Joy.

Today I got to take Mo to his first visit with his mama in the community. She has had visits with him that are motioned by DHS and at a specified location, but this was the first time that it is supervised by a friend of his mamas (who is approved by DHS) in her home!

The only word I have to describe the emotion I saw and experienced from his mama when I met her at the coffee shop was pure JOY. She was BEAMING! She was so excited and even giddy!

Driving to the meet up point I was overcome with this emotion and excitement for her. This is the first time she will have him in the car with her and they will drive together somewhere. This is the first time that she will have him at her home. This is the first time that she gets to truly feel what (sort of) real life is like with a baby in tow. This is the first time that she gets to just have her friend and her and her baby, instead of a DHS worker with a badge and strict rules. This is her first taste of true freedom with her son. And I am SO excited for her! So proud, so thankful and so joyful.

But along with the excitement is a twinge of pain. This babe has been in our care for 8 months. He has only ever been watched by us, close friends of ours, and DHS workers. That’s it. He’s been ours with our people. To have a total stranger supervising causes protective mama bear to come out a bit. As that twinge of fear and pain and protectiveness comes up it is met by the Holy Spirit calming me, calling me in closer to a deeper trust. Jesus reminds me that Mo is HIS son first and foremost. And when I don’t go with him, the Holy Spirit does. Even though I’m not there to watch and listen and hover, I can trust the He loves Mo even more than I do! He is there, He will protect him.

So I loosen my grip a bit and I head to Home Depot for subway tile to complete a project we’ve been working on for a while… since I now have 4 hours without a baby around!

James1v27.

We were asked to write up our story of how we got into fostering, how we continue fostering and how this all pertains to James 1v27. It just so happens that James 1v27 is like a theme verse to our life, and something we refer to often.

I figured since I wrote this up, I might as well share it with all of you. Enjoy 💜

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James 1v27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

You know how at the beginning of the year people come up with a word that they like to theme the year around? It could be things like healthy, or thrive, or grow, or contentment, or intentionality, or whatever else it may be. James 1v27 is kind of like our theme “word” for our life, for our family. It all started back when my husband and I first met. We met on a mission trip that the church sent over to Thailand to care for the orphans with Remember Nhu. We fell in love over our love of caring for the orphan… cheesy huh? But I mention that because it set us up for the life we would lead together.

After a very short dating and engagement period, we got married, then four short months later the church hosted an event called “Father to the Fatherless”. It was for those interested in mentoring, fostering or adopting. Chad and I had always talked about adopting – down the road a LONG way. But between his interest in mentoring, and our joint interest in adopting eventually, we figured it would be good to go. Little did I know, Chad was also interested in fostering. We wound up (accidently as I thought) in the breakout session for fostering. We both walked out knowing without a doubt that God was calling us to foster – that this was going to be one way our family expressed James 1v27.

The next week after the Father to the Fatherless event, we found out we were expecting our first baby! We laid out this desire to foster to the Lord and asked Him what He wanted to do with it, now that we were going to have a baby. We felt called to keep walking forward in the journey to fostering, but to do so slowly. It takes time to take the foster care classes, to get certified, and get to the point of being ready to take kids in, so we felt this was a good direction to go. When Naomi, our oldest, was 2 months old, we both felt Jesus was pulling us to take the next step and take the foster care classes. When she was 10 months old, we welcomed our first sibling set of two beautiful girls ages 8 and 10 into our home.

We were beyond excited, incredibly nervous, and really had NO clue what we were doing! We had a 10 month old after all… not any older kids! But this sense of excitement, nervousness, and having no clue what we were doing became our new normal – and in all honesty is STILL our “normal”, almost four years into fostering! But that’s the beauty of it all. We are just a normal family, with normal emotions, normal hearts, normal calls on our life… we are just following through with what Jesus has asked us to do… to care for the orphans in our community.

Fostering for us is just that. Normal. These kids, OUR kids, are just normal kids. They are normal kids that have had awful, traumatic things happen to them. They are normal kids that have been dealt a really tough hand in life. And we get to LOVE them like crazy! We get to be there for the first smiles and giggles, for the first steps, for the huge smiles, for all the anger, for all the tantrums, for the disappointment when their bio parents don’t show up for a visit, for the heartbreak when they learn they don’t get to go back home… ever. We get to be there for all of that. We get to bring Jesus into all of those moments. We get to experience the high highs and the low lows with our kids. We get to teach them about the unending, never failing, incredible love Jesus has for each of us. We get to teach them they are worth it, that they deserve the absolute best. And that is exactly what we feel Jesus means in this verse. Caring for our kids means we do all the “regular” caring you do for your own kids, and on top of that, you step in to deal with the HOURS of appointments, the hours of driving around to visits, the hours spent on the phone fighting for our kids’ best interest, the hours spent in court every few months, the difficulty that co-parenting with the state brings, and the ever complicated aspect that parenting kiddos with huge trauma has to offer.

