Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Allow Me to Introduce Myself..

I am such a slacker when it comes to blogging...or exercising...or eating right...Wow!...now that I think about it, I can do some serious slacking! (I'm completely not sure that slacking is a word or not but anywho...) SO MUCH has happened in my family's life in the past couple of months.  I am working on what is turning out to be a huge catch up post, I promise.  :-)

Thank you to all who have reached out to me through comments, FB messages, and email to check on how my family is doing.  It means so very much to me that we have so many people thinking of us and more importantly praying for my family and our precious kiddos! We are all doing well! 

One thing I will go ahead and share.  God is good...all the time.  Have you ever had one of those days where you see His plan coming together and you just stop, look up to Heaven, and say, "Ok, Lord, you were right...again. I see it now."? I've seen it these past couple of months. It wasn't immediate.  There have been some TOUGH times. But as time has passed, I see it all working out. His plan is so very much better than anything we can ever imagine.  Even when we can't see it.  Even when our faith is tested to the highest degree and we just don't understand...in those times that we cannot see how what is happening in the here and now is good for ANYBODY. Our God is working it out, ya'll.  One of these days I'm gonna get that through my thick skull and learn to trust Him in EVERY thing and in EVERY situation.  I'm so thankful for His grace, His love, and His mercy that He so very freely gives to us all.  I'm so thankful he called my family into the foster care ministry. He is Sovereign.  In all situations. I'm so thankful to be a child of God!

Catch up post coming soon!  :-)

Monday, April 28, 2014

For the Last Time..

On August 24, 2012 I posted this picture to my Facebook wall and captioned it "Our Journey has Begun..." :-))



I had just laid our very first foster child, G, into his new bed on his very first night in our home.  We were so excited to have him here with us.  We had no idea how long he would be with us or where this journey would lead.  And frankly, we were scared to death.  But having this little boy here...well, it felt RIGHT. 

As I sit here now, 1 year 8 months and 4 days later, I've just laid him down in his bed for quite possibly the last time....
 




And I'm more scared now than ever.  We have been through so much with this little fellow.  He's a completely different child than he was that first night. The thought of him not being here...well, I just can't imagine it. Tomorrow afternoon, we will walk into a courtroom, sit down, and listen as all the interested "parties" go before a judge and let him/her know that they have come to an agreement in this case and that G will now be going to live with a relative.  Barring that judge completely surprising everyone with some off the wall order, that move will take place tomorrow evening. 


His things are packed. 


He's ready.  He knows that he's going.  We've tried to explain to him what's happening.  I think he understands..kinda.  He says he's going on a visit.  He has done some transitional visits where he goes and stays from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon and then comes home.  We've explained that this time he'll go and stay there.  That he'll take all his clothes and toys and things and stay with Ms. W all the time.  "Okay, Mama,"  he tells me. So I think he understands...as much as a 3 year old can understand these things. 

Please pray for our little G.  Prayers that the transition will be smooth..that he'll be happy and safe and loved.  That God's angels will surround him always and that he'll be open to the Holy Spirit as He leads him on the right path.  Pray for his family.  That they will see G as the gift from God that he truly is and love and cherish him.  Please also pray for my family as we adjust to the new normal without G in our home.  And for our extended family and friends who will grieve along with us.  And lastly, please pray for this Mama's heart.  Cause right now it's breaking.  :-(

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Transition


I started packing his things today...

Going through his clothes. Picking out what he'll take with him.  What still fits.  What he could possibly use this coming Fall/Winter. "Honey, do you think he'll still be able to wear this come Fall?" I think he has plenty to get him through the Spring and Summer. Or should I buy him a few more outfits just to be sure?  Oh, these are way too small...those we'll keep for the next little guy that God may send our way.  I think I'll buy him a few new packs of underwear and socks before he leaves.  These are looking a little old.  "Look, honey, remember this outfit?  He wore it last Easter."  Seems like a lifetime ago...and like a split second ago....hmmm, I need to check his shoes.  He may need a new pair of sandals for summer...and oh, I hope they have room for all those toys....


