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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Shane’s first ever picture with his boys
“K-man,” as we formerly called him
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.
Getting to know my little K-man
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.)
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.
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.
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.
“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 19:14
I was listening to a sermon a while back and something the preacher said pricked my heart. He said, “My Mom…was truly my friend.”
As I sat there and pondered those words, I asked myself, How many times have I heard someone say, “You’re not your child’s friend. You’re the parent.”
Believe me. I get it. I get the logic. I get the dangers that it is trying to avoid. The problem is, I’ve lived this “you’re not your child’s friend,” motto so very literally, that I believe my children may be suffering for it.
The weird part is, I have always been a lovey, touchy-feely, huggy type of person. I was so excited at the prospect of having kiddos that I could love on. So when these two precious little guys entered my life, I thought I would be lovey, touchy-feely and huggy.
But I wasn’t.
I was guarded. My kiddos were extremely manipulative in their affection because they had to be. They had to watch out for #1 because their birth mom did not. Perhaps because she couldn’t. And so for the first year especially, my kids, especially Pickle, were hugging me only when it suited their needs. This was not how I had pictured motherhood.
As a result, I started becoming distant with my children. I would still speak comfort to them, kiss their owies, and rock them at night, but I always did these things while shrinking back, fearing I would be hurt.
During a particularly bad day a couple of years ago, I was pouring out my heart to God, feeling downright sorry for myself. And I heard Him so gently say, “It’s awfully hard to snuggle up to armor.”
Wow. Right between the eyes.
IT IS…It’s AWFULLY hard to snuggle up to armor. It’s heavy and hard and cold.
You see, I was so busy guarding my own heart in fear of being hurt and rejected that I was protecting myself against the two little people who needed me most. They needed to be allowed into the safe haven of my heart. The Enemy of my soul, who is the Father of lies, had been trying to divert my attention and was actually succeeding in fooling me that they were my enemies.
I am so incredibly thankful for that AHA! moment.
Mamas, our armor was designed by the Captain of our souls to protect against Satan and his wiles alone. It was never designed to protect us from the pain inflicted upon by others. Jesus’s life and ministry bears this out. We will experience pain if we love like Jesus does. But if we wear the Armor of God correctly, we can be assured that the pain that we experience will draw us closer to the Lord, rather than away from Him.
That evening as the preacher was talking about his mom, he wasn’t talking about being her pal. They didn’t hang out together, I’m sure. But she was warm, approachable, and caring of his soul. She prayed for him, counseled him, and was the listening ear he needed. I know this preacher, I know his Mama, and I know the rest of the story. You see, right after he called his mom his friend, he said, “True friendship exists only in the gospel.”
We have such a high calling as mamas who serve Jesus. We can be an approachable example of Christ’s love to our children so that they can understand the verse:
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Have you ever seen the film, “Anna and the King”? I don’t remember much about that movie. But the one scene that will forever be burned into my mind is when the king was in the throne room. People were repeatedly bowing to him. They were careful to never look into his eyes. They were sure never to turn their backs on him. They had to be announced and approved before they could approach the king. Right in the middle of one such audience, the doors burst open and in ran his littlest and most cherished child. She dashed right past the people who were so terrified of their king, climbed up the many steps and crawled onto her daddy’s lap who was on the throne. She held his face in her hands. She had no fear of him because, although he was a great king, he was her father first.
Oh, how I want my children to know that they can approach Jesus this way! But in order to teach this, I must grasp this concept for myself. As I do, they will be comfortable coming to me for help and I will then be able to ever point them to Jesus!
Dear Heavenly Father, may my children always know that when they need a friend, I will be there. And so will You.
Blessings and much love,
Friends, I’d really like to hear from you! How do you practice approach-ability with your kids?
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” ~ II Corinthians 12:9
Hello Dear Friends,
I know it’s been a while since I posted. There is a reason for that. It’s kinda weak, but here it is.