In just under four years of fostering, we have had 11 kiddos in our home. Most have been older (around 8-12 years old), but this last fall we took in a baby. He was 28 hours old. I picked him up from the bassinet at the nurses’ station at the hospital. I walked out of the hospital with someone else’s baby. THAT was a new and different situation that brought all sorts of emotions that we hadn’t experienced yet. The strongest emotion it brought to me was a sense of my heart completely breaking for this little guys mama. She had 24 hours with her baby. 24 hours. Then she was right back into the prison. Having given birth three times myself, I truly grieved for this mama I knew so very little about. Healing without her baby in her arms. Milk coming in without her baby there to consume it. Hormones RAGING as they do after giving birth, and not getting to smell his sweet newborn smell. This was the first time that my heart truly broke for the bio parents. Sure, with each of our kids I think of their parents. Most of the time we have had interactions with their parent(s). But this time was different. This time I feel Jesus brought forth another portion of James 1v27 to action – to care for the orphan AND the widow. Granted, she didn’t have a husband who passed away, but the baby’s dad was in prison as well so she didn’t have his support. I felt Jesus was pulling me in to care for this baby’s mama. But Jesus, HOW do I do that? She is in prison! I’m not even approved to go into the prison to meet with her. He answered, as He always does… “Write to her”. So I did. And I have continued writing since that first day we brought him home. I have sent these letters to her, and they have become a lifeline for her, and for the baby’s daddy too. It has brought a sense of peace and a huge relief to them to know more about us, the family caring for their baby. It has established a sweet relationship between me and his mama. I got to meet her for the first time about a month ago, and it was an incredibly amazing moment as we were able to hug one another – mama to mama – loving the same baby so fiercely. Since then, she has shared what an incredible support that we have been to her. That she feels empowered and READY to fight to be clean and sober and get on the right track for her son because of our support. That to me is one way Jesus has called us to care for the widow.

Now I don’t want you to think we have it all together, that we are perfect… because we are FAR from that. We mess up all the time. We say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, hit triggers in our kids that we didn’t know were there, and have to ask for Jesus’ amazing, unfailing forgiveness and grace all the time. But every time He meets us there with more forgiveness and grace than we even knew existed. He continues to fill us up to the point that we can keep going. That we can grieve when they leave, we can cry until there are no more tears, and then we can answer the phone and say “yes” to the next placement. Because this is our normal and because God is just so, so good.

Attachment.

“I could neeeever foster… I would just get too attached!”

What does that even mean? No seriously. What does “too attached” mean? Or are you implying that we don’t get attached? Or that we don’t have the emotional capacity that you do?

I’m truly not tying to be rude or sound harsh… but we get told this line allllllllllll the stinking time. “I’d get too attached”.

So. I’d love to spend a few minutes talking about attachment.

The dictionary defines attached in two ways…

1. joined, fastened, or connected to something or someone.

2. full of affection or fondness.

I love both of these and I think they both pertain to the attachment that our sweet kids need, what they crave, what they deserve.

Yes. We get attached. Yes, we let our guard down. Yes, we let them into our hearts. Yes, it is heartbreakingly difficult to let them go when it is time. Yes, it is even more difficult when we don’t feel it’s a good or the right situation we’re saying goodbye for them to go to.

But does that stop us from attaching? Hell no.

Sorry for my bluntness. But NO! That is PART of the beauty of foster care! We GET to attach to these kids. We GET to show them what love is, what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it feels like. We GET to teach them that there is a different way of parenting. We GET to teach them that they deserve to be attached to. We GET to teach them what it means to be a son or daughter in our family.

Attachment is a beautiful thing.

It doesn’t always come easy when fostering, however. We have had more that one kiddo that I have had to be on my knees begging God to help me attach to them… to love them how He loves them. But it is worth it.

To those that feel they would get too attached to kiddos if they were to foster… YOU are who we need. YOU would be a perfect foster family. Because you want to attach, you want to shower these kids with love and affection. And that is what they need.

For some kids this is the first true attachment they’ve had. With our little guy we have right now that is absolutely the case. Having picked him up from the hospital at 28 hours old, I am mom to him, my husband is his dad, our daughters are his sisters. He knows nothing else.

He deserves to be attached to. He deserves to be looked in the eye and told that he is LOVED by us. He deserves to have me with a camera in his face trying to catch some of those incredible first smiles. He deserves to have someone making a fit with DHS because he had too many visits with too many strangers in one week that caused over stimulation and separation anxiety. He deserves to have those cute monthly pictures taken of him. He deserves to be doted on, to be answered to, to be held and rocked and worn. He deserves it all.

