Termination

  • an act of ending something

  • the act of making a person leave a job : the act of firing or dismissing someone

For a word not to be used often in my daily language, this word all of a sudden has TREMENDOUS meaning in my life.

Our precious foster son’s parents lost their parental rights this morning.

Rights were terminated.  Their job as parents ended today.  They have not been involved in his life so this was most likely not a drastic surprise to these two people who gave life to our son. But their connection to this child is over, at least legally.

I can’t stop wondering if they feel any sort of connection to this amazing little boy. I want them to.  I so want them to long for him.  I want them to be broken that in a sense, they are fired.

While I am rejoicing in the truth of what terminating parental rights means for us as foster parents, my heart is broken by the facts. The hard, cold facts that the parents never really accepted the job in the first place. They never showed up.  They never followed the employees’ manual.  Never invested interest or time.

They never took advantage of the benefits of loving this little boy.

We are filled with excited anticipation tonight and we are also filled with grief.  This is part of our little guy’s story but it is definitely a tragic beginning.  This is a loss.  A great big loss.  We most likely will never know to what extent the parents are grieving and what this loss means to them. We will, however, be exposed to a little boy one day wondering, grieving, questioning this loss.

May we have the wisdom, discernment, and skill to accept this job as his parents.

 

Fasting

I spent the last two days in a Pre-K training and was privileged to meet a new friend.  I quickly discovered that she was of the muslim faith and therefore was fasting during this Ramadan season.  After our conversation about fasting and the meaning of it, I pulled up my email and found an email with “Fasting” in the subject line.  It was from my husband who was on his way home from Zambia via Dubai.  I couldn’t help but chuckle at the timing.  :)

Our family has experienced quite a bit of change the past 18 months but our calling really has not changed much.  On top of being asked why we foster, people often ask us why my husband doesn’t get another job.  Why is he in the ministry and travel when we have SOOO much going on back on this side of the world?  Is there sacrifice? Do we regret it?

Let my husband explain…

What is fasting? In its simplest form, it is giving up something you need or enjoy for a period of time for a purpose higher than the thing itself.  People fast for a number of reasons – some for religious purposes, some for health reasons, and others for personal motivations.  Here in Dubai at Ramadan, the city is filled with people who are fasting because of a sense of religious duty and commitment to God.

I have been fasting for the last few weeks myself – but with a different kind of fast.  I have been fasting from you and our family.  This fast was not totally intentional on my part (being somewhat dictated by our foster child and basketball and all the other scheduling decisions that led me to be away from you all), but ultimately, it was our decision.  And especially my decision.

So why would I do this?  Why would I essentially “sacrifice” my family for four weeks?  Why would I miss all those basketball games . . . and my wife’s 45th birthday . . . and my foster son’s first birthday . . .  and driving lessons and milkshake runs to Braums and holding my wife in bed and all the other countless things that my mind has tallied over the last 29 days?

There are a few reasons why:

First of all, it is because there are many children who know a far different reality than the one ours do.   Children who may never have the joy of making a late night trip for ice cream, or a father to cheer them on at their games, or a frolicking game of “tickle monster freeze tag’.  In some ways, the love and joy that I experience in my own home are the same motivations that make me willing to leave it for a period of time in order to bring some of this reality to the lives of others.

Second of all, absence does make the heart grow fonder . . . although my heart is pretty fond of you know matter where we are.  However, being separated does give me time to reflect on you and me and our relationship and our family and what we have together.  Almost like a timeout in a basketball game, these times of separation provide time for refocusing, re-evaluating, and rethinking about what is most important and what we can do to maximize every single moment of time that we ARE together.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, I believe that God has called me – and us – to this.  Not that it will always be this way, or that I will always work for Family Legacy or that we will always go to Camp Life, but that, for now, this is where we are, this is where He has placed us, and this is where we will serve Him with as much strength and energy as He will give us.  Paul said in Colossians 1:28 that he was “striving according to God’s power, which mightily works within me.”  This is the paradox of the Christian life – the fact that WE must strive but that HIS power is what empowers the “striving”.  Although I miss you and our family greatly when we are apart, the “striving” according to  God’s power at work in me is what I was created for – what we were created for.

