Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Jesse Tree: Introduction – “A new family tradition”

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots…” ~ Isaiah 11:1  

Have you ever heard of a Jesse Tree? I hadn’t before last year. I can’t even remember where I heard about it, but the more I read, the more fascinated I became.

Our family has always had a Christmas tree. I love everything about it. The hunt for that perfect one. Placing the lights just so. Lovingly placing each special ornaments, some heirlooms, some new. Watching a Christmas movie while stringing cranberries and popcorn to hang on it. Some years we have themes. Other years are just a hodge podge. And, oh, the wonderful smell it brings into the house! Although I must admit that my allergies KILL ME every year…artificial next year? *sniff*  After all of this, comes my favorite part of all — turning all of the living room lights off, save the tree, the village (if we put it up…this year we’re not) and the nativity lights, and singing songs together as a part of our evening devotions.

But over the last couple of years Shane and I have been struggling with just how much we want to focus on this time-honored tradition. Do our kids treasure the nativity scene as much as they do the tree? Are we perhaps placing it above the true meaning of Christmas? We didn’t like the thought of that.

One thing that adoptive and foster parents will relate to, is that we typically don’t have full influence over our children from birth. In some cases, Jesus is not taught at all and Christmas is all about Santa and reindeer. And the tree.

As a family, we kicked Santa to the curb, along with all of his reindeer (or caribou, as Shane likes to refer to them, tongue in cheek) a long time ago. DISCLAIMER: We DO NOT judge friends and family who celebrate that stuff. No, we do not worry about your spiritual condition and pray for you to “see the light.” Seriously. It’s just that as a family, with SO MUCH worldly influence already poured into our sweet children before we ever met them, we are just dialing that way back. WAY. BACK.

But the tree? I just felt that there was a way we could totally redeem that tradition so that our children could enjoy it while still completely focusing on Jesus and the reason He came for us, by such humble means, no less.

And then I found the Jesse Tree! There are different versions, but essentially, all of them have an ornament and Scripture and/or devotion for every day (some beginning the day after Thanksgiving, others starting on December 1) that show how the Old Testament points to the promise of a Savior, and more specifically, Jesus.

As I mentioned, I have come across several versions. Some have crossover with symbolism (i.e. a dove representing Noah on one list and John the Baptist on another…you can see where it would fit either), some focus only on people of the Old Testament, others more on events. Some only have male characters on the list while others have Ruth, Rahab and Esther. So I looked at several lists and haven’t settled on one for sure yet.

Last year we followed The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones and loved it. However, it wasn’t intended for the Jesse Tree and continues several stories after Jesus’ birth. Which is great. And I loved that Leah is honored, as well as Daniel.

I was really excited about using The Jesus Storybook Bible again, but at the last minute…like within the last two or three weeks, it disappeared into thin air. Seriously?! NOW what was I going to do?!

Well, in my search at the library, I found, not only said book, but one simply called, The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean. I haven’t had a chance to read it, but plan on following this one as well to see if I like it.

However, this year, I’m super excited to follow along with Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, but Ann Voscamp this year. I am already finding things that I wish were there, (like Leah and Daniel), but others are included in this, like Jonah and Zechariah & Elizabeth.

So basically, my kiddos and you are my guinea pigs. Aren’t you thrilled?! Next year you may see that I have morphed a calendar of my own. But for this year we’re following a “plan.”

Now, if the book is readily available, why check on my blog? First, although activities are suggested in the Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, we like to add songs for the kids to sing, so I will have a song suggestion for each one. In addition, you can purchase ornaments for the Jesse Tree, but honestly, they’re spendy and our family couldn’t afford them this year. So I’ll show you the ornaments I have made and give suggestions along the way for you to make your own.

We have decided to start with the introduction tonight, November 30, and the ornaments and stories will officially start tomorrow, December 1.

Thankfully, we already had a HUGE advent calendar that I made out of a clear shoe organizer and they’re super easy to make! Here’s where I found how to make it. In each slot I put the ornament for the day and will likely also put the Scriptures on 3×5 cards for the kids to look up. I also put a 3×5 car with an activity on it for them to do, unrelated to the Jesse Tree, (i.e., We’re watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” tonight!)

