The Awakening

Don’t worry about the title, I’m not going to talk about Star Wars. I’m talking about myself (shocker). Throughout my foster care journey I’ve stood in front of two child abusers, a murderer/child abuser, and a wife beater. I stood to help the children in my care. I stood shaking sometimes, but still I stood. There have been circumstances in my personal life where I’ve not had ground to stand. To be there for those closest to me. I had to stay silent and seethe in anger only to myself.

Life happens and now I have a voice for those two. The first few days I was scared. I was nervous. I was anxious. Then I realized, this is what I’d prayed for. To keep them safe, to let their voices be heard. To be their voice. Suddenly, late one night, a force awoke in me that I didn’t know existed. God had kept this small portion of my spirit tucked away until it was needed. Now is the time it’s needed and the force has been released. Gone is the anxiety, the nervousness, and being afraid. In the mirror is a woman I don’t recognize, but I’m quickly growing to love. A small town wife and mother, finally given a voice. A fierceness to protect my family and all those who dwell in my home. A platform to speak and be heard. All these have been awakening in me.

This is the right thing to do. This is what I was created for. To be a wife and mother with no regrets. What my husband and I are doing, it matters. It matters to hearts of two small children. It matters to my kids. It matters to my family.

The timing was always God’s. I can see that now. Now it’s my time to roar. And those standing against my God’s will are going to be deaf by the end of this.

I went to Women of Faith five years ago. The wonderful woman leading our trip had put a post card with a verse on it for me. I’ve saved it in my wallet all these years. I’d forgotten about it. I saw it today and this was the verse. Psalm 37:4-6

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

I have assurance the my cause, their cause, will shine like the noonday sun. This whole experience has awaken my faith in a whole new way. I’m seeking God and seeing His signs, hearing His voice, and trusting in Him. This was the catalyst that threw me into His arms. This is the catalyst that released the new me. And I know it will be good.

Look at the Birds

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Welcome back to my little corner of the blogosphere. It’s been awhile my friends and I have much to tell you. Something happened today that sparked my fingers to blog, so I’ll start right here, with this morning.

But first a little back story. Years ago when I first started attending church the father of one of our Sunday School member passed away. I didn’t know him very well at all. After his father’s funeral, he stood up in the front of the church and told a story. He said it was tradition to dig family members graves themselves. He and his family had dug the grave the day before the funeral. The morning of the funeral he went out to the grave to make sure everything was okay, he was understandably very sad. He asked God “I just need something, a little something.” Then he said “God put the birds in the trees for me.” Now it seemed like a great story, but being new to church, I did not understand the significance of that story. Later, during an anxiety ridden awful part of my life, I read Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds. They don’t play or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?” and the following verse “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” That was when I understood our friend’s story. The birds were put there to remind him that God is with him and he’s more valuable to Him than anything.

That story always stuck with me. Maybe because it was my first time hearing a story of God speaking to someone. Someone that I knew in real life. It wasn’t just a neat story on the internet. Flash forward three years. I had just returned from a doctor’s appointment that turned our world upside down. Carlee didn’t just have Autism (which was our hope) she had intractable epilepsy, irreversible brain damage, Cerebral Palsy, Rumination, and a Sensory Disorder. The dreams I had for my daughter went out the window. I gave myself one night to mourn. To grieve the loss of the daughter I’d always wanted. The next day I would get up, brush myself off and fight for her. I like to think I’ve done just that. Sure, there are still moments of grief, but I’ve turned into a fierce mama bear and fight with all my might for her. But that first night, I was a mess. I didn’t want to be around anyone or talk about it. I went to buy ingredients for pizza pasta  (my comfort food). There in the Wal-Mart parking lot, I heard the nearly deafening sound of birds. I could not see a single one, but the noise was so overwhelming that I stopped dead in my tracks. My friend’s story from a few years earlier popped into my head. I knew these birds were singing just for me, straight from God. He was telling me “I’ve got this, I’ve got her, this isn’t the end. Stop worrying.”

