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 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 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 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 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..