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Speaking of ornaments, last year I decided to go through my many, many ornaments to try to find ornaments that were already special to our family that would fit the symbols needed. For the missing days, I am decorating plain glass ball ornaments to fill in the gaps. This year I took the time to paint nice “set” of ornaments to use for years to come. This has been a learning curve for me, but hopefully what I learn can be useful to those of you who wish to start this tradition for your family.

Regarding the Scripture readings: Last year when I was searching for a good plan to follow, many of the readings  felt too long for our kiddos’ attention spans and so I tried to find the stories in our Children’s Bible whenever I could. One HUGE benefit to Ann Voscam’s versin is that the Scripture reading is concise, but an integral part, nonetheless. I do encourage you to have children actually find the Scripture in the Bible. It’s good practice and helps their brains connect that what we are reading is God’s Word and not just a storybook.

I am so excited to share this experience with you, my friends!

More to come!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

7 Reasons We Kicked Santa to the Curb

OK…so before you read this post, PLEASE READ THIS: 

Our family doesn’t celebrate Santa and I’m giving some legitimate reasons as to why. But this post is meant to be taken in good humor. I’m not writing this to make anyone feel badly or to criticize. I am writing this to provoke thought and there are some for real questions and points I intend to make. But, seriously. My parents celebrated Christmas with Santa and I never once thought they were bad parents for doing it. In fact, as terrified as I am in the picture under reason #4 , it’s one of my favorite Christmas pictures…because it’s HILARIOUSHowever, I do find it ironic how much people talk up Santa Claus at Christmas time. Yes, St. Nicholas was a pretty stellar guy. But honestly, let’s examine…

Reason #1 – Let’s face it…we’re lying to our kids. My cousin once told me that her family was big on Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And she truly believed in Santa.  Her mom took pains to make sure that the illusion was upheld. And then she found out the truth. And she felt betrayed and lied to. And it took her time to trust her mother again. Let’s let that sink in. You may think this is extreme, but we cannot take for granted that our kids know the truth and are just playing along. They may not. If your kids are as literal and black & white as mine, they may be falling for it hook, line and sinker. And is it worth losing their trust over when they finally figure it out?

Reason # 2 – He plays favorites. My hubby told me the other day that he seriously thought Santa liked other kids more than him. His parents weren’t rich, so he would get a small gift from “Santa” every year. Then he would go back to school and find out that his rich friend got a new bike or a Power Wheels. That’s a big disparity. This can cause our kids to ask, If Santa plays favorites, who else does? Do my parents? Does God? 

Reason # 3 – And speaking of comparisons, he is a God-like figure.  “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good…” Instead of our children being encouraged to be good and obey because it pleases God, we’re encouraging them to be motivated to “be good” in order to get stuff.

Reason #4 – Stranger Danger matters…except with Santa Claus. All year long we tell our kids, “Don’t to talk to strangers. Don’t take candy from strangers. DON’T EVER sit on a stranger’s lap! Who knows what a CREEP like that is looking for! Oh, except for this big dude in a bright red suit with a bushy white beard that covers his whole face. Wait, why are you crying? Stop that. He’s perfectly safe. You can trust him!” (see photo below) We need to help our children foster their gut instincts to stay away from people that give them a bad feeling. If your kid is terrified to sit on Santa’s lap, let it go. You can get other cute Christmas shots sans Santa.

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Mom and Dad having to sit on Santa’s lap with me to get the shot, Christmas 1982

