Here For You

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By the time we started the fostering process we had been married 4 years and had lost 2 babies through miscarriage. We were involved in Children’s Ministry and working with kids all the time. Other people’s kids. We were heartbroken and wanted children in our family.

Soon after we were licensed my husband got a call on his cell phone asking if we would take a 3.5 week old baby girl. Then he called me at work and told we were going to get a little girl who needed a family. I cried…of course. How many husbands get to tell their wives they are going to be a mother?

We consulted caseworkers, case managers, Indian Child Welfare and doctors about any major decision we made for our daughter. We filed reports each week, we had home inspections each month and we filled out forms for each doctor visit and emergency room visit. We advocated for her.

She was ours, but not legally.

Three and a half years later we stood in the courthouse and vowed to take care of her and made her our own.  It took all of 5 minutes. It was so quick that we even missed videoing it!

Our second foster daughter was 11 months old and came to us one late afternoon when a caseworker had to quickly find a home for her. It was the end of the day and he had been make calls searching for someone to take this little girl. She was supposed to stay a week and, well, obviously she stayed longer than that!

Her adoption went quicker, but we still had all the visits and reports like we did for our oldest girl.

One and a half years later we stood in a different courthouse in the judges’ chambers and promised to care for her no matter what.

A few things happened on the days the adoptions took place;

  • We gave each girl a new name including our last name
  • My husband and I were listed on their birth certificates as their mother and father – not adoptive mother or adoptive father –and with it all the rights that parenting entails
  • Our girls became our heirs – they are equal heirs our biological daughters

Society looks at our family and calls 2 of our daughters our “real kids”. They ask about their “real mother and father” like we are a fake family. We look at our daughters and see our children.  And I would like to point out that we do real parenting. They are our real kids and we are a real family.

Adoption means choosing someone. Adoption means accepting someone. Adoption doesn’t mean that all the pain and trauma of the past goes away.

“Children born to another woman call me mom.

The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”

Jody Landers

Many will say how lucky our daughters are to have been adopted by us. They haven’t been ‘lucky’ at all. Adoption is only necessary when a child has been or needed to be separated from her birth family;

  • Death of parents
  • Abandonment
  • Neglect
  • Abuse
  • Rape
  • Fear
  • Parents that are too young or mentally not able to care for a child
  • Parents are in prison

When adoption becomes necessary there is always pain involved.  That pain follows into the adoptive family; we take on the pain and trauma that the child has. It becomes a part of us and our family. We work with our daughters and with the consequences of their parent’s decisions.

Adoption is about redemption and taking the broken pieces of many lives and making something good come out despite the pain and misfortune.  It means working through those trials together.

Adoption changes lives…I know our was changed. It was changed for the better.

 

 

 

 

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What Love Really Means

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“It is a risk to love.

What if it doesn’t work out?

Ah, but what if it does?”

Peter McWilliams

Today is an ordinary day and yet…it isn’t. For our family, it’s the end of a a season. For over 10 years we’ve been licensed as foster parents.  We got licensed in the midst of infertility and miscarriages and grief. We had talked about adopting….after we had biological children…but we jumped into it sooner than we thought because we wanted children in our lives now. It wasn’t Plan B, it was just a part of God’s Plan for our family. We thought it was a win-win situation. We needed children in our life and the children needed a safe family.

It was scary going through the licensing process. I was overwhelmed with the paperwork. The interviews and question on the forms were soul searching. The classes were intimidating with worst case scenario stories shared that made you wonder if you could handle parenting a child who was traumatized. You either walked out of the room saying it was too much or determined more than ever to make a better home for a kid.

Another couple had brought their baby foster daughter to church and I held her…this little precious baby needed a home….we could be a home for a baby like her! That is what really convinced me that I could do this.

I am going to miss the adventure. The phone calls and the hope of a new child coming to share our home.   I really missed our second case manager visiting after we adopted our oldest! I will miss being a part of the special club of people called foster parents. Though not many passed our threshold, we said many were welcome to come. God just brought our kids through the door.