"Whatcha doin, Mama?" he asks as he notices me sitting at the dining room table with piles of clothes all around me.
"Oh just going through your stuff, baby."
"My clothes?"
"Yep..look..here's your favorite Spiderman shirt."
"I like Spiderman, Mama."
"I know, baby..Mama knows."

I know full well that he likes Spiderman.  G likes everything Spiderman.  
Note to self: don't forget to send his Spiderman plate and bowl.  He likes to eat off of those.
And he likes Mickey Mouse.  And Chuggington.  And I know that Tow Mater is his very favorite character from Cars. I know that he doesn't really care for macaroni and cheese but he'll never turn down fried chicken or French fries. And don't even mention spaghetti for supper.  He'll excitedly run to the table before the stove is even turned on. Spaghetti is his absolute favorite.  I know that if you give him the choice between bacon and eggs or Pop Tarts for breakfast he'll pick Pop Tarts every. single. time. I know that he absolutely loves sweet tea but will immediately frown up if you even attempt to get him to drink some water. I know that G loves to take a bath but ya better not let the water or soap get in his eyes or a nervous breakdown will soon follow.  He's fully potty trained but you may have to remind him to flush the toilet and turn out the light on his way out. Oh and just putting his jacket on him is never enough.  I know that it MUST be zipped up. I know that his laugh is amazing and wonderful and contagious. I know he'd rather be at his Sissy and John John's house playing with Kaden more than he wants to be anywhere else in the world.  I know going into Kobe's room after he's asked him to stay out and hearing Kobe yell "MAMA!!" is a sure fire boredom buster for G.  He will just laugh and laugh.  I know he likes to stay on a schedule.  That any difference in a normal day takes some getting used to for him and the end result of your spontaneity is usually up in the air...depending on G's mood on that given day.  I know so much about this little boy who's been our son for the past 20 months. I've watched him grow.  Listened as his vocabulary went from nothing to saying any and everything.  Funny how we used to coax him to say even one word and nowadays it's like, "G, please baby, let's just have a moment of quiet time." :-) I've watched as his dealings with frustrations went from banging his head on the nearest hard surface to simply whining and eventually being able to tell you why he feels the way he's feeling right now.  Oh, this sweet boy.  We know all about you. 

And there is one other thing that I now know.....

I know that barring anything drastic happening...our boy will be moving on exactly 4 weeks from today.  Court is scheduled for April 29th and it is expected that on that day our sweet G will be moving in with relatives...who do not know him at all.  It's so bittersweet.  He'll be with his baby sister and will get to see his Mom and Dad on a regular basis.  Much more than he does now.  The people he's moving in with are wonderful people who seem to care and want what's best for G.  But they do not know him. They don't know the simple tricks of the G trade that will make day to day life much easier for them all.  I have to keep reminding myself that neither did we when we began this journey 20 months ago.  We learned about each other day in and day out.  Through trials and triumphs we made it through.  There have been days that Mark and I felt like banging OUR heads against the nearest hard surface trying to figure this little guy out. 

When he was placed in my arms that very first day, I had no idea where this journey would take us.  This little boy..not yet 2 years old.  A stranger's child.  Placed in our home.  The end result uncertain. No one knew at the time (and for many months afterwards) how this case would conclude. And yet my family had the most wonderful yet daunting task set before us.  To care for him.
Simple, right?  Take care of him.  Make sure no harm comes his way.  Feed him. Clothe him. Teach him right from wrong. You take care of him while the biological family gets "fixed"....once they figure life out and are "taught" how to properly care for a child they can have him back.  "Not sure how long he'll be with you."   Okay?  Great. That's how it works. Oh, and thanks for all you do. 

