little about our time with E HERE. "Valerie, they're coming to get E again!!", was the first thing I heard after saying hello. "She (his Mom) has messed up again and they (DSS) are coming to pick him up!! Can you take him? PLEASE!", she begged me. "What?", I said. "What happened? Calm down and tell me what happened!"

Once she told me what had occurred to get her family back to this point I told her I would call her back. I wanted to call E's Mom...

~I dropped my Jesus~

Now in my defense..I want you to understand that I have stood in support of this woman since the day I met her. Hugged her neck and told her how proud we were of her recovery efforts. Rejoiced with her in court when the judge said E would be coming back to her even though I was afraid that the very thing that has happened was going to happen. Prayed for her and her family. And countless other things I believe God would have me do to encourage and support her. I tried my very best to show her Jesus.

But that day...when I learned of the things our E had been through in the 6 months since he'd been home...well..my human motherly emotions took over. I said things I know for a fact Jesus would not have said. I said things that I'm sure added much more shame and guilt to her shoulders than she was already carrying. I let it all out. My frustrations with her..my frustrations with the system..everything. I put it all on her. I dropped my Jesus and let all my anger, sadness, and frustration out. I called her back later on that evening to find out what happened and where E had been taken. I swallowed my pride..picked up my Jesus..and apologized. I told her, once again, that I was here for her and E. If there is anything I can do to help or support her in any way I will do just that. Why did I do that, you ask? Because that's what my Jesus would have me do.

Over the last few weeks, I've watched as several of my dearest Christian friends dropped their Jesus. Someone has said something to offend them or something has happened to put them on alert. They feel that their reputations are threatened or feel someone they love or respect or admire's reputation is at risk. Their pride has been hurt. Egos have gotten in the way and instead of turning the other cheek or speaking out in love...they dropped their Jesus. They say the things they say are "in love" but are in fact filled with malice. The words and the way they have been said are malicious..causing nothing more than further discouragement and discord. They are casting those with a different opinion than their own aside as if they too are not God's child...chosen and adopted by our Father in heaven. I say all of that to say this..

Don't drop your Jesus

Cling to what you know is true and good.  You don't always have to be right.  You don't always have to have the last word.  It's okay.  Show them Jesus.  Let His light shine through you to them.  Turn the other cheek.  Speak in love.  Offer to pray for them..with them.  Just don't drop your Jesus or worse yet, use His word to prove your point.

And if you do drop your Jesus...once you realize it, stop and think about the situation..is it really that big of a deal? Probably not. Can it be handled a different way? Most certainly yes. Pick up your Jesus...and move on with life. Speak in love. Never to admonish. Never to cause hurt or pain to someone who is already hurting. You may not understand their situation. They may be fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Some people share more than others. Then again, you may be so tired of encouraging..supporting..praying. But pick up your Jesus anyway and continue to do what you know He would have you do. I'm thankful that we serve a God that never tires. A God that is never burdened by our troubles but promises to help us through them if we only call on Him.  I'm thankful that He loves me just as much as He loves those that I'm not in agreement with on any given situation.  I'm thankful that I am just as much His child as anyone else. I'm thankful that each time I've dropped my Jesus, He is right there beside me. People will always let you down. Disappoint you in some way. That's okay. They have their struggles too. Try to see them and treat them as Jesus would.

Pick up ya Jesus..and move on with life.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"That's why I'm here..."

6 days after G came to live with us I got another call:

4 year old male
Currently with an "alternative caregiver".  
Caregiver went to court today and said she can no longer keep him. 
No health issues. 
No known behavior issues.
He's currently at day care. 
She wants him moved this evening.

"Will you take him?" 

I immediately thought, "Who does that?  What kind of person says they can't take care of a sweet precious 4 year old BABY and he has to be moved today! How awful!" 
(Oh how naive I was!)
 After conferring with Mark we both agreed. 
 "Of course we'll take him.  Bring him on!"

That afternoon we sat in the living room and waited for his arrival. I was so eager to meet our newest little one. We saw the car pull up..watched as he and the caseworker got out and walked toward the door...
"Awe! Look at him!  He's so cute!"
I opened the door and they walked in. He walked confidently through the door with his head held high.
 "Hi, E! Welcome to our home! We are so glad you're here!", I remember saying. 
His response was one I'll never forget...

