Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Building a Family: Part 12

June 2014

Joey - You are a one year old and have been living in your current home for three months at this point.  I wonder what your life is like.  What was your first word?  What is your favorite toy?  Are you loved?  But most importantly, are you safe?  We pray for you without knowing your name.

Pete - Your birth mother has made decisions that have put you in harm's way.  She is young.  You are young, too - only six months old when you and your biological half sister are placed in a foster home with a kind young lady. She has never had children before.  You are her first placements.  She is trying, but she is floundering.  Motherhood is much harder than she thought.  We pray for you without knowing your name.

Our House - At this point in our journey, we have no foster children.  We get a phone call from Arrow, and my heart stops, as it always does.  Was the agency calling with another child to foster?  To adopt?  Are we ready to put our hearts out there again?

They ask if we are willing to provide respite care for a young boy?  His foster parents had a death in the family out of state.  Taking foster children across state lines takes advance paperwork, as well it should.  But the family is faced with not being able to attend the funeral without a respite provider.  We welcome him into our home for just a few days and have a blast.

Y'all, this is where foster families really need help.  Even the very best of parents need some time away from their kids.  If you have ever wanted to serve foster children, but you cannot take one full-time, this is your opportunity.  The agency calls to see if you are available for the days needed.  If you are out of town or busy, no worries, they will check back with you another time.

Have a friend or family member who is fostering?  Bless their socks off by offering to get certified.  Don't know any foster families?  You can be placed on a list to provide respite care for foster children who live near you.  The information below is from the Arrow Child and Family Ministries site.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Building a Family: Part 11

May 2014

Goodbyes are often on the horizon for foster families.  Within the span of ten days, our family of six has been reduced to four.

Hope Child's birth father has worked his services and is able to regain custody.  We are excited for her to grow up with him, but goodbyes are still hard.  Our prayer is that she has finally found her forever home.  We pack her up, once more.  #somuchpink
Mr. Apple Jack is also moving to live with relatives.  I am feeling all the feelings.  This is the first placement we have had where adoption was a possibility.  It was a slim one, but it was there.  And he was with us long enough to call us "Momma" and "Dada."  This goodbye leaves us raw.

We pray over Mr. Apple Jack and the CPS caseworker just before we buckle him into his carseat one last time.  I am ever thankful Patrick works at a place that understands the needs of foster families and allows him to take the rest of the day off.  We need to be together.  As we watch him drive away, the girls cling to us and the tears begin to flow.

We go inside and huddle on the couch.  Tears slowly fade.  The rest of our day is spent close to one another.  Movie watching.  Talking.  This is therapeutic for us and our girls.  I cannot recommend this highly enough for other foster families.
Since beginning this road with our family, many have expressed their fears about us getting hurt.  Very valid concerns.  We have been hurt.  Fostering is crazy hard stuff.  But we are not alone in our sorrow.

You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8
God has called us to it.  It is worth every tear.

Last paragraphs taken from previous post.

Tips for When Foster Children Leave

1. NEVER pack them up in trash bags.  That stigma is horrible.  Always use boxes and suitcases.
2. DISCUSS with the child where they are going.  Tell them as much information as possible.  This helps with their anxiety.
3. PRAY with the child and the entire family one last time.  Thank God for the time you had together.  Pray protection and love and Jesus for them in their new home.
4. CRY together once the child leaves.  The other children in your home need to see that to mourn is natural and healthy.
5. BE TOGETHER for the rest of the day or weekend.  The children in your home need to know you are still a family.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Building a Family: Part 10

March 2014

Unfortunately, the life up of a child in foster care is all too often one of constant upheaval.

At this point in our journey, we still have not met our Joey.  He has been in a stable, loving home for six months when a family member is found.  What one thinks should be a joyous reunion is, in fact, two strangers meeting.  This will be his third home, his third family in a year.  His life is turned upside down once more as he makes this transition.  Was he scared?  Did he miss the woman he had come to know as Mama?  What was his first night like?  Thinking on that time in his young life makes my heart hurt.

Around the same time in our home, we are witnessing a similar scenario in another precious one's life.  Our phone rings with shocking news: Hope Child has come back into foster care.  How is this possible?  Her life seemed to be all in order.  This child has had another front row seat to the brokenness of our world.

Would we be willing to take her back?  No need to even think twice.  We welcomed her in, even though we knew it would only be for a short while.  The post below was my heart at this point in our journey.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

This is My Story

Last Sunday during church, I held our foster daughter in my lap.  Usually she is happy to play with the other kids at children's church.  This week she was fearful.

She snuggled into my arms and quietly sat listening.  My momma heart swelled as we began singing a hymn from my past.

