Thursday, January 30, 2014

Supporting Foster/Adoptive Parent's Through Reminders

The journey of helping your foster or adopted child heal is long.  Often you don't seen the changes in your child.  It's easy to get wrapped up in the struggle and forget how far they've come.

Here's an example from our life.  I have often been reminded by a dear, sweet friend that when we first started taking the kids to church they were straight faced, no emotions.  They wouldn't look you in the eye.  Now, Little Man goes running down the hall with a smile on his face, straight to his classroom.  He even held our Children's Director's hand on his own.  Big Brother greets people with confidence and a smile.  He'll have a conversation with them.  Baby Girl was standing all by herself and when Grandpa Bob approached her the other day she greeted him.  She's even told me a name or two of people she goes to Sunday School or Awana with. 

They are growing, healing, and making progress.  However, I walk through those doors and all that's on my mind is the melt down we had over the fact that all the buttons on the shirt weren't button.  The child who spent the entire drive telling me they didn't want to go to church or live in our house.  The disrespect shown when I said they couldn't bring that toy with them.

How sweet it is when my friend reminds me of how far they have come.  It brings a breathe of fresh air.

Side Note: Please be careful not to belittle a foster or adoptive parents struggle that they may be sharing.  If they are choosing to open up to you what they are usually looking for is a listening ear.  

If you have been around a foster/adoptive family for a length of time you've probably seen a few things change.  Take a minute to note one change, maybe the way the child seems happier, sits better, talks better, greets people, etc.  The next time you see that parent (or hop on Facebook or your phone and send them a note) simply say, "I've noticed how much better your child _________________ lately.  That's wonderful.  We are praying for you guys."  It will brighten their day.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Getting Here: My Journey to Now

You can read the beginning of this story last Monday.

From there God laid a path of adoption before me.  I was Cubbie Director in an Awana program that was 80% to 90% unchurched-almost all low-income families. I saw the hurt.  Working with those kids led me to want to work with kids.  I knew I wanted to work with low income, hurting families.  However, I wasn't sure how.

My youth group leader in high school was a preschool teacher.  She wisely told me that Children's Ministry and Preschool Teacher was not where God was calling me.  Laura introduced me to FCS, Family and Consumer Sciences.

Home Ec?  What?  Actually its so MUCH more then that.  There is a component to FCS that is Human Development and Family Relationships.  One of the best schools for this major was Illinois State University.

I entered ISU with a desire to adopt and a plan to work with hurting kids and families.  But God wanted to teach me more.  He led me to a church where the Youth Director had started just a year or two before.  He was married to an amazing woman who was passionate about orphans.  What I didn't realize was the year I arrived God was stiring in her heart a desire to start an Orphan Care Ministry.

Almost two years after arriving at that church I approached her about joining her team.  This woman has been amazing and encouraging friend.  I am so thankful for her.  She has educated me, pushed me, and helped me to learn when to hold back.  Her passion encourages mine, and her wisdom helps me stay grounded.

All of this led to Tony and I saying yes to two precious girls.  God would shut the door on those amazing children, but use it to draw my heart to where it is now.    It is amazing to see where God put each piece of the puzzle into place.  Without taking me through the hoops, I don't think I would be were I am now.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Getting Real: Derailed

de·rail  (d-rl)intr. & tr.v. de·railed, de·rail·ing, de·rails
     1. To run or cause to run off the rails.
So many times in this journey of foster care I have watched as our family gets derailed.  We think things are going well, we are meshing as a family, starting to enjoy life.  Then suddenly we derail.

I've got this parenting thing down.  We are having a good day.  I look up to see my child has broken that same boundary, again.  And my patience is done.
Sweet Pea is playing and laughing with her siblings.  Suddenly, she crawls into my lap and asks when they are going to go back "home".
One of my kiddos is eating lunch.  Suddenly, they turn and smack their sibling.  They declare they don't like living here.  They want their birth mom.
Little Man's communication is up, he's having a great morning.  Then he goes to school and his teacher is unexpectedly gone.  Now he can't handle life.  Melt downs begin.
Tony goes through each day trying to hold it together through full time work and school.  Then I call him to let him know that the kids broke something new.  More of his precious time will be taken up by fixing that toilet for the third time.
One of my kiddos is not happy that they got "caught" being mean to a sibling.  They wait until I'm pumping gas then turn and pull that siblings hat off their head.  Melt downs and fights ensue.

I think I've gotten a good parenting style down.  But Tony hasn't read the book like I have.


