Plans for a New Year

{from the archives: Ella and I, waiting at the window for daddy to come home for lunch}


I usually take the month of December off from the blog. This year I didn't, but only because I had plans to take January off instead.

I'm looking forward to a month of no internet- with the exception of checking email. I truly am excited about it, and the timing of it feels perfect as I head into the new year.

I have plans to pull out a blank journal, update and print out a new prayer list, adhere it to the front page of that new journal, and get back into the habit of referring to that prayer list.

I'm still mulling over whether or not I should try-- again-- to do a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. If I do, I want to print that out, too, laminate it (which, in my world, means cover it with clear contact paper), and attach it to my journal.

And then I want to spend time praying and writing in that journal. I plan to do some reflecting on each of our kids~ on their strengths and weaknesses and how I can intentionally encourage them in this next season. I want to be purposeful about entering into this new year: What are the areas of my life that God would like to see growth in? How can I best love God, Mark, and the kids? Family and friends? I don't ever formally make New Years resolutions, but I do usually make a list in my journal of things I'd like to do in the coming year, more like reminders to myself. (Not as in "go here and do this" types of things, but things like: laugh more... play more games with the kids... listen. really pay attention, when the kids speak to me... be faithful to put down what you're doing and greet Mark when he comes home from work... things like that.)

Oh! I'm also intrigued by these recent posts about prayerfully choosing a theme for the year. I love that idea.

I also really like this idea of a perpetual calendar (you'll have to read the description to get the idea), and clearly I would make my own with index cards and a box or basket, but- the idea would be to record things the kids have said that day or add snippets of what we've done during our days... but I don't know that I'll ever actually do it. (Hmm... I'm now thinking that maybe I could somehow incorporate that idea into my existing journal~ I could just have scraps of a certain color paper at the ready-- or, easier yet!-- a certain colored pen handy, and when I sit down to journal I could jot down a snippet from our day, something one of the kids did or said... Then, when I look back through my journal, everything in that color would represent my "perpetual calendar". Why, thank you for letting me "think out loud", there. :))

Seems like all of the above-listed things may take more than a month to accomplish (!), but we'll see.

Many blessings to each of *you* as you enter into this new year God has given! If you want to reach me, I'll still be checking email and would be happy to hear from you.

~Stacy

Grateful: Monday, December 27


~ that Mark had the whole week before Christmas off!

~ aunties and uncles and cousins galore!

~ celebrating my grandpa's 90th birthday, and being surrounded by that extended family I love so much

~ Ella's happy sigh one evening, coming home from a Christmas event: "I just love having cousins!"

~ homemade cinnamon rolls, two days in a row

~ homemade pizzas on Christmas Eve, and making them with my dear sisters-in-law

~ Isaac's nativity scene for our Christmas cards this year, colored in by all our kids

~ Christmas morning breakfast, lovingly prepared by my parents

~ a traditional Christmas dinner, with ham, potatoes and rolls- made by mom

~ siblings, and all the days we've lived together and the inside jokes that are so abundant at these gatherings

~ gifts given that were loved

~
grandparents who love my children well

~ our kids' exuberance over giving gifts to children across the world: baby chicks! fruit trees! blankets! meals! clean water! mosquito nets! sports equipment!

~ skyping with Michelle, days before Christmas

~ singing Happy Birthday to Jesus; blowing out the candles on our coffee cake that morning

~ our slumber party by the tree

~ playing Settlers and Ticket to Ride with Mark, doing a wintry puzzle, and playing LEGO Creationary with Isaac

~ the kids all tumbled onto our bed on Christmas morning with their stockings

~ all the gifts Ella so carefully made this year: a sewn pillow for Audra's baby, a mobile for me with colored ornaments hanging from it, an ornament in my stocking that said "JOY", pictures for the boys, a phone for Adelia, a drum for Audra

~ Isaac's question to me a few days before Christmas: "Mommy? What is the thing you love most in all the world?" [My response was 'daddy' until he clarified: "No. Something I could wrap and put in your stocking!"] So I said 'chocolate', and then opened my stocking to find that he'd tucked all sorts of chocolates into it

~ Audra's any-time-of-the-day cuddles, the way she wraps her arms tight around me and says "I yuv you so mush!" What a joy she is!

(counting up His lavish gifts, #s 1326-1346)

holy experience

Christmas {through the years}

Christmas 2007



Christmas 2008



Christmas 2009



Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas, dear friends!

The Slumber Party

We added a new Christmas tradition this year: The Slumber Party.

We drug our mattress into the living room, along with Ella's twin-sized mattress and a toddler-sized mattress, and used the couches for two more beds, and had a big family slumber party by the Christmas tree!


Once everyone was all tucked in, Mark began the nightly read-aloud~ which is a book about King Arthur. Here's what he read: "But when Arthur beheld what his father did, he cried aloud like one in a great measure of pain; and he said 'Pajama Ride!'" (which isn't, of course, actually what Arthur said, but the kids were thrilled and shrieked and scurried to get their shoes and get out the door.) We drove to Dairy Queen, and then through town to see the Christmas lights.


Then we came back home to our living room full of mattresses and blankets, and settled in to sleep-- which eventually we all did. :)



Here are the final two sleepers at about 8:00 the following morning. Cute girls.


I'm
so thankful for the memories we made and the fun we had as a family! My favorite quote of the night was Ella saying, "Adelia: please stop licking my hand. That's gross." And her cheerful: "I sure have a wiggly bed-partner!" And she did-- Adelia was very squirmy and very noisy! Isaac was so thrilled to discover that the light coming through the blinds (from a neighbors porch) that shone onto his arms made stripes, so he stretched his arms out in front of him and gazed at them, all delighted to be a stripey boy. :) Audra snuggled up next to Mark and he scratched her back until she fell asleep. Isaias loved his spot on the couch, closest to the tree and closest to the window so that he could peer out of it when he wanted to.