He was true to His promise. It wasn’t the end. I don’t have the little girl I’d dreamed of, but I’ve got the most amazing little girl. I’ve got a fighter and a lover. I get the privilege of fighting for her and defending her. I get to see her grow and change. I get to see her world bloom and watch her bloom right in front of my eyes. I get to see a living breathing miracle every day. And I always smile when I see birds, never forgetting God’s promise to me on that day.

So those two stories lead us to what happened today and what I had to get down into words the moment I got home. We’ve had our foster baby for 15 months. His Facebook nickname is Bluebird. He got it for a number of reasons. One, he had teeny little bird legs and bright blue eyes. Two, I have grown to love birds. Three, I had recently read the verse “He will cover you with His feathers and under His wing you will find refuge.” Psalm 91:4. I thought it was a perfect verse for my Bluebird. It’s been 15 wonderful months that God has given us to raise and love this adorable little boy. We prayed he’d stay in our family. But we always prayed for God to have His will done and do what’s best for Bluebird. God’s will and my plan didn’t align this time. Bluebird is leaving our home in a few weeks. His new family is crazy amazing. I feel very very lucky that he’s going to such an awesome home. They are Christians and very family oriented. They have two younger sons, so he’ll still be surrounded by big brothers. The very best part is that both his new family and his mama are insisting we stay in Bluebird’s life. We’ve stayed involved in our other babies lives, but they aren’t local. Sweet Bluebird is only going to be 15 minutes away. We’ll get to see him often and watch him grow up. I couldn’t be more thankful for this whole situation. It’s truly the best I could have hoped for.

This morning I took him over to his family’s house for a day visit. As I was driving down the long dirt road to their home, I kept seeing birds diving in and out of the fields. I smiled to myself. Then, I turned the bend and came upon a field, out of the field flew hundreds of black birds. A huge cloud of them, straight from the field where they were hidden and into the air. Just for a moment, long enough for me to exclaim “Look at all the birds” and then back they went, hidden amongst the grass. The birds, placed right there for me to see. God’s promise for my Bluebird. He’s got this, He’s got him. It’s going to be okay.

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Welcome to the Roller Coaster

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Two years ago there were some foster kids in need. My friend was fighting tooth and nail to keep her kids safe. She hired a lawyer. We all wanted to help. Thus, a book was born.

Fourteen foster mothers got together and wrote our stories. Foster care is full of the highest highs and the lowest lows, sometimes in the same day (or the same hour). There are twists and turns and drops that make your stomach sick. It truly is a roller coaster. Two years later, those children my friend tried so hard to keep, have left. But, her story didn’t end and neither did ours.

Welcome to the Roller Coaster is a book born of love for a particular foster mother and her two kids. It turned into a labor of love for fourteen mothers. For some it was painful to write and others found it therapeutic. For myself, it stirred up many emotions both soul shattering and joyful. The authors are all anonymous, unless we choose to identify ourselves.

Fourteen mothers raising over 135 foster children. This book is a snapshot of some of those stories. If you’re interested in foster care or if you’ve ever thought about it, this book is for you. Foster care is hard and dirty and best and the hardest thing we’ve ever done. This book is full of all those truths.

The book is available for pre-order until December 14th. It is $14.99 plus shipping. Eventually, it will be available on Amazon and as an e-book. This is our first printing. Our hope is to have this book to you by Christmas (though it’s not a guarantee).

Come along and cry and laugh with us. Stand in line and get ready for the best roller coaster of your lives! You can order at http://welcometotherollercoaster.blogspot.com/

Blue is the new Purple?