Reason # 5 – He gives stores a way to pressure us parents into consumerism and debt to keep the fantasy alive. There your kiddo is, sitting on Santa’s lap. You are straining to hear what they are asking for to make sure you were on the right track for their gifts and then, to your horror, little Suzy asks for a puppy or little Bobby asks for a train set.  That actually happened to us. A couple of years ago while we were in Kentucky for Christmas, Nana and Papa paid for all of us to go on a train ride with Santa. We decided to relent and let the kids  sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they wanted. Up walks Nutkin and asks for a train. Ummmm? We had no idea that he wanted that. He had said nothing. And here we are completely done with our Christmas shopping, thousands of miles from home and only three days before Christmas. Thankfully, Nana and Papa had gotten him a train unbeknownst to us and all was well. But how often does that happen where the parents then make a mad dash to the store, spend more than they intended and stress themselves out? And worse yet, how many times have you heard a store clerk tell your kiddo, “You like that $400.00 toy, huh? Well, maybe Santa will bring that to you for Christmas.” *wink, wink* Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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Nutkin dropping the bomb on us… December 2014

Reason #6 – He replaces us as the giver of the best gifts to our children. We all know how hard we work.  We want Christmas to be special, so we scrimp and save to give good gifts to our children. We spend hours shopping, standing in lines, decorating and wrapping gifts. But instead of putting “TO: Johnny, FROM: Mommy & Daddy” on the package, we give Santa, a distant, un-involved magical man all of the credit! WHAT ARE WE THINKING?!  Sorry, but I want my kids to realize that I love them and hand-picked a present personally for them.

Reason #7 – He takes the focus off Jesus. This is a separate point from reason #3 and to me, the most important reason of all. If you are not a Christian, this argument is moot. But to those of us that are, I believe that I can make the argument with little dispute that Christmas is all about Jesus. If we can establish this as fact, then we must examine who we are giving focus to besides Jesus at Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birthday. Holiday means “holy day.” It’s His day. Not Santa’s or Rudolph’s or an Elf on the Shelf or any other character. Santa often represents commercialism, excess and what we can get. Jesus not only represents, but IS the embodiment of grace, mercy, humility and what God gave…Himself. And what a beautiful present He is!

So dear friends, as this holy day fast approaches, my family and I wish you the happiest of Christmases.

My next posts will be about the Jesse Tree, a fairly new Advent tradition in our family. I’m excited to share my discoveries with you!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

National Adoption Month: Our Adoption Story – Part 3

This month I’ve been posting a series about our adoption story. This is the final post of that series.

The first few months of having the boys was a blur. As I sit here thinking about what to write, I can hardly think of what we did.

Our first month was filled with a series of visits to family and friends to make introductions.  We were so thrilled and so overwhelmed. It was a constant balance of sharing our joy and while at the same time sheltering the boys from being overtaken by all the new faces and excitement. Dear friends threw us showers. Shane’s parents flew in from Kentucky. We dedicated the boys to the Lord in church, though the adoption was not yet finalized.

Shane had taken paternity leave. Our days were filled with zoo trips, beach trips, playing at the park, coloring, building train tracks and running through sprinklers. Nights were filled with rocking and reading, tears and tantrums, nightmares and no sleep.

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Our first family picture…ever

All of my life I had wanted to be a Mommy. And now that I was one, I was constantly fluctuating between pure joy and sheer terror for what we would be facing.

Our oldest continued to go to therapy and I would join him at times to learn how to play and interact with him because we struggled to connect. Did you read that? I had to learn how to play. I was learning about all of my deficiencies and inadequacies as a parent. Parenting a special needs child taught me that I had special needs, too. I had so much to learn. So much didn’t come naturally…and it frightened me. And I punished myself for it.  And it’s honestly a big part of why I blog about adoption now. Because the longer I walk this road, the more travelers I meet who say, “Me, too.”

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Our first professional family picture

In August I was told that there was one court hearing I should go to. The boys’ birth mom would be there and it was just a “formality.” When I asked what for, the caseworker said, “Oh, her rights were to be fully terminated that day.” I was horrified because I had been told that was already a done deal when we got the boys in May. As I sat listening to her attorney ask the judge to not terminate, I was literally terrified. I was frozen. My stomach hurt. I was near tears. Looking back, it was really just a formality. She had been to court more than once and this had been an appeal to a previous termination decision. But I was so green I knew next to nothing about the process. As their mom walked into the courtroom, I was struck by how much Pickle looked like her. And I hurt for him. And I hurt for her. And I felt like an intruder. I left the courtroom that day feeling like a rag.