The kids all loved the slumber party and are already talking about next year... :)

Please pray for this family

Please take a moment to pray for this family...

I don't know them and I don't normally read her blog, but a friend of mine linked to this blog post and I've been weepy ever since, and thankful for every.single.minute God graces me with the life of my own five...

{Photo of Tiggy here}

Thank you, dear readers...

~Stacy

The Part of Christmas I'm Most Excited About

In a few days, we'll drive to the bank and ask for a lot of ones.

It's just how we do it.

The catalog has been out for several weeks, and Ella, Isaac and Isaias have already circled and written their names on the pictures of what they would like to give.


When we gather together to celebrate our own family Christmas, this is my favorite thing, my favorite part, my favorite tradition. It's what I look forward to most each year. Each child sits with their own stack of one-dollar bills and waits while Ella turns the pages of the catalog to remind everyone what they had previously marked.

Then we take turns with each child, counting out their money, writing down the gifts they have chosen on a piece of paper. If there is money left over, or if there is a costly gift that one of our children in particular *really really* wants to give, everyone pitches in some money from their stack or Adelia and Audra will be sweet-talked to part with some of those papers in front of them or Mark and I will agree to add in a certain sum of our money, so that we are able to get it.

Then we sit with the list, remind the kids what they've chosen to give, and we take turns praying. We thank God for His generosity to us, we pray for the gifts we have carefully chosen, and we ask God to bless those who would receive them, and that He would multiply each one.

Would you consider giving this type of gift this Christmas? Here are two organizations I heartily recommend:

Samaritan's Purse~Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog
Compassion International~Gifts of Compassion Catalog


"Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ's compassion for the world is to look out;
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now."
~Saint Teresa of Avila

Thank you cards

I love it that some of my kids are now able to write their own thank you cards. (They are so much better than anything I could come up with on their behalf!)

{front}

{back; ... and a self-portrait!}



{front}

{back}


LOVE.



[Birthday thank-you's done by Isaac.]

Christmas Picture Books


Each year when we bring out the Christmas decorations, there is one box in particular that we are all *most* anxious to open: our box of Christmas picture books.

These books are held in a basket by our fireplace and we delight in the pages of these well-loved books throughout the month of December. Each December we also purchase a new Christmas book, write the year inside the front cover, and add it to the basket.

Here are just a few of our favorites:


Good King Wenceslas
I love this book. The illustrations are truly beautiful, and the words of the familiar carol stand as the text. From his castle window, Good King Wenceslas views a poor man gathering kindling for a fire, and makes preparations to bless the man out of his own wealth. Oh, how I love this book! It makes me a little tearful every time we read it. This is one of my personal favorites.


The Gift of the Magi
This book adorned the coffee table of a childhood friend of mine at Christmastime, and I caught glimpses of the pages but was never able to read the whole story or see each illustration. Fast-forward several years, and I bought us a copy and it is probably my favorite book. I don't think any Christmas collection can be complete without this book. I love this story of a poor husband and wife~ each sacrificing for the other in order to buy their beloved a gift for Christmas.



Christmas Day in the Morning
This was Mark's choice of a book two years ago and it is a treasure. It is the story of a boy who decides to surprise his father, a farmer, with a unique Christmas gift. Our children love to see this story unfold from page to page.


A Small Miracle
When I asked the kids- in the middle of summer- which Christmas books they remembered and liked best from our collection, this is the one book they all remembered and wanted to describe to me all over again! In this story, the figures from the nativity set of a local church come to life and assist a poor older woman. They see her impoverished state- no food, no money, no warmth- and while she sleeps, they work to ready her home for Christmas morning. The whole idea sounds a little odd, I realize- but it truly is a captivating story. The pages of this book are illustrations only, and my children are enchanted by every single picture.

* * *

What is the Christmas book your family most enjoys throughout this season?

The Extent of our Christmas Craftiness

can be seen right here, in just a few pictures.

Of the same craft.



And that's all we're going to do. :)

The only way we even accomplished this was with a well-timed movie for the little girls. Otherwise, it would have been disastrous.

But~ if you have older kids, it was a fun (and easy!) project. It took us about 20 minutes, and all you need is a hot glue gun, some popsicle sticks, and some buttons. Maybe a ribbon/string/thread if you want to hang it on your tree.

In Closing: an Invitation

This is the last day of November, so this series on adoption/foster care is officially done. (Don't miss my husband's post yesterday!)

Thank you for stopping in to read here throughout the month. I know I wasn't able to cover *every* topic, and if there was something you wanted me to speak to that I neglected, please let me know and I'll either email you or post on it at a later date.

I am truly grateful for this blog community. I wish so much that I knew all of you in person~ I would love that.

There are many of you with a passion to meet the needs of the orphans and a desire to forge ahead... but you have pressing, weighty fears. May you sense His presence and peace; and may you rest in His faithful promises. He will direct your steps.

There are also many of you who are broken and struggling from the wounds of the son or daughter you have already adopted. {Oh, how I wish I could give you a tearful hug and pray for you!} I know. I really do. I know those varying feelings of hopelessness and discouragement and anger and resentment and guilt and fear and that deep-down, haunting question of whether you can even do this. I know those well, friend. And I assure you (even as I assure myself) that you can do it; that God will sustain you; that He will empower you by His Spirit to love; that He will bring restoration and healing.

