Category Archives: adoption

You don’t dictate my checklist

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But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lordlooks on the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7 ESV

We tend to look up to people or be impressed or intimidated by them. It is this very quality that tricks us into putting people on a pedestal and then getting hurt when they fall off, usually on top of us. It’s painful when someone you believe in let’s you down. Finding out someone you trusted isn’t who you thought they were is crushing. 
Meanwhile we strive to be all those things that will make others respect and love us. We make checklists that we follow religiously based on our personalities and the principles in the Bible that we have taken ownership of. We set others up to fall and we set up ourselves to be “found out” when we too fall from the pedestals others have created for us.  
This circle is a dangerous one. It is fueled by our need to identify others and with others. When we hear of a sister or brother in Christ who has “fallen” all too often our first response is “well I thought they were a Christian.” Or we feel that the church has failed to protect us because we have been tricked into believing that someone who is “in church” wouldn’t do that.  

I have heard this verse in 1 Samuel 16:7 used so many times for the “Man looks on outward appearance, God looks on the heart” part. It has been used to separate ourselves from the “fallen ones”.  It has been used as a warning to those who have screwed up. We often forget the first part of the verse. “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature…” 
Why are we teaching that we are all supposed to straighten up and fly right? Why are we applauding the appearance of men? Why are we teaching checklists that are not biblical? God doesn’t care if we are in church every time the doors are open, God doesn’t care if we have spent two hours every morning reading the Bible and praying, God doesn’t care if we have a six pack in our fridge. God doesn’t care if our music is Christian or non Christian. God doesn’t care if you are all packaged up nice with a smile on your face. He doesn’t care what you wear to church any differently than he does in every day life. Looking good to others does not make us somehow more approved by God. There are no “good christians” and bad “christians” there are only people. People who were bought with a price that are supremely loved and forgiven whose insides are torn and their minds struggling to live up to impossible or worse, possible standards, put on them by other people who are just as loved, forgiven, and torn.  
God sent his son to die to bring us freedom and life. God sent his spirit to live in us and help us live in a very fallen world. The evidence that he lives within us is not on our checklists and cannot be duplicated without him. It will play out in a hugely diverse body of Christ using their gifts and talents, insecurities, failures, and personal checklists shown to them by the spirit of God in their OWN life, to exhibit the glory of God in impossible unity, love, faith, hope, charity, long suffering, gentleness, patience, joy, goodness, meekness and temperance.  

When we do that, what we do changes drastically. We listen to each other and know that all of us mess up. That each one of us struggle with the things that do not please God. The only one on a pedestal is Christ, and we can be there for one another in good times and bad. When we do that, some of us will have the same tastes in music others won’t. Some of us will be in church every time the doors are open and some of us won’t. We will have different contents in our refrigerators and different tastes in clothes. Our personal checklists will bring glory to God. We will fight less and fall less and when one is struggling we will bond together in understanding and love. We will have unity when all circumstances tell us we need to fight each other. We will exhibit the real biblical checklist of the fruit of the holy spirt. We will cling to him and each other. This is what God wants.  

The people of Israel made the same mistake when choosing their first king. They looked at how impressive Saul was. They praised him for the things he exhibited that looked right. A long hard and painful road followed. King David did not look the part but his desire to do what was right brought peace to the land. When he fell he got back up. God lifted him back up. The man who slept with Bathsheba and murdered her husband was called a man after God’s own heart. His status with God did not change when he fell. When God looks at us he sees the blood of his son. We are justified by his grace. We can never do anything that makes him look at us in anger again. We don’t have to beg our way into his good graces EVER again. Our sin grieves us because God loves us enough to reveal it to us and help us get rid of it, not because it means that God is mad at us. We can’t clean up our hearts he sees and loves us no matter how we feel. We can’t not walk with him because he won’t leave us.  
Let’s stop defining christians by our own checklists and realize that God has that in his hands.  Lets stop making others live by our own checklists. Let’s love people and be there for them. Let’s stop applauding what looks good. Let’s allow people to be real with us and let’s be real with others. We don’t have to control each other. Our lives should not be run by guilt and obligation. We do not serve them. We serve a God who holds us in his hands and can use all our flaws and strengths to lift others up and make beauty from ashes. 

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Praise him in the Hallway! 

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I listened carefully as the pediatrician articulated exactly what my thoughts had been for a few weeks concerning our son Owen. Incredulously I realized that my fears were justified and needed to be addressed for his protection. We had been through so much in the past six months. With his history of trauma related to loss it was basically inevitable. I just didn’t expect to hear it from a doctor. 
Major life changes, including the loss of Baby H, had taken their toll. His body remembers what his brain shuts out. Owen is a very outgoing, challenge loving, up for anything, sports oriented, loving and creative little boy. Even though he was young (11 months) when he came to us, the trauma he had experienced over the loss of his family still effects him. In times of insecurity he insists on knowing where everyone in our family is and needs to have us close and safe. Baby H leaving in the middle of some of the hardest times in our life added to that trauma even though it wasn’t related.  

