Friday, September 26, 2014

Former Foster Mama...

2 weeks ago we closed our home. I had fought and wrestled with this decision for months while we waited for our adoption to finalize. Initially we decided to stay open, even taking another 2 year old for a month. While we had this placement, our newly adopted children were a little confused with DHS at our house and their foster sister leaving for visits with birth parents. They began to ask when they were going to have more visits and if they were going to be leaving as well. My husband and I were both stretched very thin. We were just in survival mode. After a Saturday morning of cleaning up diarrhea on walls and bedding, we made the decision to close. I cried writing the email and wondering where this 2 year old would end up while praying that we were just a stepping stone to the perfect family for her. The new foster mom contacted me and we talked and I had so much peace. This little girl is getting so much more attention than I ever could have given her. When she left and we officially closed, I expected to breakdown, but it never came. I am so relieved and happy to be able to focus on MY family! We get to choose who we want in our life and our children's lives now!! The freedom that comes with this will definitely take awhile to process. It's been almost 4 years with DHS constantly all up in our kool-aid. :) We are free!!! I can cut my kid's hair, leave the state, change my phone number... ahh, the list is endless!


Lord, my God. You sustained us these past 4 years. You provided for us. You gave us compassion for those who seemed unlovable. You gave us strength to endure and to forgive so many times when we thought we couldn't show one more ounce of mercy. You filled this house with love and laughter and Your Spirit. How thankful we are Lord!! In You, we can do all things! We can do all things with great love ONLY because You live within us. We are unworthy and undeserving of Your blessings, but You so greatly bestow them upon us. May Your name be lifted high always by our words and our life. My ultimate joy is found in You alone. May I never forget that truth.



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Our BIG Day in Pictures...










































A HUGE thank you to Allison at Poetry and Prose Photography for donating her time and talent for this wonderful occasion! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sibling group of 3... their story.

I share the stories of my children to personalize foster care for those not yet involved. When you hear a child's story and can see their face, it changes them from a depressing statistic that you can just ignore to beautiful, innocent children that you can help. "Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows what we know, and holds us responsible to act." Prov. 24:12

Lord, for every person who reads this, speak to them. Make this story real for them, help them to walk a mile in the shoes of a child in foster care. All children are of equal importance to You and they should be to us as well. Reveal to them their next step in being Your hands and feet to orphans. Amen.

We had 3 biological and 1 foster child all under the age of 6 before Ellie came to live with us. It was never our plan for her to join our family, but God's plan always trumps ours. I thought we were maxed out with 4 children in our 1100sqft, 3 bedroom house, so we were done taking in children, but wanted to help get a child out of the shelter for Thanksgiving. I contacted a foster friend and she connected me with a caseworker who was helping connect families with children. We were told that there was a very overweight 5 year old that was constantly bullied in school that would love to spend the holiday with us, so we happily agreed. A couple days before Thanksgiving we were told that little girl had found another family to spend the holiday with, but there was a 3 year old that we could take for the day. The first time I met Ellie at the shelter, I thought they must have gotten her age wrong when they told me that she was going to be 4 in a week. She was the size of a 24 month old, could barely speak intelligibly, couldn't run and could barely stand up for any length of time without her ankles giving out and falling to the ground. She did not want to be hugged and had the saddest eyes I'd ever seen.  We tried all day long to make her smile and laugh and she did... a few times. Most of the time she glared and yelled at the other kids or ignored me. I was looking forward to the end of the day and thinking that this little girl was definitely not a fit for our family, BUT GOD. After taking her to see Christmas lights, we drove her back to the shelter. I will never forget her screams as she realized where we were at. She clung to me with her little arms and legs holding on as tight as she could as she screamed over and over again, "NO! NO! DON'T LEAVE ME!"  Tears were rolling down my face at this point, knowing there was no way I could rescue this little girl immediately with it being Thanksgiving evening. As they peeled her off of me one limb at a time, I promised her that we would come back for her.
Thanksgiving Day