Of course, I have another calling – husband – which is not in any way superseded or downplayed by my calling as “African missionary”.  I also have another calling – father – that is also vitally important.  Neither of these things are placed beneath the calling of my career . . . but at the same time, neither do they trump it in every situation.  The long commute, the weeks apart, the support raising – all are challenges to our family that come with the territory of my calling and can at times create a tension between the values that we hold most important – values that can sometimes be in conflict with one another.

So while I may not enjoy fasting from you and our family, I do see that there is a reasons behind it – and that this too is part of the process of who God is making us to be.  Throughout the sleepless, lonely nights and the long hours of working with children on both sides of the world (or behind a computer screen, as the case may be), God takes each of those moments when our trust and obedience are in Him and ultimately works them out into something that is good for us and for His glory.

Nevertheless . . . I am thrilled that “breakfast” is coming when I get to break my fast and enjoy you all once again.  I am savoring it, I am tasting it, I can feel it as I take you up in my arms and kiss you and hold you and squeeze you and wrap up 29 days of longing into one long, lingering embrace.

I am HUNGRY . . . let’s eat!!

Tomorrow at 9:04 AM (according to flight tracker) our fast will be broken!  :) 

 

Traveling Companion

My husband is my favorite traveling companion.

As we entered the traveling season, I was reminded of all the plane rides and destinations we have shared together (with and without the children).

A little background knowledge to understand the text a bit better:

After graduating from The George Washington University up in Washington DC, my husband struggled to settle into a career.  We were young and had two children very quickly.  Things were NOT going as planned! We made many plane trips back and forth from Maryland (we live outside of DC) to Dallas to visit family.

The Christmas after our firstborn arrived we flew home for the holidays. Due to my husband’s work schedule (he was doing temporary work ) we had to fly back to Maryland the day after Christmas.  We were flying back to NO HOME.

Long story short…we had given notice on our lease in October b/c we felt called to be a part of a ministry in Dallas.  I had quit my teaching job in Montgomery County to be a stay at home mom, much to my delight!  After a few weeks of planning to move back home to Texas, we were convicted that it wasn’t the right move/ministry for us at that time.  The problem with this scenario was that neither one of us had a job.  No job, no lease. There was no turning back to living in our precious little first “home” together.

I was devastated. We packed up our belongings and stored them into a very generous family’s basement.  We moved a few necessary items into a basement of another family and arranged to sleep there when we returned after Christmas.

We then flew “home” to Texas. Christmas with the family wiped away some of the pain of knowing things back in Maryland were not so great. My parents drove us to the airport on that 26th day of December. I am certain my dad had to give me a kick in my rear end and give me a look that said, “GO! You are his wife!”

I sat on that plane holding our 4 month old son crying crocodile tears.

That, my friends, was one plane ride I will never forget.  It was then I knew I was in this marriage for better or for worse.  Even in the worse times, I was next to him.  We were on this journey of life together. I was traveling with him!

I shared some of these memories with the husband and I loved his reply.

We have traveled quite a bit in our married life!  Overseas, Maryland to Dallas and back, Disneyworld with your family, and all the other flights you mentioned.  Usually those were taking us somewhere we were excited about going, but sometimes not . . .

I am thinking of that flight from Dallas to Maryland in December 1998 – coming back to a situation that none of us were happy to be in. Yes, we were happy to have friends who would provide us a home when we needed one, but we were not happy to be in the position of needing one – and not having one.  Tough on the ego, tough on the marriage. Just tough.  Yet in the midst of the months to follow and all of the agonizing waiting, indecision, house moves, babies🙂, and everything else that ensued, your commitment to be remained firm – tested in a way that I would not have planned or anticipated or wanted, but tested nonetheless.  You got a taste of the “or worse” part of our vows in a way that I regret – only to the extent that it may have been different if I had been different. But through it all, God was making me different and making me into the man and the husband He wanted me to be – and that I wanted to be.  It has been a long time in the making🙂, and He is definitely not finished with me yet, but it is encouraging to see where He has brought me since those tough times.