"Hey.  My Mama does drugs...that's why I'm here."

  Insert slightly awkward silence here. 
  Rookie foster Mama alert!
  Remember, we're new at this. We only had one foster son so far..and he wasn't talking...yet. 
What do you say to a 4 year old child who says that? 
I glanced at my 20 year old daughter who had come by to meet our new arrival.   She sat with eyes wide looking at me like, "Don't look at me..I have no idea". 
 I looked to my slightly sheltered 8 year old son who looked as dumbfounded as I did.  I turned to the caseworker for help...she just shrugged her shoulders and said, "Yeah, he usually doesn't hold anything back."  Ummm, okay. I have no idea what to say.  Errr...change the subject...QUICK!
"Ok, well..would you like to see your new room?"

He came with plenty of stuff.  
Clothes, toys, etc.  He was pretty set in the stuff department.  He had a huge collection of Matchbox cars.  He loved them...and was very protective them.  He and Kobe immediately began playing with the cars while we got his stuff moved in and finished with all the paperwork and all.  Watching them play, I quickly realized he was not like any 4 year old I'd ever dealt with.  He was mature for his age in some ways.  "Street smart" I'd call it.  I had introduced myself as Valerie. He told me "I can't remember that. So I'm just gonna call you Mama." "Ok, that's fine", I told him.  But I actually was thinking that was kinda sad..him calling a stranger "Mama" as if the term was interchangeable with whomever is there meeting your needs at the moment. 

Over the next several weeks we would come to realize that he also came with a lot of other stuff.  Baggage I guess you could say.  To be such a little guy he carried some pretty heavy burdens. He had seen things no child should ever see.  Heard conversations no child should ever hear.  At 4 years of age he knew way too much about way too many things that children should never have to worry about.  A few days later the kids were sitting at the kitchen table while I made dinner plates and out of nowhere E says,

 "My Mama does drugs...that's why I'm here with ya'll."

AHA!  I'm ready for you this time buddy, I thought. 
 "I know, sweetheart", I said in my most motherly tone. "But she loves you very much and she's working really hard to do better so that you can come back home!"
BAM! Perfect answer!  Whoop Whoop!  I'm AWESOME at this! Go Val Val!

 "Nah", he says. "She lies. She ain't gonna do right. She lies all the time".  

Sighhhh....'Ummm, who's ready for dinner?"

E was with us for 7 months before going back home to his Mom. One post won't do in telling this precious boys' story. I'll tell more in other posts of his time with us. Suffice it to say right now that our faith was tested time and time again. Those 7 months were a trying time for all of us. We dealt with behaviors and issues we had never dealt with before. We dealt with a child that had experienced deep trauma that none of us had ever known and watched as that trauma played out in so many different ways in his behavior. We leaned on God and each other more than we ever had before. We saw amazing changes in E that only God could have made happen. He was loved on by us and all of our amazing friends and family. We learned more about ourselves and what we were capable of (with God's help) during those 7 months than any other time that I can think of. We are so thankful for our time with E and continue to pray for him and his family daily. Who knows? Our story with him may not be completely written. We still hear from him and his family from time to time. His Mom will text me a picture every once in a while.  The day he went home was so bittersweet.  Our sadness in him leaving us was matched with his Mom's joy at having him home.  I cried all day...I only felt the sadness that day..we had come so far together..he was doing so well with us...Why send him home now?? I just didn't understand...it just didn't make sense to me...

But God... 
God was working it out..
God was moving...shifting things around..
in ways that only He can..

You see, on the EXACT same day...almost to the same hour...that E left our house to go back to his Mom...
another child was being taken out of their home by police and DSS workers...taken away from everything they had ever known in their little 13 month long life....and another Mama was crying..uncertain on where her baby was going and who she was going to be with...devastated that she didn't know what was going to happen.....

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Today was a day to celebrate....
To celebrate that day, 3 years ago, that our little G came into this world.

 We celebrate that he is here with us as part of our family on this very special day.