I didn't sleep for 4 nights. When I closed my eyes, I imagined how scared this little girl must be living in a shelter, knowing no one. I didn't know a single thing about her story. I didn't know if they would let us foster her, if she would be with us 2 days or forever. I didn't even know if she had siblings. We just said, "yes." We called first thing Monday morning and they gave us permission to pick her up that afternoon - an absolute miracle in the DHS/foster care world. Seth took 2 of the kids to go pick her up and I will never forget seeing her sweet, smiling face as she walked in our front door, only God knowing that she was finally home.
Then we heard her story. This was the 2nd time Ellie had been in DHS custody and this case was classified as "shocking and heinous," just like the case of our other adopted daughter, Hannah. Ellie was taken into custody at the age of 16 months because she was found wandering alone in just a diaper in a parking lot. Friends of mom's were supposed to be watching her. The place mom and Ellie were living at was with multiple people and it was covered in human blood, feces and had switchblades and axes on the floor. There was also no food in the home. DHS returned Ellie to her mother a week later. Fast forward 2 years... and this brings us to Kristian's story.
Right before
entering state custody.
The first day Ellie was officially our foster daughter, we found out that she had a 6 month old brother, Kristian James (KJ). He was staying in an emergency foster home. When they came into care, KJ was only 2 months old and was brought to the hospital for 2 fractured femurs and a fractured humerus.  2 months old. Not only did he have 3 fractures, but two of them were healing fractures, which means they were broken at an earlier date and his parents did not take him to be treated medically. It is still hard to wrap my head around this as I type. At least one of the fractures occurred during a diaper change and for over a year, KJ would scream and scream, every time I laid him down to change his diaper. KJ and Ellie stayed in a kinship home for 3 months, which is a home of someone the birth parents knew and recommended to care for their children. They were taken out of that home because the kinship family was dealing drugs out of the house, among many other things. The children were separated after that. Ellie went to a shelter and KJ went to an emergency home until we reunited them 2 weeks after we picked up Ellie. We now had 6 children under 6 in our tiny house, and God was almost tangible, His presence was so evident.
KJ was a quiet, sad and floppy baby for the first week we had him. He seemed depressed and almost like he was in a constant daze. I thought surely he had major delays, but almost miraculously after that first week, he perked right up. He gained 5 lbs in one month, started smiling and laughing and hasn't stopped since. 
Baby sis.
When KJ had just turned 1, I noticed their birth mom's clothes getting tighter and tighter around her midsection. Shortly thereafter we found out she was 20 weeks pregnant with a baby girl. Talk about a SHOCK. Honestly, it shouldn't have been a shock based on mom's history, but when that baby is most likely coming to live with you in a few short months, it's a shock. It was an odd feeling to know that quite possibly our future daughter was in someone else's womb. A womb that likely did not provide her with the nourishment she needed or the protection. Mom would have deep bruises on her body at some of the visits, that greatly concerned me. Our sweet Charlotte (Charlie), joined us at 3 days old. She was so tiny at just over 5lbs and she was in this huge carseat that DHS transported her in. Her big blue eyes were so wide and bright and I could not put her down. I was heartbroken for her birth mom that was holding and feeding this baby just hours before and now she was gone. Only those who have gone through this can understand the joy of having a new baby, but also the heartbreak of knowing this baby's mother was going through hell. It leaves you with a very unsettled soul regardless of the reasons the baby was taken into custody.
Ellie is almost 7 now, and my most attentive little helper. She adores helping with the younger children and has the most encouraging spirit. Just a month after having her, the caseworker was astounded at the changes and couldn't believe it was the same little girl. Since Ellie was almost 4 when she came to us, she has had the most difficulty bonding, but she has made huge strides in the past few months since visits with birth parents have been stopped. Her health is excellent and she requires no more speech, physical or occupational therapy.  

KJ is 3 and my most joyful child. He is full of energy and smart as a whip. He has no health issues from his past abuse, but I often wonder how it will affect him mentally when he is old enough to understand what happened to him.

Charlie is almost 2 and is a spitfire... still petite and as stubborn as she can be. She is a mama's girl and her favorite place is on my hip.
Oh, and do you remember the 5 year old we were "supposed" to get that Thanksgiving? I found out a year later that she spent that holiday with our pastor. How fun it was to share that their obedience in welcoming a child into their home, brought us 3 of our children. Only God. Love HIM.

Sometimes I worry about the future and some of the situations that adoptive parents and children face as they get older. But then God gently reminds me of how they came to our family and that He has plans that I can't even begin to imagine. Love these words of wisdom from Oswald Chambers, "God is my Father, He loves me, and I will never think of anything that He will forget, so why should I worry?" Thank you Abba for my 3 babies. What a gift they are from the Lord!
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Gotcha Day!

 
Today we adopted our 5th, 6th and 7th child. All glory and praise is given to God! We feel so unworthy that God has blessed us with all 7 of these beautiful children to raise and call ours forever. Ella, Kristian and Charlotte have been mine in my heart since the day I laid eyes on them. To love, care for and desire to protect these children for the past 3 years while we watched helplessly as court battles and unseen spiritual battles were fought between DHS, birth parents, CASA and many others was the hardest thing we've ever done, no doubt. For this 1,110 day journey to be over for them and to give them our last name is the ultimate reward. We are not superheroes or saints, we are ordinary, weak human beings. We said yes to the call of orphan care and we loved like we weren't scared, endured and tried to trust. HE did the rest. He empowered, provided and protected us and the children. Our journey cannot be duplicated, but I have no doubt that the Lord can work miracles in your life too, if you choose to say yes.

LORD, thank you. We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.

"In the same way, when you obey Me you should say, 'We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.'" Luke 17:10

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

In Search of a Better Way

One of my absolute favorite parts about being a foster parent is the ease at which teachable "Jesus" moments come unexpectedly. We had a newborn and a toddler join us for the night this past week. As soon as they were dropped off, everyone started doing their part. The big kids welcomed the toddler, fetched baby gear and watched as I fed the baby. Everyone was just giddy to be the hands and feet of Jesus for these 2 little ones.