Can I offer an invitation to you, if you're an adoptive mother? I've heard some of your stories in the comments and through the emails tucked into my inbox, and I know there are more of you, too. I wish I could meet you and we could share our stories in person. I have such a heart for you, because I know how challenging it can be, and I also know how lonely it can be. What has ministered to me most throughout my own struggle has been other adoptive mothers who have come alongside of me and said, "I know. You're not crazy. I feel that, too." So, if you need that? Know that I am always available. Also: I would love to pray for you and your child. If you'll send me an email with your name and your child's name- and any part of your story or struggle you want to share- I will pray for you. You can email me via the link on my sidebar- anytime. (If you've already emailed me, can you email me again so that I can have it all in one place?)

Blessings to each and every one of you!

Mark's Post

Dear readers~ my favorite person on this earth (my husband!) wrote today's post. (I just added the photos.)

* * *
This blogging thing is hard. What words do I have to add? My wonderful wife has already so eloquently written of our adoption journey in numerous posts. She's the writer. Through her journals and blog posts she chronicles the struggles, hopes and joys of our lives. She loves our children infinitely and selflessly with service and compassion. And if she could, she would start an orphanage to care for as many hurting children as we could stuff inside the four walls.

I'm guest-posting on her blog because I share this conviction to care for orphans. I'm usually a fairly quiet guy, but I have something to say about caring for orphans and adoption.

There are two verses that were most motivating to me in our decision to adopt. Stacy has already referred to Luke 12:48. The other is Psalm 68:5-6: "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families."


I love that phrase, "father to the fatherless." That's what I have become: a father to the fatherless. And I love it. It's one of the hardest yet most wonderful things I've ever done. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love my son and my daughter fiercely and completely. From the first time I held them and fed them their bottles, they captured my heart. I'm their daddy, the one they call for in the night, the one they want to wrestle with, the one they wrap their little arms around when they need to be held.

I hope many of you have been encouraged to pursue adoption or foster care. And for those of you who are already walking this road of orphan care, I pray that God has used my dear wife's posts to encourage you and remind you of why you are doing it.

Because to be honest -- adoption and foster care are heartwarming, but both can also be really hard. And those of us doing it need encouragement. I like the way a speaker at our church put it this morning when he said that the things God calls us to are "not safe." I know there are questions and fears that keep many from adoption: How can we afford it? What if it brings upheaval to our family? What if we don't bond with the child? How do I love a child that doesn't show love back? Good questions, all of them. And I say in response: It could be terrible on many levels. Adoption and fostering can bring anguish, tears and brokenness that were never expected. But God is good and He is faithful.

And it's still the right thing to do. I've read that there are 143 million orphans in the world. And because of what we've allowed God to do (He is the one who sets the lonely in families), there are two who now get to work out their brokenness right here in our house. And I'll bear whatever upheaval and hurt that causes here, because we get to love them with the love of Jesus. The love, shelter and care we give them are nice. But what really makes it all worthwhile is that we get to point them to Jesus, who alone can restore them. And it is our prayer, our goal and our purpose with them that they will find where they truly belong: in His family.


Finally, I ask you to pray for God's work to be done in your family. God may say "No" to your stepping into adoption and/or fostering, but if He hasn't, assume He's saying "Yes," because that's what His Word says. If the door is open to you and your family, walk through it in faith. As husbands and wives, work together on this, sharing your convictions, hesitations and fears each step of the way.

(And, I'll add one final word for any husbands out there that happen to read this. (This is the man-to-man talk part of my post): It seems so simple to me. Love God. Love your wife. If God is speaking to your wife's heart about setting an orphan in your family, join her, support her, love her, encourage her, lead her. Be a father to the fatherless.)

- Mark

Thankful! {Thanksgiving edition}

{continuing on in gratitude from my initial One Thousand Gifts list}


1286~ hearing Ella sing worship songs to the girls at bedtime each night

1287~ Audra's cute little phrases: "have some?", "read dat?", "yuh you!", "follow me"

1288~ unsolicited good morning hugs from each of my children

1289~ hide and seek games under the covers to surprise mommy when I walk into the room

1290~ Ella, taking a hot bath with a book in her hands :)

1291~ my boys, happily playing dollhouse with Audra

1292~ a new stick of Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer... *perfect*

1293~ Adelia's eager hands to help me with a load of laundry this morning... then the buttermilk pancakes. She loves to get her hands on the mixer. :)

1294~ white out my window this morning... still!

1295~ memories of pulling the little girls through the yard in the sled last night, in the dark... as we waited for daddy to come home. And how Ella, Isaac, and Isaias' play was to entertain them on their sledding journey, by popping out from hiding spots to make an animal noise. Glancing back to see a rosy-cheeked Audra, carefully holding her baby doll, and Adelia suggesting, "How 'bout a kitty?" in lieu of the preferred bears that kept pouncing out from behind things. :)

1296~ grocery stores during the holiday season~ all the cheery hustle and bustle and our holiday favorites: eggnog, satsumas, and fixings for pigs-in-a-blanket!

1297~ reading our Bible story book aloud each morning over breakfast. This morning: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and how they refused to eat the kings food. I asked the kids, "What do you think would you have done?" and we talked about what a big thing that was for Daniel to say no, and then we marvelled together at how, when they came before the king at the end of their time? They were TEN TIMES better in matters of wisdom and understanding than all the kings magicians! I love God's word, and I love it *with* my children!

holy experience

...even though it's not a "Monday" at all. ;)



{Happy Thanksgiving}

When Your Husband Doesn't Want to Adopt


Being an adoptive mother- especially one with children who do not resemble me- has made me a sort of magnet for people everywhere who want to talk about adoption. If we're in a public place, I usually get asked about our adoptive children -at least once!- and almost *always* it is from another mother.

Conversations often begin like this:

"
He (or she) is so cute."

(me) "Thank you. We think so, too!"

"
Is he adopted?"

(me) "Yes." (insert a few details about when we adopted and where we adopted from...)