Unfortunately, there is not a plane in the world that can take someone from immaturity to maturity – it is a road trip that is long, steep, convoluted, and a bit confusing at times.  But along the way God provides lookout points where we can look back and see how far He has taken us.

So thank you for “flying” with me (walking, actually) on this journey of life.  As we’ve picked up more passengers along the way, the journey has only become that much sweeter.  So glad to have a traveling companion in you!

I have the best traveling companion!

Memories

The past few years when I have put my husband on a plane to head to Africa for an extended period of time, I have prepared a set of “happies” for him to enjoy while we were separated.

***Happies is my mother’s term for little things that make someone you love feel HAPPY!  It can be a note, a small gift, a hug, etc. ***

I have been rather tickled with my creativity but after 6 or 7 successful attempts, I ran out of ideas.  It was becoming the same thing.  I can only quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Robert Frost so many times!   I ran out of ways to say “I love you” and “I miss you.”  I definitely wanted to steer away from dwelling on the enormous pain I feel when we are separated.

The night before he left this time I realized that I had yet to concoct a plan.  Deep down I was hoping if I didn’t prepare “happies” he wouldn’t go.  Well, history has it that it doesn’t work that way.  I sat down and began writing.  I failed to purchase cute card stock or gadgets.  I pulled out notebook paper, simple and plain notebook paper!  I began writing.  Memories began flooding my mind and I poured them out onto the paper.  Sitting at my kitchen table, I realized I had committed to transcribe 30 memories.

I folded each one and stuffed in an envelope and labeled each envelope with the date it was to be discovered. I tucked the ziplock baggie full of envelopes in his suitcase.

Little did I know my dearest man would read those daily and in return sit at his computer on the other side of the world and share his side of the story.

I have LOVED every word he has written.  I love what he says.  I love his heart. I absolutely LOVE the way he so easily and beautifully expresses himself.

Have I mentioned I have ONE AMAZING husband?!??!!?!

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I tell you all of this because my thought is that I would share some of the memories I recalled.  Of course I prefer to share his words, not mine.🙂

Have I mentioned how talented he is?

I have discovered that with all of this memory recall I am somewhat distracted from my so called misery of separation. I am reminded that events and experiences have molded us into US and I am assured that my love for him doesn’t necessarily require us to be on the same continent.

Here is an excerpt from one of my husband’s emails in response to my memory about how I thought our relationship would be back in our Baylor days…

I am so happy with our story.  Like you, there are things I would change (primarily about myself), but I would never change US.  This week, Greer preached about Jeremiah 29:11 and about how God has a plan for our lives.  He said that oftentimes we have a plan for our lives and come to God and tell Him OUR plan and how we think it should go.  But Proverbs 16:9 says that “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”  We may have thoughts about what our life should look like, but God knows better – way better – than we do.  Greer ended the sermon with sharing the words to Francesca Battistelli’s song “Write Your Story” and then played the song.  I am so glad that God included you in my life when He wrote my story. It is a story that is still being written!  So glad you’re the main character!🙂

 

Even the stinky chapters of separation are a part of this divine story. It doesn’t mean we have to like them, but it does bring us some level of peace and trust knowing that He is in the midst of it.  And of course, the next chapter is going to ROCK (that would be the chapter where we are together again).  If this were one of your books, this chapter would be over in no time🙂, but unfortunately we will just have to wait a bit longer for this episode to conclude.

 

I am so happy to be his story mate!

Why

I was asked recently why we foster.  I found it interesting that I paused before answering her question.  I realized that people inquire about our journey often but rarely want to know if there was a specific reason and/or event that persuaded us to jump into this crazy world of fostering.

So why?

Why not?  That is my short and sassy answer.

When I take a little memory road trip I recall actually fervently trying to answer “why not foster.”  There were many reasons I could think of that would convince us that we were indeed crazy.  I find that people offer reasons why THEY think we shouldn’t foster and/or why they could never foster. Here are a few thoughts people share:

  1.  Don’t you get attached? Duh!
  2. You have teenagers!  Why on earth do you want to start over with younger children?
  3. You work full time.
  4.  You travel out of the country every summEr
  5. Nobody has time for all that training and paperwork!