One new thing that happened with these placements was that my oldest daughter was very concerned about the birth parents, mentioning often how sad they must be that their kids were taken away. How precious for her to realize this aspect of foster parenting when most adults don't. It's easy to forget that most birth parents haven't lived a privileged life like us. A majority were raised in foster care themselves and/or abused and neglected by those that were supposed to protect them. Many have aged out of foster care because they were considered "too old to adopt" or "unadoptable." The statistics are awful for most who age out of care. A lot end up homeless, involved in sex-trafficking and/or in jail. The cycle of foster care continues for many when they end up young and pregnant with no support system. There has to be a better way friends.

The number of children in care in Oklahoma is growing by more than 1,000 every year. 3 years ago, there were 8,000. At the beginning of 2014, there were 11,400 children in state custody. Mentor, advocate, foster, adopt... the opportunities are endless. Listed below are some Oklahoma organizations striving to help in this area, click on the underlined text for their website.


Bethel Foundation for single moms - this is an incredible organization that I am personally connected to. Contact them for needed donations and volunteer opportunities.

OK Foster Wishes - (from their website) "OK Foster Wishes shows people ways that they can get involved with a foster child without the commitment of becoming a foster family. Most people don't know that there are many ways to help a child in foster care like mentoring, baking a birthday cake or buying a gift, or just taking them to the zoo for the day."

Breaking Chains & Mending Hearts - this is a new organization in the OKC area that is helping connect mentors with pregnant teens or teen moms in foster care while developing plans for a girls' home. "Like' their Facebook page for more info.

Stand in the Gap Ministries - "Stand in the Gap Ministries is a prayer-based, church-driven, small group movement, focused on helping a neighbor rise above overwhelming life challenges through a loving, spiritual family experience."

Infant Crisis Services - "Infant Crisis Services provides life-sustaining formula, food and diapers to babies and toddlers in times of crisis..." This organization is an invaluable resource for birth families and is always needing donations. Please like their facebook page for more info.

Next week marks the 2 year anniversary of the death of Hannah's birth mother who was a victim of many of the hardships I wrote about above. Pray for compassion, forgiveness and salvation through Christ for those who have had their children removed from their care. Everyone has a story and everyone is in need of a Savior.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Best Friends and Forever Sisters

Only God knew that these two girls, born 29 days apart in the same hospital to different mothers, would become forever sisters almost 7 years later. They love bugs, dresses and arts and crafts. Thank you Jesus for my "twins."







 

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up." Eccles. 4:9-10

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Opened Eyes

When Seth and I were seeking God and His calling for our life, we knew that adoption would be involved somehow. I researched international adoption and domestic adoption and was met with closed doors. I knew absolutely nothing about foster care, but was drawn to look into it after reading an article about how when children are removed from their home, they are often given a black trash bag to put their things into. By this small act alone, we are basically telling these children that their possessions aren't valued and neither are they as they are bounced around from placement to placement. It broke my heart. My eyes were open just a little bit. Then I discovered the crisis that we call the foster care system in Oklahoma. As followers of Christ, Seth and I were outraged at what was going on and the fact that NO ONE was talking about it, at least no one that we knew. Once our eyes were opened we could not be silent or sit passively by while innocent children were treated like statistics and ignored by the Church. So if I'm on here pushing foster care a lot, it's because I'm thinking that just maybe some of you don't know about the 11,000+ children in foster care in Oklahoma and the lack of good foster parents to help them. Maybe you're like us and all you need is to be informed and then you won't be able to sit by anymore and sleep comfortably at night knowing the pain and suffering many of these children are going through. Maybe your future children are waiting and praying for you to take that first step of obedience to God's command to care for orphans. My desire is not to guilt you into foster parenting with my posts, that would never end well... but my prayer is that you will seek God's will in this area and obey when He answers.

“Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows we know and holds us responsible to act.” Proverbs 24:12

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A New Beginning

After rights were relinquished, we had 3 visits, 3 weeks apart with the birth parents. Our intentions were to continue these indefinitely, but as of now, we have decided to bring them to a halt. Our decision has been influenced by many things, but ultimately we believe this is what God wants us to do for the mental and emotional health of not only our adopted children, but for the whole family. We loved, prayed for and reached out to the birth parents for almost 3 years, many times when we did not want to, but because we felt prompted by God to do so. We have offered job help, parenting help and spiritual help countless times, with no acceptance on their part over the years. This quote that I read recently really encouraged me to re-assess and pray about their involvement in our family's life. "It’s part of my DNA to love others. Love them and not disappoint them. But I have to realize, real love is honest. Real love cares enough about other people to say no when saying yes would build up a barrier in the relationship. Real love pursues authenticity rather than chasing acceptance. We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please.” - Lysa TerKeurst  I feel that my intentions have been motivated by guilt and the desire to "save" or "rescue" these parents recently, instead of what would be best for our children and our family. God can save their birth parents without my help and I've accepted now that I am not responsible for their salvation. I can plant seeds, love them and show them Jesus, but only God saves. Our adopted children began acting out with very noticeable anxious behaviors after visits with the birth parents and they soon taper off after a little time has passed. I believe that God wants our family to bond and our children to heal and begin anew.