"
I've always wanted to adopt... but my husband is just not there yet." (said a bit wistfully)

I have also received several emails from women saying they would love to adopt, but their husbands didn't want to for any number of reasons. It's a common story, it seems. I have often pondered how to respond to those emails. I don't even know that I have a place to speak to that scenario, because it has not been my own story. Mark and I have always shared the desire to adopt. (Fostering came a bit later, but it fit right into our longing to meet the needs of the orphans.) I've never been in your shoes, then, if you carry that desire to adopt or foster but your husband does not share it.

It has weighed heavily on my heart, though, this whole idea. I asked God, "What is it, Lord? Why the hesitancy on the part of so many men? What can I say to these women? Am I even in a place where I can speak to this at all?" A couple of things came to mind, and I would like to share them with you:

~PRAY. This one should be obvious. God moves mightily when we pray. Ask God to expand your husband's heart for the orphans. Ask God to give you wisdom in speaking with him about it. Ask Him to put people into your husband's life who have adopted. Ask Him to bring it up in all manner of ways~ a sermon at church, a tidbit on the radio, a sign, a program on television, a song, whatever.

~Share/talk enthusiastically about it. I want to clarify this. I do not mean that you should continually come before your husband with an agenda or an appeal, as in What-can-I-say-today-that-will-make-him-change-his-mind? You will not change his mind or heart on the matter. God will. God may use you to do so, but that is God's work, and it is not for you to fret about. So stop carrying that burden already. I'm thinking more along the lines of a passion in your own heart that can become contagious. (My husband loves football, I used to detest football. Gradually, I have learned to appreciate the game and have truly become an enthusiastic football fan~ all because Mark loves it and it is something he cares about.) All that to say that in marriage, it is difficult not to begin to care about the things that have hold of the others heart. So if you have a heart for the orphans, share it. If you read a book or article about adoption that particularly grips you, share it. If you are moved to tears by an adoption story, share it. Maybe your passion will become contagious. Maybe, eventually- your husband will be the one who reads an article on adoption to you. Maybe one day you'll find that his heart has joined yours on the matter.

~Get to know someone who is or has adopted/fostered. I think this is a big one. Sometimes the whole idea of foster care or adoption just seems so big. So expensive, so complicated, so... daunting. Then you run across someone who has done it, who is doing it, and it suddenly seems less big. My encouragement is that if you know a family that has adopted or fostered, befriend them. Ask them their story. I assure you, they'll be happy to talk about it.

~Do something.
Maybe your husband isn't ready to take the plunge into the world of foster care or adoption, but that doesn't negate our responsibility as believers to do something about the plight of the orphans. Maybe you can sponsor a child through Compassion. And if you do, really dive into it. Pray regularly for your sponsored child, and send letters! Do you know someone who is adopting? What can your family do to help them out financially? When we were adopting Isaias, several family members and friends helped us financially. Two friends from college who I barely even had contact with anymore had a garage sale and donated all the proceeds to us. Before they sent us the money, one of their husbands asked his work if they would match the amount they'd raised, and his company did. So we received double the money they'd earned at that garage sale! Could your family have a garage sale or set aside a certain amount of money in order to help a family that is adopting? Could you commit to pray for them? When Mark and I were married, another married couple in our church family gave us the gift of their prayers for one year. They wrote in their card to us that they would pray for us every day for the first year of our marriage. What a gift! What a gift it would be to an adoptive family you know for you to commit to pray for them like that. Could you verbally encourage an adoptive family in your church? When we shared at our church that we were adopting from Guatemala, a women at our church came up to me after the service and encouraged me with an affirmation from the Bible and a promise to pray for us. I have treasured her words to me~ many times since.

* * *

I would love to hear your stories on this topic. Perhaps there are some of you who are or were in this place with your husbands. What has helped and what has not? How have you seen God work in your husband's heart?





{Quote}

But then it comes over me, even while I'm panicking-- that inexplicable, doesn't-make-sense-at-the-time, peace-that-passes-understanding feeling. Todd and I step up to the edge, hold hands, and jump, by offering the girls a permanent home...

Taking in two teenage girls with their background and our lack of experience could have been a disaster, but God promises to be the father to the fatherless. He has in every way coparented with us. When we've needed wisdom, he has given it, and when we've needed patience or grace, he has always supplied it in abundance.

In those early days, when we struggled with communication and with the obstacles their past put in our way, I reminded myself that it was God's desire that we be a family and he brought us together. I clung to Colossians 1:17: 'He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.'

I wish I could say that following God's will in building our family led to many sweet days, that we sat around holding hands all the time. The truth is our God cared so much about their healing that he was interested in doing whatever it took to bring their hurt spots to the surface.

And we had a front-row seat.

~ Beth Guckenberger, Reckless Faith

Fostering: A Bigger Picture

David Platt, author of this amazing book, which I blogged about here, is the pastor of a church in Alabama. I listen to his sermons online whenever I get the chance, and am always challenged and inspired by his faithful presentation of the Gospel.

In a sermon I listened to last year, I heard him tell a story that I have not forgotten (and I am so sorry, but I cannot, for the life of me, remember the name of the sermon or otherwise I'd direct you right to it, but I believe he mentioned this particular story in the book, too. And I'll keep looking for the sermon itself and update if I track it down!) I'm going to retell it, here, to the best of my memory.

* * *

David Platt, in preparation for a sermon on orphan care, (from James 1:27) got in touch with the social services office in his area to ask about the needs in their own community for foster parents. The woman he spoke with said their need was great; it always is. There are always more children than the places available for them. Platt asked, off the cuff- exactly how many foster parents would they need to take care of every child in their community? She laughed. He asked again. She said, "All of them?" He said, "Yes. All of them." She did some quick figuring and said that in order to have places for every child in their community, they would need 150 foster parents. As he stood before his congregation the following Sunday, he challenged them to consider what that might mean for them, as a church, to step up and fill that need in their own community.