 We celebrate the changes that we've seen in this precious boy in the last 13 months.....

 Yes, today was a day of celebration.....

for us...

But I can't help but think of his biological family..how was their day today? Did they think of him all day?  I think they most certainly did.  I know that they love him dearly.  He went for a visit yesterday and came home with a cute new outfit from his Dad and candy and other little treats from Mom.

Were they thinking of the day he was born?  Missing him so terribly that it hurt?  Did they feel regret for the mistakes they've made to bring them to this point?  I just can't imagine not being with my child on their birthday.  

Our family is big on celebrations.  We celebrate the big things..birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  But we really don't have to have a reason to have a party..we'll make one up if given the chance...
Chicken wings were on sale and Mark can throw down on cooking some wings so ya'll come on over!!  That kind of thing...

We celebrate life...and the Giver of life....

We celebrate family....and friends...

And all that the good Lord has blessed us with...

 I pray that today was not very hard on G's biological family. It was the 2nd birthday that they have missed.  I pray they have peace and continue to work toward him coming home to them if that is God's will. 

 And if that does happen....if the day does come where we have to pack his things and say our goodbyes...

We will celebrate

Celebrate our time with him...and all the beautiful memories we've made....

However, if it's God's will for him to stay with us forever....

Well, let's just say that will be a bigger party! 

Happy Birthday, baby boy!  What a blessing you are to our family! You are loved more than you'll ever know! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

In Every Way..but One

This week on the 24th, we will celebrate 13 months that our first little foster child "G" has been with us.  You can read all about the day I picked him up HERE.  I've thought and thought about how in the world I can express in one blog post exactly what a year it has been.  There have been ups and downs...good times and bad...lots of laughs and a few cries...but any year in any life is that way.

G transitioned very well into our home.  It was amazing actually.  Being he was our first, I had no idea what to expect.  I brought him home that first afternoon and he melded right into our family.  This picture is after he had fallen asleep that first night and I laid him in his crib.  He slept the entire night!  No tears.  I still wonder what may have been running through his 23 month old mind at that time.  Thankfully, he had come to us on a Friday so we had the weekend to bond a bit. 

We learned about each other a little each day.  That first evening when we sat down to dinner I was all ready to feed him.  He wasn't verbal at all so I had no idea where his other development skills were.  Well, let me tell you.  This kid had NO trouble at all in the feeding skills.  It was funny actually.  I had him in his high chair and sat down in front of him to feed him.  Held the spoon to his mouth and he looked at me as if I were the dumbest human being on earth.  Would not open his mouth at all.  Did his signature whine and jerked his head to the side.  Oh no, I thought...(remember, I'm an instant worrier)...he's not going to eat!  Then he held his hand out for the spoon and I handed it to him...he brought the plate a little closer to him and DUG IN!  He definitely didn't need any help in this area!  :-)

So on we went...learning about each other a little every day.  He bonded with us quickly and seemed to trust us instantly.  Other areas, however, have taken quite a good while..

There have been moments that took my breath away...the first time he called me "Mama"...those moments when he, unprovoked, wrapped his arms around my neck and squeezed me tight...picking him up from day care and he smiles and RUNS to me..him crawling up in my lap and laying his head on my chest while looking up at me with those big brown eyes and saying "I yuv ewe, Mommy" Watching as he and our grandson Kaden play together as if there is no tomorrow...watching as he absolutely BLOSSOMS into who God created him to be..

There have been moments of pure frustration..frustration with the foster care "system" in general...frustrated with caseworkers who won't return your calls or forget to tell you that there was a visit today...frustrated with not knowing if he'll be here forever or if we'll one day have to trust God's will and give him back..frustrated with myself for not always having the patience with the "process" or the kids themselves..frustrated with biological parents who don't always do what is right for these kids...frustrated with strangers who look on with disdain as G has a tantrum in the store while not having a clue where this kid came from or what he's been through...and frustrated that they probably don't care...and yes, frustrated with the kids for the temper tantrums or other behavior issues...and dare I say, at times frustrated with God Himself for even thinking I was capable of doing a good job at this and calling us to it in the first place..