Oh, but how quickly we figured out it's not that simple at all.  In the process of caring for this stranger's child...feeding him...clothing him...bathing him...teaching him..vacationing with him...working our way through each and every good and bad day...living life with him...he became not a stranger's child but OUR child.  We shared our lives with him and he with us.  He became part of our crew.  Where we are there he is also.  If we showed up somewhere without him, people would automatically ask, "Where's G?" Why?  Because he belonged with us.  It was expected that he would be there if we were.  I wonder how that will be 4 weeks from now when we go out to our favorite restaurant or somewhere where they don't know the whole story.  I'm not sure how I'll react having to explain time and time again where the cute curly haired boy with the big brown eyes has gone.  What will life be like without G in it?  I'm not sure yet...A little quieter maybe..a little calmer I'm sure...but there is one thing I do know.  Our lives are so much better because G has been a part of it. 
And we will never be the same.



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mrs Fix It..At Your Service

I'm a fixer.

Or I try to be.  It's what I do.

I'm the type of person that if there is a problem, let's solve it.  If there is something that needs to be done, let's do it.  A project that needs to be completed? Let's finish it.  A report that needs to be written?  Let's get on it. Let's stop analyzing it. Stop talking about it.  Let's just get it done. And move on to the next thing. Because there is always a "next" thing.

Got a situation? Fix it.  Move on. 

Yep, that's me. I'm a fixer. 

At my daughter's college orientation, I first heard the term "Helicopter Parent". You know, the type of parent that hovers over their children..always ready to swoop in and save the day if there was the slightest inkling of a problem.  "Pssshh, who would do that? That's definitely not me", I thought.  Until, that is, I looked over at my daughter who had her lips poked out and was knowingly nodding like she knew exactly what the professor was talking about. "Whatever", I thought, "I'm always gonna do whatever I can to help my babies.  I don't care what these so called "experts" say."  I'm a bit stubborn that way. 


If there is a problem that needs to be solved...I'm gonna handle it.  Period.

Sometimes, however, we are reminded that there are some things we just can't "fix".  There are moments in our lives where we are just not in control.  We can't solve the problem at hand...we can't make right the wrongs of the moment.  There are those moments where we or those we love are in a battle that we can't win for them. 

For the record, I do not like those moments.

I like to make things better for those I love.  I like to "fix" things for them.  "There you go, love, I made it all better for you. No stress.  Don't worry, be happy."  Problem solved. 

A week ago today, I was reminded quite boldly that I am not always in control.  There are things that I encounter in this journey of life that I just cannot fix.  There are times when the only thing I can do is drop to my knees and beg the Father to intercede on my or my loved ones behalf...

Wednesday, January 22nd was destined to be a glorious day.  Went to work at 5am as usual. But watched the clock closely begging time to fly by so 10am would hurry and arrive.  At 10am I was headed to the hospital along with other family and loved ones to welcome in to the world our 2nd grandson.  I was beyond excited.  All went well as they prepped my beautiful daughter for the scheduled c-section.  Those in attendance started a pool of what our newest blessing would weigh and how long he would be.  The smiles and laughs of those there told of the happiness in the air.  Today is the day!  He's coming!  You couldn't have smacked the smile off my face.  

Me with Big Brother Kaden!
We prayed with my daughter and son in law before they went back into surgery.  Hugs were given and the "we'll see you soons" were said. They wheeled her back as the excited new Dad followed and the rest of us went to the waiting room to await the news of his arrival.

I'll stop here to explain that I do not like surgery.  Of any kind.  I worry a bit more than most when it comes to surgeries or medical procedures of any kind.  I lost one of my very best friends after a "routine" surgery almost 6 years ago.  Since then, I have an innate fear of any type of surgery.  So the fact that my one and only biological daughter was having major surgery was not lost on me.  There is always that fear. 

30 minutes passed with no word.  They said the surgery would take about an hour so that was okay. 

Then my husbands' phone rang.