Abigail, the boys’ previous foster mom, warned me that holidays would be bittersweet for years to come. The sadness that the boys experienced in the middle of the joy was tangible. I had to face a new reality that holidays would never be what I had imagined they would be. However, they would still be special. Our reality would just be different than reality for others. And in spite of all the pain, our first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family were magical.

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Our first Christmas

In February, the day finally arrived for the boys to become official Dunaways. Prior to the court hearing, we had discussed name changes, especially with Pickle. He had been named after his father, who he didn’t remember, and was a very Hispanic name, which he did not identify with at all. And so we talked about changing his name. The amazing part in his name choice was that he picked a name both very significant in the Bible and very personally significant to me. We were over the moon excited to have a hand in his name change. Nutkin wanted to be like big brother, so we offered another special name to him which he loved. We collectively decided that the first names their birth mother had chosen were still special and would become their middle name. We wanted them to feel they still had a part of her with them.

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Adoption Day, February 2013

On that beautiful February day, we met at the Marion County courthouse, surrounded by many friends, family, and DHS folks, and the boys became ours.

It was a memorable and very special day.

And we began to settle into a life of just us. Therapy stopped, DHS pulled out of the picture and it was just…us.

But not forever…

Stay tuned. May is National Foster Care month. The story will continue then.

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

 

National Adoption Month: Our Adoption Story – Part 2

In my last post, I left off with us finding out that we had been selected at committee to adopt our boys.

We were in contact with Melissa, the boys’ caseworker, I believe, the next day to start arranging our transition and to discuss what it would look like. The boys were living with a wonderful Christian family, who are now dear friends. At the time, they had one adopted daughter and were in the process of adopting a baby boy. (Their home has since grown by two more daughters through adoption.) Their family is such an integral part of our story. There is no reason that they shouldn’t have adopted our boys. Except God told them no. They loved them and wanted them, but when praying, the Lord told them that the boys belonged to another family. The had the boys call them Aunt Abigail and Uncle Jonathan from the start to make their roles clear.

Since they knew that our boys were not their boys, they pursued another adoption and were smack-dab in the middle of the process when the committee happened. In fact, Abigail, the boys’ foster Mom, was in one of the southern states to be with the birth mother at the hospital. It was a chaotic and disjointed time. We wanted the boys to get a proper send-off from their present home as much as we wanted to bring them to their permanent home. We knew how important that was.

Melissa arranged our first meeting with them. She said it would likely be short and we would follow the boys’ lead. She encouraged us to bring a small gift for each of them, but a camera would probably not be best. That was so hard. We were never able to capture that first moment if meeting them for others to see. However, that moment is indelibly stamped into my mind and heart forever.

As we pulled up to the house, we saw little faces looking out the front curtains. Kem and Melissa met us and we all walked up to the house together. Looking back, I wonder how that looked to the boys. How nervous must they have been? K, almost literally knee-high to a grasshopper went right to Melissa, who lifted him to our eye-level. She asked for him to say his name, which he said in the most adorable way that melted my heart. She asked how old he was and he replied, “I’n two-half.” (Yes, I’n, not I’m.)

M was a little streak in my periphery who quickly disappeared. He was crawling on all fours hiding behind the piano. He peeked out and giggled what I know how was a very nervous little laugh. He scampered across the floor and tried to engage, but struggled. It was brought up that he had a bunny (we had already heard), so he brought Lollipop in for us to meet. We told him she could come, too, and a little barrier was lowered. He asked about Zacchaeus, his anole lizard, and we said he was coming, too. Again, more relief.

While we were interacting with him, a lady who was helping to care for the boys while Jonathan was working and Abigail was out of state, was holding K. He was “reading” the picture book we had sent ahead of time about us and our family. When she pointed to our picture and asked K who it was, he said, “Momma and Daddy!”

Melissa then asked M what he wanted to call us. I was bracing for “Shane and Glenda” to start because I didn’t want to push him. He said, “Mommy and Daddy.”

Words were not enough then.

And they still aren’t now. To hear it for the very first time was a moment frozen in time for me.