He arranged for the foster parent training to be held (at their church, I think), and guess how many families showed up for the training, willing to become foster parents?

160.

!

(Doesn't that just make you want to jump up and down at how great God is?!?!)

As these members began to serve as foster care families, Platt met again with local officials. One of the women pulled him aside and asked him what he had told these people that had made them come and do this. Platt told her that they came because the God who loves children told them to come and reflect His love to the children around them.

* * *

I love this story so much I think I've told it to everyone I know.... twice. :) This is just amazing on so many levels.

As a foster parent, each week I get an email asking for homes for children in our own community. Just last week the email asked for care for the following children:
  • Boy- 2 1/2 years old (placed in Protective Custody the previous night)
  • Boy- 20 months old (needs placement for 3-6 months)
  • Girl- 15 years old
  • Boy- 5 1/2 years old (placement needed for 3 months or longer)
The email also requested respite care (a break for the foster parents) for a sibling group for just a few days, and care for a 12-year old girl for 20 days. The week before this there was a different list of children. The week following this there was a new list. More children- displaced, either temporarily or permanently- and in need.

I would just love it so much if the state could come to count on the CHURCH~ people who love Jesus!~ to be the ones caring for these children! Can you imagine the testimony that would be to the social workers and placement coordinators? That the foster parents who were consistently available and willing were always the Christians? That there was no shortage of help from the Christian community? That they were wonderful to work with; and the kids found love and security with these families, and sometimes-- permanent homes? There is NO WAY that would not have a HUGE impact on everyone involved.

It's why Mark and I are renewing our foster care license, why we're updating our paperwork and logging away hours of training and choosing again to open our hearts and lives to what God may have for us~ and to be a part of the larger community of social services- the social workers and the staff at our own local office- and be a blessing to them throughout the process.

I have a few more posts scheduled for this month, but we're winding down, here... and I want you to know, again- that I am praying for each one of you, by name. If you've commented, your name is written in my journal- several times... and my prayers for you follow your name. I am praying that God would move in *your* heart (yes, you!) to rise above the fears and all the what-ifs and to step out in faith and move towards fostering or adoption.

One Foster Mom's Story, Part 2

"One little guy we had came into the foster system from the hospital. This two-year-old boy had a very young mom who had made a poor choice in a boyfriend. The boyfriend physically assaulted this boy so hard that his heart stopped beating. The hospital doctors were able to bring him back to life, literally. He was the most outgoing, beautiful and sweet little boy. He loved life and was a joy to have in our home. He just needed someone to protect him from life!"
"Another little baby girl we had from the hospital had a mama who had given up other children, but for some reason or another continued to get pregnant and kept having babies. This little girl was beautiful and precious."
Yesterday you heard from my sister Stefany, and she shared some stories of their foster children- stories like the ones you see again at the top of this post- and she answered some questions about doing foster care (If you missed Part 1, please click here.) Today we're going to continue our Q & A in Part 2:

What has been the biggest surprise for you?
Definitely how few children we’ve had. Because of the great need, we thought we’d be called all the time. But we’ve noticed there are lulls. Right now it seems there’s a greater need for homes for teens. Although friends of ours that have said they are willing to take more than one child at a time are constantly called. It all depends on how many, and the age you’re willing to have in your home.


How have your children done with foster care?
So far, so good. I know it’s hard for them to say goodbye, but it’s a blessing they are kids and live life with a black and white perspective. They know that saying goodbye means saying hello to the next little one. They like the fact that they are helping others.
That said, the little guy we had for the longest, they still talk about and wonder how he’s doing, wishing they could see him again. Of course, we won’t know how it really affects them until later in life when they can verbalize more of their thoughts and feelings like an adult. But for now, we really feel like it’s given them a more rich perspective on our world. They now see the needs of others more readily, they know they can serve others’ needs by merely a hug, a kind word or by playing with someone.


What would your encouragement be to someone interested in doing foster care?
How can we not? There are thousands of children just in our region alone waiting for a foster family. These are CHILDREN that need a home. If our hearts are supposed to be broken with the same things that break God’s heart; then this is definitely a way to be Christ-like and serve in our own communities!

Each one is so heartbreaking. I'm tearing up just writing this. We've cried over these kids, wept at what they've had to endure already in their short lives. We continue to be amazed at the life situations that others are struggling with. In our country. Not somewhere else, but here in our own backyards. We are grateful to God for our upbringings, and the many, many luxuries of family and friends that we've turned to for help in the midst of life's struggles and the church communities we've leaned on for support through our own challenges. How can one move through this life without others' support? We can be that support sometimes by taking in a child that needs a place to be safe, warm, loved, entertained and held. We can be God's arms like He so often is for us through others around us!

{Thank you, Stef!}

For those of you reading, if there are other questions you would like Stefany to answer, I bet I could twist her arm (or bribe her with the promise of some Starbucks coffee ;)) and she would be happy to answer! Just leave a comment!

One Foster Mom's Story, Part 1

"One little girl we cared for had been born prematurely and her mother had left her at the hospital. The mother hadn't told any family members she was pregnant. She flew out to Seattle to visit a family member, went into labor, and left a few days later. Her beautiful daughter was left alone in the hospital in the NICU with no one to visit her. We got her when she was released from the hospital. She was a precious little girl who unfortunately was born to a very young woman who wasn't ready to be a mama to her."

* * *
"A two-year-old boy came into our care because his mom needed to leave for her night shift at work. She was trying to make money for her and her son. A friend of hers was supposed to come over to watch her son while he slept. The friend never showed up and she didn't want to lose her job, so she left her little boy sleeping alone in the apartment. He woke up, went to a neighbor, and the police intervened from there. "

Those are just two stories of many a foster mom could share with you. One reason I think it is so important for us-- as a church at large-- to get involved in foster care is this: Many of us~ in our safe, happy, suburban lives~ would never "rub shoulders" with people in these types of situations. We may hear about such a story on the news but not be personally invested in it. Yet there are so many children in our own communities who are living in this kind of reality; who are being parented by someone who has never been parented themselves, and who have little chance of growing up and avoiding the same cycle.

