Bittersweet

Last night we finished our Foster Classes.  It really is way more bittersweet than we expected.

It was 9 weeks, every Monday night, 6-9pm.  Clara and I rode together every Monday, I would drop Clara off in Clayton & then head west to Chesterfield for work.  Then at 4:30pm do it in reverse, grab a fast dinner, get back to Des Peres for 3 hours of Class.  After class, we always chatted with friends we made & then we headed home for Clara to pack lunches and get to bed.  I would head out to Mom’s to pick up Beau (the Border Collie) who had been picked up by Mom on her way home from work.  Usually I (Brian) would hit the sack around 11.  Mondays were LONG days.  But they were so good.

And last night was the last of those 9 weeks.  It flew by.  Even with me (Brian) getting antsy sitting still so long, we loved being there.  We loved the 17 other people in class with us along with our 3 instructors.  Our entire group grew into more of a team, a support group, knowing that we will need others who understand what Foster Care is truly like & the struggles it will inevitably bring.

We walked away with very little anxiety or apprehension of the future.  We drove down 270 South last night going home talking about how much our faith will grow during this.  We aren’t perfect (or even close), we aren’t rich, we both have full-time jobs, we don’t have a huge home (and it still needs repairs!), we aren’t expert parents, we are not counselors or doctors.  And that is all okay.  When God called us to love kids in Foster Care, He didn’t expect us to be 100% prepared and have it all together.  Why not?  Because God does have it all together — we don’t have to.  We just are called to trust Him and keep taking steps forward.  Talk about a relief — we can surrender all the fear, anxiety, uneasiness and apprehension toward ‘fear of the unknown’ and just trust that it will NOT be perfect or clean, but God is good — and He is faithful.  We are going to choose to trust that, every day.

I’ll (Brian) admit, I struggle with this a lot.  I like to strategize, and figure things out ahead of time.  Things like:

  • What if our house doesn’t have enough space?
  • Do we need a Minivan?
  • What happens if we can’t save enough money for the roof or A/C we’ll eventually need?
  • We need to get the bathroom fixed ASAP!
  • How will we handle it if something happens during the day and we’re at work?
  • Where will kids go to school?

They are ‘valid’ things to consider, but inevitably foolish to stress about when they are in the future & I can’t really do anything to control them. So we decided last night to continually surrender the future, the things we can’t anticipate & certainly can’t prepare for — it doesn’t do us any good.  The only thing that will do us any good is to ask God to prepare us, give us patience & wisdom to handle what will come, whatever it may be.

In complete unexpected honesty, it is an exciting place to be.

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Final Homestudy — Check!

Tonight our Social Worker came for our final homestudy. It’s so hard to believe that we are on the downward slope of getting licensed! We are feeling so many emotions, but excitement is at the top of the list!

As of right now, we are looking at being licensed and ready to take in children by the first of the year. We are excited about that timing. It’s hard to not be anxious and wanting everything to happen faster, but we are resting in God’s promise that his timing is perfect. In 3 weeks we will finish our classes and celebrate all that the Lord has done in us with the other 17 people in our class. I️ love how he brought the 19 of us together to walk through these classes together. I love that soon there will be TEN Christian homes ready and willing to usher children into their homes on some of their darkest days. I am overwhelmed with gratitude at times when I️ think about that! One of the couples from our classes live near us, and the husband went to Central, where I️ teach!

Another couple has adopted 6 kids and is ready to bring more kids into their home. The husband is a handyman and will be able to help Brian do small repairs in one of our bathrooms and help him replace the bathtub! It’s so neat how the Lord connects us and brings us all together. It doesn’t hurt that Saint Louis is such a ‘small’ big city. The Christian community has a lot of fun connections! It has been so sweet to share life with this group of people.

We are still feeling so loved and supported by all of our friends and family. Thank you for joining us on this journey and for loving us so well by touching base and asking us how things are going. It really means so much.

3 Weeks of Class Down

So we are overdue for a Foster Care Training update!

So last night was our 3rd week of STARS Class (Foster Care Class), and this was probably the heaviest week of material thus far.  Everyone ‘knows’ or has ‘heard’ about abuse, whether they have experienced it or not.  Most everyone says it’s horrific or unbelievable, but emotionally we are rarely engaged — perhaps more sympathetic than empathetic.