And that is attachment.

That is love.

That is foster care.

We wear our hearts on our selves. We know the heartbreak will come. We know his time with us is relatively short. We know all these things. And it is rather difficult at times to stay in the moment and to be present, knowing what the future holds. But it’s a choice to say those things will NOT get in the way of attaching. Because my life, my emotions, my heartbreak is certainly not more important than his.

So next time you think “there’s no way I could foster… I’d get too attached”… maybe think about the other side. Maybe think about the little girl or little boy on the other side BEGGING to have someone to attach to.

Maybe try putting their life first, before yours.

I bet it’ll change your perspective.

Hospital.

The drive to the hospital normally takes about 15 minutes. But when I was headed there to pick up our little guy, it felt like an eternity.

My hands were sweaty. My heart was racing. Thoughts FLOODED my mind. Emotions raced through my heart.

Are we really ready to welcome this little guy?

I’m so excited!

I wonder what he looks like.

I wonder if he has a name yet.

We have a name for him… baby Moses.

What if they don’t let me leave with him?

What if he has colic like our youngest?

I’m sure he will be great! He has to be…

His mama. Oh my heart. His mama.

I can’t even begin to imagine what she is going through.

Healing after giving birth and not having her son to snuggle.

Milk coming in and not having a baby to feed.

Post partum emotions going crazy and not having the ability to bond with her baby.

I. Can’t. Even. Imagine.

My heart BROKE for his mama on my drive and has broken for her everyday since.

I finally got to the hospital, and walked the long hall. The last time I walked this hall was when I was 9 months pregnant with our youngest, there to help my parents and see my grandma who was dying. To hold my grandmas hand as she floated in and out. That long hall had a whole new look to it now. It was filled with all sorts of emotions as I walked down it.

Then I turned the corner off the main hallway to meet the social worker from the hospital we had been working with. She led me through the big double doors and to the nurses station.

And there he was. Sweet baby Moses. All swaddled up in the bassinet hanging out at the nurses station. So alone. Left. Abandoned.

They escorted me to a room to watch the “purple crying” video and do paperwork. The nurse asked if I needed anything, and I just asked “can I hold him?” “Yes!! Yes of course! Enjoy! I’ll be back in a bit.” I felt like I still needed permission to hold someone else’s baby.

She walked out and it was just him and I. 28 hours old. Someone else’s baby that I now was choosing to love as my own. I picked him up, kissed his sweet little cheeks, told him it was going to be okay, told him that I loved him and that his mama loved him.

We sat and rocked and I just watched him (even though I was supposed to watch the purple crying video… oops! The way I saw it was that I made it through colic, I think I’ll be alright! 😬). I fed him a bit, but mostly just looked at him. Studying his face, savoring these moments. I was amazed with how much he looked like our girls when they were brand new! So much so I even did a side by side photo comparison of all of them and some of my friends couldn’t differentiate him from our girls!

After the video was over, the nurse came in with some paperwork and a box of clothes mom had been collecting.

I rummaged through the box looking for anything that was maybe a going home outfit mama had picked out. I found a pair of pants that were newborn size, but that was about it. So I got him dressed and took lots of pictures. Got him loaded in the car seat and the nurse said I was free to leave.

Free to leave.

With someone else’s baby.

It was so so so weird.

And I walked out of the hospital just like that.

Yes.

We took a break from fostering last October. And for 10 months God worked in big ways in our hearts. I’ll share more on that later.

But after not having any foster kiddos for 10 months, we were at a place of wondering. When would we get back into it? Would it look the same as before? Are we done? Is it time to just focus on our girls? But there’s still this stirring in our hearts for fostering.

We spent a long time asking, seeking and knocking… waiting and waiting for some guidance and some direction in our fostering journey. We knew God would answer, just didn’t know when or how.

Then this summer a friend of ours did respite for a 2 month old and it got us thinking. “We could do a baby…….”

We looked into getting that little guy, but it wasn’t going to work out.

As we continued praying and talking, we felt we had confirmation to move forward… but we’d have to be picky.

Tuesday night we emailed our certifier to let her know we’d be interested in taking a baby. But we told her we had to be picky…. the baby had to be under 6 months old, not drug affected (my heart absolutely goes out to those babes, but with 3 other littles at home I knew I wasn’t equipped with time or ability to help with withdrawals, etc.), and the baby needed to be a singleton, we couldn’t do a sibling set. We told her we knew this was a pretty specific request and that we figured we would have to wait a while for a placement.

She emailed back Wednesday morning SO excited to hear from us! She loved the idea of us getting a baby, and said she would start working on getting the exception from her supervisor for us to have 3 ages 3 and under in the house.

Friday morning she was able to connect with her supervisor and get the exception written.

Baby Mo was born at 10 am that morning.