The state wants these children safe. Those of us who know and love Jesus have the ability to offer foster children more than just a safe, secure environment. We can offer them our love, our prayers and true, lasting security in Jesus Christ.

I'm so excited to get to introduce you today to someone who is welcoming foster children into her home (and the one who shared those two stories at the beginning of this post.) So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to...

...my sister! I am so proud of her and the ministry their family has in caring for foster children, and am so thankful she agreed to answer some questions regarding her experiences. I'll let her introduce herself, and then we'll get on with the Q & A.

My name is Stefany. I’m married to my best friend, Dan and together we have three amazing children: Megan (10), Madison (9) and Cole (6) and a cat named Starbucks! We’ve been foster parents for over 2 years and plan to renew our foster care license next summer for another 3 years!


Welcome to the blog, Stef. :) Thank you for being willing to do this! Let's get started with some questions...

What made you decide to do foster care?

Well, I had always wanted to adopt, but after having 3 kids of our own, my husband and I decided foster care fit our family better. We wanted to still be able to focus on our own kids but also care for those in our state that needed some temporary help. Also, as Christians, we’ve both been drawn to God’s commands to take care of the needy; children seem to be where God has called us to at this point in our lives.



Can you give us the stats about the children you've had in your care? (How many kids have you fostered, length of care, their ages and situations?)

We got our foster care license in July 2008. We have had 8 kids since that time.
  • K & I, a sibling set, girl(3) and boy(2). They had been physically abused, and spent 4 nights with us.
  • C, a 3-year-old girl whose mom went to jail. She was with us for 2 nights.
  • T, an 11-month-old boy whose mom went to jail. He was with us for 1 ½ years.
  • M, a preemie girl we got straight from hospital, where her mom had left her. She was with us for 2 months.
  • A, a 2-year-old boy who had been physically abused. He spent 3 months with us.
  • A, a 2-day-old girl. Her mom couldn’t take care of her. She was with us for 1 ½ weeks.
  • E, a 2-year-old boy who was left alone at home. He spent 4 nights with us.
  • A, 1-year-old girl who was taken due to neglect. She is currently still with us
.

What were your fears (if any) going into it?
I didn't have any fears. The state is so helpful in letting foster parents choose an age range, and what level of medical care you want to provide. 



What has been the hardest part?
The hardest part has definitely been saying goodbye. I usually just let myself enjoy the time with each child and live in denial until the day they leave. Then I usually bawl my eyes out, take a deep breath and wait for the phone to ring again! Our hardest one obviously was the child that stayed with us for over a year. He felt like one of our own by the time he left. Most of the time, we’ve known where each child is ending up and each has been put into a great situation, either with a parent or relative or adopted!



Join us for more questions and stories in Part 2, coming up tomorrow!

Two years ago today...


...we adopted this amazing girl!

{Adelia with Mark~ in court, the day her adoption was final}


{Adelia, two years later}


How thankful we are that God saw fit to set this precious girl into our family!

*Updated to add the family photo Sandi talked about in the comments. (Hello, Audra in my tummy!)

Foster Care Focus

I'm afraid I've lost some of you with those last two heart-heavy, lengthy posts regarding fears and attachment. (Are you doing okay with all of this?) Please know that if you've commented this month on any post, I have prayed for you by name and will continue to.

* * *

We're in the middle of a month-long focus on adoption and foster care, and with this post, I'm switching gears from adoption to the topic of foster care.

Our own experience as foster care parents is limited-- but that doesn't mean I didn't write extensively about it! We became licensed foster parents with the hope of being able to then adopt a child from our state. Licensed and waiting, we decided to do some short-term, interim care since we did not yet have a referral (or any on the horizon), and there was a great need in our community.

Ella and Baby B

Our first little foster child~ a girl~ was brought to us at just five weeks old, and she spent one month with our family. Some of you will remember her as Baby "B". She would have been with us much longer, but we received Adelia's referral at the end of that first month. There was an overlap for a few days when both girls were with us at the same time, until another placement could be arranged for Baby B.

Our two foster babies, Baby B and Adelia

Then we said goodbye to Baby B and welcomed Adelia into our home. We fostered Adelia for 8 months until we were able to adopt her. And that's the extent of our foster care experience.

I shared about our foray into foster care with Baby B in the following posts, for anyone who is interested:

Beginning
Thoughts on Day 1
My heart (day 3)
Delight (a few weeks in)
Oh, my heart
The goodbye, Part 1
The goodbye, Part 2
The goodbye, Part 3
The goodbye, Part 4
Part 5: Final thoughts

We are currently in the process of renewing our foster care license, and we sincerely hope to be able to foster other children in the future.

Since we're not currently fostering, though, I want to introduce you to someone who is, and who has more experience in the realm of foster care. I'll begin with the post One Foster Mom's Story, Part 1, coming up on Monday.

Attachment Struggles with an Adopted Child

Throughout November we're discussing adoption and foster care. Here is what we've covered so far:
Intro to This Month's Adoption Focus
God's Heart for the Orphan
God's Heart for the Orphan: Our Response
Fears About Adoption and Fostering


* * *

Many of you have expressed concerns about bonding/attachment with an adopted child, and I would be remiss not to write about it, but this is by far the topic I feel the least qualified to be writing about. Wow. I'm going to tackle it, here, to the best of my ability and understanding.