I've learned I have two choices when life derails.  I can handle this situation on my own terms, letting it overwhelm me, giving harsh responses.  Or I can handle it on God's terms with Grace and compassion.

Unfortunately, most of time I try to handle it on my own.  How thankful I am that God handles me on his terms and not my own.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Getting Here: My Journey to Now

I've shared how we started foster care.  How God drew my very opposed heart to this point.  But I was sold on God's plan to care for orphans way before that.  Adoption was a part of the everyday conversation when we got married.

God began drawing my heart to adoption in high school.  I went on a missions trip to Brazil with Awana.  In my training six months before, other teams began talking about going to orphanages in India.  My heart began to stir.  When I asked my mom if they would adopt a child from another country if I fell in love with an orphan, I was shocked that with six kids she said, "yes".  That "yes" showed me things like adoption were real, not just dreams.

On my team was Erinn, an on fire for the Lord, spunky, fun, teenager.  There was something unique about Erinn.  Her family was currently waiting to bring home two precious treasures from Africa.  Those kids' picture captured my heart.

I may have asked a few lot of questions about adoption those two weeks.  I may have slightly really annoyed Erinn.  However, she answered every single question.  I'm not even sure if she remembers that.  But God used her at a strategic time in my life to capture my heart for His future.  Her parents would be really proud of her.

You can read the rest of the story next Monday.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Supporting Foster/Adoptive Parents through Prayer

Foster Care. Adoption.

It makes you feel lonely.  You are defending your parenting to everyone you come across.  Some think your kids are horrible and you should be harder on them.  Others think your kids are the best thing since sliced cake and when you give them a glimpse into reality (ie temper tantrums, rages, manipulations) they think it's all your problem.

In foster care you are dealing with caseworkers and their bosses, CASA's, GAL, States Attorney, transporters.  Each has their own opinion of how you should be doing things.  Kids from hard places often have IEP's (Individualized Education Plans....a plan a school has to follow for that specific child).  You have counselors and therapists.  Doctors.  Parents who adopt (typically internationally) are dealing with the child's birth country, counselors, international doctors, and others.

And you feel like you have to maintain a certain standards, not let others see the struggles.  You are unsure who to trust when things get hard.

For me, there is a small reprieve from this when I get a text from my sis-in-law, "How can I pray for you?  How is this going?"  A simple action that means the world.  She doesn't have to know every gritty detail.  She never judges.  She simple asks, listens, and follows through by praying.

It's not hard.  Find a family today who is fostering or (is) has adopted.  If you don't personally know someone, then do a quick google search.  (You can also look at my side tab for families.)  Send them a quick text, email, or facebook message.  Or better yet, talk to them in person.  Leave the judgement behind and simply listen, then pray for them.  It WILL make a difference.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Living Life with Littles: Snack Bags

People always ask me how I do it.  My response, "by the Grace of God."  And that's the truth.  I'm also thankful for some of the helps He has allowed us to put in place.

I've mentioned before that we practically live in our van.  That means we eat in it a lot.  If we are going somewhere we are probably eating either a meal or a snack.  However, coordinating snacks and getting them to be back of the van can be a challenge, especially when you are talking about things like crackers that are small and easily dropped.

Our solution: snack bags.  

I always have a box of them in the van.  This has made life so much easier.  If we are running out the door to an appointment I can grab a box of crackers and fill bags in the car.  It's also nice if we get stuck out during a snack time.  I can easily pick up a bag of pretzels or animal crackers and make my kiddos happy.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Getting Real: Goals and Starting the Year Badly

I have three "simple" goals for the year: Relationships, Finances, and Organization.  I love that go get 'em feeling at the beginning of the year.  I became a decluttering, organizing machine.  I had that accountant husband of mine build me a worksheet to help balance the budget.  I was ready.

But I forgot one thing.  The most important goal.  Relationships.  Really it's the number one thing I wanted to focus on, the other things were side notes.  I was grumpy at the kids.  Every-time the interrupted my projects, I snapped.  I was begging them to go back to school.  I was totally missing where God had called my heart for the year.

Then God brought THE snow storm of the winter to our back yard.  I was forced to cancel my Satruday plans of my nephews birthday party.  And while Tony spent the day in school, I spent the day home with the kids, again.

But this time God had begun working on my heart.  I decided that I was going to say "yes" to my kids, rather then "I'm busy".

Yes, you can cut with the fun scissors.  Would you like to cut paper or play-dough?

Yes, I will read that book to you.

Sure, I can play for a bit.

Yes, I will answer all your questions (like 20) about the weather page.