I’m depleted. Spent. Exhausted. We’re dealing with the termination trial for Little Miss’s mom’s rights. It’s dragging on and on. And my heart just hurts. It hurts for our little girl. It hurts for our boys, who share the same mother. And it hurts for her.
The trial is dredging up so many unpleasant thoughts and memories and I just can’t right now.
To top it all off, I was informed by the Dept. of Justice last Friday and I will be called upon to testify. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less at the moment.
We’ve worked so hard at cultivating this delicate, fragile, tattered relationship with the children’s birth mom and I feel like it’s swirling and sliding down a sink drain and I’m grasping at it with my hands as it slips into the darkness below.
I know that the Lord wasn’t surprised by that phone call on Friday. I know that He already knows what I will be asked, what I will say, and the outcome of the trial. But I have to repeat that to myself every single day to keep grasping tight to that belief. For His grace is, indeed, sufficient.
In spite of all of that, Foster Care is so precious to me — so near and dear to my heart — that I can’t just let it pass.
So I’ll share with you the thoughts I formulated in May of 2015.
And to those of you who have been holding us up in your prayers, thank you.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28
Many of you have asked for an update on Little Miss. I had previously posted on my Facebook account in November that we were preparing for her to be returned to her birth mom right after Christmas. Here we are in the middle of January and we still have her and overnight visits have not even started yet.
This is what foster care is. So many people and factors are involved in a safe return home.
Because this is an open case, I don’t feel at liberty to share much of anything publicly, but I will say this: I would rather have it this way than to have her rushed back when neither she, nor her mom are ready. Of course, selfishly, we’d love to keep her forever. But truthfully, we want her mom to be successful.
That said, this is hard stuff!
It’s hard for Little Miss because she is confused. She has put the pieces together, because she is a VERY smart little two-year-old, that she will be moving into her mommy’s place soon. But the longer the visits with her are, the more anxious she is because she has told us that she knows we can’t come and that makes her sad.
It’s hard on our boys. They have extreme difficulty with transitions of any kind and this is one of the biggest of their lives. And they can’t even prepare for it because there are no concrete dates or markers to watch for yet.
It’s hard for our parents who love her so much and don’t know how to prepare their hearts for another return home.
It’s hard for her mom because she so desperately wants her back already.
It’s hard for DHS because they want what’s best for her, as do we, and have so many things to consider.
It’s hard for us because we love her and want her to be with us forever, but have been fervently praying for her mom to succeed for the sake of Little Miss.
In the meantime, we praise Him. We praise Him because of Who He is. He’s a good, good Father and we’re loved by Him. He sees all the details and knows each person involved in this case — every attorney, caseworker, judge, family member, safety provider, and other people that I have forgotten in this list. He knows them all by name and knows everything about this case. We are so very grateful for His promise that all things do work together for good because we do love Him.
Every single day that we have with Little Miss during this waiting game is a gift. We got to have Thanksgiving with her and my in-laws from Kentucky got to spend genuine bonding time with her. We got to watch her be a little lamb in the Christmas play at our church. We got to see her unwrap all of her Christmas gifts and delight in each one. We got to see her play in the snow last week. I got to take her to her first real dental appointment. We get to rock her, snuggle her, talk with her, laugh with her and sometimes cry with her, too.
Again, there is much that I cannot and will not disclose at this time, but we greatly appreciate your prayers. You all have expressed care, concern and interest in our little family and we greatly appreciate it!
“And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.” Mark 1:22
Well, dear friends. It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I think it’s safe to say that I’m not blogging to gain a readership and eventually make money. I blog simply when the Lord lays something on my heart.
I have almost written several things. So many things have happened over the last couple of months in relation to politics, faith, school, family, whatever was on my mind at the time, but I just didn’t have the gumption to really do it.
But now I feel is the time to let you all in on what going on in our lives. Not because we’re interesting or exciting or any of that, but to testify to the awesomeness of God and the magnificence of His plan.