I'm a foster mom, what's your superpower?

As much as we would like to continue, right now we need to focus on the kids we have and meet their needs. Foster and adoptive parents are needed still and I hope some of you may pick up the baton and be a family to a kid.

It will mess up your plans. You will have to make sacrifices and deal with a lot of rules. You will get frustrated with the system, caseworkers and rules. You will feel like a failure. Your life will seem chaotic at times. Your heart will even be broken. But I will tell you that my kids were totally worth it!

 

What Love Really Means Video by JJ Heller;

 

The weight of the words

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I’ve experienced many avenues of parenthood. Foster parent, adoptive parent, parenting my biological kids and parent to babies that never took a breath of air.  All have their differences.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being an adoptive parent. It is a bit different than parenting my biological kids. There is a weight of responsibility that comes with adoption. Greater than with the birth of a bio baby, I feel.

We went through hours of classes, background checks and inspections of our home. Physical exams, finger printing, intense home studies.  Oh.…and the paperwork and forms….and the whole time you’re wondering if you’ll be deemed good enough to parent a child….someone else’s child.

I hold my daughters history in my hands. I hold their family tree and biological identity. I have things I need to pass on down to them so they are not left wondering about where they came from. I have binders of records I’ve read through and taken notes of important facts. I memorize details and that I think they will find interesting. I try to remember all the medical histories so they are available  when needed at doctor appointments. I’ve searched for relatives and obituaries and started biological family trees for them. I’ve read books and researched their cultures so I can teach them. It’s been fascinating and frightening at the same time.

There are the scenarios I play through my mind  if  someday I hear the words “You’re not my real mom!” or  “I want to find my biological family” or even a simple “why?”.   I don’t mind that they’ll want to know more, I delight in my daughters and everything about them. There are things I’m excited to tell them and other things that weigh on my heart…things I won’t know how to tell them when the time comes.

I get to worry about the first time they come home with assignments from school that will stir up more questions I may not be ready to answer…or cannot answer….

All our daughters will have a rich heritage with all our families traditions and cultural backgrounds.  We will pass down our heritage to them.

I tell my older daughter little things I think her young mind and heart can handle right now and tuck away other things in my heart till she is ready. It reminds me of a quote from Corrie Ten Boom about something her father said to her;

“Some knowledge is too heavy for children.

When you are older and stronger, you can bear it.

For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

So for now, I carry the knowledge for my girls.

 

I should care

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Mother’s Day. *sigh*

I should love it. I should enjoy it. But I really don’t.

A few of my miscarriages we right around Mother’s Day…in fact my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage right before. I remember the time vividly. My family had sent me a floral arrangement expressing their sorrow and it was delivered to me while I was home alone. I was handed the flowers and the delivery boy had me sign the receipt  then said cheerfully “Happy Mother’s Day!” I shut the door and sobbed.

I spent my first few Mother’s Days with empty arms. Then we brought our foster daughter home and I was suddenly a mom…but it took 3.5 years for our adoption to be finalized, so I was her mom but still not legally for so long. We were never sure she would be with us permanently, there was always that fear of her being taken away. I always had to check that box on forms that said “other” or “guardian” not “mother”.

When we had our first biological baby, someone said to me “Happy first Mother’s Day!”  Ouch.  So adoption did not make me a mother in some eyes, I had to have a bio-baby to be a real mother.

I learned to just stay home those Sundays and now I volunteer to sit in the nursery in church. It just still feels so awkward. It reminds of the sorrow I had in those early years of infertility.  I know other women in our church who never had children and longed for them. I know single women who never married and had children they hoped for. Others have lost babies and children and are reminded of the void in their lives.  It’s like Valentines day when you are a widow or Father’s Day after loosing your dad.

I like to bring flower’s to my mom and mother in law. I appreciate the gifts my kids make for me. I may be the only mom on the verge of sobbing at the Mother’s Day Tea at school…  Yes, I am grateful I get to be a mom, but I don’t need a holiday to tell me that I am blessed in that way.

