Passion and Fire

16406678_10155036637612792_5087112724171773469_nIt wasn’t an “ah-ha” moment, a sermon I heard, or a book I read. I cannot even pinpoint a moment in time when it was decided. It was just in me and slowly it bubbled forth. I knew long before my sweet husband knew. And even with every conversation that ended opposite of how I envisioned…deep within me…I knew. Someday we were going to be foster parents.

Maybe it was in junior high when my first close friend entered foster care. Maybe it was highschool when I went on short term mission trips and saw the brokenness of hurting children right in my own backyard. It possibly was college as I wrestled with what my purpose was and if I even wanted to be a mom someday. All I know is when we started dating and soon got married, it was a pretty constant conversation. We were going to be foster parents.

It took a few years of conversations, and moves, and strategically placed scripture for us to be on the same page. And even in that season of waiting, God was preparing our hearts. For heartbreak, hurt, and unmeasurable joy. God was preparing us for foster care.

Our journey to foster care wasn’t exciting or attention grabbing. But it might be right where you are. With a tug on your heart without a place to land. Maybe your spouse is so not on board you think you’re hearing wrong from God. Or maybe you are passionate about orphan care and aren’t sure if it’s the right time.

Just know, God does not make mistakes. He does not place a passion in your heart or put a fire in your belly without purpose. Our journey to foster care was long. Our journey in foster care is hard. But God did not make a mistake in calling us here. Because without this journey…we would have lost out on knowing some pretty amazing children.

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You’ll always be my baby.

“I may not always be your mama…but you’ll always be my baby.”

I said those words without thinking to our baby as I fed him tonight…and wept.

He has never in his life known another mama. I’m it. When the toddlers yell for mama, a part of me wonders if they have memories of their first mom. But not the baby. When he is looking for mama he’s looking for me.

But that probably won’t always be the case. Someday, our babies will go home to biological family, and quite possibly call some one else mama. It’s likely this baby will never have a memory of me.

But this mama. She will never forget.

I will never forget his chubby fingers or the way he sings loudly every time music plays. I’ll never forget that it took for-stinkin-ever to get him to sleep in anything but the rock n play. I’ll never forget how he snuggles his face into my chest when he’s ready for bed or how his face lights up when he hears my voice.

I’ll never forget how brother has to drum on everything or how sister needs to be carried around. I’ll will always smile when I think of our silly meal times or watch a video of their sweet toddler prayers.

These babies will always be mine, even when I am no longer theirs.

For every today.

Tomorrow isn’t promised.

This short quote is true for every living being. But it is so much more prevalent in the foster care world. Everything we do with our children could be our last. Our last vacation, our last holiday, our last bedtime routine.

For us, we head into the Christmas week knowing it is possible we may be childless for Christmas. The reality is that we have a court date a few days before, and court could go many different ways. Which makes this Christmas unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. It makes me want to make every activity we do “extra” magical, because we may not actually get Christmas, or I may never know how another Christmas is for them for the rest of their lives. But it also makes it harder to get fully in the spirit because heartache may be right around the corner.

Most days, our lives look exactly like any family with multiple small children. We change approximately 25 diapers, fill 492693 milk cups, and snuggle bad dreams away. But some days we are reminded of why we are here, why our children are here, and how broken our world can be. These days I take a hot baths and remind myself that Jesus is bigger than our broken system and hurting world. I cling to the truth of scripture and ask for more grace to get through the next day.

If you’ve encountered me in person, and asked about our case, you probably heard me respond with “We will love them hard for as long they are ours”…or something along those lines. While I’m saying it to you, I’m also saying it to me. Because we don’t know if we will have tomorrow…but we will love them as hard as we can for as many today’s as we have.

5 Practical Ways to Stand Up for your Foster Care community.

Stand up for Foster Care!

This Sunday is Stand Sunday! Even if you aren’t at a place where you feel God is calling you to open your home for foster care, there are so many ways you can Stand Up and do something for the foster care community. Foster families have the same “busy stuff” as other families (work, school, sports, church) with added time-sucking stressors (bio family visits, court dates, endless doctor appointments). Foster care can be such a lonely and isolating ministry. There is so much we cannot talk about, and it is hard to understand unless you have been there. However, there is so many different ways to be a support team and wrap arms around foster families!

 

5 Ways to Stand Up for your local foster care community:

1)    Set up a meal train.

This is such an easy and practical thing when a family gets a new placement. The day after we got our kiddos a dear friend set up a meal train. She brought a meal that day, and then others followed suit for several weeks we had a few meals a week. It was glorious! While trying to get to learn about a new little person (or people) the last thing I want to do is spend time away from them making dinner. By setting up a meal train you can let many different people bless the foster family!

2)    Diaper drop off.

If you know a foster family just brought some littles into their home, diapers are a super practical and tangible way to be a blessing. When our three came into our home we automatically had three in diapers! No time to shop, or prepare, or ease into it. We were so blessed by a few friends who brought baskets full of different sized diapers to our back porch.

3)    Become a respite provider or babysit for a foster family.

Respite: a short period of rest or relief from something difficult.