We stayed maybe half an hour. We had already planned a trip to Redmond with my parents and were going to cancel when all this started happening, but Melissa strongly encouraged us to keep the plans. “This is the last vacation you two will be taking alone for probably a really long time.” We arranged to have a phone call with the boys while we were out of town and left.

As we drove away, Shane looked at me with tears and said, “Glenda, those are our boys!”

We tried to have a “normal” vacation, but yeah, right. We talked about no one else the entire time. And my parents were thrilled with us. But Shane did manage to take Dad out to shoot his handmade potato cannon and Mom and I did our traditional shopping trip in Sisters. Near the end of the trip, we found an amazing play structure at my folks’ time share that had probably always been there that none of us had ever noticed because we had no need for it. Of course, we all had to pose for a picture in front of it so the kids could see where we take vacations.

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Ready to grow our family!

When we got back it was time to meet with them again and take them to dinner, just the four of us. Abigail and Jonathan told us of a playground nearby and a good restaurant and sent us on our way. We buckled K into his car seat for the first time. We got Mexican food and ordered four meals. This CRACKS. ME. UP! Boy, did we have a lot to learn! Even now, with three kids, we order two adult meals and we all leave full!

I can’t remember if we ate first or played first. It was so surreal. And kind of uncomfortable.

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Shane’s first ever picture with his boys

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“K-man,” as we formerly called him

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M trying very hard to impress us

We took them back to the house and it was bath time for M. I was so shocked when he asked me to help him instead of Aunt Abigail. After that was family devotions and their foster home could not have been a better fit to prepare them for us. They did family worship exactly as we had imagined it to be. Songs, Bible story, praying together…and as we prayed, I wept that evening in thankfulness to the Heavenly Father who does all things well.

It was hard to go home that night.

That weekend we arranged to meet at the local Children’s Museum on Saturday and then take them home for an overnight visit. We would take them back to their church for Sunday morning and then they could say their goodbyes that evening and we’d get them permanently on Monday afternoon.

But that Friday, I got a call at work from Abigail. She had news that could change everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. (I hate to be vague, but that really is a part of the story that is more my son’s than mine, so suffice it to say, it was something that shook us to the core.) Abigail was encouraging us to pray and was hoping that we would still take the boys. Wait, what? Still take the boys? Then I got a call from the case worker. She was asking us to do the same. I didn’t even know that was a choice. Is that actually a choice? They are our boys! My mind was racing. I called Shane frantic. We got off work and drove straight to our pastor’s house for counsel. Were we making a mistake? Were these the right boys for us? We were capable of helping these boys as they dealt with such enormous challenges? Our pastor was calm, peaceful, and confident. “Every kid has problems. Yeah, it’s scary, but the church will be here for you. You won’t be alone.” He encouraged us to pray and to get away. So we did. We drove straight to the beach and got a room at our favorite Best Western. (Yes, we actually have a favorite Best Western.)

 

After talking, praying, crying, talking and praying some more, we knew what we already knew. They were our boys. 

All I remember about Saturday was that I was nervous, M was nervous, K was oblivious and Shane sprained his ankle badly trying to go down a twisty slide like a “cool” Dad.

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Getting to know my little K-man

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Our precious boys

We took them home and while driving our pastor was driving in the next lane and rolled down his windows and yelled like a crazy person, “IS THIS THEM?!?! Hi, Buddy! I’m Pete!” To this day, even though they now live in California, M and Bro. Pete have a very special bond we’re very grateful for him and his wonderful family.

We got home and the boys loved their room. And I was so glad because if they hadn’t I think I would have cried. We spent HOURS on that little 10×13 room.

We played with them, had dinner and tried to introduce them what we hoped our Saturday night routine would be. HAHAHAHAHAHA! (Weren’t we cute?)

We drove them to their foster family’s home church the next morning and were warmly welcomed as one of their own. It was a lovely day. M colored and K fell asleep in my arms during the sermon. My heart was so happy and full.

And we had only just begun. (Cue Carpenters music…And SCENE.)

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

National Adoption Month: Our Adoption Story – Part 1

In honor of National Adoption Month, I’ve decided to share our adoption story with you. It’s a long story that really can’t be made short, so I’ll be making this a two-part post.