It took 20 minutes of my day to say yes, instead of no.  And we went to bed that day in a much better state of mind.  God's still working on my heart and attitude.  It's a daily struggle to put the list down, get down on their level, and say yes.

On the day I write this, the arctic freeze has taken over the outside world (-45 wind chill).  In an attempt to keep warm, we have shut ourselves into our living room (thanks to an old house with sorta functioning sliding doors).  We are watching movies, eating popcorn, enjoying homemade cinnamon rolls.  God has placed me next to my munchkin that I struggle with the most.  Right now that child's head is resting comfortably on my shoulder.  It took a storm to help me see heart was off track, to slow down, and to remember where God has drawn my heart.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014 Goals

The end of one year and the beginning of another is the perfect time for reflection.  I posted last years completed goals yesterday.  It was so awesome to see so many things checked off.  However, our kids and our family are NOT where we want them.  And we've come to realize that in order to get them there we need to have time to just be a family, to sit down at night and build relationships.  So I'm becoming very concentrated in my goals and Tony and I are starting to look at our year in a different way.


*With God
*With our kids
*With each other
*With other foster and special needs families

Some ways to do this:
*More one on one with the kids
*Devotions personally, as a family, and as a couple
*Intentional actions as husband and wife
*Time with friends who are in similar situations (make ourselves more available to serve them).


*Of our house
*Of our ministries
*Of paperwork

Some ways to do this:
*Organization of EVERYTHING!
*Going through every inch of our house and getting rid of.


*Paying down debt
*Saving up for future things and events we want to accomplish

I'm not sure how these goals will all play out, but we hope to look back at the end of the year and feel calm about life in general, confident in our family, and firm in how God has called us to spend our money.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 Goals Completed

Overall I would say I got a lot of things accomplished this year.  It feels so nice to "check" it off the list at the end of the year.

*Complete the Couch to 5K program.
*Finish six books...including The Well Connect Child, The Out-of-Sync Child, and The Out-of-Sync Child has fun.
*Complete 4 "21 Days" projects (including the kids' life books and spring cleaning).
*Write a blog post bi-weekly (goal updates don't count).
*Decide on and complete one blog series.

*Work on both ministries (King's Closet and Awana) three times a week for at least 1 hour each time. (Awana-yes....KC-no)
*Do the research of becoming a non profit for King's Closet, possibly begin process.

*Start and keep updated the kids' life books. (Nothining....just ideas in my head)
*Write case worker a thank you note four times a year. (We wrote two thank you notes, and then I fell off the band wagon)
*Spend 10 minutes a night filling out behavior journal.

*Work on Awana 4 nights a week with Big Brother and Addilece.
*Work with each child on specific things they each need 3 times a week.
*Spend 2 hours a week doing specific sensory activities. (I want to become more intentional about this this next year).
*Put the helps that Little Man needs into place.
*Take each child on a date twice this year.

*Spend at least one night/weekend alone.
*Read the Bible together 4 nights a week. (We were not very good at this.)
*Spend two nights a month on an in home date.
*Spend one night a month on an out of home date. (This is just NOT possible at this stage in life....having in home dates after the kids go to bed allows us to have time together and the refreshment we need.)
*Write a love note once a month. (All but November)
*Ask Tony what he wants done most every week.
*Sit down once a month to re-evaluate schedules and cut what needs to be cut, add what needs to be added.

*Have a bi weekly financial meeting.
*Update the check book bi-weekly.
*Pay off a set amount of debt. (Plus some)
*Save for an anniversary trip. (Plus a new dryer and washing machine and a new xbox and kinect)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 At A Glimpse

It's officially here, 2014.  Like the odd and even years of my kids births this one hasn't really taken me by surprise.  (When my kids turn even years it doesn't shock me, but every odd year- 1, 3, 5!!!!!!!!- those take me by storm).  Here is our year in a glimpse:


Heather's 25th Birthday.

My Dad preached a good bye sermon at the church my parents attended for over 30 years.

Photo thanks to Renowned and Crowned

Little Man gets an official epilepsy diagnosis.




Tony celebrated his 21st Birthday.

Big Brother got his tonsils removed.


Our kids finished out the school year.

We went camping!  It was a blast.

My brother graduates at Valedictorian of his class.




School begins again, 3 at public and 1 at home.


Little Man and Baby Girl turn 4.

Court, Court, and Court.


We finish up our 3rd court date as part of a major step in our kids future.  We realize we've been holding our breathe for the last month.

We celebrate Thanksgiving.

Gingerbread houses, presents, concerts, travel, and is the Christmas season!