There have been moments of pure exhaustion...falling in to bed at night with absolutely NOTHING left...falling asleep before my head even hit the pillow only to have the alarm clock go off what seems like 5 minutes later...only to get up and do it all over again...sitting at work staring at a computer screen at 1:00pm on a Tuesday with my eyes barely open..knowing all that has to be done both at work and home that day before my head can hit the pillow again...yep, exhaustion has definitely played a part. 

There have been moments of pure joy...watching as G opens up to others and allows people in to his world...smiling more than cries..the tantrums becoming less and less frequent as he slowly learns to handle his feelings in other ways....watching our son Kobe as he and G play and thinking how proud I am that Kobe 'gets" it...the reason we do what we do for these kids.  Watching G dance to his favorite song..."Helicopter" by B-Shoc (this boy has some moves!)...watching Mark lay in the floor with the kids piled on him and hearing the shrieks of laughter coming from the kids...listening to our now very verbal G tell us about his day at school and how he went potty all day with no "accadents"..."I did it, Mommy!!"

Oh, how we love this boy...he has become a part of our family..the thought of him going home brings instant tears to my eyes...

He is our son....in every way but one.

Biologically, G belongs to another family...another set of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles...he is someone else's son, grandson, brother....God sent him to them for a reason.  Of that, I am sure. They love him dearly.  I have no question of that.  I have met them...listened as they spoke of him.

In every other way...he is ours.  And even if the day comes where we are called to let him go..he will forever be ours..forever in our hearts. Those moments with him will forever live on with us...

When we started this process, even before we were licensed, my prayer to God was this:

"Father, I pray that you send us the children that you would have us care for...for as long as you would have us care for them.  Send those that you will us to have..whether it be for one night or forever."

G has been with us for nearly 13 months now.  And this week on the same day we celebrate 13 months with him..we also celebrate his 3rd birthday.  We were so blessed to celebrate his 2nd as well. The best thing about it is..no matter where God has him..here or there..we will celebrate his birthday for all the years to come. 

And knowing that makes it a little easier to trust God's will in his life and in ours.  No matter what the outcome will be, we are forever changed by knowing G and having him in our lives.  And if being here with us has made even a small impact on this little ones' life..then we've done what we've been called to do. 

You are so loved, sweet boy!
 We are so blessed to have you as part of our family!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Homestudy

The homestudy..
many of you that have gone through this may or may not have had the same reaction to this part of the process that I did. I'm not sure why it made me so nervous to have someone ask me such personal questions...but it did.  I don't really get up close and personal with folks. I used to have the best of friends that I shared everything with.  But not any more.  I mean, I have lots of close acquaintances but very few close friends.  I'm not one on the whole "sharing your feelings" kinda stuff. Like "you are the way you are because of what happened then" kinda things. I guess I'm just more of it happened...deal with it...move on.  So when two ladies (as lovely and sweet as they were) were sitting at my dining room table asking very personal questions, I was a wreck.  My life hasn't been perfect..I haven't always made the best decisions (GASP) that would later make for the best of answers on a homestudy to become a foster parent.  But as it were, again, none of my worries were warranted.  Yes, it made me think of things but it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought.  The ladies were so sweet.  
Come to find out..are you ready for this?...nobody's perfect.
And while your letting that sink in...there's more..

 I've also come to realize that God's not looking for perfect...he's looking for the WILLING.  Those that are willing to step out of their comfort zone...step out of their comfy little lives and be willing to follow Him.
 No matter how hard it is..no matter how awkward and uncomfortable it gets.  He wants those who can set aside their own little plan to be a part of something BIGGER..something BETTER...something AMAZING!  His plan is ALWAYS so much better than ours! 

Here I am, Lord...send me!