The supervisor came to our certifier and asked if we were ready. She said “I think so!”

Our certifier called me at about 1 pm. I was SHOCKED! Here we thought we’d be waiting a while.

All she knew was that it was a BOY and that he was totally healthy, that mom hadn’t used drugs in several months so he wasn’t going through withdrawals. And that he didn’t have a name. She told us to get a name ready because if mom didn’t name him before she left the hospital, we would have to give him a name before we left the hospital.

I called Chad, and we both felt we were ready to say YES.

While most people have 9 months to prepare for a baby, we had an evening. A couple trips to Target, a couple calls and texts to close friends who immediately ordered us and brought us several things, and some moving of furniture, and we were “ready”.

Oh… did I mention we were hosting a neighborhood garage sale the next day?! 😬

We got called about 1 pm on Saturday to come pick him up. So I left immediately to head to the hospital.

To be continued…

Judgement.

Sometimes I’m the mom that feels on top of the world! The mom that was able to comfort this little guy while making a healthy dinner for our family. The mom that was able to handle 4 kids 4 and under like a pro that day. The mom that had a good day. The mom that was actually able to vacuum, sweep, AND clean out the fridge that day.

Then other times I’m the mom literally crying at the register at Target with 3 of the 4 kids LOSING IT as my card gets declined and I’m on the phone with WIC and they’re saying it’s Target’s fault that they’re not taking my WIC card for my foster sons special formula, while Target is saying it is WIC’s fault. All after I’ve spent 2 hours on the phone already this morning between the doctors office and the WIC office and eventually being assured by all that everything is squared away and I can go get his formula.

Be careful of your judgements. I know I’ve been one to judge others in line in front of me using WIC while holding a cup of Starbucks and wrangling multiple kids… “well maybe if you didn’t have Starbucks so often you could afford formula” or “maybe if you didn’t have so many kids you could afford to feed them all”… as much as it disgusts me to admit I’ve thought those things, luckily they’ve always been followed up with the thought that “there’s more to the story than I know and can see right now”. And now I am the one with more to the story. Could I have just sucked it up and spent the $179 of my own money to buy the formula? Yes. But that isn’t the point. Would it have been less embarrassing? You bet. And I seriously considered it just to get away from the looks, the judgement and the attention I was getting.

Be careful of your judgements. That mom in line in front of you with the kids acting perfectly, buying whatever her heart desires, makeup done and hair all cute with a beautiful smile on her face. Those thoughts of “Man… she’s got it all together” or “if only my kids acted like that life would be great” or “if I had the money to buy all of that I’d be happy” can be oh so dangerous. There is always more to the story. She may have been that same mom you saw in tears at the register the day before.

And just a little tip… in case you ever need it and to hopefully save you some time, energy and effort… you can’t use your WIC card at self check out, and Target doesn’t have all of the WIC approved formulas in they’re system, so you may have to leave and go try another store. It worked for me at Walmart… and now I have the freaking formula for my foster son. 💙

And… be careful of your judgements.😘

Surrender. 

All to Jesus I surrender

All to Him I freely give

I will ever love and trust Him

In His presence daily live

All to Jesus I surrender

Humbly at His feet I bow

Worldly pleasures all forsaken

Take me, Jesus, take me now,

I surrender all

I surrender all

All to Thee my blessed Savior

I surrender all

All to Jesus I surrender

Make me Savior wholly thine

May Thy Holy Spirit fill me

May I know Thy power divine
This song has been my anthem lately. Surrender. Jesus has been calling me to surrender it all. Myself, my husband, my kids, our journey fostering, our schedule, my agenda, these projects, everything. And just when I think I have, He shows me something else to surrender. 

It’s so freeing though, you know? When I surrender it all, a huge weight is lifted and I feel so much freer. It is so, so worth it. It’s tough to surrender, especially when you LOVE control. Neat, tidy, controlled life. But that’s not what He calls us to. He calls us to live radical lives. He calls us to love without boarders. He calls us to push and push outside of our comfort zone. 

But what happens when you surrender then things don’t go as planned? That’s when your willingness is tested. That’s when your true colors shine.

We were supposed to get our girl, M, back on Monday. We had gotten approval from everyone we needed to. We had completed the transition plan. We had several of her boxes moved. We had told Naomi she was moving back (to which she was EXSTATIC!). We were ready for her. Then she changed her mind. When she realized she had to say goodbye to her friends she decided she didn’t want to. So she didn’t move. And we continued to ride the emotional ride of fostering. DHS decided that M could do whatever she wants (because clearly a 9 year old can make responsible life altering decisions on her own). So she isn’t coming back. And now I’m tested once again as to whether or not I’ve got M surrendered to the Lord. I make the choice again to surrender her, then I keep on singing my anthem just with a bit of a bruised heart.