At the end of October I got a call from DHS. That is nothing new. It’s a common occurrence. But I had to let it go to voicemail. I can’t even remember why now. Probably changing a pull-up or making lunch or rocking a sleepy toddler. Before I could return the call, I got an email following up. Little Miss is being returned to her birth mom.
The news was particularly surprising because the plan had finally moved from foster care to adoption in the courts in August and we were identified as one potential resource.
For those of you who don’t know me personally, or maybe we’re new friends, Little Miss is our foster daughter. She is the biological half-sister to our two adopted sons. We got the call when she was three days old that she graced the world with her sweet little presence. Through a series of circumstances, she was placed with another foster family for a few weeks. However, in June 2013, when she was nine weeks old, she became part of our family. We knew it was just to foster and that the plan was to return her home, but twelve and a half long months passed and with each minute of it, we became more bonded, attached, and fell in love.
Then we got that first call that she was going back home. It was May of 2014 when we got that news and I was devastated. I was driving to DHS for a visit and by the time I got to the parking lot, the caseworker met me to hold me while I wept.
I won’t re-hash those last weeks we had her, but we were all a mess. The boys were in a tail spin. Shane was distant and more emotional than I had ever seen him. A dark cloud hovered over our home and I wondered if we would ever recover.
The day before she was returned to her birth mother, Shane and I woke up, looked at her in her crib beside our bed and held each other weeping mournfully, trying to choke back the sobs so as not to wake her. As we stood over her, still asleep peacefully and completely unaware of our grief.
On June 30, our precious 14-month old Little Miss gave us sloppy kisses goodbye, which we we adored, and waved happily to us as the DHS car took her away, presumably forever. At that moment we had no intention of fostering again. Of course, we would do anything for her and would hold out hope. But we weren’t holding our breath.
Our sweet Little Miss the day before she went home, 6/29/14
But the Lord began a work in my heart just over one year ago. In November 2014, the Lord blessed me with a beautiful and healing weekend at a retreat for Christian adoptive and foster mamas called, “Called to Love.”
In one of my very first blog entries last year, I talked about what the Lord was doing to my heart. But looking back over this year, I had no idea just how much He had planned. Suffice it to say, I began to truly love my kids’ birth mom. I thought I already did. But the Lord was whispering to my heart that I held much resentment toward her in my heart and that He wanted to teach me how to love her as He does.
I began reading the boys’ adoption file to read about her this time, not them. My heart broke over the abuse she experienced. Pieces started to fit together and I began to understand… not excuse… but understand her behaviors. Although I had prayed for every day up to that point, I began to pray very specifically for the LORD to speak to her heart, to show her His Abba Father love, to be very near to her and send people her way who would mentor her. And I continued to pray protection over “our” little girl every day.
Very long story short, eight long months later, we had finally healed enough to foster again and on February 3, 2015, we got a house-full. Two little fellas joined our home and just like that, we had four boys. FOUR. BOYS.
And then just 20 days later, we got another call. Little Miss was back in care and could we take her in one or two hours? Uh….YESSSSSS!!!!! I was shaking and bittersweet tears were streaming down my face.
Our certifier, whom we love very much, knows us enough to have already answered for us and THEN called us.
The day she came back, 2/23/15
Fast forward to tonight and it’s been over a month since we got that second call that she would be transitioning home. We have been told that we will have a shared Christmas with her birth mom, and by the time that rolls around, we will have had her 10 months.
I can’t explain it, but the grief is much different this time around. It’s not better, but it is very different. I still weep often. I still try to memorize little looks she makes, how she says certain things, how she smells, how she feels in my arms when I am rocking her.
But God is faithful, Friends. Beyond words. Beyond comprehension.
We have been able to experience the incredible miracle of actually meeting with her mom. We didn’t think that would ever happen. She had been very resistant to us in the past. So to hear that she wanted to meet with us was exciting! Our meeting with her was personal, but I will just say that we got to talk, got to listen and were able to share our hearts with her. We were able to tell her personally how much we love her, how much we want her to succeed, how much we want to help her however she wants that to look.