     This is my story, this is my song,
     praising my Savior all the day long;

I have joyously belted out this song innumerable times from the second row of church.  Watching my momma play the notes on the old piano.  Waiting for my daddy to get up and preach.  Sitting beside my grandmother.  Church filled with family and friends who loved me.

This is my story.  My legacy.  It was not perfect, as no one's life is.  But I was loved and knew the love of a gracious Savior.  Isn't that all that truly matters?

     this is my story, this is my song,
     praising my Savior all the day long.

I rested my head on Hope Child's golden hair and tried to sing, but I was choking on the words.  Her story?  How foreign it has already been from my own.  Heartache deeper than the ocean.  Loss of the bitterest kind.

When you love someone, their story is joined with yours.  Their pain is felt in your deepest soul.  This beautiful little girl's story has shattered my own.  I will be forever indebted to her for this.  This opening of my eyes and heart.

Hope Child's story cannot be rewritten, but we can help her turn the page.  It will not be perfect, as no one's life is.  But we can write love and the love of a gracious Savior on her heart.  Isn't that all that truly matters?

It makes singing the final verse of the song possible:

     Perfect submission, all is at rest;
     I in my Savior am happy and blest,
     watching and waiting, looking above,
     filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

If you are interested in helping a child in foster care write love on the pages of their story: http://www.arrow.org/

Friday, November 11, 2016

Building a Family: Part 9

At this point in our foster story, our lives are busy.  We drive to parent visits each week.  People are in our home all the time: Arrow, CASA, CPS, Ad Litems.  Our world has been taken over.  It is a hassle, but it is worth it if one child is safe.

The girls ask constantly, "Will we get to adopt him?"  As always, we answer, "He is our brother every day he is in our home.  God decides where his forever home will be.  God has already chosen who will be our forever children."

And God did know.

For now is when you were born, our precious youngest child.  On the day of your birth, we were loving another child, but we were already praying for you.  Each night we prayed for your safety.  We prayed you had food and love and a warm bed.  We prayed the Lord would keep you, and He did.

The repost below speaks of our hearts during this season.

36 Hours Notice

Well, we have reached a milestone.  Mr. Apple Jack has been with us for one fourth of his short, spunky life.  In that time, he has become our son.  Most mornings begin with his voice on the monitor, "Mommy?  Daddy?"  A far cry from the child who would stay in his bed for hours after awakening.  No one used to come when he called.

We are there for things like birthday parties, playing outside, and smiles.  Lots of smiles.  We rejoice with him over each new learned word and give about a thousand fist bumps a day.

We are there for things like the flu, shots, and poop.  Lots of poop.  We soldier through the terrible two tantrums knowing we may never see the fruits at the end of this phase.

He comes to us when he is hurt.  When he is scared.  When he is happy.  Our cup runneth over with love for this little boy.

But somewhere on some desk of somebody is a home study.  These papers are Mr. Apple Jack's future.  Our future.

"He's probably leaving.  You'll get 36 hours notice so you'll have time to pack up his things and say goodbye."

Oh.  Thirty-six hours.  How kind.  It makes me think of the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride:

"Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning."

In the movie, Westley has to wait three years before returning to Princess Buttercup.  At least it hasn't been that long.  We've been waiting in this crazy reality for the past six months.

I am a doer.  Sitting and waiting just does not work for me.  So, how do we prepare for the very real possibility our son may be leaving?

1.  Pray.  Please join us.  God knows this little boy's future.  Our job is not to save him.  Our job is to love him.  We know this in our heads.  Pray for this to be written on our hearts.  God is sovereign.

2.  Prepare for the transition.  Our first days with Mr. Apple Jack were difficult.  We knew nothing about him.  Likes.  Dislikes.  Fears.  We were going into it blind.  In an effort to make his possible move smoother, we created this All About Me sheet.  Our plan is to fill one out with as much information as possible each time a child leaves us to go to a new home.  Other foster families - feel free to use it, change it, make it your own.

Printable version: All About Form

Labels to pin onto items.  Printable Version: Favorite Things Labels
Blank labels to pin onto items.  Printable Version: Blank Labels

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Building a Family: Part 8

November 2013: Our hearts have healed.  We find ourselves awaiting another phone call.

Mr. Apple Jack

He came to us late one night.  Beautiful curls.  Almost two years old.  With a heartbreaking story.

Having witnessed much and suffered even more, our first goal was to make him feel safe and loved.  He fell into our family so naturally.  Like he was always supposed to be there.  His laughs.  His smiles.  It was like music in our home.  So easy to forget that he is not truly our child.

Reality strikes the morning of his first parent visit.