If you know someone who is struggling with this day, send them a note or card. Acknowledge that the day may be difficult for them and that you are thinking of them. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it.

Ring ring

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We chose to foster again after our first biological miracle came along. My husband and I thought  another girl whose age fell between our two girls ages of 6 and 1 would be perfect. We bought a loft bed and painted our older daughters room and also put up another crib (2 cribs in our house!) in our younger daughters room. We were set and ready!

Well, as any foster parent knows, you can ‘yes’ to many kids and it may never work out. Early on we decided to be open and God would bring the kids He meant for us to have. We’ve said ‘yes’ to dozens and yet only 3 ever moved in with us! We had received many calls (I would jump every time the phone rang!) and we were still waiting.

Late one Tuesday  afternoon, I got a call asking if we’d take a one year old girl in for a week. Now, generally we don’t do short term care because our interest is long term and hopefully adoption. We felt it would be too much for our daughters to have kids coming and going frequently. We were getting a bit impatient for a placement and so we said I’d come and pick her up, at least something was happening! It would be fun to have a little guest for a week!

She had nothing but the clothes on her back and one of the care packages that the DSHS offices had been given. I didn’t know her exact age when we got the call except that she was a year old (which could mean almost 1 or almost 2). It turned out she was a week younger than our youngest daughter (and that’s a whole other post!).

Well, fast forward…and she stayed longer than a week. She stayed months…and then a year. And we recently finalized her adoption! Sometimes it’s good to step outside your comfort zone and do something you normally wouldn’t.  We would have missed out.  She’s ours and adds a lot of spice to our life!

Take my hand

Since it is National Infertility Awareness Week, I thought I would share some thoughts on ministry and infertility;

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Ministering To Those Struggling With Infertility

As I write this, my four daughters lay sleeping in their beds. The quiet is a nice change from our rambunctious day! But this wasn’t always the case, a silent house used to cause sorrow.  Years ago, my husband served as children’s pastor at our church and I helped him while we struggled with infertility and loss. Ministering to other people’s children when you long for your own was very challenging.  Many of our friends from Bible College were already having babies while we waited, took costly fertility drugs and then miscarried our first five babies.

Many infertile couples don’t talk about the challenges they face. I found it hard to get support in the church. Eventually, I found support from an online forum called Hannah’s Prayer (http://www.hannah.org) to help me through the joy of positive pregnancy tests, numerous doctor visits and tears of losing babies. They celebrated the adoption and births of our daughters with me. They allowed me to ask questions that I could not ask anywhere else. They encouraged me when my faith was weak.

It’s estimated that one in six couples are dealing with infertility.  Infertility is described in Webster’s dictionary as: “not fertile; especially: incapable of or unsuccessful in achieving pregnancy over a considerable period of time (as a year) in spite of determined attempts by heterosexual intercourse without contraception”. So, whether you realize it or not, someone in your church may be dealing with infertility and/or loss.

Eventually we became foster parents and adopted a beautiful little girl.  Adoption opened my eyes to how God sees us as His adopted sons who have a full inheritance.  Our daughter filled a huge void in our hearts and arms.

Our sixth pregnancy was successful and brought us a live baby girl right before our tenth wedding anniversary. Eleven months after that we welcomed an eleven month old girl into our home through foster care. We recently adopted her. Our seventh pregnancy brought us another little girl last July.

Though the experience of infertility and miscarriages has made me stronger in my faith and helped me minister to others more compassionately, it is a journey that will never be far from my heart.

Here are ten ways you can minister to a couple struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss;

1. Don’t compare my barrenness or loss with anything. Having no money, being spiritually dry or losing a pet you loved does not compare to the desire for a child. All my future hopes and dreams of motherhood may never become a reality.

2. Being infertile or miscarrying my baby doesn’t mean I lack faith or I haven’t reached a certain level of maturity. Most likely, I am already having a crisis of faith and struggle with this area. Reassure me that God does love me.