This story is still unfolding and I have no idea how it will end. I’ve tried to imagine it, but the LORD keeps surprising me with plot twists and new characters being introduced into this story. Truly, I am merely one of many characters in this story. I’m not the Author. But I have the privilege of knowing Him intimately. And I can trust Him to write the very best story with the perfect ending.
When you look at your story, are you trying to write it yourself? The world tells us to. That we can decide our own story, that we can choose our own ending. And the truth is, we can. The LORD loves us so much that He created us with feelings, intelligence and choice. But like a character in a story, we can only see our own point of view. We can’t see the needs of the other characters in the story. We can’t see inside their heads and hearts. We don’t know their back story. But the Author does. When we yield to the Author of all things and allow Him to write our story, we can trust that He cares for all involved. And His creativity, wisdom and attention to detail far exceeds the most creative, wise and detail-oriented mind in this world.
When Jesus walked this earth, He blew people away with His authority when speaking of doctrine. Think about it. He had the AUTHORity. He wrote it. He wasn’t just repeating what He had heard or learned. He was the Word made flesh.
My dear Friends, You can trust Him. I can trust Him. We can trust Him. He writes the best stories!
Two words that strike utter fear and dread into the hearts of prospective parents everywhere. I had heard horror stories. My friend said that their adoption certifier actually had a white glove and checked for dust. I was thinking, Seriously? That must be a crazy one in a million kind of home study, right? Please, oh please, tell me that I have nothing to worry about.
So, four years ago as we were preparing ourselves for this life-changing interview, I asked our foster and adoption certification trainer what to expect. She asked who our certifier was. When I told her, she said, “Oh man. She will pick your home over with a fine. tooth. comb.”
Now, had I known her like I know her now, I would have know that she was totally messing with me. But I didn’t know. And I have since jokingly told her how cruel and unusual that was for her to say such a thing to this wide-eyed, Type A+, mom-to-be. It’s funny now, but I was TERRIFIED. What if clean as I know it is not really clean? How can I ever clean my house enough to be good enough? I actually had three different friends at seperate times come over to help me get rid of things, deep clean and keep me calm.
Serious as a heart attack.
And here’s the shocker. They still choose to be friends with this neurotic super-nut of a Mom.
So fast-forward four years. We were just up for re-certification last month and it struck me like lightening how very different this go-around was. It’s night and day and some of the differences are more than a little funny, so I thought I’d share some humor with you to brighten your day (or night.)
Above: Before Kids
“Come on in!”
Before Kids: “We’ve been waiting for you, on baited breath. We both took the day off. We have been vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, organizing, baking, and fretting all day. You have been the focus of our thoughts for the last 72 hours, minimum. I saw your car pull up just now and wondered when the perfect time to open the door for you was. I didn’t want to appear too anxious.”
After Kids: “Here, let me remove the baby gate for you. Sorry, don’t trip on that toy. I lost track of the time. Sorry I didn’t come the first time you knocked, I was changing a diaper in the back of the house and didn’t hear you.”
“Make yourself at home!”
Before Kids: “Here, sit on our nice, clean couch. We shampooed it before you came. We’ll sit over here on the love seat holding hands to show you what a happy couple we are. Would you like some homemade cookies? Coffee? Tea? Juice? Milk? Espresso? Water? Our firstborn? Oh, wait…”
After Kids: “Probably the best place to sit is at the table. No, that chair isn’t really safe for anyone over 75 lbs. No, not that one either, it has some sort of goo left over from breakfast that I keep forgetting to clean. Yeah, that one’s good. Would you like some water? Hope you don’t mind the Solo cup. I’m boycotting dishes right now.”
“What’s that smell?”
Before Kids: “Did I mention that I just baked some cookies? There’s a pumpkin candle burning, too. We want our children to come home to warm and inviting aromas when they join our family.”
After Kids: “We have no idea. We’ve searched for days and can narrow it to one of the boys’ rooms. We can’t tell if it’s a dead cricket that didn’t make it into the lizard’s gut or just general boy funk. We try to mask it with diffused essential oils. Not working, huh?”
