I Double Dog Dare You

I feel like Clint and I are in a slightly new phase of life.

We have almost reached our initial goal for our 5-year plan. Granted, it did not all go as anticipated. I think we had kind of hoped that while we faithfully followed the heart God gave us for foster care he would, within that time span, begin building our forever family. But it is not our job to determine our future, it is simply our job to obey the calling God places on our lives.

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(
Image is a link to source)

And so we have. And it has been a roller coaster, but we have been thankful for the opportunities placed in front of us. We have had a total of 2 placements, 4 kids in our home. It has been quite an adventure.

This being said, we also know that we are only human, and when life throws you more than you can handle you have to lean on Christ to provide. So right now he has provided us a time of rest. A break from the hard parts of fostering, a time of renewal so that we may follow what He has in store for us next faithfully and without hesitation.

While I know this time is essential, I must admit I am not very good at it. I long to keep my heart open to what is next, and I pray that God is working to put all the pieces in place while I rest. The song playing through my mind is that of Bethany Dillon “You can do more in my waiting, than in my doing I can do.”
That being said, I spend a lot of time online hunting through different websites that could be important for our next steps when rest time is over. I have combed through websites like International Justice Mission, The International Mission Board, A21 Campaign, Noonday Collection, Countless seminaries, and many different masters programs to get an idea of what is out there.

Out of all the websites I have combed through God has placed one on my heart to specifically share with you.
As a foster mom there is a website that I am ever aware of, and regularly perusing.
Every state has a website full of children in foster care whose parents rights have been terminated. This means they are officially in custody of the state, they have no mom and no dad. No parents to ever show up in court for them, no parents to schedule visits with. They are in limbo. These are the kids who end up turning 18 and aging out of the system with no family ties to walk with them through their adult years, no parents to teach them about taxes, jobs, relationships, or parenting.

And it is for these kids that I would ask DARE you to pray for an open heart.

I Double. Dog. Dare. You. to allow your heart to be opened to the scary things God might call you to if only you would let Him.

I Double. Dog. Dare. You. to sit down with your spouse tonight and pray for God to break your heart for what breaks His, pray that He would give you His eyes, and pray that He would give you faith like you have never had before.

and then

I Double. Dog. Dare. You. to click the link below and not fall in love with at least one of these kids who desperately need The Church to take Christ’s commands seriously, and step up.

http://www.adoptuskids.org/_app/child/searchpResults.aspx

It would be easy to put one verse here from James, but because the whole chapter ~book in fact~ is so clear to speak about how we, as Christians, are to respond to our broken world full of broken people in need of an incredibly grace-filled, healing Savior, I will put the entire chapter to give the verse context.

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
Blessed in the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no on say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts on one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. The desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
   But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 
   If anyone things he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. “

James 1 (ESV)

I really want to add James 2 as well, but you get the picture, and if you’d like you can go on and read the rest of the book. Actually, please read the rest of the book.

So. Good.

~Kels~

Oh The Feels

I could write about so many different things right now. My life has had a lot of twists and turns lately and the emotions have all kind of jumbled up inside of me. Which means that at just about any moment in time I am likely to have a complete emotional breakdown (which is super neat, because if you know me, or anyone else in my immediate family, you know that we just don’t cry like normal humans…). Crying at the drop of a hat and random moments in my life, ya know, the moments in which tears don’t even make sense and I cannot explain why they are there, has been a pretty major life change in and of itself (for me and my sweet husband who has no idea each time why I have just totally lost it in the car while we were singing and dancing to fun songs just 30 seconds earlier. I am sure he is rethinking our marriage or at least looking up mental hospitals….. Jk. He loves me and has handled this so well.) But here is the really crazy part, when I am not having an odd emotional moment I am simply a 5’2″ 100lb picture of complete apathy. And it is the worst. I know there are real emotions inside of me that care about things but they are all so tangled up that it seems the only thing that can come out is apathy. Am I alone here? When all the other feelings are just too much or too tangled, or buried too deep….

I probably have you all very confused right now, because if I don’t see you daily or you’re not in my immediate family I have done a terrible job of keeping you informed and I really am sorry. So let’s do a quick recap:

January: I’m not explaining this one, you can read some previous posts here If you want to know more about what life was like in January. Along with the hard stuff though we also received a foster placement of a 3 and 4 year old which was mostly fun (except the potty training) but there will be a later post about all of that.

February: the company that Clint works for made some huge cutbacks and laid off over 300 people including like 40% (maybe 30? Math is not my strong suit) of his division including him.

March: other things…

April: clint got a job, this is good news but it meant uprooting our lives and moving to Dallas where we know a grand total of 2 people. We are starting over again (more on this later too). Also the day after we moved here the kids went back to their biological family (again, more later), it was not planned out like the last placement but it wasn’t really a surprise either. It was a loss all the same. We miss them, but we are trusting that God loves them more than we do and that He will take care of them when we cannot.

All of these things by themselves Are hard, but by themselves I think I probably would have handled them better. All together it is just a lot. I miss my Lufkin people. It’s so cool how God created a family for us all over the world and we were privileged to spend three years with our family in Lufkin. I know God has planted family here as well, but seeking them out is a long and vulnerable process.

I did not write all of this so that you will pity me. People have had harder times and there will always be someone who is going through something. Writing helps me understand what is going on inside of me.

Currently I am taking delight in a passage of scripture I read a couple days ago via She Reads Truth.

“and there I will give her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope” Hosea 2:15

Achor translates to trouble. We all will go through times of trouble. I will hold on to the promise that God will turn my valley of trouble into a door of hope.

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The current place that we are calling home. 🙂

-Kels

Round 2!

As many of you know by now we got two more kid’s!!! =)

This one happened a little more quickly than the last placement. Last time around we had about a week to prepare, this time we about 24 hours.

Here is what I can tell you. We have a 4-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. They are siblings.
He is quite active, and has a small speech delay. So we often have to guess at what he is trying to say to us, which is fun until he gets frustrated.
She is a little more quiet, and also has a small speech delay. She is a little bit easier to understand most of the time.
Personally, I think the speech thing just makes them that much more adorable, but it’s something we are working on anyway =). The coolest part about this is that I got a job in November working for Early Childhood Interventions, so I’m learning all about the best ways to help kids with developmental delays! God always knows what He is doing.

Here is the kicker: neither of them are potty trained.
This is new territory. I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m just crossing my fingers that the school district will enroll them anyway! Luckily we have an extra long weekend to start working on that. So if you have any tips or tricks for kids who don’t mind sitting in wet underwear (as I discovered today) pleaseeeee share!!!!!

They are pretty happy kids, we don’t have a lot of meltdowns or tantrums (so far), which is really nice! It means we have a lot more time to do fun things. I will leave you with a photo (without faces because that’s not allowed =/).

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I took this after I told them they could each choose one stuffed animal to take in the car… Clever Boy.
Also I wish I could show you the whole picture, because the cheesy grins that are happening here are WAY too much to handle, also the princess came out in a red knit hat and some pink princess sunglasses that Mimi bought for our foster room awhile back. She wears them everywhere, even inside.

As always, thanks for reading!

Kels

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

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! =)

 

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.