3. Keep away from clichés like “its God’s will”, “it’s probably for the best” or that you know “God will answer your prayers”. You don’t know the answers or what God has planned for my family’s future.

4. If I lost my unborn baby at six weeks, six months or six days after birth, don’t compare the level of grief I may be suffering.  Saying things like “at least you weren’t far along” belittles my child’s value as well as my grief and pain.  A child is a child no matter how old he or she is.

5. Do pray for me, and tell me that you do. There may be days or seasons when I feel like I can’t talk to God because of my heartache and grief.  Knowing someone is lifting me up in prayer encourages me.

6. If I share my struggles with you keep it confidential. Please ask permission to share it with others or before putting it on the prayer chain. I may still be dealing with the situation and need time to process it before facing others comments and questions.

7. Please remember to be sensitive on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I may skip the day to avoid the topic in the sermon, being the only one sitting while all the parents stand up or hearing someone who doesn’t know what we are going through say “When are you going to have a baby?” If I do come, there may be tears as I see other’s whose dreams for children have come true, while I still wait. Baby dedications are also hard for us and even Christmas where the focus is all on a baby (even though we know it’s baby Jesus).

8. Fathers have a hard time too. They also long for a child and daily see their wives hurting and longing for a baby.

9. Let me say ‘no’ to situations I may not feel strong enough for. Working in the nursery or children’s ministries may not be the best place for me now. I may not feel able to face attending or helping to host a baby shower either.  Churches are very family orientated and just being there can be a challenge for me, I may struggle fitting into typical peer groups.

10. Acknowledge my baby if I miscarry. Let me talk about him or her. It’s okay to say something or send a card. Knowing that someone remembers that I carried a life and that this little life is gone helps me grieve.  I’ll probably keep the card and tuck it in a memory box.

Do you know we belong together?

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JJ Heller puts it perfectly in her song The Boat Song;

If you were a boat, my darling
A boat, my darling
I’d be the wind at your back

If you were afraid, my darling
Afraid, my darling
I’d be the courage you lack

If you were a bird, then I’d be a tree
And you would come home, my darling, to me

If you were asleep, then I’d be a dream
Wherever you are, that’s where my heart will be

Oh, do you know we belong together?
Oh, do you know my heart is yours?

If you were the ocean, I’d be the sand
If you were a song, I’d be the band

If you were the stars, then I’d be the moon
A light in the dark, my darling, for you

Oh, do you know we belong together?
Oh, do you know my heart is yours?

Oh, do you know we belong together?
Oh, do you know my heart is yours?
Oh, do you know we belong together?
Oh, do you know my heart is yours?

After two miscarriages my husband and I decided to open our home to children and become foster parents. We wanted kids in our lives and this was the next step God called us to take.

We got the bedroom all set up with a twin bed and a crib (you never know what age to expect!) and it was decorated in yellow and blue (you never know what gender either!).  Buying the crib wasn’t easy. Every time I tried to pick out a crib for the room, I’d leave with tears in my eyes.  I felt like a fraud in my un- pregnant state and broken body standing there in the store isle. I finally told my husband to pick out a crib… as long as it was white. One day I walked in the door of our home  after work and walked past the spare bedroom and there it was. A crib. In my house.  And yes, I cried. (Even now it makes me cry!)

Not too long after my husband called me at work and told me we were getting a baby girl. How many husbands have the fun of  telling their wives they are going to be a mother? (And I cried again.)  That baby girl slept in that crib and later that bed. She still sleeps in that bed long after her adoption was finalized and legally became ours… because we belong together.

Getting to know me

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Well, I thought I would give this a try. I used to be an avid journal-er, but leaving a pen and book around my house proves to be disastrous.  Toddlers have the ability to go from 0 to a pen in about 3 seconds flat. And I have two toddlers right now. Yes, two. And no, they aren’t twins. I’ll tell you about that at a later date.  Any typos here I’ll blame on my 8 1/2 month old. Incomplete sentences will be courtesy of my almost 8 year old asking me questions.  Having four little girls keeps me pretty busy in a good way!