Above: Pretty sure I took this picture the day of our first home study
“You can eat off our floors.”
Before Kids: “Seriously. I worked really hard. I scrubbed every nook and cranny. You could have a picnic on our floor. No blanket needed. It’s clean enough. Please, I beg you, come down here so you can appreciate the hours I spent cleaning it for you!”
After Kids: “We have a variety of options. Popcorn, cheerios, cat food…take your pick.”
“You need to see the bathroom?”
Before Kids: “No problem! It’s straight back through the laundry room. You’ll notice the new tub surround, clean linens, blinding white toilet bowl and smell of bleach.” (Side note: Shane was installing a medicine cabinet the day of the home study and it was still on the counter. We were seriously…dead seriously..FREAKING OUT that we would be disqualified for having it on the counter and not mounted on the wall during the walk through.)
After Kids: “I’m sure you remember where it is. Sorry about the laundry piles. I can’t vouch that it’s super clean in there right now because we’re potty training. There’s a diaper pail, training seat and general bad aim shared between our young man-children.”
Before Kids: “Right this way. All chemicals are locked up. Sorry about the fence. It’s not great, but it’s still standing!”
After Kids:“Right this way. All chemicals are locked up. Check our our new fence and play structure! The kids love it back here.” (Side note: This is the one area that has greatly improved since actually having kids. It’s amazing how your priorities shift.)
Above: What my kitchen often looks like for a few hours every day. Shane likes to call it “Counter Terrorism.” Hardy har har!
So, as you can see, things have changed. The process really hasn’t, but we have. We are comfortable in our own home and in our own skin.
One great big huge change for us was our relationship with our certifier. She is pure gold. But we didn’t know her from Adam four years ago and she terrified us. We have now come to know her as a close ally as we navigate how to best advocate for our kiddos. She is our cheerleader, an invaluable resource, and honestly, a friend.
To you experienced mamas out there, hope you got a chuckle out of this as you thought back to your home study experiences.
To you new mamas who are terrified about your home study, BREATHE. It will be OK. Home studies aren’t to be taken lightly, but in general, they’re looking for a comfortable and safe home for children. Hoarding should be avoided, but so should staging. Be real. Be you. There islife after the home study. A very, VERY full, busy, crazy life.
So make sure your chemicals are locked up, your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working, your fire extinguisher is up to date, and RELAX.
“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
The month of May is National Foster Care Month. And so it seems appropriate to talk once again about this subject that is so near and dear to my heart. If you get tired of reading about this, I can’t promise you it will get any better. As this world becomes more sin sick by the day, the need for foster care becomes greater. And when the needs of children become greater, I cannot help but want to carry their burdens for them. Their tired, sometimes bruised and broken little frames were not meant to carry the weightiness of the circumstances that bring them into care.
There is a shortage of good foster homes in this county, in this state, in the U.S, really. There just aren’t a ton of good options for DHS to turn to. Foster homes are full to capacity and as a result, are overcrowded. Kids sit in lobbies for hours on end while intake workers scramble to find a place for them. Once they find a shelter home, often, the conditions are makeshift at best. What choice does the agency have? The kiddo can’t spend the night in the DHS office. And so as a result, on top of being severely traumatized by just being removed from the home they know, safe or not, they end up immediately feeling unwanted, unloved and like a big burden.
And this is what KILLS me. Because of the special needs of my kiddos, especially my eldest, we are at capacity with the three children we have. I asked Shane the other day if he ever feels helpless to meet the need because we really can’t foster anymore. What he said next registered with me profoundly. “Honey, we can recruit. And I think we can be good at it.”
Without waxing political, I must say the following because I cannot detach my Christian values from the political climate in regards to social programs.
Conservatives (often Christians) are really good at decrying Welfare, and social programs in general because we shouldn’t be so dependent on the government. I agree.