So the backstory — every week we watch some videos portraying situations and scenarios with Foster Kids, their birth families and their foster families.  They are pretty enlightening videos because we can conceptually ‘know’ the hardships, but seeing them portrayed on screen completely engages your mind to process and ’empathize’ with the situations.  This weeks video was predominately about abuse — verbal abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse.  It hit both of us hard, we ‘knew’ those awful abusive things happened to kids, often being the very reasons they are removed from their homes, but we just knew it as a concept.  Seeing it portrayed was truly horrifying — to ‘experience’ the things that innocent children are subjected to is overwhelming — very emotional.  It wasn’t easy, but I am thankful we had an evening on that topic, because it is prevalent.  And ‘knowing’ is completely different than ‘seeing’ the realities played out before you.  For me, it helped me understand the shift from sympathizing to empathizing — and I hope that we will continue to grow in that understanding.

In all of that however, it reminds us exactly why we are doing this.  It’s easy to forget, or quickly & quietly slip back into the ‘fear’ or desire for comfort, but there are kids who need a safe home.  Maybe they need a safe home for a season so their parents can get life back in order, or maybe they need a safe home forever.  Regardless, we believe we are called to “stand in the gap” and help however we can, however God leads us.  It will not always be easy, there will be good days and bad days.  But God has called us to this, and He will be faithful to guide us on those awful days as well as the good days.  No doubt this process will grow our faith tremendously, when we know we are completely unprepared, ill-equipped and inpatient humans!

As hard as last night was, we are still excited.  This journey has been fun so far, we have met some really amazing couples in our classes at OneHeart.  There are 8 couples in our class and a couple Singles, all have unique stories and all are compassionate folks.  One family in particular has 6 kids they have adopted, and they are renewing their license to open their home again!  It’s a blessing and encouragement to have a great class & the excellent trainers we do.  We definitely have a lot to be thankful for.

Not to mention, we have had SO much encouragement from our friends and family — THANK YOU!  We actually are going to be blessed with some bunk beds from Mama & Papa Madden (Clara’s Mom & Dad), even better they are bunk beds that convert to twin beds, so we can do either if needed.  That alone is a HUGE load off.  We still need to do some prepping for the bedroom we are converting.  Clara has some really neat plans to make it very homey and welcoming, so when kids come into our care and are struggling through a lot, at least they have a safe, comfy and cozy room to make their own.

We do still need to work on a few things — the baby gate for the basement stairs, fire extinguisher, replace the cracked shower in the bathroom with a new tub, get some ‘kid’ stuff to decorate the room with, and I am sure there are other things Clara can remind me of 🙂 but regardless, it’s all fun to tackle!

Thanks for your prayer, encouragement and asking questions!

 

First Home Study

So we had our first home study last night.  We were pretty nervous but our Social Worker is amazing!  She was helpful, very encouraging and excited for us — which was definitely an affirming step in this Foster/Adoption process.  Even more encouraging, she’ll be with us as long as we’re licensed as Foster Parents — big relief.

We are SURE that we’ve only learned less than 1% of everything we need to know, but we are excited.  We also learned that once some basics are done, fingerprinting, background checks, etc., we can be signed up to provide respite care!  Respite Care is temporary care for Foster Families.  For example, say a Foster Couple needs a break for a weekend just to get away, we could step in and provide care for the weekend, Respite Care.  We didn’t know this was an option for us so quickly — needless to say, we were thrilled!

Along with some paperwork last night, and a walk-through of our home we also got confirmation of some things we need to do at home to be ‘ready’.

  1. Fire Extinguisher (at least 5lbs) — clearly we needed this before… haha.
  2. Baby Gate for the Basement Stairs since they’re open to the kitchen, might be something I make, we shall see if there are rules about that…
  3. Carbon Monoxide Detector — for some weird reason ours is in the basement, but we need one in the kitchen!
  4. Bunk Beds — we have full-sized beds in both spare bedrooms, but converting one bedroom to a more kid-friendly space would be great, not only for welcoming the kids, but for practicality as well.  So I am on the hunt for a good deal.  I could probably build them, but my mother advised against it — haha!  In addition we’ll need to get bedding and mattresses.  Probably need to get some stuffed animals as well… ALL bedrooms need them obviously — even if Clara objects to Black Bear (who resides on our bed… when it’s made 😉)
  5. Finish some more paperwork, including Safety/Escape Plans, emergency phone numbers posted, etc.