That's not to say that the homestudy interview didn't have it's awkward moments. To give you an idea of some of the questions we were asked:
What are your parents names and occupations...easy. What type of relationship did your parents share?  Thanks Mom and Dad..bout to celebrate that big 50th.  Ya'll made answering that one easy. :-) What are your brothers/sisters names and date of birth? Are they married?  If so, to whom?  Another thank you to my brother Eric and sis in law Karen...almost 22 years...ya'll making me look good here. :-) What schools did you attend starting from kindergarten til your highest level of education? What was your best childhood memory? Ahh, lake trips with the family! What was the worst? :-( List the dates and names of any previous serious relationships, engagements or marriages..hmmm, well, Mark and I met each other in our early 30s and have a blended family so there was some serious relationships to list there. How did you meet your spouse?  That ones easy..I love telling that story :-) How long did you date before getting engaged?  How long were you engaged before you married..errrr, that one is a little more difficult..we did everything backwards.  Hey, when it's right you know it's right.  List all previous employment..List everywhere you've ever lived with dates and why you moved. What is the worst crisis you've faced in your marriage?  How did you handle that crisis?  What is the hardest time you've been through?  The death of my best friend 5 years ago when she was 36 years old...I love you J....What type of discipline did your parents use?  Do you agree with it?  Well, umm, I didn't then!  :-) 

So, there you have it.  As usual, my worrying and stressing made the days leading up to the homestudy much worse that the interview itself.  One of these days my mind is gonna connect to that scripture I know so well:

I mean, really..He called us to this place..we are certain we are following His will for our lives..why in the world do I worry??  It's the human in me I know.  
A year later, in all the trials that have come since, He has never once let us down..and yes, I've worried and stressed in that years time..meeting the biological parents for the first time..sending that 5 year old home to an uncertain home life..dealing with behaviors that I've never dealt with before..questioning my abilities..my limits.  Foster parenting can be hard..it can get awkward..it can be downright uncomfortable..physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting..

But another quote I've always loved says it all:

He never said it would be easy; 
He only promised it would be worth it!

And when I stop for a moment and remember His abilities and His grace and His mercy....and the fact that He has no limits...well, that makes watching a 2 year old scream and fall out in the floor because his shoe has come untied and I haven't gotten to him to tie it fast enough just a little easier to handle. :-)

Thank you, Father!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog for some...

End of Summer Cuteness!  

Labor Day Weekend...

It's the unofficial last weekend of summer. :-(

I love flip flops and beach trips....long days....cookouts with family and friends and basically everything else that comes along with summertime.
Plus I think I'm actually allergic to cold weather so I hate to see summer go. 
Okay, maybe not allergic but I do dislike cold weather, sweaters, and closed toed shoes.

But we had a great Summer 2013. 
Lots of fun times with family and friends.  
I'm very thankful for the memories that were made.

Mark and I actually got to go on a trip that was on my bucket list.  We spent a week in Las Vegas. 

While we were there we were able to also visit the Grand Canyon.  It was a wonderful time for Mark and I.  We missed the kids but it was so nice to get away and and share new adventures with my hubby!  

We also took a trip to the beach and the little ones had a GREAT time!  :-) 
We all did.  Travel is one of my very favorite things to do!   

Lovin playing in the sand :-)

 Big brothers are awesome. :-)

Precious boy so busy building.
He LOVED the pools. 

My beautiful daughter and grandson.  Love them so!  

I hope you all have had a wonderful summer and made some special memories with the ones God has blessed you with.  

And come to think of it....Fall is not that bad...
I look forward to apple orchards and pumpkin patches...cute little ones all dressed up for Halloween...slightly cooler weather....sitting outside by the fire...Clemson Tiger football...fall decorating...and making more memories with this beautiful crew of mine.  

Hope everyone has a safe and wonderful Labor Day weekend! 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Paperwork, Home Inspections, and Background Checks...Oh My!

 Once the decision was made to finally say Yes, the awesome fun official stuff began. The initial paperwork from Miracle Hill consisted of the basics.  Names, address, contact info, members of the household, etc.  There was also a statement of faith, releases for background checks and the like.  
Easy, peasy lemon squeezy.  
We mailed in our paperwork having being told that someone would contact us to set up an "initial interview".  Okay..done.  About a week after we sent in our paperwork, a lady called and set it up.  A precious lady named Stephanie (who I am so blessed to now call my friend) arrived at our home one afternoon for the interview.  I was a nervous wreck.  I'm not even gonna lie. "Welp, here we go, she's definitely gonna see what total screw ups we are and all this will be over and done with," I was thinking to myself.  She walked in, hugged me tight and introduced herself to us.  Oh, wow.  This woman had the sweetest, most comforting spirit of anyone I had ever met.  I mean seriously (and she's gonna kill me for saying this) if anyone should be walking around on this earth wearing a halo, Stephanie should. She immediately put me at ease. She promised to walk us through each and every step of the licensing process and started telling us exactly what those steps would be.  
Home inspections, health inspections, fire inspections, background checks, medical exams for everyone who lives in the home, fingerprints for Mark and I, homestudy.....and on and on.....
  "Wow."   "There's a lot to this, huh?" "Yes, it normally takes about 90 days to complete everything and get licensed. But don't you worry, we'll get you through it."   Have I said yet how much I LOVE HER