Today I’ll be sharing with you what led us to adopt, why we chose to adopt through DHS and what our selection process was like.

Shane and I had individually and independently wanted to adopt before we met each other. (At some point, I may have him post his thoughts for me to share with you all.)

We discussed our desire for our “hypothetical” future spouses to be willing to adopt. I knew I might have trouble conceiving, so it was a no-brainer for me. But I didn’t give up on the dream of having “my own” kids…a phrase that now makes me cringe.

We began dating each other when we were 18 and were married at age 19. We were cute, little, naive teenagers who had a perfect plan on paper of what we wanted our lives to look like. We would have two to four biological kids, raise them, and then when they were in college, we would start again, adopting one “hard to place” child at a time, likely a middle-school aged child, raise them, and send them to college as well, repeat as needed.

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Dig the orange hair? 

To say that I believe that the Lord is patient with us when we tell Him our plans for our future is an understatement.

We had explored adopting from China. I had always felt like my heart was there. But we were discouraged when we found out that the cost was roughly $30,000. We were even more disappointed to find out at age 20 that the minimum age to adopt from China was 30. We couldn’t wait ten years!!!

Fast-forward ten years, at least two miscarriages, one hysterectomy and many, many tears.  Still no kids. Shane and I had each turned our backs on the Lord and returned to Him in that time as well. Some people talk about years of marriage flying by…not so with us. Our ten years felt precisely like ten years: the first two felt like eight and the last eight felt like two. (Read: Our first two years were HARD.)

We explored adopting through a private agency where we could create a photo book about us and a birth mother would pick us for her baby. We were excited about open adoption. But again, the prices seemed insurmountable and I had a personal struggle with fund-raising to adopt.

I can’t remember how we heard about adopting through DHS, but I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I called and spoke to the adoption certifier for our county. He was friendly, answered all my questions and then told me that our county was so backed up that we could go through our neighboring county for training and certification. Little did I know what a God-send that would be for us.

We decided to attend the training classes, that were free. We figured we could always back out if it wasn’t for us. No harm, no foul.

In November 2010 we attended our first class and met E’rma, who would forever change our lives. We sat through three hours of hearing her tell her story. She had been abused. She had been a foster child. She is an adoptive mother. Her story took our breath away. I am pretty sure I cried. More than once. Listening to her that night cemented forever in our souls that this was a calling for us.

And we would answer.

We were so green. We knew nothing about the home study process, how to submit for a child that we were interested in or how a committee worked, let alone what court was like, what a CASA was or what a CANS assessment was. We were starry-eyed.

Our classes ended in January of 2011. We were told there was a long wait for the home study to be processed. They weren’t kidding. We finally got a call from our adoption certifier, Kem, in July 2011. You can read my thoughts about the home study here. 

Kem called me in November of that year to tell me that we were in the system and could now have access to see pictures and profiles of waiting children. I remember poring over the pictures of each sweet little face and reading about five paragraphs that were supposed to tell us everything we needed to know in order to say “yes” to a child.

We found a little girl that seemed like the “perfect” fit and asked to have our study submitted for her in December 2011. We had NO IDEA that it was OK to submit for more than one child, that it was rare to be selected, how many studies were reviewed, and that if we weren’t selected to go to committee, we’d never hear anything. We waited three months. 

Shane and I had joined an adoption support group facilitated by E’rma and Kem and we went to our meeting in February a bit discouraged. It was then that we asked more questions and found out that: A) It was OK to submit for more than one profile, and B) If we hadn’t heard by then, we probably wouldn’t.

Then Kem said the following ten words that changed our lives forever. “I think you need to check out M and K.” (Names omitted for their protection.) She said they were half-brothers, 7- and 2-years old. She said she knew their caseworker was looking for a good fit and she felt we would be strong contenders. So we breathed a quick prayer and said to go ahead and submit our study to Melissa, their caseworker.

A whirlwind ensued. Here we had been waiting for over a year, and then, just like that, the dam of events broke. Melissa called me the very next day following the support group discussion. I was on a lunch break at work and we talked most of that hour. She then put me in contact with their current foster mother. That filled the lunch hour the next day. I still have the stacks of notes I took during those conversations.

