What You Want to Know (and then some)

I opened my journal today to write a prayer. It’s funny because I have had this journal for about a year and you would expect it to be filled with prayers after that amount of time, but I realized that after having the girls the last year my journal got a lot more use as a picture book than a prayer journal =). I opened to write today and flipped to this page:

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Precious.

Let me debunk another Foster Care myth really quickly. Now that the girls are home we constantly have people asking us how we are doing. I am going to be very honest with you. We are fine. =). We miss the girls and we miss having kids in our home but we have not cried or worried.

I think something people don’t think about when it comes to Foster Care is that when God opens your heart and you choose to open your doors to these kids He will reward that, and for us He did that by taking care of all those emotions.

Just like when you have a biological child, or your maybe child grows up in your home and God calls them away to a dangerous place, or a million other scenario’s where parents have learned to trust Christ, we had to come to a point where we remembered that God loves them more than we do. I mean, after all, He formed them in their mother’s womb. He knew them before they knew life in this world, and that is where we have placed all of our concerns, and worries for them.

I know that we would not be so calm without Christ and we are so so so so so so so so so so (I could type a million more of those) thankful for your prayers through this time for our family and for theirs! We are also so thankful for the encouragement that we have received from you all during this time.

I am excited to share with you some of the other things that Christ is doing in our lives right now and as He begins to reveal our future to us I am excited to share with you what that is going to look like, so keep reading! =).

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I will leave you with this random photo of a Zebra in my car…
He was quite friendly.

Until next time,

Kelsey

An End and a New Beginning

I am typing this now because in a week I may not be able to get it all out.

We have a court date next week. Our last court date. If everything goes as expected in court next week the girls will go back home with their mom that night. This is a good thing. We are thrilled to have been a part of a case that has turned out so well.

I am including numbers for Texas and Oklahoma because that is where I believe most of my readers are from.

According to Adopt Us Kids there are 8,362 (over 1,000 of this number are kids who are legally eligible for adoption) kids in foster care in the state of Oklahoma and 28,883 kids in foster care in the state of Texas. Of the 28,883 kids in Texas there are over 10,000 kids who are legally eligible for adoption and waiting for their forever families.

You hear stories all the time about the foster system. You hear about abusive foster families, delinquent foster kids, crazy biological families, and a broken imperfect system.
I want to tell you about our very first experience with the Texas Foster system

(while simultaneously bombarding you with pictures of my amazing kids.)
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(At Disney World)

In February we got a call about two little girls who needed a temporary home. We were told that we would be their first official foster home (it’s complicated).We were also told that their mom was doing really well and was on track to get them back when her case ended in a little under a year. The plan was for the girls to live with us until December.

When the girls came they were little balls of energy. They giggled nonstop and they never once cried. They came with a carload full of clothes and toys and a Chihuahua, and they took to us almost immediately. It was the complete opposite of what I expected to encounter. Eventually the tears did come, and months down the road they admitted to me how scared they really were. They said they were afraid that we would be mean.

I don’t think we were what they expected either. 

We expected it to take some time for them to settle in and get used to a new structure and new rules. It did. We endured crying, screaming, and guilt-tripping. In the moment if felt impossible,

but what we eventually realized was that these kids just needed someone who was going to be there for them no matter what, and, much thanks to the overflowing love that Christ gives us when we least deserve it, that was something we could do.

Even more than the bad times though, we had so so much fun with giggling, traveling, first experiences, and silly phrases;

(for example I was cleaning out a drawer in their room yesterday and I found a notecard that my oldest had written on, it said “When I die I hope I go to Google.”)
What does that even mean?

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(In the airport on the way to Disney World, sorry it’s blurry)

Along with kids comes the joy of many many appointments and meetings. The first two months we had to schedule doctors appointments, get shots, go to the dentist (3 times), enroll in school, find a daycare, schedule counseling, and meet with our CPS caseworker, CASA worker, and Buckner worker once a month. We also started doing visits with their mom every other week. All of this was, of course, on top of our normal schedule. I know what you’re thinking right now,
“I just wouldn’t have time for that”
I thought that too, but we had an incredible team. Our CPS worker was always willing to provide transportation for the girls when needed, our CASA worker worked around our schedule and ALWAYS made our visits so much fun. Really, the girls LOVED meeting with her. Our Buckner workers not only worked with us, but they were always for us. They provided advice, trainings tailored to our situation, and they connected us to all the dr.’s we needed to see.

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(I promise I did not tell them to do this and they did not know I was taking a picture.)

I realize that this is probably not what you would expect, but the girls biological family soon became part of our team as well. One of the things I was completely lost about was how to do my youngest one’s hair. It was wild. Her mom sat down with me and explained how she usually did it and even brought me the gel she normally used, and that’s just one example of our teamwork through this process.