Because of these decisions, we have also chosen to completely change their names. One of the greatest privileges and rights a parent has is to name their children. We want that for our adopted children too. Our 6 year old is very excited about her new name and we've discussed that whenever God did something great in the life of one of His people in the Bible, He gave them a new name. There are safety reasons for doing this as well, which is why DHS often recommends it. There are so many people who told us not to foster and if we had listened to them, these children would not be ours. I anticipate that many of the same people will disagree with our decision to change their names. I hope they remember that we seek God in our decisions, not men. We have peace and joy about these decisions and I trust that God will honor them.

Love this explanation I found about God changing names in the Bible.

"Why did God choose new names for some people?

The Bible doesn’t give us His reasons, but perhaps it was to let them know they were destined for a new mission in life. The new name was a way to let them in on the divine plan and also to assure them that God’s plan would be fulfilled in them."

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Find your life.


Today is the last day of Foster Care Awareness month. As I read Matthew in my Bible today and watched two of my adopted children play together in the front yard, God placed it on my heart to remind others of how we got to where we are today. God didn't bless us with a 7 bedroom house, 12 passenger van, financial resources and Seth being home part-time BEFORE we became foster parents. No, He blessed us in response to continued obedience, fulfilling this promise found in James 1:25! "But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it." We lived in an 1100 sqft house with 6 children for a year while Seth worked full-time in another city and then after work he would gut/remodel our new house until 11pm. If you are waiting until you have a bigger house, more money or more time to serve God, you are missing out on experiencing His miraculous provisions in response to your faith in Him and His promises. And if you're afraid of the risk to you, your family or your comfort, I ask that you spend some time meditating on Matthew 10:37-39 and determine where your love for Him who died to set you free, stands. "If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it."


"He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins." Ephesians 1:7

"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:19

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New Placements - Questions Foster Parents Should Ask

This is such a great list, one that I didn't have when I first became a foster parent, so I wanted to share it with my readers. Thanks to the Foster Care and Adoptive Association of Oklahoma for providing it. A lot of workers, will most likely NOT know the answers to all of these questions, but hopefully they can get you contact info for someone who does. 

NEW PLACEMENTS - QUESTIONS FOSTER PARENTS SHOULD ASK

Why is this child being placed?

What is the previous placement experience(s) of the child?

What is the child's legal status?

What is the family situation?

What is the plan for the child? Expected length of placement? (most probably will not know the answer to these questions upon initial placement)

What will my role as foster parent be in the reunification plan? (Should always be to support reunification in every way possible if adoptive placement, ask about mediated agreement visitation/contact with birth family)

What is the child's understanding of why he has been moved/separated from his birth parents and/or prior placement?

Will there be a pre-placement visit? (Usually not if coming directly from the birth home).

Where are the birth parents & possible relative/kinship placements?

Give me a clear understanding of the rights of the child's birth parents and the plan for visitation. Who may visit? Who may not visit? Where does visiting take place? When? How often? Who transports? (Usually 1 visit/week supervised by a CPS staff member at a CPS office)

Have the birth parents been dangerous or threatening in the past?

Have the birth parents made complaints against other foster parents? I f so, what was the complaint?

Has the child made complaints against other foster parents? If so, what was the complaint?

Are there brothers and sisters? If so, where are they and what is the visitation plan, or plan to reunify them while in care?

Is the child in good health? Allergies, immunizations, dental care? What are the plans for current and immediate future medical and dental care? When was the last physical? Are there any food, medication, or animal/general allergies?

Is the child taking any medications at this time? Will there be written instructions regarding them?

School - What grade? Prior School Name/Address? School problems? Achievement level and/or any special problems? Enrolled in Special Ed or other special classes (GT, Speech, Alternative Education Setting)?

Does the child have any special behavior problems, unusual habits, or dangerous propensities? Ask about fear of animals if you have them in or around your home.

What will make the child feel most at home? What are the child's food likes and dislikes? Favorite toys, sleep habits, etc.

Religious affiliation? Is it important? Does foster parent need to make special arrangements to have child attend services, education classes, etc?

Does the child qualify for a special care rate? If so, when is the effective date?

Does the child have adequate clothing? Will there be a clothing allowance? If so, when can foster parent expect to receive the clothing allowance check? Ask the placement worker for details. Save all receipts for reimbursement up to the current limit.

What are your (placement worker) expectations of me (foster parent)?

What is the name and phone number of the supervisor of the unit overseeing the child?

Who is the attorney/CASA/GAL for the child? Name & Phone numbers.