#1 is truly the most common question we get. Usually along with that comes, “I could never do it and give up a child.” I remember a few days after handing over our first foster child to the CPS worker, somebody said to me, “I don’t know if I could do it.  How do you do it?”  Tears were obviously permanent residents in my eyeballs at that time but I somehow managed a very soft, “I just am.  God’s amazing Grace.” I wanted to scream and say, “You idiot, don’t you see I am dying inside?!?!?!! ”

I will let you in a little secret.  It hurts.  It really, really hurts.  8 months after hugging our little guy for the last time, IT STILL HURTS.  It really, really hurts.  Writing about it still draws out tears and pain. The alternative?  To never have loved that little boy.  I would have never held him close to me and whispered positive affirmations in his ear, sang the same songs over and over again, and watched my family love so unconditionally and beautifully.  I can’t imagine living my life without risking experiencing grief for the sake of loving a child. I want to live with no regrets.

Wanting to be free from regret, was one the reasons we said yes!  My mother has said time and time again that she wish she would have fostered.  I told my husband at the beginning of this journey that I don’t want to be 68 and saying I wish I would have fostered.

Let us return to our story of why.

Before I was married, I had a hint that I would most likely never be able to have children.  I went into marriage knowing that was a huge possibility.  Yes, that was rather yucky news but I wasn’t too concerned b/c I didn’t truly believe everything doctors said AND I thought adopting would be rather cool. 10 months into our marriage we found out wee Knight #1 was on his way.  14 months after our first child arrived, I gave birth to wee Knight #2.  Within the first 5 years of marriage, we had three biological children.  Wasn’t what we had planned but we embraced the adventures of parenting and quietly slipped adoption under the rug.  Our hearts (and home) were full.  Very, very full.

Adoption popped up a few times over the years.

In 2009 we started spending our summers in Zambia, Africa.  We were very content.  We felt called to ministering to the orphans and vulnerable children.  I was busy teaching and being mom but I was able to support my husband by having an income teaching AND spending the summers with him in Zambia.

But year after year, we would return from Africa and jump back into our very westernized life. We struggled to adjust to our “normal American life.”  We never felt like we fit in.  We kept asking what we could do to make a difference where we were planted 9 months out of the year.  We couldn’t figure it out.

About four years ago, our church had a Sunday dedicated to adoption and fostering.  It wasn’t anything major but the word foster just sat heavy on my heart.  I knew it was impossible to foster and keep up our ritual of going to Africa.

There we were again.  Feeling like we didn’t know our place. We even tried moving to Africa, thinking that was the solution.  The husband and I both were thrilled with the prospect of living full time in Zambia.  We started to make plans to sell our wee little house and even had me two steps from walking into my school and resigning.

That wasn’t it.

So I called a local Foster Agency and inquired about fostering.  The man on the other end of the phone was kind and informative but was very adamant that we foster older children and maybe even only do respite.

I felt discouraged. That is not what I had in mind.

Fostering was put on the shelf, hidden behind our growing children’s activities and needs.

2014.  Another amazing summer in Zambia.  Our children were maturing and showing an abundant amount of concern and love for the hurting children in Africa. That summer our ministry opened up another home in our Children’s Village.  Della’s House.  Della’s House was the home to 12 girls ranging from one year to 14 years.  My heart somehow got involved and was forever changed.

The one year old, Mary, actually became my parents’ sponsored child.  Our family fell head over heels in love with this little one.  My children, even 15 year old Sam, was so tender and loving towards her.

One day as the husband and I watched our children flutter about the village picking up wee ones, chasing six year olds, and laughing with pre teens, we realized our children had an abundant amount of love to share with younger ones.

“Can’t we just take Mary home with us?”

Visions of a little one joining our family danced around my head and heart.

But no, Mary could not come home with us.  Our ministry’s mission is to raise the children up to be strong believers and leaders in Zambia, not to send them to the states. Adopting from Zambia is not the easiest either (something about having to live there a long time).