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(this was at one of our dates with our CASA worker. The girls rode horses, fed catfish, and picked berries. My oldest informed me that she was in fact a country girl. Don’t let her fool you though, she’s a total diva)

We also have an amazing church family who has since began a ministry at church providing clothes to foster families and is about to train some new substitute caregivers for when we need a break (praise Jesus for community, I would be so lost without it, but more on that another day.)

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(Meet the teacher. The child loves her boots.)

We have had tough days, but we now go through life on a fairly smooth schedule. We rarely deal with the screaming and fighting anymore. It’s amazing what can happen in just a matter of months when you are consistent.

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(In Galveston, ready to play in the sand)

My heart breaks when I think about the amount of time we have left with them in our home, but it swells when I think about the possibilities for their future with their mom. My continued prayer for every family we come across on our Foster Care journey is restoration of family and reconciliation with Christ

I hope this gave you a new perspective.

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(Really though, so precious)

Whatever state (or country) you are visiting from please take the time to consider those who need something as simple as a loving home. If you click on your state below the link will take you to your Heart Galleries with photos of kids in need of exactly that. If you are not in Texas or Oklahoma, all you have to do is google “your state heart gallery”. These are kids in your state who are ready and waiting to find their forever families.

Texas

Oklahoma

As always, thanks for reading. You are all amazing.

Kels

5 Common Question Answered =).

For those of you out there who have seen Clint and I recently with two small children and are confused about our situation I will give you a basic run down:

We are foster parents. Right now we have 2 awesome little girls. They are not ours forever. 

Questions we get all the time that I will attempt to answer gracefully:

1) How long do you have them?

Well, we have had them since February and if everything goes as anticipated they will be with us for less than a month more. Yes that is hard, yes we will probably cry after they leave, and yes if we had known how hard it was before hand we still would have done it because it was totally worth it. 

2) Will you do it again?

 We have every intention of taking another placement. That is what we signed up for, and the best part about our first placement is that we got to do more than just love on some kids for awhile. We got to love on an entire family and ultimately see a family restored. As christians, seeing lives restored is kind of what we are all about right? Our prayer as we continue in this process is that we can continue to show the love of Jesus to this family as well as the families to come. 

3) Will you take a break?

Yes. I don’t know for how long, but we are going to take a break. We think it will be healthy for us to take a little bit of time to recuperate emotionally and spiritually. 

4) Doesn’t their situation just make you mad at the parents?

Short answer: No. Every situation is different and this specific situation gave no reason for me to be mad at or upset with the parents. The fact is that these kids have a mom who loves them so so much and overcame a lot of obstacles to get her family back. We rejoice in that. We are thrilled that they have such an amazing mom who loves them so much. 

5) Well, it takes a special person

*I know that wasn’t a question, but it’s a phrase we hear a lot* 
Please read this in a gentle loving tone. 
Thank you for thinking that we are special but kindly hear me when I say that we are not. The only thing we have that makes us special is Jesus. The fact of the matter is without Him we couldn’t do it either. We as christians are called to care for the widowed and fatherless. There are many ways to do this; Compassion, Fostering, Adoption, Respite Care, Big Brothers Big Sisters, PRAYER etc.. Each one comes with challenges and will be hard at times if your heart is in it, but ultimately as christians we are not called to love just when it is easy. We are called to love when it is hard and rips our hearts out because we have The One who can put it all back together again. When you let those hard moments and challenges come in between you and the God-given calling to care for these individuals you are robbing yourself of a more intimate relationship with Christ, and these kids of a loving home, or money for and education, or someone to look up to in their lives. 
If you haven’t found a way to love on or care for the widowed and fatherless please pray about how God would have you to do that today. Again, there are many many possibilities but please don’t choose one just because it looks like the easiest. Please choose on that God has placed on your heart. 

Thank you for reading and please understand that everything I write I write in love. 
Please be in prayer for our family as we get ready to transition in to a new phase. 

Thank you again

Kels

Dry Bones

I have spent recent months in a place of spiritual discontentment. I found myself feeling like every story I read was one that I had read a thousand times before and, to be honest, I didn’t feel like reading it one more time.

And at the same time my bones were dry and my insides were dead.

I prayed for new eyes
I prayed for a renewed hunger for God’s word
I prayed for a fire to burn in my heart
I prayed for a passion that would drive my life

and I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed
and my bones remained dry and my insides remained dead.
I remembered what it felt like to want to know Christ more for awhile and I wanted to want that. And then I got tired of wanting to want and it just became a numb thought at the very back of my very full mind.