I slowly pack up the kids.  Every fiber of my being screams against this.  On the drive there, my mind is racing.  What is he going to think when we send him back to his dragons?

She is waiting as we pull up.  All excited.  My girls openly stare.  I know the questions are welling up in them.  He hesitantly walks to her.  Seemingly unsure if he is supposed to go with her or stay with us.

We have to drive away and leave him.  With her.

My oldest spoke my fears:

"Mommy, isn't that the lady...?"

"Yes, baby.  We think so."

"Then why are we leaving him with her?"

My heart is so heavy I can hardly speak to answer.  I force myself not to cry.

"Because we have to baby.  The CPS lady will be with them the whole time.  And so will God."

We pray together.  There in the car.  For this new love of our heart.  Facing his dragons.

The song that keeps swirling in my head is "In My Arms" by Plumb:
Clouds will rage and,
Storms will race in.
But you will be safe in my arms.
Rains will pour down.
Waves will crash around.
But you will be safe in my arms.
For a while I felt this was my song to Mr. Apple Jack.  I didn't know what would happen to him tomorrow or the next week or month or year, but I knew while he was with us, he was safe.
But the more I look, the more I see.  He is not safe when he is in my arms.  He is safe when he is in God's arms.  He loves him more deeply and truly than I will ever be capable of.
Foster parenting is no-joke-hard.  And the hardest part is learning to trust God.  It is easy to pray for God's will to be done in the life of a child.  It is harder to mean it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Building a Family: Part 7

Healing comes.  It is a slow but steady thing.  Our prayers turn to our next child.  For the Lord to protect them and keep them.  For Him to ready us for them.

We are on a break from fostering while moving into our new home and starting the school year.  Just being us and being together is what our hearts need.

September 2013

To us, this is a normal day.  Before work, Patrick attends his first Donuts with Dad with Kindergarten Abby.  Susannah is at Gigi's house to play.  I'm teaching school.  At the end of the day, we say our family prayers of protection for our future brothers and sisters.  We talk, as usual with our girls on how the Lord already knows who will be in our family.

To our Joey, this is the worst day of his young life.  People he does not know come into his home.  They say he cannot stay.  This is the protection we have been pleading with the Lord for, but to an infant's mind?  Seven months old and ripped from your mother, your grand parents, your home.  What must your have been thinking?

God's blessings come.  You are graciously placed with a lovely foster mother.  One we would unexpectedly cross paths with in the future.  She introduces you to our shared Lord.  For that, we are forever in her debt.

That night we prayed for you, even though we did not know who you were.  God was healing our hearts.  He was saving your life.  What a mighty God we serve.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Building a Family: Part 6

This post was written after our Hope Child left.  We thought this would be the end of our role in her story.


Monday, November 18, 2013

The First Goodbye

What do you say to a child that has become your own, as you pack up all her things?  How do you make a child's brain understand you are not abandoning them - like everyone else?  We spoke to her of this relative she did not remember.  We prayed this family would love Hope Child.  That they would love God.

The momma in me was dying.  I rocked this girl to sleep when she was too scared to be alone.  I washed her dirty clothes.  Wiped her tears.  Played with her.  We were there as she threw temper tantrums and when she laughed.  How could I give up this child?

Surrender was the only thing that got me through.  Not surrendering to CPS or the family, but surrendering to God.  I am not the author of this precious darling's life.  God is.  He has a plan for her.  I prayed for God to press this on my heart, and He did.  I had such a peace.

Even still, carrying her inside the CPS building was tough.  I was taking this child of my heart to someone else.  Someone related to the people who had caused her so much pain.  We had been praying.  Praying crazy hard.  That this family would be God-followers.  That this family would know how to love.

We got to be there when they met Hope Child.  She clung to us.  We stayed for a long time.  Playing.  Talking.  She slowly warmed to them but stayed right beside us.  As I spoke to the new family I saw their love for God and their love for Hope Child.  We cried together over answered prayers.

When it was time for us to leave, Hope Child would not let us go.  And there went my heart.  Ripped out.  We decided to all pray together.  And something wonderful happened.  I felt the presence of God.  His peace descended upon me.  He must have done the same for Hope Child.  As soon as the amen was said, she let go of us and ran into the arms of her family.

God showed up that day.  He answered prayers.  My cup overflowed.

And as soon as we got in the car, our eyes also overflowed.

The girls still talk about Hope Child.  We have been very open and honest with them.  At six and four years-old, they have lots of questions.  Questions I never thought we would be faced with so young.  Questions I am still wrestling with.

But most of them have the same answer, "I don't know, but God knows.  He is in charge of Hope Child's life.  We have to trust God."

Help me Lord to do this.