What do I do and who do I call in case of a weekend or evening emergency? (BIG one if you don't have any thing that shows medical coverage for child)

When will I receive the following placement information? Medical Consent Form, Medicaid Card Placement Agreement Form (must include name of social worker, supervisor, payment rate, effective date, case number, and signatures.)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Love like I've loved you.

I've been waiting for this journey with 3 of my foster children to come to a close now for almost 3 years. I'm not sure what I expected if and when it did happen, I guess no more visits, no more stress, knowing they are mine would ease any heartache and worry I had about the situation. I knew and prayed that if the birth parents relinquished, it would be an open adoption, but with an open adoption, especially the kind that I feel God is calling us to, there's not a lot closure for me. It's just more growing pains as I continue to learn to love like Christ and "share" these children that I've been praying to not have to share all this time.

We had our first visit since relinquishment recently and it went very well. We met at a park and we all hung out together as one big family. All 7 of my children hugged and interacted with the birth parents, which surprised them I think. They brought us diapers that they had leftover and mom thanked me many times, something she's never done before.
It would be easier for me to just be done, to sever all contact. But whenever I consider that option, I get knots in my stomach and am deeply convicted by the Holy Spirit. I truly believe that God is joining our families and I have to surrender to that. He is joining our family with a family that experiences hardships in a way that I will never have to experience and that I will never completely understand. He is calling us to minister and love not only the birth parents, but the extended family of the birth parents. He's been quietly speaking to my heart and filling it with compassion. I pray for God to bring me people to minister to, but when He does, I question Him, "Are you sure God? Share my family and blessings with them? Indefinitely?" As Christians, we often desire to help, but in a way that only makes us feel good, not in a way that might make us uncomfortable and challenge us. I DO want this. I want to be challenged and I want to grow closer to Christ. I want to learn ways to help and encourage poverty-stricken families and disciple them to become followers of Christ. I want this. (Preaching to myself here.) It's not about me, it never has been. It's about showing His love, grace and mercy.
Please pray for me and my husband. Pray that we can develop 100% genuine relationships with the birth family, relationships that don't feel awkward because love will outshine any other emotion or action. Pray for wisdom for us and that God continues to use us to share His story and His plan for the salvation of the world.
"This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you." - Jesus, John 15:12

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Process - Foster Parent Certification in Oklahoma


Foster parents are referred to as "bridge parents" by OKDHS. From OKDHS publications, Bridge Resource Parents are: "Oklahoma parents who foster a child, have adopted a foster child or both. Bridge Resource Parents keep a child/children connected to their kin, culture, and community and mentor the child's family whenever possible." It's important to know what is expected of you when you begin this process. The process is intensive for good reasons. There is a high rate of abuse for children placed in foster care. Some foster parents should NOT be foster parents. It's a good thing that these safeguards are in place.

If you are a complete newbie to foster care, you need to know that no matter what agency you choose, you will still have to deal with/partner with DHS. They are legally responsible for the children and your agency is responsible for certifying foster parents. You will have a caseworker from your agency and each child/case has a caseworker from DHS who manages the case and will do home visits monthly to check on the children.

In Oklahoma, the certification process has been privatized, so your first step is to find an agency.  Below is not a complete list, but it is the extent of my knowledge.

  • Tribal Certification - If you're Native American, you can get certified through your tribe and take only tribal children. You need to have a roll card for this, but the degree of Indian blood is not important, at least in my experience. There is a great need for tribal foster parents. 
  • Private agencies - Tallgrass, St. Francis and Angels are 3 of the agencies that received a recent grant to contract more foster parents. I have heard good things about them all. Make sure to ask your agency if you are able to foster more than one child from different cases, if that is something you might desire. Some agencies view it as a benefit to only have one child/sibling group per family and for some it is, but for our family God called us to a different task and we are thankful that we were able to make that decision and it wasn't made for us. 
  • Therapeutic Foster Care - From the OKDHS website, "TFC is designed to serve children ages 3 to 18 with special psychological, social, behavioral and emotional needs who can accept and respond to the close relationships within a family setting, but whose special needs require more intensive or therapeutic services than are found in traditional foster care." I have no personal experience with this, but I know that it is greatly needed as well. SAFY is one of the organizations that provides therapeutic care in Oklahoma. 
After you find your agency, they will walk you step-by-step through the rest of the process which will include multiple homestudies, fingerprints, background checks, physicals and driving records. Homestudies include a walk through of your house to determine if it's safe and what needs to be changed to make it safe. They do not expect your house to be perfect. I would definitely clean up, but do not stress too much about this part. The rest of the homestudy is an insane number of weird personal questions including, but not limited to: your parents, your siblings and your extended family. It is normal to not know the answer to some of these questions. Just be honest. Last but not least, your, ahem, 27 hours of "training." Training needs to be revised. Some of it is helpful, but I do not believe it prepares you fully for being a foster/bridge parent. I recommend reading the Bible as often as possible to prepare you. :) Seriously. 