I heard him talking to someone and then he hung up.  His eyes closed and his head fell to his chest. "Who was that?", I asked him.  "John", he answered slowly.  My heart leaped to my throat.  John is our son in law....who was currently supposed to be in the operating room with Kirsten, our daughter.  "What?...Why?...What's wrong?", I stammered.  Heart beat racing...blood pressure rising...I was ready to race into that OR and get my baby.  "Is there a problem?"  "He's upset", he said, "They sent him out of the room. He told us to be praying. He said they may have to put her completely under." 

Oh, precious Jesus, no.

Here was one of those moments.  My mind is racing.  What can I do?  Fix it. Think, think! My baby cannot be in there alone.  I'm okay as long as John is in there with her.  He has proven time and time again his love for her.  But she absolutely CANNOT be in there alone.  Nope, that is definitely not okay.  That can't happen.  Think, Valerie, think.  What can you do? How can you fix this? There has to be a way. There has to be something you can do!

After only a few seconds, I came to the realization that there was only one thing that I could do. Pray. Just like John had asked us to do. Pray. Intercede on her behalf.  Give it to the Father.  As I sat in that waiting room chair, I prayed...and prayed...and prayed. "Touch her Lord.  Guide the doctors and nurses.  Comfort her that she is never alone. Oh, Father God, please let my baby girl and her baby boy be okay."

A few moments (that seemed like a lifetime) later several of us in the waiting room received a group text...no words...just one photo:



Be still my heart. 
There he is.  My second grandson.  He's here. Seeing the photo took my breath.  The tears immediately started flowing.  He's beautiful.  I was so immediately grateful for this gorgeous newest blessing to our family.

Ok, now, how's Kirsten?  I need a word.  I need someone to tell me how she is.  Is she okay?  Hello?  Anyone?  I'm freaking out here.  Is the problem fixed?  Situation resolved?  HELLO!!??!! Is my baby girl okay?

"She's good."  was the reply received when Mark sent a text to John and asked how she was.

My eyes closed.  Tears still flowing. Exhale, Valerie.  Deep breaths. "Thank you, Lord."

Once again, my prayers had been answered.  Once again, my Father had answered my pleas.  My baby girl was okay.  And I had a beautiful new grandson.  Another blessing to add to the many blessings I already had.



I felt so silly. I had worried, again.  I was anxious, again.  I had first looked into what I could do to solve the problem at hand instead of trusting and going first to the One I KNOW can solve all our problems if we would only ask.  Silly, silly girl. Will you ever learn??

When will I learn that I don't have to always be Mrs Fix It? I couldn't fix this problem alone. This problem couldn't be solved by Val. Nothing you could do here, sista. Oh how much easier my life would be if I learned to fully rely on Him instead of trying to fix everything myself. Lesson learned, Lord.  I hear You.

It was just a few moments later that I learned..the battle wasn't over. In fact, this battle had only just begun. There was more to come. We would need to continue to walk by faith. To look past the things that could be seen with our eyes and heard with our ears. We would have no choice but to continue to look to Him who's plan is perfect..to put our faith and trust in the One who loves us all much more than we could ever love ourselves or each other. We would have to believe in the One who has never failed us before. The One who has pulled us from the miry clay and stood us on the Rock in so many battles before this one....

We had no other choice but to do all these things..because we couldn't solve this newest situation either. This was also not going to be something that we could just fix and move on....

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Out of Sight, Out of Mind




You see it in the headlines every day. It's blasted on the evening news.   
Yet another story of child being abused or neglected. 
Horrible, heart wrenching stories.

"Child Left in Hot car Dies"
"7 Children Found Living in Filthy, Roach Infested Home"
"Toddler Found Wandering in the Street Alone"
"Dad Arrested After Breaking Infant Son's Leg"
" 4 Children Die in House Fire After Being Left Home Alone"
"Baby Left in Crib for Days..Found Dehydrated..Lying in Feces"
"Parents Arrested After Raid on Meth House..3 Children Taken into Custody"

I could go on and on. But you get the idea. You hear the stories. You see the news reports.

Every. Single. Day.