But there is Someone who everyone on this entire planet should be dependent upon. And His name is Jesus. But how can people know that they can or should be dependent upon Him when they haven’t met Him?
We, as a Church, need to step it up. I believe where the government cannot, we should.
Here’s a thought. How about instead of just voting and legislating to limit these over-budget and over-burdened social programs, we them unnecessary and obsolete by meeting the needs within the loving arms of the Church instead? If we see the need, shouldn’t we be the ones who point people to the Source? The Answer?
Foster parenting is difficult. It’s scary. It takes everything out of you. You have to take training. The requirements set for you are much higher than that of the parents trying to get the kiddos back. You will get attached. You will deal with loss and grief. You will be the one watching as the child you care for is crying and longing for hugs from someone other than you. You may even be investigated for any number of reasons, which, from personal experience, is no picnic.
Have I convinced you with my mad recruiting skills yet??
Believe me, I’ve heard it all…“I could never do what you do…” or “I don’t feel called to do that…” and my personal favorite, “I’d get too attached.”
I am sorry, but in my heart, I do not believe that we as the Church can make these excuses anymore. They are just not valid reasons to not meet the desperate needs of a world who is longing for peace, restoration, protection and healing.
Isn’t it funny how when you are sick, or overweight, or shopping for something and you find a wonderful product how readily you share it? Essential oils, protein shakes, household cleaners, the list goes on. We are so proud to share our new found knowledge with our friends and family when it works.
So, what about Jesus?
His name repels some. Why is that? There is power in His name. But what often makes His name so repulsive is how we have claimed it and used it where it suits us but are not using it to go out and meet the desperate needs of a dying world around us.
Some feel that activism is the answer. Maybe we should legislate more, advocate more…OK, maybe. But we must be careful! It is so easy to turn these poor, hungry, empty people, often children, over into the hands of the government instead of into the nail-scarred hands of our Savior!
To be clear, I am not necessarily urging everyone who reads this to go out and get certified to foster. Foster care is, indeed, one of the many callings God has for His Church. What I am urging each one of you to do is to really and truly do some soul searching. DHS doesn’t need droves of people that are being guilted into doing this. What they do need is people that realize that it takes more than just commitment, more than just courage, and a clear realization that even when you love and love and give and give that it may not be returned.
We can’t be in this to have our needs met. We can’t be in any calling or ministry to have our needs met. We must minister to meet the needs of others. That’s what Jesus does for us.
In closing, I thought I’d share how I typically respond to the comments I listed above.
“I could never do what you do…”
Yes. Yes, you could. I told the Lord I couldn’t either. And He told me that I was never meant to do it alone. He never asked me to do it without His help.
“I don’t feel called to do that…”
Obedience isn’t about feelings, it’s about faith. Faith that the Lord will accomplish His plan and bless us enough to use us to do it. We are all called to do something for Him, but this is one of those needs that is specifically addressed in Scripture.
“I’d get too attached.”
Yes. Yes, you will. Don’t let that fear ever stop you from loving people who need the Lord. Don’t hold back! Give the child everything you have in you. Jesus did. He died for us while we were yet sinners. And He loves us knowing that we may never love Him back.
Remember, according to Scripture, the Church should be taking care of the fatherless and the widows. If you are part of the Church, please seriously consider the part you play in their care. If we are honestly, truly, taking that calling to heart, the government will have very few needs left to meet. And as the apostle James so beautifully elaborates, when we meet a physical need, it then opens a door to meet a much deeper longing in every human heart. A longing that only my dear, sweet Jesus can fill. When these beautiful children are placed in our care, we often, in addition to cuddles and warm meals, can provide them with their first introduction to Sunday school and its songs, daily family devotions, VBS, Christmas Programs and Jesus Himself!
Yes, ministry is hard and mission work is draining. But consider this. Jesus literally shed blood, sweat and tears for us. We owe Him nothing less in return.