I still knew the words to say and I still read and I still prayed but Jesus felt far away, and I started to wonder if this would be what our relationship looked life from now on.
And then I picked up a book.
“The Insanity of God”

cs-insanity-lNow please don’t go all super spiritual on me and lecture me about The Bible being the only book I should need because it is God’s inspired and Holy word. 

I know that.

But I believe that in that moment, when I was reading, but not really paying attention to The Bible, God placed in my hands exactly what He knew would get my attention. Honestly, He could have used any book and that’s fine (though this is a great one and if you haven’t read it you should). 

And frankly it wouldn’t have mattered to me what book He used I’m just so thankful He did.

And finally after months of dry insides and dead bones God woke me up again and I am reading with new eyes and a deeper sense of gratitude for grace. 

I’m reading John right now. I am using the Gospel Transformation Bible. My prayer is that with every verse, chapter and book I read the transformation in my own life becomes more and more obvious. My prayer is also that my relationship becomes one of such intimacy that I can hear everything the still small voice whispers, and that I would have the courage to obey. 

You probably thought there was a point to this post when you started reading it. There really isn’t. I just felt like I needed to write down what has been going on in my heart recently. And this just barely scratches the surface. I do hope that if you find yourself in the place I was in that this gives you hope.

~Kels~

T-2 Weeks and Counting!!

So Clint and I have been keeping a giant secret for like 3 months and it has been killing us!

So last night we decided it was time to tell the girls that we are going to DISNEY WORLD in only TWO WEEKS!!!!! 
I wanted to find a fun way to tell them so I googled and Pinterested and googled and Pinterested, and I finally settled on a treasure hunt! =)

I googled imaged Disney World treasure map and found this
(The picture is a link)

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The places on it were not what I needed so I spent a little time in Photoshop (don’t be critical, I willingly admit that I do not know what I am doing when it comes to this software) and erased those places and with a lot more google imaging I added new ones. The final map looked like this:

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After I made the map I printed it out in 6 different sections and cut it to make a puzzle. Each section had a clue written on the back. 
When Clint came home he and the girls sat in the hot tub while I hid the clues around the house. 
The hunt started in the living room where I had wrapped the first clue in a ring box and wrote “Open Me” on the outside, after they opened it they read

“Today I think is 1-of-a-kind, because today is the day that you will find the biggest treasure, use your eyeballs, look around, for the next of your clues is hidden high above the ground….”

The next one was hidden in the ceiling fan, they found it in about 5 minutes.

Clue 2: “Two weeks will pass and you must be kind and happy and nice you see, for if you aren’t your mother said, “I will send those cranky girls straight to ____”

They did not have a hard time at all finding the next one hidden with minnie mouse on the bed, they did however have a hard time grasping that the pieces were a puzzle haha. 

Clue 3: “You will pack your brand new bags and you will need lots of rest because this next adventure will be the best! But don’t go too far because to get somewhere one’s journey must always begin in the ___”

They had a harder time with that one, it wasn’t one of my best rhymes haha. Once we clued them in to the fact that the word they were looking for rhymed with far they guessed car pretty easily. They ran to the car where I had hidden new rolling bags for each of them. The funny part was they thought that was the surprise hahaha. They were done when they saw the bags. We had to show them the next clue and explain that the treasure hunt was not over before they continued. 

Clue 4: “You like to color and mom likes to sew, off to the _____ _____ we must go!”

Ok, so from this point on imagine 2 little girls rolling suitcases behind them from room to room until they got to the final clue. 
Once they got in the craft room they found Clue 5 hiding with a Mickey mouse coloring book (and were still clueless).

Clue 5: “Mirror Mirror on the wall there are 2 most beautiful girls of all, and in the ______ they can see the amazing reflection of their incredible beauty”

They figured out they were supposed to be in my room fairly quickly and as the older one looked around for the last clue the younger was a little too distracted by the present sitting on my bed with Mickey and minnie figurines perched on top to care about what the last clue actually said.

Clue 6: “In only 2 weeks, on July the 1st, the four of us shall begin a vacation far from the worst! There is magic, we will meet Ariel, and Mickey Mouse too! We are going to the place where dreams can come true! With our nails painted pretty, and our hair nice and curled, we can’t wait to take our girls to DISNEY WORLD!!!!”

This was followed by a lot of screaming from the older one and a really confused face from the younger. We let them open their present, which had our fancy magic wristbands (which are so cool by the way) They look like this:

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They get you into the park, your hotel room, they store your meal points and you can buy things in the gift shops with them! It’s pretty fancy. 

Anyway after opening the wristbands we spent a little extra time with our little one explaining what this all meant and we looked at the map in a little more detail. She was not as excited as the older one but I think once we get there she will be. 