We have a lot of other tasks we want to tackle too, like cleaning out all the junk in the basement storage rooms, getting some kid stuff at garage sales, etc.  But those are fun and not super urgent.  But we are excited — last night was a great meeting and helped confirm we are on the right path.

Thanks for all the prayers!  We know hard times will come, but so far this process has already been a blessing — and we thank God for that.

If you have advice or questions, NEVER be afraid to let us know 😊 Like Clara had said before, we didn’t realize how excited our family & friends would be — and it because obvious that we needed to keep everyone updated!

An Update!

Brian and I have been overwhelmed (in all of the best ways) by the outpouring of love and support we have received in the past month or so since we shared where we feel the Lord is leading us. So many of you have asked really great questions that have spurred this update! We never intended for this blog to be a place to share updates, but with all of the love and support we have been given it seems foolish to not share what God continues to do in and through us along this journey.

This isn’t the most glamorous of updates, as this is a pretty long a drawn out process…

So, here are the updates:

    • We chose a Ministry to take our foster certification classes at. One Heart Family Ministries has a lot of really fun ties for us, and we are excited to learn from them!
    • Our classes begin on October 2nd.
    • Our home study process should begin soon. For me, Clara, that makes things seem even more real! As many of you know this is a pretty invasive and tedious process…so here we go! 🙂
    • So many of you have encouraged us in really tangible ways with different resources, blogs, and people you know who have walked this journey. It has been really cool to see the good and less good/fun parts of this journey that some of you have already walked through.
    • We have also learned of so many of our friends that are walking through a similar season to us. We are so grateful for the dinner/lunch invitations and the openness so many of you have come to us with. We are grateful for this support system that is growing!

Thank you for the prayers! Hopefully we will have interesting updates for you soon. 🙂

Adoption — Beginning of Our Journey

Knowing that it isn’t always easy to convey our heart on some topics (such as this), we decided it would be wise to put our thoughts down in writing.

Adoption — we have been praying about this for a long time, Clara for about the last year, Brian for a little longer. It’s hard to explain, but even when we have decided to ‘put it on hold’, the stirring within us has continued to come back into our thoughts and prayers.

Rather than rushing or making hasty decisions we decided to pray often and regularly about Adoption, specifically Adoption from Foster Care. There are so many kids who don’t have forever families or homes, and these are the kids who we believe we are most called to reach out to. After all, God adopted us as His children — us, broken, imperfect us. This is the root of the desire to adopt.

We know it will NOT be easy, but we are choosing to trust that God is bigger than the anxiety and He certainly can handle the potential issues that will come (as they would with any children, natural or adopted). We could (and have) come up with dozens of reasons why we shouldn’t do this — but through our conversations and prayers, it just doesn’t matter. We know we are called to at the very least pursue Adoption. And after a good amount of discussion, we decided to share the process with others (you). Perhaps it can be an encouragement to step out in faith in some area of your life – who knows how God could use this process in our lives and those around us.

So, we’d humbly ask you to pray for us. Pray that we are patient, pray that the process is good and affirming, and helps prepare us for the future. Pray for wisdom for us; obviously, we have not done this before and have a lot to learn, that’s okay! Pray for the child or children who may find their forever family with us. Pray for the children who still need homes and families.

We know we cannot do this without the prayer and support of our family and friends. Thanks for being a part of our journey.

p.s. Another way you can help, if you have connections, experience or advice – don’t be afraid to share.

Questions you may have:

  1. Can we not have kids naturally? We don’t know, haven’t decided to try yet.
  2. Aren’t we afraid of the issues the kids may have? Um, yes… this is why we need the prayers of our family and friends.
  3. Are you really sure about this? Well it depends on the day! But we are going to keep walking this path unless God tells us otherwise. We want to keep seeking His will because yeah, it’s scary. But faith calls us to trust God, not always to play it safe.
  4. Do you know what you’re getting into? Yes and no – hard to really know the process until you take a step of faith, so again, pray for us please!
  5. Is it okay to talk about it? Of course, please ask us! That’s why we’re sharing this note now.