Blessings and much love,
P.S. – Did this post speak to you? Has the Lord laid foster care on your heart, too? Let me know! I would be happy to find a way to get you connected to the right people to get started and I would be privileged to support you in prayer as you answer this high calling.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” ~John 12:24
It has come to my attention that this week is National Infertility Awareness Week. I kind of find the term “infertility awareness” as laughable when I think back to a time in my life when every week was Infertility Awareness week for me. Every day. Every hour. Something would come up to remind me of my emptiness. Perhaps you know what I’m talking about.
It’s a vague memory now. And I don’t say that lightly. I don’t think, looking back, that I ever could have imagined myself writing those words out. Much less for anyone to read.
But there is such a beautiful story of God’s grace, His leading, His plan. I just have to share a part of my story. I know that there are many different walks of life represented in my readers and many of you mamas have become mamas in a variety of ways. Biological, foster, adoptive, step, in-laws (or in-loves, as I call my in-laws). Each of you have unique stories to tell and I recognize that there may be some foster or adoptive or step-moms out there that long to bear your “own” child. I get it. I used to be there. But I am no longer and I want to share how and why.
This is my story.
July 29, 2009…a day which will live in infamy. At least for me. I was nearly 28 years old, married eight years, childless and getting a hysterectomy. There have been a handful of times in my life when I have felt completely and totally surrendered to God and His will. This was one of those times.
My surgeon had worried that we were being premature. My nurse practitioner, who knew my whole miserable story had referred me to him. He was a quiet, small-statured, South Korean man, who had been a well-known name in my hometown for years. He delivered many of my friends AND their babies. During our consult, he looked very seriously at Shane and me and said in his Asian accent, “You so young! You sure you want to do this? You only 27. If you 40, I say fine. Nobody need uterus at 40! But you so young.” He was right. I was very young but had already suffered 16 years. After he did his own ultrasound, all doubt was removed, even on his part and he agreed it was the best decision. The surgery was scheduled.
I had a successful career at VW. I never planned on staying as long as I did. I was sure I would get pregnant and be a stay-at-home mommy like I had always dreamed. I regret to say that I didn’t give VW the best that I could have because I was always looking ahead to the phase of life I longed for. In spite of this, they took great care of me and I got six weeks paid time off to recuperate. Wow. I guess was really doing this. May and June flew by and before I knew it, the surgery was looming in the near future. It was a dark cloud. I kept fantasizing that in the time leading up to my surgery, I would get pregnant and would have to cancel the surgery.
July came. Every year for the first two weeks in July for my entire life, I have gone to our annual church Camp Meeting. I wish I could say that every year I went with the sole desire to be changed by the Lord. To leave different than I came. Better than I came. Several years I did a lot of visiting with friends from all over the country but not necessarily a lot of praying at the altar. Several years I went serious and left with significant spiritual experiences. Shane proposed to me at Camp Meeting 2000. No matter what, I always enjoyed Camp Meeting and planned my summer around it.
2009 was different. I went feeling sorry for myself and I longed for sympathy. Poor 27-year old Glenda has to have a hysterectomy. I looked up all my former pastors’ wives and hoped for encouraging, magical words that would make it feel better. Many ladies that I knew did give those encouraging words along the way and helped me to know that I was not alone. But I went basically the entire two weeks of Camp Meeting in misery. I wanted a different outcome. I wanted to be healed. I wanted the Lord to give me a baby in my own womb. I was striving with the Lord. The funny part is that I had already committed to the Lord to adopt. So why was this so important to me?
Then one night near the end of Camp, I’m pretty sure it was the last Friday night of Camp, in fact, it happened. It was in a song called, “I Choose,” originally sung by Ivan Parker. Take the time to listen to it. It’s powerful.
The Lord had let me wallow in self-pity long enough. Now He was asking me to choose the better way. His perfect will. My Daddy had told me more times in my life that I could count on both hands how very important it was to want God’s perfect will and not just His permissive one. I had been trying to convince God that my way was better. I was trying to twist His arm. Thankfully, He loved me enough to not allow me to get my own way. He sees all and knows all and knew the day would come when I would thank Him from the bottom of my heart for not giving me what I wanted, but rather what I needed.