I think all adopted children have attachment issues on some level. This is my general understanding, from what I've read. When the attachment/bond between a child and his/her birth mother is broken-- at any age-- it wreaks havoc on a child. It's as if they know, inherently- that they've been rejected, in a sense, by the one person who should love them the most-- and it affects them deeply. That hurt is processed and expressed differently, depending on the child. While we have not experienced this with Adelia on any level to date, this is something have experienced with Isaias.

Isaias, 9 months old~ Guatemala City

I don't want to go into the specifics of our experience with our son here on the blog- but I will say that it has been very difficult at times. Those who know us well can attest to that. I have made many, many mistakes-- mainly by reacting to him in anger, oh-so-often, and by being cold and distant to him in response to his lack of affection to me. I believe I could write an entire book on how not to parent, dear readers. I am thankful that God has used this experience to humble me (don't ever pray for humility unless you want God to truly stretch you!), and to teach me so much along the way.

God is ever faithful, and Mark and I have seen changes in our Isaias, and God has answered many prayers. When we look back at some of the issues that were going on a couple years ago, many of those are not even present anymore. And those that are are much less frequent. We can genuinely see fruit in him and in our relationship with him. I have no idea what we'll face in the future with him or with Adelia, but I rest in God's faithful instruction to us as we parent.

Here are a few things I am learning in the midst of this:

I must cling to God's Word

When things seemed hopeless, I just held onto the truth of God's Word. I hung onto this one, especially:
Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
"Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert.


(Isaiah 43: 18-19, NAS)
I'm ashamed to admit how often I dwelt on the difficulty of our interactions. (More on that in a minute.) But here God is, saying, "Do not call it to mind; do not ponder those things... I'm going to do something NEW." So I just hoped and trusted that this was true; that God *would* do something new in our son and in our relationship with him; that He would make a roadway in the wilderness; rivers in the desert.

I must take captive every thought (to make it obedient to Christ)~ 2 Corinthians 10:5

Due to the nature of our struggles, and in comparison to the relative ease it has been to parent our biological children, it was easy for me to view Isaias as The Problem, and become frustrated at him (outwardly or inwardly) because of it. I had to purposefully, actively choose to think otherwise. One of the ways I have done this is to write down all the whatevers I can think up about him. By "whatevers" I mean this verse from Philippians:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
So I would just write them down in my journal, everything he did that was praiseworthy that day or week. Even if I could only think of one thing, I wrote it down.

The first part of that verse says "whatever is true... think about such things". This is another thing I did (and still do. I did this just today in my journal!) I will sit down and just write out truths; what I *know*. This was especially important for me to do when I found myself sinking into this line of thinking: "I can't do this... I don't want to do this... I cannot muster up _____ (love/patience/kindness, etc.) for this child today." And then I get to thinking of all the ways that I have screwed up, culminating in the fear that this broken little boy came to us and I have just done him the disservice- through my own sin- of making that hurt in him so very much bigger than it was when he arrived. I recognize that those are lies of the enemy. But I *know* better (even if I don't always feel it) because of the truth. So I list truths:
  • You chose Isaias for our family.
  • You chose *me* to be Isaias' mama.
  • You know what Isaias needs, even when I do not.
  • You are my Helper.
  • I can do all things in *Your* strength.
Things like that.

I must be prayerful

John 10:10 says "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." We know this about Satan: he wants to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus came that we might have life, and life abundant!

So we have prayed over areas of Isaias' life that we see Satan wanting to steal, kill and destroy: (love, affection, acceptance, worth, trust, security, etc).

And we have prayed- often- for wisdom for us as parents; that God would grant us wisdom beyond our years; that His Spirit would guide us in every situation we face with *each* of our children.

Finally, I often think of this passage of Scripture, from Isaiah 61, because I think it encapsulates what our adopted children need from us, as extensions of God's great love for them. Here's my own little paraphrase of the above linked-to actual Scripture:
He has anointed us, as adoptive parents,
to preach good news to the poor (our adopted children),
to bind up their broken hearts,
to proclaim freedom for them...
to comfort them when they mourn,
to provide for them when they grieve,
to bestow upon them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They *will* be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.


I feel convicted all over again as I read that anew. Please understand that we are so far from having it all together. I am so, so thankful that our children belong to Him. He is working in their hearts and we, as parents, are just coming alongside of the Holy Spirit's work in them. It is not up to us; it is up to Him. He alone has the power to bring healing and restoration to our adopted children. As for us, I am thankful that His mercies are new every morning.

Fears About Adoption and Fostering

What if we get a child who disrupts our life?
What if that child's needs would be too overwhelming for me as a mama?

What if that child wouldn't fit in with my other children?
Will I be able to love that child as I love my biological children?
What if our home is just too small?
What if we can't afford it?
What if I don't feel attached or bonded to that child?
What if the process itself is just too overwhelming?
Will I be able to care for another child without sacrificing the needs of my own children?

I am a little teary as I sit to write today. I've just read again through your comments on this post, and so many of you have shared so openly and honestly your fears and the questions you have. Thank you for that. I am so grateful for your words. I've just spent some time praying that God would use me~ somehow, as only He can do~ to address those fears.

I feel very humbled by the opportunity to write on this at all. I'm just a girl who loves Jesus and is trying to take Him at His Word and live to honor Him. And doing a whole lot of stumbling around in the process, mind you. A big part of me is saying, "Surely there are others more qualified to tackle this. Who am I to speak to these deep fears and questions?" (Heck, I have them, too!) But then there is another part of me that is eager to share what God has taught me and what I think about it all. So here goes.

Here is my encouragement to you if any of the above fears are yours: take them to Jesus. Lay that fear before Him. Lay it down and walk away. Fear is Satan's tool, not God's. In Christ we do not need to be afraid. Period. Do you know how many times it says in the Bible, "Do not fear" or "Do not be afraid"? LOTS! Start looking them up, and then: take Him at His word! Keep taking those fears to Jesus.