Even though he is ok, he still struggles with missing her and understanding why she can’t be with us. Our pediatrician said that to continue fostering would only exacerbate his trauma. It is necessary to close our home. When he is older he can better understand the foster care process and yet his history of loss leaves him vulnerable in ways our biological children are not. So, for his safety, we will no longer foster.

Someone once said: when God closes a door praise him in the hallway. When I look out our currant “hallway” I see a 360 degree angle of beautiful reminders of the love God has for us and the memories we share and the amazing unit our family has become. My husband has a new job, our church is getting closer than ever to each other and functioning so well, our family and friends, our life, is wonderful. I am fine with praising him in the hallway and I am excited to see what door God opens next. 

In the meantime, we will be filling out our paperwork and completing our home study to be available to children in foster care who need a permanent home. We will see what God does!

Baby H

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John 11:35 Jesus wept

Last summer, on my way home from target, I answered the phone.  It was our licensing counselor.  There was a baby girl, born five days before, that needed a place to go.  We said yes.  Three hours later I drove to the back of the office building to meet a case worker holding a tiny little baby wrapped in a hospital blanket wearing only a onesie that looked to be two sizes too big.  She handed her to me. Then Kaitlyn and I put her into a car seat. I signed papers and grabbed the hospital bag and a suitcase and we left.  Just like that our world changed forever again.

I don’t think that you ever get used to the feeling when a new child is handed over to you. The weight of the world is placed in your hands wrapped in a beautiful human gift.  You are excited and terrified.  Falling in love is easy. The case will have you feeling raw and like your insides are hanging outside your body with no protection.  You will fight hard for the child who can’t fight for themselves.  You love them as your own even knowing they aren’t. It’s how it goes. Every time it is the same, every time it is immensely different.  

This time we had it on good authority that this baby wouldn’t be with us much longer than six weeks. She was supposed to go to her paternal grandmother and then very quickly back to the parents who loved her, wanted her, and were going to fight hard to be able to bring her home.Through the course of the next few months we soon realized that none of that would  happen.

Meanwhile she grew and developed and got fatter and fatter and cuter and cuter! We loved her and she loved us.  It was so much fun to dress her up and I carried her everywhere wrapped to my body. She was safe and warm and loved beyond measure on our side. On the other side of the case was feelings of abandonment and frustration with the way everything was being handled. We had very little say in any of it.  Being home and in our every day world was a sanctuary to bury ourselves in to rest after venturing over to the other side fighting hard for the protection and rights of this child we loved. 

Three months in we began to believe that she would eventually be able to be ours forever.  Even though we knew things could change at any moment. They did.

We learned that her maternal grandparents had been searching for her, begging anyone that would listen to help them connect with her.  They would complete their home study and we would see what would happen. 

We were encouraged to get to know them and to keep in contact with them during the process.  I was petrified.  As we began to get to know them, their love and care for her was glaringly evident.   We began falling in love with them too, just like we did with our Baby H.  We sent pictures and updates and facilitated visitations.  We formed quite a bond with them. Soon we were fighting for all of us not just the baby. Fighting for a chance to know she was safe. We knew she would be safe with them and loved and she would have everything she could possibly need.  

She was seven months old the day I packed all the little things for her that she would be taking to her new forever home.  She looked up at me and smiled as I changed and dressed her.  For all she knew it was just another day.  I knew better. I fought tears all morning. I didn’t want to upset her. I was glad for the preparations that needed to be made. At least there was work to focus on.  Every snuggle and kiss meant more than ever before that morning.  My world was shattering, there would be no more sanctuary.  I dreaded coming home knowing she wouldn’t be there. 

John asked to feed her before work that day. We just wanted to savor every precious moment we had left.  I’ll never forget him sitting there silent tears stealthily inching down his face as she reached up and grabbed his finger while he held her bottle for her.  

Two hours later I handed her to her grandparents. After hugging all together and kissing her good bye I walked out of the DCF office empty handed. I sobbed all the way to the car and all the way home.  Memories flooding my mind from the past seven months. Pushing back the fear that she would feel abandoned by me and that she would need me and I wouldn’t be there for her. That I would never see her again.  

“You signed up for this Rach….you have no right to hurt like this…suck it up and move on….you knew she wasn’t yours…this is your job…no one is going to feel sorry for you…you chose the foster parent life.”

Then I read John 11:35 Jesus wept. In that passage we learn about Jesus finally going to where Lazerous had lived and been sick. He came knowing Lazerous was dead.  He stood at the tomb and prepared to perform a miracle. Before he did so, he wept.  He wept for the pain of loosing a friend. He wept for the pain that his friends felt who had been left behind. He wept for the betrayal his inaction had caused Lazerous’ sisters to feel.  He wept.  HE WEPT? He knew that Lazerous’ death was temporary.  He knew it because he was God and he would be the one to raise him from the dead.  But in his love for his friends and in his humanness, he felt the pain that death caused and he didn’t want that for anyone, including himself.   When I read that I realized: we all make choices in life out of love for others and love for ourselves.  Just because I signed up to be a foster parent doesn’t take away the pain of saying goodbye. I didn’t weep because of the injustice of it all or out of surprise that my baby was taken from me.  I wept because I miss her. I wept because I would have given anything to be with her. I wept because of the pain I saw in her grandparents eyes as they watched their family be torn apart and the joy when she was brought home to them safely. I wept because she was mine and because she wasn’t. I wept for the pain in my husbands eyes when he held her that last time and for my children who would miss her too.  I wept. And it is ok because Jesus wept too.  

Since then we have gotten updates and pictures from her grandparents. They let us know how she is. She is doing great!! Growing and so loved.  It is such a blessing!! 

#beafosterparent #youcantdoit #icantdoit #Godcan

Créme brûlée 

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My family and I have spent the past year dealing with some of the most difficult situations of our lives.  We have faced loss, betrayal, anger, confusion, and pain.  This past year I think that I have cried more than ever.
I wish I could say that I have spent this time clinging to the Lord and that my faith has grown by leaps and bounds. But that would be dishonest.  I have struggled to turn to him, while wanting desperately to hear his voice for me.  There have been times when I have turned to him and his faithfulness has been a comfort to me.  Other times, I have been distrusting of anyone and everyone.  I feel as if I am living in fight or flight mode.  There have been times when only the head knowledge I have of God has gotten me through the day.  I don’t feel safe.  Some of those in my life who I have gone to for advice my whole life have been the very people who have cast me aside and made themselves unavailable to me. My foundations have been shaken.  I am not sure how to handle this.

I can say that the lessons I learned from the joys and sorrows of last year have come into play.  Never once have I felt the need to ask God why is he allowing this.  On the contrary I have been consistently reminded and held by the knowledge that he wrote every one of our days and his plan for us is better than our own, and infinitely better than our enemy’s plan.  I have questioned his timing, and once again submitted to it.

One of the things that I have been thinking about the past few days is Cremé Brulée.  If you have never had it you should try it.  The beautiful soft silky custard has a extremely thin layer of burned sugar on top that when you crack it, it mixes with the custard adding a delicate crunch throughout.  It is magical! The crust cannot be any thicker or any thinner or it will ruin it.  It reminds me of some things I would like to share.

All the news stories and movies and media we are exposed to on a daily basis can cause us to build up a crust around our hearts.  It makes us numb to reality and crave fantasy.

Going through something like we have gone through makes us hyper sensitive to reality.  So much of the crying I have done is from being exposed to other’s pain.This morning as I read the blog of someone I have known my whole life share a story of loss that I didn’t know before, I sobbed at her pain from thirty years ago. Even stories of people I don’t know, impact me more than they ever have.  It is as if the ability to be numb to anything is gone.  I am raw like sashimi.

Maybe one reason God has allowed me to go through this past year was to bring me to a place where he can teach me to have a thin perfect crust like créme brulée.

One amazing thing that has happened in the past year is that John as become assistant pastor of our church.  As we begin our ministry of leadership, I really believe that the cremé brulé crust is important. I think sometimes God allows us to go through tremendously difficult situations to keep us feeling things that we would otherwise be numb to.  It keeps us looking to him, and keeps us feeling other’s hurt, and joy in ways that we just don’t respond as strongly to otherwise.   Leadership requires more than a passing interest in other’s lives.  We have to be able to feel for them and share in their experiences and allow them to share in ours.  We can’t be so numb that we cannot empathize with others.  We cannot have such a wall around our heart that we don’t let others to share our hearts.

The good, the bad and the ugly serve to be a base for the glory of God to be highlighted in our lives.  Think of a page in a book.  All of the information contained on that page is important.  But if you are studying, it is the highlighted parts that you pay the most attention to.  If you hide everything but what is highlighted, the context is lost.  It is the same in our lives.  It is all the information that is important. Our success, our failure, our pain, our sin, our faith, our experiences, all of it that causes the work of God in our lives to be highlighted.  The highlighted parts are the most important.  The Glory of God and his amazing grace.

I remember my pastor’s wife crying with me when I locked my daughter in the car when she was six months old. It was hot and we were praying the ambulance would get there soon. She was more than just sympathetic she actually felt the distress with me and shared in that experience.  That was over 10 years ago and I will never forget it.   That is the kind of Pastor’s wife I want to be!

Ministry is hard.  It can be rewarding, and it can be painful.  If our crust is like créme brulée, we have the thin shell of faith that still allows the vulnerably that allows us to let things break through to get to the beautiful heart that God has given.  It allows us to share in each other’s lives and find our protection in Him.  That sugar on top cannot be raw, it must be burned to make the crust.  We can go through the fire and God can make us into the perfect balance of delicate crust and soft silky custard, that reveals the Glory of God and makes us relatable to others. The crust is meant to be broken without ruining the desert. We can allow our shell to break while knowing that won’t destroy us! Only God can give us that crust.  Oh Lord take the pain that I am going though from this fire.  Help me not to put up walls but to allow you to work in me so that my crust is what you want it to be!

Mommy of four?! Part 4

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She sat down across from me as we prepared to have our meeting.  The auditorium was still a little noisy with several groups of people fellowshiping and preparing to leave, but it was as if the world stood still and it was just the two of us.

I took a deep breath and Jay Jay said “what is going on? You are scaring me”

“I need to tell you something.” I recounted the information I had received about Jalica and I told her how we had been praying since before she left that God would bring her a very specific kind of family.  Jay Jay and her husband fit that description to a tee.  I told her it wouldn’t be easy, that she would have a uphill battle ahead but that God had put them on my heart when I knew Jalicia was ready and waiting for her forever home.  By the end of the meeting we were both in tears and prayed together.  She said they would talk and pray and get back with us.

Two weeks before Christmas Jalicia was placed with Jay Jay and her husband Jason.  We planned to take them dinner their second night together.  I had never been to their house before and I asked for their address to obtain directions.  That’s when I found out that they live around the corner!!! Jalicia and Owen get to grow up together and we now have a new branch of our family. We get to be in Jalicia’s life and she in ours! She calls us aunt and uncle now!! God is so good!!!!

Tomorrow they will stand before the judge and take their own oathe and become an official forever family!! I cannot wait to celebrate with them!! 

Mommy of four?! Part 3

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I wrote before about our science co op. It was a long time ago but it is important to note that it was through that co op that my kids began attending the church that our co op met in on Wednesday nights.  

Kaitlyn’s class was called STARS and she had been asking for prayer for our situation and she missed Jalicia and prayed for her all the time.  

A few weeks after Jalicia left I found myself hanging around after the services there, talking with Kaitlyn’s teacher Jay Jay.  It was pretty cool because she had been wanting to talk to me about fostering for a while. She and her husband had been liscnesed to adopt for a long time and were praying for God to give them a family.  I felt like God had given me a friend but I was also very thankful that Kaitlyn had a teacher who cared enough to pray and could understand some of what we were going through. All part of God’s plan to bring healing.

In October we found out that the case would be closing because all of the children were going to be adopted.  They were all in the homes that were going to adopt them. Every thing was set…or so we thought.

I received a frantic call telling me that Jalicia would need to be moved ASAP from the home she was in.  We starting praying that God would intervene.  I spoke with the case worker and told her I had an idea and asked if it was a legitimate option she said yes.

So I made a phone call and set a meeting. Two nights later I was preparing to have yet another life changing conversation. I had to get ready for the possibility of an epic turn of events. I walked into the room my stomach in knots. God please give me what I need and please help me breathe!

Mommy of four?! Part 2

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Over the next few weeks things changed-a lot.  We were attempting to get our bearings and learning the ropes of being a family of six.  

We had good days and bad days.  It soon became clear that little Jalicia needed way more than we could give and we were in way over our heads.  Thankfully though, God wasn’t. 

We began to arrange for services to be put in place to get her and us the help we all desperately needed.  Then we got the news that changed everything.  She was going to be moved from us to another home.  

We were both partially relieved and also devestated.  I knew I wasn’t meant to be her mom but I so wanted to be.  I knew that my little family had been through a war zone and that my children needed some recovery time.  I also worried about Jalicia as she had to start over fresh-again.  I knew we would continue to see her at sibling visits and that I would know how she was doing.  I didn’t know if I could handle knowing that either. What if things didn’t go well? Would I be watching her struggle? Could I handle the outcome? We began praying that God would give her a wonderful new home that it would be a smooth transition and that she would be happy.  

Two weeks later we found out that she had been moved again and again.  It broke my heart so much.  We just prayed and prayed that God would bring her a couple who either had grown children or never had children who would love her and care for her and give her all the attention she needed and deserved and could meet her needs and be her forever family.