That night I wept bitterly. But the bitterness slowly melted as the Lord began to reason with me. My tears started flowing differently, turning from gall into a sweet incense for my Lord as I began to slowly surrender my will to Him.
I felt Him ask so simply, “How could you be raised knowing your Mom’s story, hearing it over and over and over again, knowing My power to intervene, but not trust that I will do the same for you if that is My will?”
You see, in 1977, my mother had gone through a very similar trial only she was in her 30’s and not yet married. Going under the knife believing she would come out unable to bear children before even meeting the love of her life was devastating. However, she had a godly physician who prayed with her prior to the surgery and asked the Lord to guide His hand. He later shared with her that the Lord stopped his hand and only allowed him to remove the affected ovary. When she awoke, he told her of the massive cyst he had removed (about the size of a grapefruit) but that he had left everything else alone. He believed her “knight in shining armor” would come along some day. And sure enough, in January 1979, he did. Long story short, here I am.
Talk about humbled.
The thought even occurred to me, What if the Lord allowed Mom to go through the trial she did just so that years later it would encourage me to make the decision I need to make right now?
Make that doubly humbled.
That evening as I was mulling all of this over in my heart, I had felt so distant from the Lord. So much so that instead of going down to the altar to pray as I normally would, I sat in the very back of the Tabernacle. My Mom happened to be there that night and sat beside me. I shared with her all my emotions and thoughts through my tears. As she listened, she concluded that was very likely why the Lord had allowed her to suffer and told me how blessed she felt to do that for me.
It was on that night, and possibly at that very moment that the Lord consumed my sacrifice. I felt an unwavering peace that would stay with me in the days ahead.
Two weeks later, early on a Friday morning as I headed to the hospital for surgery, I realized that I was no longer expecting God to intervene. That’s not to say it was easy. The nurses who were prepping me realized that they had not done a pregnancy test with my other lab work the week before, so… lucky me! I had to pee in a cup and hear just minutes before my surgery that I was indeed not pregnant. Familiar words. Yet, even then, I had a peace to continue trusting in my Father’s heart and that He not only knew what was best for me, but for my future and other lives it might affect.
I began to have a renewed fervor to adopt.
When I was nine years old, the Lord laid adoption on my heart. When Shane and I were discussing future spouses, before we even started dating, we both agreed that we were called to adopt. But I had always pictured a blended family. Biological, adopted and perhaps foster kiddos.
But on that Friday night at Camp Meeting when the Lord broke my will so that His could spring forth, I realized that I had wanted to bear a child to somehow meet a need in me. After all, what was wrong with wanting that? It was Hannah’s heart’s desire, and Sarah’s, and Rachel’s and the Lord and filled their wombs in miraculous ways. So why not me?
The Lord was trying to show me something profoundly important. Because my focus was on the fact that my womb could not bear a child, I was missing the truth that my heart still could.In fact, my heart can bear many more children than my uterus ever could!
So here I am writing this tonight with three children all tucked in their beds in this little home of ours. Two are ours. Our very own. I didn’t bear them in the traditional sense, but they are our “own” children. And our foster daughter will be forever in my heart whether she is under our roof or not. Two other foster sons have moved on, but I still hold them in my heart and I have not only had the privilege of loving them, but their parents as well.
God knew what He was doing. He always does.
Dear mama dealing with infertility, I have not written this to minimize your struggle. I know exactly how you feel. I’ve seen the specialists, tried the treatments, suffered through years of pain, miscarriage, heartache, loss, anger and confusion. I have begged, pleaded and bargained with God. Some of you are reading this that still have a longing to bear a child and I didn’t write this to change your heart or mind. I wrote this to encourage you. He does ALL things well. In His time.
And His perfect will has the potential to knock your socks off, sweep you off your feet, turn you upside down and never leave you the same.
And whatever that may be for you or however that looks, choose it anyway.