When the email arrived in my inbox, I opened the email and with the picture attachment of the boys like it was Christmas. I was practically shaking. I printed it out and took it home. Shane and I pored over it. We had plans to go out of town with close friends the next week. So we took the profile with us to Leavenworth. We prayed. We shared with our friends what we could. We talked with our parents. We prayed some more.

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Leavenworth with our dear friends, March 2012…One of our last childless trips

They seemed like the perfect fit for us.

But the craziness was only beginning. In our excitement, we had submitted our home study for more kiddos. We got back from our trip to find that we had been selected to go to committee, not only for M & K, but another sibling set of little boys. My head was spinning. Was this for real?? 

I tried to place a call to those foster parents as well. I had to leave a message in Spanish on their voicemail, which terrified me. I never got a call back. Probably because I was stuttering like an idiot. And because the Lord had already made the choice for us.

Kem said that the two committees were back to back and that we would be best off to pick which boys we wanted to pursue. How could we choose?? We asked the Lord for guidance, and Kem did say that she really did feel that M & K were a good fit for us, so we chose them.

In her wisdom, she didn’t tell us that it’s rare not to be selected in your first committee. We had no idea what to expect. The weekend before our committee hearing, (that we could not be a part of,) we were counselors for a youth retreat. We had both taken that following Monday off so that we could sit by the phone all day. Looking back, that was comical. There was nothing we could have done. We could have worked, at least a half-day. Instead, I cleaned. Like a maniac. And then we watched a movie in bed and tried not to be nervous.

When the phone finally rang, I confessed we had practically been sitting on our phone all day and Kem chuckled.

“What have you been doing all day??” she asked.

“Cleaning the house. A lot,” I said.

“Well, I guess that’s a good thing, because you have two little boys moving in really soon.”

That’s all I remember of the conversation. We were over the moon excited. That was April 16, 2012. We began coordinating the transition plan. We would meet our boys for the first time on April 27. Our boys. 

We could hardly wait!

To be continued…

 

Blessings and much love,

Mama

 

 

 

 

 

National Adoption Month: 9 Practical Ways to Care for the Fatherless

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”  ~James 1:27

November is National Adoption Month. It seemed like a good time to write this post on what we can do for the fatherless among us.

This is one of my all-time favorite verses and honestly, the verse that pricked my heart and told me that I was called to adopt. However, I made the mistake of reading a bit too much into this verse and firmly believed until quite recently that all Christians were called to adopt and were not obeying the call. Judgmental, I know, but there it is.

Then we adopted.

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And it was hard, and scary, and troublesome, and brought me to my knees in tears on many occasions. I started asking the Lord, “Is everybody really supposed to do this?” Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there is anything special about me. I do not believe myself to be more capable of handling adoption than you are. But my husband and I were very clearly called to do this, individually, before we even met each other.  In fact, that was one of the first conversations we had before dating. When Shane said that whoever he married would have to be called to adopt, I knew he was the one.

So after we adopted, I began to wonder what was wrong with me.  Where before, I had been a HUGE advocate for adopting before we actually did, I found it much harder to encourage all of my starry-eyed friends to jump right in and go for it. I was protective of my friends and felt like I was beckoning them into a life of pain and heartache. Yes, the joy and peace and love are still there, but MAN, there are a lot stones, pitfalls and sheer drop-offs on this path that God called us to walk.

Several months ago, I shared how I was feeling with my dear friend, Heidi. Rather ashamed, I told her how judgmental I had been and how I realized how very hard this calling was. In reply, she pointed out that there are many ways to care for the fatherless and widows. Of course, I thought! How had I missed that?

Upon further contemplation and meditation, the Lord basically said, “Read that verse again.” We are to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.  So what exactly does visit mean in this context? James used the Greek word, “episkeptomai,” which means to “inspect, that is, (by implication) to select; by extension to go to see, relieve.” So yes, one of the ways we can care for the fatherless (and I use this term loosely because in today’s culture, this can take many forms), is to “select” them, or adopt them. But there are many practical ways the Church can step up and “relieve” these children, and their foster/adoptive parents, in manageable ways.