We opened our home up to foster care again. I haven’t been actively pursuing it, but I did let them know the new cell phone numbers and our new age range. A 3-6 year old girl. It’s been over two years since we got a call and almost a year since we’ve had a foster child. April 25th is Carlee’s Anderson day, the day she was adopted. So when the phone rang with our county’s number, I didn’t think much of it. However, it was ‘the’ call. Our 3-6 year old girl turned into a 14 month old baby boy. Carlee remains the purple in my life. Our new little one is nicknamed Bluebird, he has big beautiful blue eyes and teeny little bird legs and arms. He’s just adorable.

Everyone has acclimated well. Matthew likes that Bluebird plays Cars with him. Shane is happy with a baby. Period. He’s my baby whisperer, the flock to him. Sam and Jackson are pretty indifferent, having wanted an older child to play with, Bluebird is just another baby in the house. Carlee is thrilled that there’s more cups and puffs around now.

Her rumination started acting up about a week before Bluebird got here. She’s back on the feeding tube during the day. My hope is that we can get it under control before she makes it a habit again. Her finger is all gross again too, so the guard is back on. I’m praying this is a temporary setback.

Some days is leaps and bounds forward and other days is one step forward two steps back. One day, she’s just going to strap on skates and be so far into the sunset, we won’t even recognize her.

Foster Care Changed Me

There’s nothing quite like foster care. To raise a child that’s not yours by birth. Having to get out of your introvert bubble and dealing with people in your life and in your home. Powers that be examining every aspect of your life from your income to your driving record to what medicines you take. The invasion goes on and on. I get it, it’s important that no child slips through the cracks of the system. It sadly happens much more often that in should. So we don’t complain. At least out loud. We speed clean our homes, spiff up our children and smile and welcome yet another stranger in our homes. Sometimes with very little notice. I got a call once and set up the appointment and honestly could not remember who I set the appointment with. I had a name but no memory of who they were. Add special needs to the mix and you get even more people. Therapists, home health, Community options, public school teachers, and the list is ongoing.

We literally give our blood (blood tests). We give our homes, our hearts, our tears, and our laughter. And if we’re really lucky, that child gets to stay with us. Two of our four placements stayed. They were adopted. They became ours. Forever. After going through all the turmoil, the months, even years, of living in a state of unknown. Living with your life, not your own, and with very little control. Having to drop your life at a moments notice for a visit, a court hearing, a house visit, and any other number of necessary interruptions. Days of sitting in a tiny waiting room, waiting for a relative that never shows up. Hours of waiting in a court house for yet another no-show. Not being able to take a trip without permission. Many many many nights up in your thoughts, your worst nightmares, and just maybe daring to dream. We do this. For years.

Foster care changed me. It changed me to my core. I am not longer the passive mother I used to be. I used to think what everyone’s opinion of me, that is somehow mattered. I became stronger than I ever imagined I would have to be. I have my ducks in a row at all times. I have binders and binders of court records, visitation schedules, missed visits, no shows, medical records, and in the back I have two final orders of adoptions. In those paper it says that no matter what happens these two children are mine. NOTHING can change the adoption. NOBODY can dictate to me what to do with my children.

Foster care changed me. It changed my heart. To weep for children without a home. To mourn a child I raised for eight months, a baby who called me mommy. To mourn the loss of my first daughter and her blue eyes and curls. To rejoice when we were told by phone “he’s yours forever.” To be able to march into any doctors office and never have to hear “you’re not her real mother” when demanding a test.

Foster care changed me. Most I feel is for the better. My children have a level of compassion they would not have had without it. I’ve given speeches at churches overcoming my fear of public speaking. I have a voice for the voiceless even if that voice shakes when spoken.

Foster care changed me. I never knew what happened in court. I’d never even been a courtroom. I now know behind the scenes. I know what a GAL is, what a CASA worker is, I know the lawyers who love us and would defend us to the ends of the earth. I know the judges who have praised us for what I’m doing and will always be on our side. All I can say is that those two children are our gifts, we’re the ones who are blessed for having them. I know social workers who rave about us. I know a list of people who would vouch for our family.