Training hours need to be completed. Reference letters need to be received.  Your first born's blood must be spilled on the altar of the most high goat. 
 Okay, no I'm kidding on that last one but it was A LOT of stuff!
 Which I totally understand.  They didn't know us.  Of course, we needed to be 
checked out. 

 I felt so much better after that initial interview.  
Stephanie left us with two things that afternoon...a renewed belief that we were indeed answering God's call...
and a lot more paperwork to fill out.

Fingerprinting appointments must be made.  Home inspections need to be scheduled.  The fire inspector will have to come out.  You need a fire extinguisher and a fire escape plan posted.  Oh, and that window in the room that you want to use for the foster kids will have to be replaced. The opening is too small.  It has to be a certain number of square feet when opened. Make sure to cover all your electrical outlets.  Where do you keep your medicines....cleaning supplies? Do you own firearms?  And we are gonna need copies of last years tax returns. And bank statements. And paycheck stubs. And what exactly you owe out and to whom. Do you own any vehicles? We need copies of your car insurance cards for each vehicle. Any other assets? Boats? Land? Vacation homes?
 Swiss bank accounts?
Now we are not uber private people, but the thought of random strangers traipsing through our house with a fine tooth comb didn't really appeal to me.  But we knew that these things had to be done in order to get our license. 
 I'm a worrier by nature so I stressed over each one.  I wanted to make sure everything was perfect.  Come to find out, there was really no reason to worry at all.  Each inspector who came to the house was super nice and just checked out the things they were there to check. Slowly but surely each of the requirements were being checked off one by one.  

  • Background checks, clear. 
  • Medical exams, check. 
  • Fire inspection, check. 
  • Health inspection, check. 
  • Training hours, done. 
  • Window replaced, yep. 
  • Fingerprints, check. 

Okay, great!  Now we just have to do the Homestudy and we are done! 

Whoop Whoop!  Wait....what's a Homestudy?  

There is not a closet in this house that hasn't been studied already! 
 I mean the dust bunny under the couch has been put under a microscope for crying out loud.  He's traumatized. He'll never be the same. 

No, silly.  A homestudy is all of the information we've already obtained plus a final interview to gather all the other information we need to submit everything to the state.  Oh, okay.  An interview.  Gotcha.  No problem. An interview we can do.  Let's do this!
"Now the questions will be a little more in depth for this interview." 
 Ummm, okaaay. 
 Turns out that was the understatement of the year.....

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Call

All of this had started almost 9 months before the day that I walked into that children's shelter. The thought of fostering children had never crossed my mind until...
I work full time at our local law enforcement center as an administrative specialist. I love my job and am very thankful for it. Basically, it is our job to process the hundreds of incident (police) reports that come in on a weekly basis. We read and process all incident reports for 2 different police departments (city and county). We enter reports and submit the information on to the state law enforcement division as well as the FBI. I have been in this position for the last 5 years. In that time, I have read some pretty horrible reports. Sure, a good majority of the reports are your simple stuff..somebody got mad at the bar and punched someone else...family disputes...somebody damaged someone else's car or home..being drunk and disorderly in public...the everyday stuff. 
But then there were some...
where the evil in people's hearts really shown through..the ones where the victims were children really got to me. Where someone victimized those that cannot fight back..those that cannot help themselves.  I read of horrific things being done to children. Abuse..whether it be mental, physical, sexual or emotional tears children apart and affects them for the rest of their lives. Other reports documented the absolute horrific conditions that children
 in our own backyards
 were living in. Trash up to the ceiling..roaches and other insects crawling all over the place...children sleeping on mattresses in the floor with animal feces right next to them. And usually the parents were either too lazy to do anything about it or too doped up on drugs to care or even know the difference. You've seen the reports on the news. But not all made the news. 
Lord, why?? Why do these children have to live like this? What can we do to help

I know...
I can donate to those agencies that help...the local shelter..I'll drop off some toys or clothing or diapers. That's it. I will be doing my part to helping these kids in need. 
How awesome am I?  Yep, I rock.  Doing my part.  Yessiree.