How do you respond when you see those stories? How do they make you feel? Think about it. What do you say...or do? I know how I've responded. Let's see...it could go something like this:

"Oh, that is so awful! How can people be so mean and cruel? Those poor children. Those no good, blankety blank blank parents need to be beat! Just give me five minutes with them! Trifling, I tell ya! Turn the channel! I don't want to see this mess! Wait, there..ok, that's better. Funny home videos. HaHa Look at that cute dog dancing! How sweet!"

Aaahhhh. That's better. Cute and cuddly is what I like to see. Don't we all? That doesn't hurt to watch. Cute little doggies. Sweetness. I don't have to think about abused children or sad things if cute little doggies are shaking their booties for the camera.

 How many more of you turn the channel when those "hard truth" stories come on? How about the starving African children commercials? Or what about the abused animal commercials? Of course we turn the channel. Why wouldn't we? We don't want to see the horrific things of this world. 
Out of sight...out of mind they always say. 
 If I don't see it or hear about it, I don't have to think about it. Right? And if I don't think about it, maybe it's really not there. Not happening. Yep...life is good in my own little world. No bad stuff here. Just smiles. Everyone is Happy, Happy, Happy! Don't talk about that bad stuff..the horrible things that are happening elsewhere. That's not us. We don't do those things. So it doesn't affect us at all. NOT OUR PROBLEM!

Listen to me carefully dear friends...Children are being neglected. Innocent children are being abused in every sense of the word. It runs the gamut from emotional abuse to downright physical torture. From not getting enough attention and love to being chained to walls..raped repeatedly. 
Things you cannot even begin to wrap your mind around are happening 
RIGHT NOW. Somewhere in this world..in this country...in our state..in this county..in your city...in your very neighborhood. 
IN OUR VERY OWN BACKYARDS. 
It's happening. It's there..I promise you. I would venture to say that less than 5% of the abuse cases reported actually ever make the news. It's probably much less than that actually. 
Ask a teacher how many children they see on a daily basis where there is abuse or neglect suspected. 
Ask a police officer how many homes they visit where children are found to be abused or neglected. Maybe not even to a criminal level but they see it. 
 No food in the fridge and the kids have no shoes on in 20 degree weather but Mom's on her Iphone and Dad's playing the Xbox...parents screaming and yelling and cursing at the 4 year old for not taking better care of her little sister...Mom or Dad so drunk or high on drugs that they didn't realize that their 3 toddlers were playing in the middle of one of the busiest streets in the city.
 Ask a nurse what she sees..Bruises on the kids. Injuries to the children and the parents' explanation just doesn't sound plausible.

 It's happening. Here. There. Wherever you are. 

How do you respond to it? Are you like me? Turn the channel. Leave the conversation. "Let's not talk about that..how about talking about something happy? How about them Tigers! Didn't they have a great season!" Just because you ignore the situation or refuse to acknowledge what is happening does not mean that the problem ceases to exist. 
Or are you one who abruptly exclaims, "Man! That sucks! But it's none of my business. Not my kids so it's not my problem."
 Or maybe...just maybe...are you the one who thinks, "That's so sad..I'd really like to help..but what can I do about it? I don't know how to help." 
Yes. You. I want to talk to YOU!

There are so many ways that you can help abused and neglected children.

 Become a foster parent
Well, this one is obvious right? :-) Foster families are on the front lines. Taking in children who need a temporary place to live while their biological families get the help they need to become better parents. It's hard. It's draining.
 It's a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job. Some of these kids come from really hard places and it's emotionally, mentally and physically draining. 
But it's one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. Just think, if I wasn't a foster Mom, I'd never gotten to meet or love on these beautiful children that God has placed in our home. Good, loving foster families are always needed.

Volunteer as a Guardian Ad Litem
Guardian Ad Litems are volunteers who are appointed to represent the best interests of the child. They are the advocate for the child in any court proceedings. They are able to stand up and say, "I am for this child! His/her best interest is all I am concerned with." They are the voice for the voiceless. Their job is to look for the best possible permanent situation for the child and advise the court on their opinion. It is a wonderful way to get involved without having the 24/7 commitment of a foster parent.