I came very close to walking away from our second adoption due to fears I had, and all the what-if questions that tormented me. I was familiar with several of the "horror stories"-- and for a time I was paralyzed by the fear. I prayed and cried and talked to Mark and a couple of other people, and finally I found solace within the pages of my Bible. I wrote out every single verse I could find on fear and just journaled and prayed through each one until my fears subsided and I was resting on the promises of God instead. I trusted Him, that He had called us to this, that He had confirmed it again and again throughout the process, and that He would be with us through every bit of it-- that even if it was horrific, we would rest in God's Word and trust that He had called us to it. So we moved forward. I could literally weep at the thought that my fears could have kept me from this beautiful girl.

This is the first time I held Adelia

God will meet every single need of yours. You just have to choose to believe Him; to take Him at His word.

There are no guarantees. All of the fears you have may come to pass. Many of the fears listed above have been the case in our own situation with Isaias: the attachment struggles, the disruption from the peace in our home, the overwhelming nature of it all. Yep. Been there. Still there on some of those issues. We're living it. I won't lie to you-- it is difficult. But it can be done, because God has sustained us through every bit of it. We rest in Him and in the truth of His Word when we are fearful and overwhelmed. He meets us, every time. God is the only one who has the power to heal the brokenness in these children, and it is our privilege to lead them to Him.

I absolutely think you need to be prayerful about each step of this process. And I think there is wisdom in prayerfully setting some boundaries. (For us, we have determined that if a child has a history of abuse, we are not going to sign up for that child to be in our home while we have little, vulnerable children. We pray that God would raise up someone else (perhaps someone whose children have left the home, or whose children are older) for those children. Mark and I have also made the decision to foster and adopt only children that are younger than our youngest child.)

So we've established that there are some unknowns; that you have fears and you need to take them to Jesus. Then you need to leave it in His hands. Your prayer becomes, "Lord, we want to obey You. You've put this on our hearts and we want to honor You in this. Will You choose a child for our family?" Then you leave it to Him. It is God who sets the lonely in families, not us. Rest in the knowledge that He knows you completely. He knows what you can handle. He knows your biological children- intimately. He created each and every one of us! There is no one who knows you like the God who created you. He will bring you the child of His choosing.


Next up: Attachment Struggles with an Adopted Child

God's Heart for the Orphan: Our Response

Life lived by faith, in obedience to God's Word, is an adventure. My tidy little world was pretty rocked throughout our international adoption process. We had no money to speak of. We had daunting piles of paperwork and forms to be exactly filled out. We had appointments to make (social workers, home study, fingerprints, doctors, etc). None of these are my favorite things. Some people thrive on that kind of organizational nightmare challenge. Not me. There were delays and setbacks (pretty much a given with all international adoptions) and then there was the great unknown: who would our child be? We literally had no idea who we would end up with, what that child's history was, or what that child's future would entail.

Why go through it at all? Well, there is this. And as if that wasn't enough, then there is this verse, too, that I could not shake at the time- nor since that time, from Luke (12:48):

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

That is us. We have been given so much. There are children in this world who have been abandoned, orphaned, and who have no one to care for their basic needs, let alone anyone to love them. There is a huge need and we are able to do something about it! At the time we really felt (and still do feel) a huge sense of responsibility. God has blessed us so abundantly. There was no question to us where God stands on the matter, and so now it came down to this: What would our response be?

I am convinced that is has to be *something*. I do not think we can sidestep this issue. I'm not saying that everyone should adopt or become a foster parent, but I think the Bible is clear on the fact that we must care for the orphan, somehow. That can look differently for each person/couple/family, yes. But the fact remains that it is our responsibility as followers of Jesus to do this.

Here's the thing: it is a huge step of obedience and faith. HUGE. But: you do not go it alone. He is with you, He is with you, He is with you.

One of the best things for me during each of our adoptions was that, when all was said and done~ I was closer to Jesus than ever before. In fact-- although I may have complained just a wee bit about the process itself (okay, so... a LOT bit), and although I was overwhelmed *many* times through it all, and really and truly full of fear at times.... when those final papers were signed and it was a done deal? I was sad to have it end, because it was a thrilling ride. Not the paperwork, no. But the turning to Jesus at each new roadblock. The utter dependence upon God through it all. The I-don't-know-what-You're-doing-here-Lord-but-I-trust-You-anyway kind of faith. Praying fervently and then watching Him work. Trusting and seeing Him deliver. It is invigorating, that kind of faith. (Don't you want that? Don't you long for that kind of relationship with Jesus? I do!)



Next up: Fears About Adoption and Fostering

God's Heart for the Orphan

Thank you for all of your thoughtful comments on the Intro post. (I am convinced that I have the best blog-readers out there. I love you all so much, and think you are all so encouraging and inspiring.)

If you're just joining us, we're taking this entire month to discuss the topic of adoption and foster care. We began here if you'd like to catch up. Now, on to today's post....


* * *

As we consider the topics of adoption and foster care, I think there is only one right place to start:

God's Word.


I'm not going to give my thoughts on these verses- at least not just yet. (I can't promise that my thoughts won't spill over in future posts!) I'm just going to let God's Word speak for itself. Also... I know it's tempting to see a list of verses and skim the first one or two and then click away. I want to ask you, though, to read each and every one:

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.
~Deut. 10:18

You, O God... are the helper of the fatherless. ~Psalm 10:14

You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. ~Psalm 10:17-18

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families.
~Psalm 68:5-6

For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight. ~Psalm 72:12-14

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. ~Psalm 82: 3-4

The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow. ~Psalm 146:9

Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. ~Isaiah 1:17

For in you the fatherless find compassion. ~Hosea 14:3

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. ~James 1:27