Once all of your paperwork, homestudies and training is complete, which usually takes 3-6 months, you will sign your contract and you should begin getting placement calls within a week if you live in the larger counties, like OK, Canadian, or Tulsa. It might take longer in the less populated counties, but I am not certain of an average timeline for them. You will receive your first monthly stipend 1-2 months later. They pay them a month behind. I know a lot of people are curious about the amount per child that you receive and in Oklahoma it varies from $400-$565 depending on the age of the child. I hope this information will encourage some of you to take the first step by taking some of the mystery out of the process.

Love this quote by Amber Smart from the OK Foster Care Forum on 4/24/14:

 "Don't let the process get in the way of your purpose."

Monday, April 7, 2014

Wonderful Things

"O Lord, I will honor and praise your name,
for you are my God.
You do such wonderful things!
You planned them long ago,
and now you have accomplished them." Isaiah 25:1


The Lord gave me this verse today to meditate on, and as I watched these 2 forever sisters brought together by God, I praised Him for the wonderful things He has done, that He planned long ago! Thank you Father!


Sunday, March 9, 2014

ReMoved

Through the eyes of a foster child... You MUST watch this 12 minute film. Please.



ReMoved from HESCHLE on Vimeo.

"I am small and young, yet I have sustained the greatest loss ever known to humankind for I have lost my birth mother. Good or bad, right or wrong, she was all I had and now she is gone. Before I was ever placed in your arms, my heart was broken into a thousand pieces because the only voice, the only touch, the only heartbeat I have ever known has gone away. I will spend the rest of my life reconciling this loss and I will need your help. My pain has nothing to do with you because you did not cause it. When I work to ease the hurt, do not feel rejected because this is merely my effort to feel whole again. You cannot heal me. That is my job. Just know that healing is required from the very start of my life. Accept me, love me, adore me, see me, and let me be the person I was born to be." -Amy Ford

Monday, March 3, 2014

Approaching the end.


Nothing is official yet, but we are very close to closure for our children. Be in prayer this week for everyone involved as things are explained and decisions continue to be made. God is GOOD! 

"Lord, you are my God; 
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done wonderful things,
things planned long ago." Isaiah 25:1


Friday, December 27, 2013

3 Christmases


My foster children have been with us for 3 Christmases now and they are STILL foster children. When we brought these children into our home, they sent us adoption paperwork after 3 months because they were certain that was where the case was going. Over 2 years later, we are almost in the exact same spot as we were then. Would I do it again if I knew then what I know now? Without a doubt, YES. If I can assure that these children are safe, loved and well cared for, I would do it for 10 years. They are worth it. HE is worth it. I have peace that God will bring closure soon and that it will be in the best interest of the children. I look forward to sharing the stories of the angels God has placed within this case and how even in the midst of adversity, He was fighting for our family and these children. To quote my 6 year old today, "You can always trust God. He keeps His promises."

"And since you are so special, 
God wanted to put you in just the right home...
Where you would be warm when it's cold,
Where you'd be safe when you're afraid,
Where you'd have fun and learn about heaven.
So, after lots of looking for just the right family, 
God sent you to me.
And I'm so glad He did." 
- Max Lucado, Just in Case You Ever Wonder

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward." Matthew 10:42

Friday, November 29, 2013

Choosing to say "Yes."

I'm re-reading Kisses from Katie and have to share this quote because it is so true for us and for so many others that God uses in mighty ways.

"Sometimes, the everyday routine of my life feels so normal to me. At other times the idea of raising all these children seems like quite a daunting task. I realize that since I have chosen an unusual path it is easier for outsiders to look at my life and come to the conclusion that it is something extraordinary. That I am courageous. That I am strong. That I am special. But I am just a plain girl from Tennessee. Broken in many ways, sinful and inadequate. Common and simple with nothing special about me. Nothing special except I choose to say "yes." "Yes" to the things God asks of me and "yes" to the people He places in front of me. You can too. I am just an ordinary person. An ordinary person serving an extraordinary God." - Katie Davis

Katie Davis and her girls

Thursday, November 21, 2013

You Shouldn't Become a Foster Parent

You shouldn't become a foster parent if:

You're doing this for you. This isn't something you do to make yourself feel better. You won't get much appreciation for it, even from people who you'd think would appreciate you. Our family does it for Him, to share our incredible blessings with the "least of these," the less fortunate, the needy, the poor. I look around at everyone we grew up with, associate with for the most part. We are all so incredibly blessed. We were born in the U.S.A. We have garages where we put our cars that our immensely nicer than millions of people's homes all over the world. Why have we been blessed so much? Is it to sit in our comfort, while others starve to death? Is it to have an elliptical in our guest room while a 4 year old sits in a shelter during the holidays? 1 John 3:17 says, "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?" 