In retrospect I think it would have been better to have them packed and end the treasure map by explaining that we were leaving the next morning, they were ready to go as soon as we told them. That’s alright, this gives us time to watch the movies they haven’t seen and get a few essentials (without me having to buy them behind their backs)

We are super excited and can’t wait to leave for our big trip!! These two week cannot go by fast enough! =)

 

A phone call to remember

I remember thinking it was a really strange phone call.
My dad said, 
“Kels, we are taking your mom to the Doctor, she has been really tired for weeks now and we want to see what is going on.”

I didn’t think much of it except that it was weird that my dad was calling to explain that he was taking my mom to a doctor’s appointment, but then he called again a little later,

“mom was really low on blood” 

I don’t remember the specifics (because I am not a detail oriented person), but I remember the amount of blood they had to give my mom was crazy. I remember the Doctor told her that it was amazing she was even up and walking around. I remember that in the weeks to follow my mom had more appointments and things were very up in the air. I remember that I knew was that this was a lot more serious than that initial phone call left me feeling. 

And I remember the day they gave my mom the diagnosis. Myelodysplastic Syndrome. 
We learned that she would need a bone marrow transplant which would require chemo. Basically the disease was treated the same as cancer.
And Clint was in Canada
And we had not lived in Texas very long
And I could not think of where to go or who to call

 

I finally called Rachel. She was the first friend I made in Lufkin, she was the first real conversation I had after moving to Lufkin. And she is wonderful. She sat with me and she cried with me and she prayed with me. I am so very thankful for the people God placed in my life here. 

I remember talking to my sister a lot more often than I normally do, we were both researching the disease looking at the numbers, comparing statistics. They didn’t look good. The only person in our family that could even possibly be a match was my Uncle and we eventually found out that he was not. After that discovery my mom’s information went into an international database where we waited for a match. 

I remember losing it on a regular basis. I remember my brother being the rock out of the three of us. He was so peaceful, like he just knew it was all going to work out. His faith was unwavering. 
Another side note, my siblings are incredible. I couldn’t have asked for better.

Then the call came, they found a donor and mom started the whole big long process where she spent a large majority of her year in Houston. We were all there off an on to keep her company, my grandparents stayed with her the whole time and so did my dad. It was a hard few months for my mom as you could imagine but I think we all grew through the process.

One thing I can look back and say for sure is that God was glorified through the situation. The amount of people my parents came in contact with that they were able to share the love of Christ with was amazing. The amount of faith stretching and relationship building that happened for us spiritually and as a family was incalculable. 

It is nice to be at a point in my life that I can look back on certain events and see how God used it for His good. Romans 8:28 brings on a whole new meaning. 

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This was my instagram post one year ago yesterday. =)

GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME

 

Love you mom! So so so so thankful to be able to call you on the days when I don’t know what to do and need the advice that only a mom like you can give. 

Happy Friday Everyone!

Grace that can pardon and cleanse within

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“No, we are not putting swimsuits on today,
it is rainy and cold outside.”

Those were the magic words. Most days it takes time and it builds, but not that morning. That morning it took one sentence.

“UGH! You never let me do ANYTHING I want! You’re the meanest ever! Pack my stuff!
I want to go to a new home! I’m not kidding! Call Mrs. J. I don’t want to live here
anymore!”

I realize in retrospect that this is a silly situation but the fact of the matter is we have conversations like this a lot. With tears streaming down her face she will throw every word she knows to get me to believe that she hates me, that I am not her mom and never will be, that her life was so much better before me.

And it sucks.

Before Clint and I got in to fostering we had people telling us constantly about how hard it was going to be. Most the time it felt like they were trying to change our minds about what God had laid on our hearts. We always knew this was going to be difficult, and I even expect the words that she tends to throw my way.

And to be 100% honest with you I have thought a million times over about how much easier it would be to have biological children that we knew would be our to raise. Children that we weren’t improvising discipline strategies for, that we didn’t have to install doorbells on each door of our house for simply because we got a hot tub, children that after a long day and finally feeling like we were getting somewhere we didn’t have to have a gnawing thought in the back of our mind saying “this is pointless, it won’t be maintained after they leave your house, why are you even trying.”

But as soon as that sentence of doubt makes its way to the front of my mind there is always the gentle reasssurance that seeps into my heart reminding me that if it were easy it would not be worth it because when God gave grace through Christ there was nothing easy about it. My heart beats out my mind by reminding me that God is made perfect when we are at our very weakest.

And 15 minutes later after Christ has affirmed this decision in my life my blond haired blue-eyed treasure walks in with a smile on her face ready to begin her day happy again for reasons unexplained to me and I remember that God always knows what He is doing.