Friends, foster care is difficult. Court days alone drain everything from within me. If you have a heart for foster care but know you are not at a place to take long term kids, respite would be an amazing way to help! Sometimes foster parents just need a night away…or a vacation. In Illinois you don’t even have to be background checked to babysit. (many states are starting to adapt prudent parenting standards)

4)   Donate items you are no longer using.

Many foster families in our community have been blessed with like-new items their children have outgrown. Bicycles, cribs, highchairs, etc. Getting your children involved in deciding what you can donate is a great time for conversations about giving! If you are unsure about how to go about getting your items to these families, just ask me, I would love to get you connected to an organization wherever you live.

 

5)    PRAY.

Above all, keep the foster care community in your prayers. I love receiving messages of prayer and scripture. Knowing I have support all over the country in the form of prayer is extremely encouraging. Pray for foster families, pray for case workers, pray for biological families, pray for these precious children.

 

This is a brief list of ways to start getting involved. I would love to hear the unique ways you are Standing Up for the foster care community in your local community!

 

stand sunday

It’s getting good.

Today is a day I never want to forget…the day I had a thoroughly enjoyable day with my children.

Foster care is incomparable to any other experience. All three of our small children came to us with hurts and stories. Stories that take time to unwrap, especially because all three are non-verbal. But today. Today my two year old put four words together on his own. My one year old sat playing by herself for more than ten seconds. And my baby fell asleep without me having to jump through hoops. We are in our seventh week together, and there have been many pleasant and enjoyable moments, but today we had a major breakthrough.

Today, instead of being frustrated at every turn, collectively we were able to have conversations and giggle and breathe.

We had an assessor in our home this morning that kept telling me that my one year old princess had “such a sweet personality”. There has been countless people in my home to meet my children and I can honestly say this is the first time the word “sweet” has been used. Not because she isn’t, but because it took a while for her to trust me enough to be sweet when there were strangers in our home.

This is a word of encouragement for those in the thick of foster care and a peak into our real life for those who are not. Friends, it gets good! So many moments in those first few weeks I would cry out and doubt my ability to make a difference. If you are drowning in behaviors and hurt…it gets good. Don’t get me wrong, my children were not angels, and the assessor got to see why she was there, but it feels good to have turned a corner and know we are making big strides in these little people.

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He is enough.

 

Bath toys and diapers and blankets…oh my!

That is me just sitting here on the floor in my living room, looking around and listing the land mines that are littered about.

Two weeks ago we welcomed into our hearts and home three little loves. Our home went from a huge farm house, just me and my sweet husband, to a giggling home full of diapers and love. We are the “right now” parents to the three amigos. Three loves two and under. And our lives will never be the same.

Now that we are past the first week of adjustments I feel I can truthfully say that we are doing wonderfully. If you saw us in the first week however, man, am I sorry. Both Chris and I were walking zombies…the three amigos were full of every emotion…and all five of us were trying to figure it out. Moving forward we recognize it will be a never ending phase of figuring it out, but we now have a good base. We trust each other.

One of the most interesting and challenging parts of being a foster parent is learning about your toddler. This handsome and funny two year old is now my responsibility. And instead of having two years to learn who he is, what he likes and dislikes, where his insecurities lie, or how I can best love him, we have a twenty minute car ride to our house. Praise Jesus for the grace he gives us as parents!

There are many many unknowns in Foster care, but this I do know, Jesus gives enough. There is nothing that I can do in my own power. When I try to work within my own power I fail miserably. But Jesus. He knows. He gives. He is enough.

Nothing could have prepared me for this stage of life. No training classes, or advice from others, or endless books I read. There is no way I could have known how many doctors we would need to see, or how much laundry I would do, or how truly tired we would be. So I am thankful for the promise of 2 Corinthians 12:9,  “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” He is enough.

We will never know how long a child will stay in our home, but this we do know, while they are here they are to be loved 100%. Not because I have 100% to give at all times (seriously, the physical touch is about to be the death of me!), but because we are called and commanded. And because in my weakness…He is enough.

They Called Me Mommy.

“Um, Mommy, I love you.”

His little curly head was tucked right under my chin at 5:43 in the morning and I knew that morning snuggles would be my favorite. We had only met less than twelve hours ago but that little voice meant it when he called me mommy and told me that he loved me. I knew we would soon need to get ready for church, but for now we will be still.

Going into this placement we knew that our days were numbered, but that wasn’t going to stop us from showing them big love. We had J and J for 8 days. A short respite for their current foster family. Foster families use respite care for many different reasons. Sometimes foster kids are not allowed out of state/country for various reasons and the family has a trip planned. Often families use respite care to take an emotional break to allow them to continue on. We feel extremely blessed to be able to provide this little break for families in our area while loving little ones with big feelings.

 

One of our main goals in becoming Foster Parents is to make sure every child, regardless of how long or short they are in our home, feels loved and safe and celebrated. This week with a 5 and 4 year old meant lots of snuggles, farm outings, Jesus songs, and an (un)birthday party. What a blessing to love little people!

For 8 days, they called me mommy.

Daddy would read books and tuck them in. Mommy would rock and sing. We would pray. And they were safe. This was our beautiful life.

And now they are gone. Back to a loving foster family who also loves them. We will always be a part of this story God is writing for their lives, but for now we will do that with prayers from a distance.

If you’re interested in following along with our day to day journey follow us on instagram @forthesakeofbeautiful .

 

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