You want to be certain of the future. It was this week 2 years ago that we picked up our surprise from God, well, one of our surprises. When we began our fostering journey, we planned on fostering 1 child, for a total of 4 kids in our 1100 sqft house. God had different plans. We already had 1 foster child, our now adopted daughter, Hannah. We wanted to help in some other way though. He connected us with people who were working with the shelters to get children out just for the day during the holidays. We said yes to that with no idea that through that simple decision, we would end up with a sibling set of 3 that we have had for almost 2 years now and complete our family of 9 in ways that only God could ordain (and provide us with a MUCH bigger house.) Hallelujah! Uncertainty is a given on this journey. Accept it, embrace it, grow your faith and seek Him through it. You just never know. If you try to predict or control the outcome of the case, you will only be disappointed. Only God knows and you have to continually remind yourself of Romans 8:28. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

You want to stay the same. I tell people often, "If you want to be more like Jesus, become a foster parent." He challenges and changes you in ways that you never thought were possible, which is AWESOME, because then He gets the glory. But it is just as HARD as it is AWESOME. It is hard to trust Jesus, like really trust Him with children that you love like your own. I am controlling and prideful and just full of sin and everyday He forgives me and helps me change gradually with the situations He places in front of me. I can fight them, and I have and I still struggle with wanting to be right, or I can pray, and I can trust and I can love and give grace. He has placed every single person on our path during this journey for a reason. We might be the only people they see who are following the true Christ. You will live out Matthew 16:24 every day. "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." 

Lord, glorify Your name. I need to give this whole journey back to You again. Take it. I trust You. I trust these children to You. I trust that You are sovereign over every single detail of this journey. Soften my heart, humble me and please, make me more like You. "He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
 if you love one another. John 13:35

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Great idea... modified. (Cheap, easy & HEALTHY dryer sheets.)

I saw a post about homemade dryer sheets and thought "What a great idea, except for the whole carcinogens and fabric softener part." I thought for those who are health conscious and who are sensitive to chemicals or who have children sensitive to chemicals, I thought I'd share this easy modification. (In bold)

"WHAT YOU NEED:
1 Container with an airtight lid (grabbed out of my pantry)
 -
No change
4 sponges cut in half ($1.00 for a 4pk at the dollar store) - Leave sponges whole, less likely to fall apart.
1 cup of your favorite fabric softener - Replace softener with white vinegar and fill to top of  container.
2 cups water - Water is unnecessary, no need to dilute vinegar. 
10 drops essential oil - my favorites are tea tree oil and peppermint oil mixed together

WHAT TO DO:

Mix the water and fabric softener into a plastic container.  - Pour vinegar in the container and add essential oils..
Add the cut sponges so they can soak in the mixture. - Add sponges.
When ready to use, squeeze the excess liquid from 1 sponge and place into the dryer with your wet clothes. - No change from here on out. 
Run the dryer cycle as normal. Once complete place the now dry sponge back into the container of liquid for use next time.
Clothes smell good, are soft and have no static just like the expensive non-reusable dryer sheets." 

For more info, here's a post I wrote 2 years ago on "Deadly Dryer Sheets."

Monday, October 7, 2013

Court this week...

I'd really appreciate prayer for 3 of my littles and that decisions made this week are in their best interest. I ask for prayer for peace for everyone involved. May the Lord be glorified through it all.

"But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Exodus 9:16

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Do what it says."

Sitting on the porch this morning watching the kids play, I focused on memorizing the first chapter of James. I am very close to this goal and I've noticed that God will stop me on specific verses that he wants me to meditate on. Today, it is James 1: 21, "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." I must have repeated it 10 times before stopping to think about how it applies to my life right now.
3 years ago, we stopped listening to all secular music and that decision has played a big part in my growing faith. I don't doubt that others can have strong walks with Christ and listen to secular music, but for me, to constantly have songs of praise filling my house and my thoughts, brings me back to Him constantly during the chaos of my days. We also trimmed down the shows/movies we watch to shows that do not include cursing, sex, violence, etc... mainly PG is what we watch over here on date nights. With the new season of shows starting though, I have found myself getting excited for a few of my "guilty pleasures," such as Grey's Anatomy, New Girl, Parenthood... So, while meditating on James 1:21, I hear God say, "Get rid of ALL moral filth." But God, I have to get rid of my shows? "What does ALL mean to you?" So, just to make sure, I looked it up online in my Greek/Hebrew interlinear Bible. All = Pas in Greek, which means, each, every, any, all, everything. Okay God, I realize that You want me to get rid of ALL the moral filth, but I don't really want to. God says to me, "Read the next few verses..." James 1:22-25, " Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word and does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But, whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it- not forgetting what he has heard- but doing it, he will be blessed in what he does."
As I sit here typing this, I'm a little bitter. I know that to strengthen my faith and my walk, I need to give up these silly shows that do not glorify Him in any way. It's hard though, because it seems like something so small and insignificant, but clearly it's too much of an idol if I have to debate this much with God about it. I don't want to be numbed to the "moral filth that is so prevalent." I want to grow more like Him everyday and I don't think He would be amused by some of the things on my favorite shows. I challenge you, friends, to join me and seek Him. What is it that you need to "not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves?" Do what the word says and you will be blessed. What a simple, yet great promise. 