Foster care changed me. I made friends with people I never would have any other way. I’ve been out of my comfort zone so many times, I can’t remember what my comfort zone looks like anymore. I’ve gotten the immense joy in picking my own family members. I’ve quietly rooted for birth families, relishing when they make good choices, if not for my child, then at least for the other children they have. I’m cried if it fails. I’ve had to share my child with those who share their blood. That is hard, but it’s what’s right for them. I’ve had to suppress comments, knowing they mean no harm. I’ve hugged them, laughed with them, commiserated with them, mourned with them, I’ve been angry with them, bewildered by choices. And I love them despite all of this.

Foster care has changed me. I have the fiercest mama bear protection over my kids. After all they’ve been through, I silently dare someone to mess with that. I would defend my children until my last breath. If anyone tried to hurt them, physically or emotionally, well let’s just hope they don’t. I know what it is like to say goodbye, I know the hurt, the empty place in my heart that no one can fill. There will never be another baby J, there will never be another Little Miss. I was blessed to have time with them, to share my love with them. I have seen my boys cry at having to say goodbye over and over during transitions. I know it made their hearts softer. These five children are mine. They are ours. They share our last name. We are a family and if anybody tried to mess with that, a mother bear would look like a kitten next to me. I sincerely hope nothing like that ever happens. It would be a mistake to all involve.

See what I mean, foster care changed me. There’s nothing like raising and loving a child you didn’t get the honor of bearing. “A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The depth of that tragedy and the magnitude of that privilege are not lost on me.” Jody Landers It could be switched to daddy as well. It’s not just me in this journey. My husband has shared in all of these emotions and supported me through many of them. If I’m a mama bear, he’s a daddy lion. No one messes with our cubs!

So if you’re considering foster care, please know it’s not easy. It’s messy and sad and causes more heartbreak that you thought possible. Kids are not in foster care because they came from happy healthy families. Something happened. Things happened that horror stories can compare with. We are broken while trying our best to heal them. It’s not easy and it WILL change you. But it will be for the better, and in the mean time you will fall in love and even if they are only with your for a little while, they will know that love. And it will stay with them. If you get the miracle of adoption, it will change you even more. You will never see the world the same again. Rose colored glasses are shoved in a drawer. The world of foster care is hard. So hard. But in the end whether they stay or go, it’s worth it. And if they stay, you become a family forever and nothing can ever change that.

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About Birth Parents

I want to say a few things about birth parents. Our two youngest children are adopted from foster care. In most cases, children are in foster care because they were abused or neglected. In general, social services does not take children from happy, loving, and safe homes. (Yes, it does happen, but it’s rare) Our adoptions were not happy ones. We weren’t handpicked from loving birth parents who chose our family to raise their children. We were picked by the county as the best home for the child in that emergency minute. Our life isn’t about newborn open adoptions or international adoptions, where children are placed by their parents. So my words about my birth parents, may be harsh, may be angry, and when I look at my beautiful babies, I feel they are justified. I am working incredibly hard to be loving towards them. It’s a daily battle. A bout of night time seizures makes my blood boil. It’s hard to be loving towards the person who hurt my daughter. A missed visit, makes my heart sad, that effort is not put forth.

I do not wish to offend anyone who has lovingly placed their child for adoption. That is an amazing sacrifice, to do what’s best for your child, to give them life at all. But, that is not my case, my son’s case, or my daughter’s case. They were removed from their homes, their parents, because of trauma, neglect, and abuse. Their beginnings are sad. The rest of their lives, well, I hope they are amazing. But, they will always know, this isn’t where they started. One day we have to break their hearts and tell them the truth about the people who gave them life. And that breaks my heart.

If my words towards any of the birth parents in my life are angry at times, be patient with me. I try not to speak ill of them, but they are in my life in one way or another. Times come when I am bitter and, well, pissed off at their actions. I will try my best to keep this from happening, but I know it will. It’s all part of our story.