Once again, we were crushed and confused.  Why would we fall in love with this little one?!?!?!

On the way to the airport that late July evening, I convinced my husband to allow me to stop by Della’s house one last time.  I kissed each forehead and sang one last song with them.

Bags checked, passports stamped, and security complete.  We found our seats on the gigantic plane, made sure our children were settled in, and sighed with relief.

Then we looked at each other.  “Now what?”

I knew.  I knew he knew.  He knew I knew.

After 44 hours of travel, we arrived back to our Western World.

This time I knew.

Phone calls were made.

Classes were attended.

ALL information about our lives were revealed.

Money paid for many things (CPR, fingerprinting, fire extinguisher, driving record, etc, etc).

December 30, 2014- A CPS worker placed a sleeping 8 month old little guy in my arms.

Just like that…

I knew why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing

Change is inevitable.
Change is part of this human life.
Change is good.
Change is hard.
Change can change a person.

Obviously, my theme for this season in my life is CHANGE.
So MUCH change! So much stinkin change!!!
So much change and I just don’t know exactly what to do with it all.

I have quite the load on my heart as I enter the summer months.
Many positive and happy changes, just a lot of them!

As I embrace all the changes, I choose to continue to dwell on what I know to be true…
The Word of God.

Malachi 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

And my biggest hope in all of this is that I will personally change to love God and others more and more, that He will create in me a clean heart!!!

Just a few things….

I will refer back to a handy dandy list of what is going on. Not that you care….but one day I will so here it goes….

1. Basketball has been a huge part of our life and schedule the past few months. The season went extra long for us because the varsity team are the Class 3A STATE CHAMPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What a fun ride it has been!
Our daughter played on JV as a freshman this year and was moved up to varsity for the playoffs. It was a mighty privilege for my daughter to be a part of an amazing team of girls. The coaching staff is INCREDIBLE! I knew that previously but hearing first hand from Pumpkin, has me in awe of the coaches placed in her life. I am so very very very grateful! My daughter’s character has been coached as well as her athletic skills.
I am so very proud of the girls who led the team to victory. I am eve more proud that my daughter has had several senior role models.
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2. Our precious foster baby brings us amazing joy. We know the possibility of him being reunified with his mother is huge. That fact can cause me anxiety but I am really focusing on the NOW and soaking in the blessings of loving little man while I can.

3. Our summer plans are in the midst of being finalized. It looks like for the first time in six years I will not be going to Zambia. It breaks my heart. It also breaks my heart to think about leaving little man for two weeks while I travel a million miles from home. This has been a very hard decision. Two facts have remained true and are driving our decision- 1. The husband has to spend about two months in Zambia this summer. 2. Little man cannot travel overseas with us.
We have had to figure out how to make the best of these to situations combined.

4. This week is Spring Break. The Lad, Little Man, and I have just hung out together while the daddy goes to work and the girls have spent the week in Branson.

5. Tonight is date night!!! A fellow foster mom is keeping Little Man overnight. The Lad will hang with his Gran. This is the first night away from Little Man. 😦

6. We joined the Dallas Zoo again today. It has been a while! We are trying to get back in the swing of having a wee one and finding cheap and fun activities to do. Looking forward to revisiting the library this summer.

7. We have had quite the crazy winter weather experience the past few weeks. Three days off from school! Crazy Texas weather! I had resolved to the fact that we would not have much of a winter this year then the end of February arrived….

8. We had an unexpected vacation in San Antonio last weekend while we attended the State Basketball Tournament. Our whole family was there….my in laws, my folks, my brother and his family. What fun!!!

Keeping us busy…

 

 

 

 

Watching these young ladies play twice per week since November has kept us very very busy.  I have had soooooo much fun going to every game and cheering on this team.  These gals have come soooo far.

 

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They won district this year!

Pumpkin has greatly enjoyed playing for Coach Softley and can’t wait for her little babe to arrive soon.

 

 

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The regular season is over and Pumpkin, along with a few other Junior Varsity teammates, has moved up to varsity for the playoffs.  Exciting times!!!  Although she is hardly playing, she is experiencing great role models from the upperclassmen on the team and being coached by an INCREDIBLE coach, Jill McDill.