  1. Respite Care –Without becoming a full-fledged, full-time foster parent, you can still go to the classes and get certified to become respite care for those who are. Foster parents can’t just call a babysitter when they want to go on a date or just need a break. And even if they could, with the many attachment issues and behaviors their kiddos come with, many wouldn’t want to. Knowing there are folks who are certified to do this is a wonderful thing. If you are interested in doing this, please reach out to me! I can connect you with your local DHS trainer.
  2. Emergency Foster Care –Training is still necessary for this role, but these folks take the kiddos in during transition. Can you imagine the fear and loss a child feels when they have been removed from their unsafe home? It may not even feel unsafe to them and they are confused and heartbroken. Have you ever wondered where these kids go before they’re placed? Emergency foster parents play a crucial role for these kiddos. Over recent months, DHS has been all over the news for putting kids and their caseworkers up in hotel rooms because there were no homes open for placement. Oftentimes, only an emergency shelter home was needed in these cases until relatives were located. You can make a difference.
  3. Foster Parents’ Night Out – This is a wonderful ministry that blesses foster parents in the trenches. Per their website, local churches host FPNO so that foster parents can have a night off while trained volunteers care for their foster, adopted, and biological children. You can become one of those trained volunteers to bless these parents and the children whose lives they touch. Visit their website here to get involved. 
  4. Welcome Boxes –When these kiddos are removed from their homes, often they don’t get to bring things with them and they feel alone. They may have to sit in a DHS office for hours waiting for a placement. A wonderful organization called, Embrace Oregon, is asking volunteers to make Welcome Boxes for these kiddos. They have all kinds of little goodies to make them feel welcome while in DHS care. Even if you don’t live in Oregon, I would encourage you to reach out to your local DHS (Dept. of Human Services) agency to see if they have a similar program. To get more information about Welcome Boxes, click here. 
  5. Christmas Giving Trees –It’s that time of year and many stores have these…and often they are for foster children or those waiting to be adopted. Take a tag…or two! You will brighten a child’s Christmas.
  6. Toy/Clothing Drives – Same as above, there are many opportunities for this at this time of year especially. I would encourage you to contact your local DHS office directly. They will gladly take gifts for children and can guarantee the gift you give will stay local if you wish.
  7. Sponsor a Child – Especially internationally, there are many organizations through whom you can sponsor a child who desperately needs help. Compassion International and World Vision are two very well-known organizations you can try. I strongly encourage you to do your own research to find the organization that is right for your family.
  8. Become a CASA –CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. This role takes training and some time out of your month, an average of 10-15 hours/month, but is a crucial part of the success of a foster child in the system. They advocate specifically for the child in court, without having to be the attorney. They visit the child’s home, become a familiar constant face, and a safe contact for the child no matter how many placement disruptions they may experience. For more info on CASA, click here.
  9. Other Church Sponsored Events – If you have the capacity and are in leadership in your church, you can think big on some of the suggestions above. Assembling boxes together as a church family can be a wonderful blessing. On an even bigger scale, there are churches in the Marion Co. area that have adopted DHS visitation rooms and done room makeovers so that children and their biological parents can have a comfortable and welcoming place to have their visits.

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The most we ever had at once…All five of “our” munchkins: three foster kiddos, two adopted kiddos…all cherished

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I pray that this plants a seed in your heart to see what you can This is not about being an earth shaker. I’ve said before that the Lord impressed upon me that I am to just be a Nehemiah Mama…to do my part, where I am.You can, too. You don’t have to “go big or go home” here. Anything you can do to help a “fatherless” child will make a huge and lasting impression.

Be a welcoming facewhen they visit your Sunday school. Encourage your children to befriend themwhen they show up in school mid-year completely lost and friendless. Be a mentor. If you are aware and looking, you will see opportunities everywhere.

You may have even heard this on the radio or TV: “Not everyone can be a foster parent, but anyone can help a foster child.”It’s true!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama