Another Divine Appointment

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He did it again. The Lord allowed us to be a part of a clearly orchestrated divine appointment. (Click here to read about the first crazy meeting the Lord set up!) And boy did I need it. The last five months (can you believe it’s been that long!) have been very, very difficult. My emotions have ranged from excitement to despair to anger to frustration to deep depression. I have questioned over and over if we made a wrong decision with becoming foster parents. I rack my brain trying to think about if this was something that I had pursued, because I wanted it…that maybe I had misread all the seemingly clear and loud confirmations from the Holy Spirit. I have begged the Lord for some sort of sign that we are in fact obeying what He had called us to in January. I had pleaded for hope, even a tiny shred, as I did not feel I could go on much longer. Well, He gave me a lot more than a shred this morning.

During our foster son’s visitation, we decided to go to breakfast. I could see Evie smiling at a couple sitting next to us. I looked over and recognized them. I thought they looked like someone we had met while volunteering at Southbrook, a church we attended about 5 years ago. Turns out, it WAS them. I’ll condense the conversation.

Me-We’re having breakfast, while our foster son is at visitation. Them-We’re foster parents, too! Do you happen to know…? She’s our neighbor and friend. Me-Yes!! She’s the case aide that monitors his visits. Them-Do you still go to Southbrook? Me-No, we attend Apex now. Them-I know it’s a big church, but do you happen to know…? I work with her.  Me-Yes! They’re our House Church leaders!

*Our case aide is also a gift from Jesus. She’s a Christian and has been the person with whom we’ve had the most contact.

*Our HC leader had actually talked to me about this family several times and their experience with fostering!! She never told me their name, so I didn’t make any connection until this evening.

The whole “random” meeting blew me away. We had planned on going to another restaurant and decided to eat at this place, at the last minute. I’m so very grateful that He, despite the fact that I did not deserve it at all, confirmed that we are where we should be. Thank you, Jesus!!

Now for an update of the past two months…the last time I posted was in the midst of the worst of the worst. I had just read a blog post written by an adoptive mom that gave the time frame of 3-4 months as the “starting to get better” stage. She was right! Things did start to improve soon after my last post. Our foster son is now bonded to both Grant and myself. He’s sleeping and eating wonderfully. He’s saying words and signing a ton, right along with Evie! He is a different child.

Grant and I were invited to a meeting for him next month and will be given an opportunity to share. We’ve compiled some information, detailing his behavior when he was first placed compared to now. WHAT A DRAMATIC DIFFERENCE. I guess I try to not think about what it was like in the beginning.

So, you would think I’d be jumping for joy right now, since he’s doing awesome and life should be easier, right? Well, I’m certainly thankful that he’s settled in to our family. However, this will make it a hell of a lot harder when the day comes for him to reunify with his birthmom. While that has always been the goal, it is now infinitely more difficult to imagine him leaving our family. Initially, we were told that he would probably be with us for a year. We have found out that he could be reunified much sooner than that.

I seriously do not understand how to do this foster parent thing well. We have felt very isolated during this process, as we don’t know well any current foster parents. What I needed the past five months is for another foster mom to tell me that what I’m feeling is normal, that I’m not crazy. My friend Kate,  a former foster parent and mother of 7, said it well. If the church was doing its job of caring for the orphans, there would be tons of support. I would never feel isolated, trying to figure out if I was slowly going insane. I could call 5 families for encouragement. But, the church is not stepping up. I’ve posted this stat before, and it’s staggering. According to this website, in 2011, there were 2,789 kids waiting to be adopted in the state of Ohio. Guess how many churches there are in Ohio? 14,657.

You can probably think of 10 good reasons why you shouldn’t foster or adopt. I get it. I had my list, too. Obviously, it’s not easy, either. It sucks for a lot of the time. BUT…don’t you want to be a part of the church body rallying together to eliminate this ridiculous idea of kids WAITING FOR A HOME? Shouldn’t we be WAITING TO ADOPT KIDS?!?

I’ll end with this really cool translation of a verse I’m sure you’ve heard. By the way, we just upped our foster/adopt license to 3 kids. We’re waiting for our next placement. Would you join us?

Psalm 68:5-6a NLT  Father to the fatherless, defender of the widows-this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families…

We’re still here

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First post in over 6 weeks.  Things are very much the same and still very hard. Although we’re three months in, we’re barely staying afloat, much of the time. This entire experience has been much different than I was anticipating. The biggest shock was the fact that foster baby has rejected me as the “mother figure.” Thankfully, he has bonded with Grant. Day after day of screaming when I hold him, though, has certainly taken its toll. I’m having a very hard time hearing anything from the Lord, so fighting through this without feeling His presence is near impossible. This blog post sheds a little more light on where we are. While this is not exactly the same situation, since we’re not adopting, the early experience is similar. Note: We’re in Stage 2 and had a little over 24 hours of a “honeymoon” period.

Some of my favorites:

The house is a disaster. Your bios are huddled up in the corner, begging grandparents to come rescue them. You can’t talk to anyone. Everyone is still beaming at you, asking: “Isn’t this the best thing?? Is this just the happiest time of your life?” You are starving for truth-tellers in adoption. You scour blogs and Yahoo groups, desperate for one morsel of truth, one brave person to say how hard this in and give you a shred of hope. You only find adorable pictures and cute stories, and you despair. You feel so alone. You’ve ruined your life. You’ve ruined your kids’ lives. Your marriage is doomed. Your adopted child hates you. You want to go back to that person pining away in the Pre-Stage and punch her in the liver.

So in those first few stages, you might feel like you are raising someone else’s hysterical kid. You might be chockfull of resentment, anger, disappointment, and regret. Love may feel elusive, even impossible for awhile. You might wonder if God called you to something then left you.

So, if you want to know how we’re doing, read above. Sums it up pretty well. Just have to make it to Stage 3!

Can YOU free a child from abuse and neglect?

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You may think the following is a bizarre post to follow-up to my last. However, hear me out.

Think about your responsibility pertaining to orphan care. Can you provide a home free of abuse and neglect? Do you have an extra bed? (Notice, I have not asked…are you super patient? Do you have a good handle on parenting? etc.)

Despite my complaining and whining over how hard it’s been as a  foster parent, AND IT HAS BEEN HARD, is it worth it? I have to dig through all my selfishness  and discomfort and look at the value of what this really is. These children have been taken from an environment of abuse and neglect. They have been placed, hopefully, in a foster home that is safe.

Isn’t that infinitely more valuable than our own personal comfort?

I really hate that my posts have NOT been about how awesome fostering is and how much we love it. Maybe it’s really been about how self-focused I have been.

I have posted this website before, but it’s powerful. There are 14, 657 churches in Ohio. There are 3, 011 kids waiting to be adopted. I bet most of you assumed this number was reversed. Surely, the church would be doing more to support these kids! Do you go to church? You’re in that 14K.

If we can do this, ANYONE can do this. If you have questions about the foster or adoption process, please feel free to contact me. If Jesus has been stirring up your heart, respond!

Where’d you go, Jesus?

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Seriously. This post is more of the same. If you’re looking for a feel-good read, keep on a-looking.

I reread my last post and have decided to update my percentages. I now feel completely crazy 99% of the time. Jesus has allowed these tiny pockets of time (an hour of less) where I feel peace and calm and able to function properly. I have literally had about 3 of these in the past 6 weeks. I want you to think about that right now. For about 3 total hours over the past 6 weeks, I have felt semi-normal.

My emotions range from anger to frustration to hopelessness to depression. It’s pretty joyless in my life right now, AND I HATE IT. I’d love to know if this is just all part of the fostering process, or if it’s something more. Because, it certainly feels like something more. The very worst part about it all is the fact that I feel that Jesus is completely absent. Now, I know truth and realize He never leaves me. But, I do not feel/see/hear Him working in my life at all…for the last 6 weeks. COME ON.

I told Him that if He wants me to sell everything I own and move to a hut in Africa, I’ll do it. If He wants me to accept more foster children, I’ll do it. But, I also told Him that if He was going to just hang me out to dry, screw this. I’m out. A friend asked if we would continue fostering, once this placement returns home. Everything in  me wants to scream, HELL NO!! I really don’t feel I have a choice, though. Yes, we’ll continue to foster, up until we hear differently from Him. I guess I’m holding on to this tiny shred of hope that He’ll show up and help us out.

I desperately, with all my heart, want to live completely surrendered to His will. Now, I understand that you don’t have to do “big” things like moving to another country and choosing to live in destitution to really be serving the Lord. Duh. We’re all living in the mission field He’s chosen for us. However, that’s where my heart and head keep wanting to go. I know that’s not from me. I would MUCH rather live in comfort, eating good food, drinking good wine, wearing designer jeans. I know the Lord’s put that in my heart. When I read about people living radically, I want to do that. That’s why I just don’t get what’s happening. I’m pulling my hair out and cussing my brains out and acting like a huge baby. While I want to be one of those people, I just don’t seem to be “cut out” for that. I really did think I was a little more of a mature Christian than I obviously am. The minute hard times hit, I forget the entire foundation of my faith, basic truths. Do any of you struggle with this?

You want to pray for us? Pray that the Lord would show mercy and allow us to experience His presence again. Do we deserve it? Absolutely not. The conversation I have with myself goes a little like this: I get it, Lord. I’ve done a shitty job today as a parent. I might be the worst parent on the planet. I understand why You wouldn’t want anything to do with me. But, PLEASE. Jesus, help me out!

I know it’s going to happen sometime. He’s going to provide a verse or a song or a friend or a billboard that will give me the confidence I need to keep going. I’m not sure if that’s Biblical or good or mature to need that from the Lord, but that’s how it is.

Finally, to close…some of you may be aghast at some of the honesty in this post. I always want to be as transparent as possible, so that no one ever has a false view of our family. We are broken and wrecked and messed up. Yes, we’ve decided to do this foster thing that some may see as noble. Please understand that this had little to do with what we wanted. Jesus asked us, and we obeyed…kicking and screaming and cussing all the way.

One month anniversary

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Today marks the one month mark of welcoming our first foster placement into our home. What a rollercoaster it’s been in this short time, too! We are all adjusting a little more each day. It’s such a huge transition, which affects every member of the family. My girls suddenly have less of our attention. While they have enjoyed having another playmate, they are both acting out in their own way. Mealtimes and bedtimes are nuts. Leaving the house now requires a lot more prep work.

It’s not been easy. I knew this going in and had tried to prepare myself, but you can’t really foresee how each person will react to another family member thrown in the mix. About 80% of the time, I feel pushed to my limit, overwhelmed, need an extra 12 hours in the day. The other 20%, I’m still frazzled but can manage. Countless times in the past month, I have gotten to the point where I feel that I’ve made a mistake with this fostering thing…that I’m not “that kind” of mom who juggles a hundred kids with ease, smiling all the time. Some dear friends have had to remind me why we started this in the first place. Obedience. Satan has tried to muddy my thoughts and convince me that we can quit this, that somebody else will do it, that the Lord really didn’t want us to do this. The Lord has actually felt very far away the past few weeks, at a time when I thought He’d be the closest. While I know this is not true, it’s felt as if He saw what a crappy job I was doing as a foster mom and decided that all those doubts/lies/fears I had prior were right, so He would just abandon this idea of having the Keyses be foster parents. People, this month has been tough.

We found out that there is some extended family that may be interested in taking him. I immediately started pulling away emtionally, as I expected him to be out of our house within a week. I have heard nothing more, and from talking to several others, this may not materialize into anything. What a bizarre dynamic. Bond and love your foster children, as if they are your own…but not too much, or your heart will be broken into pieces, when they leave. What?!?!?! How do you even navigate this? At times, I feel like I can provide a safe and nurturing home, without having to be too emotionally invested. At other times, I decide I will abandon all “heart protection” and deal with my pain, when he leaves.

It’s not been all gloom and doom in our house. We’ve had a few moments of peace and joy and thankfulness. Jesus has specifically placed this little boy in our family. I hope that Jesus will be able to use us well, no matter the length of time he’s with us.

We’re rolling 5 deep!

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It’s been over a week, since we welcomed a new addition to the family. Things have been pretty crazy ever since. I’ve felt the entire spectrum of emotions, it’s seemed. It’s kind of difficult to describe our week, as we have to be careful not to share information that we shouldn’t. Here are a few highlights:

For the first few days, all three kids were sleeping until 9:00am. This is practically unheard of in this house, so I know this was straight from Jesus.

Friends have provided meals, which has taken so much stress away from our first week.

Having three kids is really hard. We’re still trying to figure out the bedtime routine, if one of us is gone. Unfortunately, we can’t trust Ezra alone with Evie, and we can’t find a good way to manage both babies, at the same time.

He had his first visitation, and we were able to meet his birth mom. It went very smoothly, so I was so very grateful for that. We’d love to build a relationship with her through this process.

I’ve had many moments of crippling doubt. All the fears I had previously about this entire process seemed to materialize this week. It felt as if the Lord had abandoned us, as soon as we had “gone through” with what He asked of us. Of course, I know in my head that this is not true, but these thoughts and feelings plagued me for several days.

In my low times, I’ve wondered if we’ve made a terrible mistake with becoming foster parents. Something both great and rattling about saying “yes” to the Lord, though, is the fact that there’s no going back now. What’s the alternative? Returning to our safe, comfortable, easy life? He’s radically changed my heart, my plans, my view on what my life should look like…and, I’m thankful for it!

p.s. Remember this girl that the Lord introduced me to at Chick-fil-A? Funny thing…I have a friend in Bible study who is going through the foster/adopt certification classes right now. It occurred to me that this girl had mentioned the same location of the classes where my friend goes. I asked my friend, and they totally know each other and eat lunch together at training!!

Our first placement!

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We’re a family of five. I’m a mother to three. Sounds so weird!! Baby boy is 10 months old and is beyond precious. Super cuddly and smiley. Evie doesn’t know quite what to think of him, but Ezra adores him.

Let’s back up…Ezra had been complaining of her front tooth hurting. (When she was around 2, she fell and knocked that tooth loose.) I made an appoinment, and we were walking out the door when my phone rang. My social worker gave me the little information she had, we said yes, and he was here 30 minutes later. It was a whirlwind. Grant and Ezra went on to the dentist, and I scrambled around the house cleaning. Evie was taking a nap, thankfully. Grant and Ez come back 10 minutes later saying the office was closed. I must have written down the date wrong. (I think this was the Lord, though. First, because I rarely make mistakes like that 🙂 Second, because I typically don’t get ready unless I’m leaving the house. If I had not been on my way to the dentist, I would have not been showered and put together. If I had not been ready when I got the call, I would have felt so unprepared.) Another social worker dropped him off, answered a few questions, then left. It was just crazy how quickly things happened.

Things have gone fairly smoothly. The hardest part about it is the fact that I now have THREE children. Gracious. Evie and he are practically twins, although Evie is 3 months older. Grant and Ez went back to the dentist yesterday (at the correct time). I had the two babies, and they both wanted to be held, both wanted to eat, both wanted a book read. I texted Grant to see how much longer he would be, and he responded with “They’re pulling the tooth.” What the WHAT? At that moment, I knew He’d made a mistake, choosing us for this. One day in, and I was about to lose it. We told the Lord, though, that we’d do whatever He wanted us to. I’ve had to remind myself that THIS is what He’s asked of us. Just because He’s called us does not mean it will be smooth sailing.

At the very beginning of this foster process, I really only wanted to adopt. Through the training and God changing my heart, I went to the other extreme and only thought about fostering, not really entertaining the thought of adopting any of the children who lived with us. That is until this adorable baby came through our door. I felt it immediately. I understand now how terribly difficult this will be.

We would absolutely be so grateful for your prayers. Please pray that we would be the kind of parents that each of our kids need. Please pray that Ezra especially would see Jesus through this experience. Please pray that we could form a relationship with the birth mom.