"But you can do more"  
Huh, who said that? "What about fostering a child who's been removed from their home? Bringing them into your home" What? Oh no Lord..LOL..that's not us. But that's a good one. You DO have a sense of humor.  There are those that can do that and I am thankful for them. But that's not us..I'm no where near qualified to foster a child! Have you seen all the mistakes I've made with the ones you blessed me with?? 
No. No. No
I'll just support and pray for other people who do that. Ok? Great. Good. Glad we got that settled. Whew, that was close. I almost thought He was gonna really tell me we needed to be foster parents. LOL That's funny right there. 
Over the next few weeks, I had the same conversation with God. He would tell me what he needed us to do. "I'm calling you to show Jesus to these kids and families in crisis." Sigh...
Lord, really? Me? Us? We are not qualified. We are not equipped to do this. No. No. No. Still He called. A heaviness was on my heart. The Lord had done so much for me and my family through the years. He had reached down in my darkest of days and pulled me back up..stood me on the Rock..brushed me off and sent me forward. How could I possibly tell Him no? And so I made the first step and contacted several agencies in our area that licensed foster families. DSS, Bair Foundation, and Miracle Hill Ministries. "Hi, can you send me information about becoming a foster parent?" I received paperwork in the mail from the Bair Foundation and Miracle Hill. Pictures of cute smiling kids being held by loving adoring adults adorned the brochures.
Miracle Hill's paperwork talked of God's love and Christian values and looking for Christian homes so I was immediately drawn to that agency. Ok, got the info...now to talk to the husband. "You know exactly what he's gonna say...I don't know why your wasting your time with this", my mind was telling me. Sigh, here we go...
 I caught him on a relaxed day..watching TV in the living room..nothing going on but some relaxing family time. "Honey, I've got something I've got to talk to you about" "Ok, sure, what?" he said. How do I say it? What's gonna ease him in to even the thought of doing this...

"I think we need to become foster parents" 

There. I said it. I blurted it out and there it was...all out on the table. Whew. I looked up at him. I wish I had snapped a picture of that moment. His chin was lowered..his eyebrows raised..and he was looking at me as if I'd completely lost my mind. 
"Are you crazy? Have you completely lost your mind?"
 (See, I know my husbands looks) "Hear me out, please. I believe that God is calling us to be foster parents. It has been heavy on my heart. I know this is what He wants us to do. He is. I know it. God is calling us, honey." His response was classic. I'll never forget it. 

"Umm, well, honey, I aint got that phone call yet!", he had exclaimed.

 I pled my case. I really did. I even cried. Showed him the paperwork..told him of the horrible conditions that these kids have to live in. "Will you please just pray about it", I had asked him. "Yeah, I'll pray but I can tell you right now, there is no way we are gonna foster children"
 (Remember that line for later please) 

This was in January of 2012. "Ok, Lord," I had prayed that night. "There's nothing more I can do. We can't very well be a foster family if the Hubby is not on board. I tried. I'm sorry Lord." How many of you know that when God has a plan...

 I started to throw all the paperwork I'd received away. But something told me to hang on to the Miracle Hill paperwork. I placed it on my desk at home and went on about life. The reports still bothered me but I'd done all I can. Months passed. Life as we know it pressed on. 