Support foster families
As I've said before, fostering children is hard. Foster families need support. They need families and friends to encourage them and pray for them. Something as small as a text or call saying, "I'm thinking of you today" would mean the world to a foster Mom who's struggling to get through another day. Offer to come by and chat or watch the kids while Mom gets some much needed chores done. I am blessed with a wonderful family and several great friends who support us in this journey. Sometimes just being able to vent or talk about a rough day is all we need to continue on. Also, if you are a pastor or attend a church, consider starting a foster care ministry. Offering support, clothing or children's supplies to foster families in your community. There are many ways to support and encourage foster families.

Be an advocate
Advocate for these children. Get these kids front and center in the minds of your community. Share the need for people to help on your social media, blogs, etc. Speak to your pastor about having a foster care/adoption workshop at your church to spread the word about the need for foster families. Or maybe allow your local DSS or children's advocacy group to come in and set up an information table in the lobby. Have a small dinner or gathering in your home where those interested in fostering/adoption can come and get more information. Get the word out. Remember out of sight, out of mind. We want people to SEE the need. The more people who see the problem, the better chance we have to find people who are willing to DO something about the problem.

Support the biological families
This one is hard for some, including me. Our immediate reaction to those who have had their children taken from them is to judge them. I've learned through this journey that sometimes it is merely a case where the biological parents don't have the support they need to be good parents. Or they don't have the education. They didn't have good parents themselves to teach them how to be a good parent. It is rarely a case of parents who don't love their children or want what's best for them. Often times it is more the case of they just don't know any better way. Offer to help transport parents to parenting classes. Be a mentor for a single Mom. Be a support person for a struggling alcoholic or former drug user who's trying their very best to stay clean and care for their children. If you have a business, offer employment to allow someone to become self sufficient. Invite them to church. 
SHOW them this Jesus you are so willing to TALK about. 
Love on the unlovable. You know, you haven't always been so lovable yourself. Remember, the ultimate goal of foster care is to return these children to their families. Helping to strengthen those families is, I believe, one of the most important things we can do.

Support Agencies that Help Children
In our area, there are several agencies that are on the front lines. Miracle Hill, the Julie Valentine Center, Salvation Army just to name a few. Shop at their thrift stores. Donate unwanted items to their stores. Support them financially. Volunteer your time to their ministries. The Julie Valentine Center is our local rape crisis center. Offer to volunteer to help with basic office duties. Offer to help transport victims and their families to counseling sessions. Do some yard work for them. Contact your local agency. I bet they'll be happy to talk to you about volunteer opportunities for not only individuals but groups. How great a local mission that would be for your church's youth group or men's ministry!

Pray
This is, in my opinion, the most important thing we can do. And the best part is...this is something that anyone and everyone can do. Pray for these children. Pray for foster families. Pray for the biological families. Pray for the caseworkers. Pray for the Guardian Ad Litems. Pray for the judges to make sound decisions. Pray, saints, Pray. Flood the gates of heaven with pleas to God the Father to wrap his loving arms around those children who are caught in the crossfire of the Enemy's deeds. Pray for those children who are not yet found. That they will know that there are people who love them and are there to help and not cause further harm.





There are so many ways to get involved. So many ways to be a hero to these children who so desperately need to know that there are still heroes in this world. It is my prayer that you will search your heart and pray for guidance from God on what He would have YOU do for the least of these.

Thank you to all those who have already stepped up to do something. 



I reap joy every single day when I hear the laughter of these children. I reap love when I see the smiles that were so few and far between just a few months ago that now come so frequently. Oh, yes, do I reap!

For those who are fighting the battle already...Be encouraged today. Don't give up. Stay the course. Keep the faith. What you are doing IS helping. You ARE making a difference in this world. You ARE changing the world for God's Kingdom.

For those of you who have not yet stepped into the battle for these kids...

What can YOU do?