Our Lady Raiders are waiting to play in the Regional tournament this weekend.  The first game was scheduled for tonight but the Texas winter decided to arrive in full force today.  We are all hopeful that our Lady Raiders will bring home a State Championship next weekend.

I am very thankful that we are a part of our community.  This year we have entered the community of high school sports and I have LOVED it!  Watching our children play sports is one of my FAVORITE things!!!  I love to see them do their thing.  It is also great fun to see them improve and learn how to be a part of a team.

 

 

 

‘Tis better…

“‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

This is a quote I have held onto and quoted often since welcoming little man into our hearts and home.

I hold him in my arms and listen to his giggles and catch myself wondering how I will ever be able to let him go.

I guess it boils down to a few things…

CPS.

The court.

Force.

One day I will get a call and I will have to hand over this little man to a stranger.

I will legally have to let him go.

There is always that small chance that this specific little man will be adoptable…but for now, it is not in the cards.

And that is okay.

Reunification is the word I heard over and over and over and over again in our preservice training.

It is a VITAL part of foster care. It is also the part that can leave foster parents’ hearts aching.

We might not know the plans the Lord has for this little guy BUT good thing HE does!

I am okay with that. I can say that with more faith now as I hold him close to me.

I consider it better to love him now than to have missed it all together.  I wonder if our poet friend, Alfred Lord Tennyson, knew a little more about fostering than we do.  :)

Our new adventure

When I wrote my last post 5 months earlier, my husband and I were at the very beginning of an adventure.
We were so new into it, we were not certain of the possibility of it actually coming to be. We were still at the stage of asking, “Lord, is this really the path?”
That question was asked often in the beginning.
Others often asked us another question:
“ARE YOU CRAZY?”
If you know us then you will automatically answer yes.
Yes, we are crazy!
But why not? And who defines “crazy” anyways!
After three years of this journey being heavy on our hearts, we came to the conclusion that we would be crazy NOT to follow the Lord’s calling on our lives.
But of course we thought how crazy it might seem to add this on top of our yearly summer stays and mission in Africa, momma working full time, and having three growing and active teens and preteens.
So….we are most certainly very crazy.

Apparently we are crazy in love with children. Our hearts long to heal hurting children and teach and nurture them. That statement might explain why I teach children with special needs and my hubby raises financial support to be able to minister to orphans and vulnerable children of Zambia.

This summer in Africa a longing to consistently love and nurture a wee one grew stronger and stronger with each Zambian hug. Of course the thought of moving to Zambia kept popping in our minds.
But that wasn’t it!

What was it!?!?!

We live in the USA for over 9 months each year. How can we keep our crazy love going? How can we serve the “least of these” while we do life comfortably in the USA?

Our answer came to us on the Tuesday after Christmas in the form of an 8 month old little boy.

Little Man has kicked our fostering journey off with such a delightful BANG.
Our hearts are overflowing with joy that we have been given this little one to love and tend to.
It was a long and tedious road arriving to being fully licensed to accept children into our home.

People ask us often how things are going.
Things are definitely different.

I have been introduced to daycare (I did not work when my bio kids were little).
I have revisited the wee hours of the morning a little more than I would like.
I have learned what an attorney at litem is.
I now know what a CASA is.
I have learned a lot about CPS.
I now deal with medicaid.
I meet people who foster or have fostered everywhere I go.
I cut food into teeny tiny pieces.
I rush out of work as quick as I can to fetch our little man.
I peruse the baby aisles of Target on a regular basis.
I watch our three older children do silly stunts to make our little man smile.
I see the love on my husband’s face as he gently tends to the babe.
I witness our family work together and show great concern for a little life.
I find myself happily on the floor while the babe climbs on my like I was a jungle gym.
I just might not get to go to Africa this summer and I am okay with that.
I find JOY in mothering a young child again.
I love that I have teenagers and a babe in my life at the same time.
I am honored that yet again, the Lord has chosen ME to be a apart of an amazing journey.

I have learned that being obedient to the Lord can seem crazy but so very worth it.

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