Then, one Sunday night in April..Mark walks in from a mens meeting at church. "Honey, what did you do with that paperwork from Miracle Hill?"
"The foster parenting paperwork?", I asked..puzzled. "Yes" "It's over there on my desk...WHY?" 
"Because I think we need to look into it again..I think we need to be foster parents." 
Glory! My God is AWESOME! 
"What in the world? Where did this come from?" "Well, we were at men's meeting and we were talking about taking care of widows and orphans and I'm up there telling all these guys that we need to step up and do this and that for them and God just basically said to me,  "How can you be telling these other guys what they should be doing if you wont even discuss what I've called you and your wife to do?" BAM! Holy Spirit convicted him like a ton of bricks. I hadn't said a word since January. See, I didn't have to do a thing. God had a plan for us. He still does. And all things work together for the good of those who believe. Were we scared to death? Yes. Did we feel completely inadequate? Yes. But we both had now gotten the call...and we were in for the ride of our lives.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

One Year

Exactly one year ago today, on August 24, 2012, I walked into a children’s shelter downtown. It was a Friday afternoon and I had gotten off work an hour early to get to the shelter before the older kids got back from school.  I was here to pick up our very first foster child. We were beginning our foster parenting journey....

Getting out of my car and walking into that place..that was the physical of it. But so much more was happening in the spiritual and emotional realms. I was so excited I was about to burst.  
Finally, after all the paperwork and home studies and home inspections and background checks we were taking home our first "placement". Looking back, I realize so many things about that day.

I stepped out of my comfort zone that day.
I cherished my own little world. God had blessed me with so many precious people. An amazing family, a loving and supportive church family and awesome friends. There was no drama, drugs, or abused and neglected children…In our world, all of the children were cherished and loved..seen as the gifts from God that they are. But God was calling us to step out in faith and step into a world where that wasn't always the case.

I had gotten the phone call just the day before: 
23 month old male child.
Taken into custody 3 weeks before.
Older sibling who was not eligible for foster care due to extended needs
 No health issues

 Will you take him?

 I had to be buzzed in. Security measures and all. The shelter director and I made small talk as we walked through several official office looking areas and into an office where they had me sign paperwork stating I was taking responsibility for this child.  
A child I had never met, not even seen…a stranger in every sense of the word.
They passed along supplies..new toys that had been donated, big box of diapers, books and several bags of clothing. As we stood there doing all the official stuff a lady walked in carrying a sleeping bundle of which I could only see the back of. Big brown curls covered his head. “It’s nap time”, she said, “I can’t get him to wake up”. Bless his little heart. I didn’t want to just take him and then later he wake up in a strange car with a strange woman whom he’d never met…the poor thing had been through enough. He needed to be awake for this transition.
She handed him to me and oh my…he sank right into my arms…He fit perfectly…it’s as if instead of a weight being placed into my arms…a burden was lifted. I didn’t understand that feeling at the time. I kissed him softly on the cheek and called his name several times to try to awaken him. The lady stood there with tears in her eyes. She had been his daytime caretaker for the last 3 weeks. She told me of his eating and sleeping habits and how he didn’t like the water to get in his eyes when his hair was washed. “He is a doll”, she said, “We are going to miss him.” I promised we would take very good care of him.
They helped me load everything into the car as I carried him outside. I was just gonna have to handle him waking up to a stranger I guessed. As we were loading the car he sat up off my shoulder and looked at me. I melted. This child had the longest eyelashes I had ever seen in my life that framed the most beautiful big brown eyes. “Well, hello there gorgeous!” I said. He looked at me with no expression or emotion..looked into the van at the empty car seat and then back at me again. He pointed to the car seat as if to say ok, let’s go. “You ready to go home?”, I asked. He gave no response. I placed him into the car seat, said our goodbyes to the employees from the shelter and were on our way. I talked to him the whole way home. He said nothing. Again no expression. He looked out the window as I watched in the rear view mirror. He did not cry or anything. Just sat there. He would glance at me and then immediately look back out the window. What must be going through this precious child's mind I wondered? Will I ever connect to him and him to us? What is he gonna think of our crazy crew at home and the multitudes of people he's gonna meet this weekend alone?
What in the world have I gotten us all into?
 Lord, are you sure about this? I know you called us to do this..I heard you very clearly when you called us into this ministry.
As I looked into the little boys’ face who was now our responsibility a bundle of emotions ran through me. Help us Lord. We cannot do this alone. Direct our paths..