Be.

I recently read a book called “Hiking Through” (often I read backpacking books when I have an insatiable itch to go on a long backpacking trip but alas, cannot).  Aside from a man’s journey hiking the 2,160  mile Appalachian Trail, his constant reflection back on his life were all the things he’d missed out on by allowing himself to be busy and pursuing career or ‘stuff’ over being present and enjoying life.  Ironically enough, between managing a few too many things in my life, have been processing that idea for a few weeks.

This week I read a short something called “Your Story and His Story” and consequently it stuck a deeper chord.  The page long article written by Dr. R.L. Pratt Jr., caused me to ask myself some questions; questions I believe we, who call ourselves Christ followers, should consider.

Dr. Pratt presented the story of Hannah and Samuel (see 1 Samuel 2:1-10).  In reading we see a heartbreaking yet hopeful story of a woman who experienced great pain and great blessing.  Yet in the narrative we see a woman with a deep abiding knowledge that God’s story was bigger than she could see, and further that her story was a part of God’s.  We may not directly relate to the experience of long being without child, then having the blessing of a child only to give him back in service to the Father in the Tabernacle, but we relate unreservedly to the pain of life, the ups and downs.

Every human on this earth (every honest human) can give an account of the ways we have been frustrated, disappointed, then elated, and again felt the sting of disillusionment.  In reality our story may be nothing we would want to admit because it pales in comparison to Hannah’s story.  On the other side, our story may greatly surpass Hannah’s and be nearly unbelievable.  Here’s the beauty, it does not matter how big or small and comparing to others pain doesn’t help.  We still have a scar, we still have our own heartbreak.

But more importantly, how do we see our pain?  How do we see our ups, our downs, our insecure moments of doubt?  Do we allow it to throw our lives into complete turmoil or do we ask God to show us glimpses of how our story is intricately woven into the bigger story He is weaving.  I ardently believe that our stories are part of God’s greater story.  For example,

“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 it’s full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
— James 1:2-4

There are many other beautiful examples of God using our stories as part of His story, but frankly the entire Bible is a testament to the ways God uses broken, normal, weak people to accomplish His will.  I believe it takes reading the whole thing (over and over) to really understand the depth of this.  Picking and choosing little moments really doesn’t do justice to the beauty within The Word.

In Hannah’s story, along with many other, I am affirmed that God has not abandoned me or gives little consideration to my pain (be it large or small).  He does not promise that He will remove the hurt of the world (remember Genesis & ‘the fall’), but He is faithful to be with me and use the pain to draw me close to Himself and restore our souls — everyone has heard Psalm 23.  Go read it now.

So, with my relative rabbit trails — I want to get back to what I set out to say.  How often do I dwell on my circumstances?  Do I allow myself to compare my story with that of another friend?  How often do I form conclusions that are false?  How often do I believe ‘something else’ will make me happy?  Do I let myself get caught up in dwelling on the worries of this world versus dwelling and abiding with Christ?  How often do I sit an relive the past or worry about the future?

I don’t want, nor do I believe God wants us, to steep in the mire or worry, regret or disappointment.  He has continually blessed us and throughout scripture promises to grow us and pour out wisdom through His Spirit.  If that’s not a blessing I don’t know what is.

I want to be present.  I want to be.  I want my eyes and heart to be open to the ways God is moving around me each day.  I want to enjoy time with my wife, my family and my friends now.  Because we aren’t promised tomorrow or even our next breath.  I don’t want doubt or worry to cloud my thoughts.  I don’t want my ‘to do list’ to keep me from Abiding, dwelling and making my real home in Jesus.  I don’t to make it to 31 years of age and think, “Ugh, what have I even done with my life”, then proceed to list off my pathetic disappointments.  I want to choose joy now.

“You make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence there is FULLNESS of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
— Psalm 16:11

I am going to choose to be.  And ask the Father to keep me. 

 

 

unrelated side note:  In case you were curious, hiking the entire Appalachian Trail is high on my wish list for the future.   I would consider accepting applicants for hiking partners.