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Phil. 4:8-9

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Joy comes in the morning...

Oh my. Sweet Joy left yesterday morning after 7 days and 8 nights to be exact. I use the word "sweet" very loosely. Bless her heart. With some placements, things get easier the longer they stay, but then there are those that only get harder with every second of every day. Time seemed to stand still these last few days with Joy. The fit throwing, the fearless climbing on everything, the name calling, the sleepless nights with my husband having to sleep on the couch... The last morning she woke me up by hitting me as hard as she could on my chest. I about had a meltdown. I promise I tried. I tried so hard. I even found other foster families to take her because the worker "couldn't." The kids fondness for Joy deteriorated as the days went on as well and they were all asking for her to leave, which made the decision a little bit easier. For now, she has been placed with a foster family who has no other children and the mom is a teacher, so I am hoping and praying that we were just a stepping stone to get her where God wanted her to be.

There were definitely some things that happened during the week, that I believe were God ordained. We prayed a lot over this sweet girl who clearly has attachment issues and developmental delays. She had to have multiple rabies shots a few days apart and because of my "crunchy" knowledge I was able to supplement with some things before and after that I believe softened the blow on her body and immune system. I was also able to minister to her birth mom and pray with her over the phone and offer my friendship even though Joy won't be with our family any longer. I know God has His reasons and I still believe He wanted us to have her for the time we did, but once again, it confirmed that unless a sibling pops up unexpectedly, we are staying at 7 for now. I emailed our worker and begged her to please not call me again, because I want to help so badly, but with the ages of my children right now, it is not an option. I have to be sane for their sake and mine. Please continue to lift up Joy in your prayers. I spoke with the caseworker tonight and she said that she is adjusting just fine with her new family and foster mom.

God is good and I am so happy to be back to normal with "only" 7. :)




Friday, August 23, 2013

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7....8?


This week started off seemingly simple. The hubs and I sat down Sunday evening and made our first ever weekly meal plan and he went to the grocery store to buy supplies. Monday follows the schedule seamlessly. Our girls went to Kindergarten, our sibling set went to visits and I was in heaven with ONLY 3 kids for 7 hours. I spent the time reading my Bible, drinking coffee, journaling, doing 3 loads of dishes... I was feeling very productive when my cell phone rang at 7pm that evening, immediately followed by a text message and my home phone ringing. Yikes. Clearly, someone was trying to get a hold of me. It was, shockingly, the Dept. of Human Services. "Hi, I just got your name specifically from our regional director and we have a 3 year old little girl who we need to place. We know that you are at 7 already, but you have already been approved for one more by my boss. I have never been told to call someone specific before, so do you think that you are up for it?" Um. Okay. Obviously they have a list of "foster moms who can't say no," and I am numero uno on that list. I promised to call them back after I talked with my husband, because last month I took placement of two boys without asking and it did not go well. I completely left the decision up to him after confirming that she does sleep at night and she is potty trained. He gave me the go ahead and sweet Joy was dropped off at 8pm. And all of a sudden, we have 8.

My kids go to bed early and are usually asleep by 7pm. What a surprise it was to wake up in the morning with a new sister! Only at our house... and a few other friends I know. lol After the sleepless night we had, I was on the verge of calling and yelling at DHS, but that changed as soon as Maggie met Joy. I swear, it was like Maggie had been searching for Joy all her life and she found her. Hugs and kisses all around, I'm thinking the best Christmas gift for Maggie is going to be another foster sibling. She immediately took her under her wing and they have been best buds all week.

I took Joy to the doctor 2 days after we got her like I usually do with all my placements, to document any current issues and to get a baseline of where they are at health wise. She had a dog bite a week before and needed stitches out. While there, the doctor determined that the dog was never caught, so she would need to be vaccinated against rabies. Seriously? Of all the vaccines, rabies? This little girl has already been traumatized by a dog biting her and being in her second foster home in under a week and I have to get her painful rabies shots to her face. Not awesome, not what I signed up for. I prayed and prayed and had lots of wonderful prayer warrior friends pray. God gave me a peace that she is supposed to stay and that she will be okay.

So now, Joy, who also has a newborn sibling, will be with us indefinitely. We are still taking this one day at a time and seeking His will through it all. Who needs Big Brother when you're a foster parent? I am always expecting the unexpected. :)

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward." Matthew 10:42

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My vision, my legacy, my Chazown...


Seth and I have been given so many different passions and gifts and I think we just might be on the verge of figuring out God's next step. Growing our family from 5 to 9 was definitely a big one, but it still doesn't encompass all of our past experiences and training, so I know that this is just the beginning. I don't know all the details yet, but I'm so excited and hopeful that the Lord is going to bring this to pass. Let me brainstorm and share with you what God has laid on my heart.

First thing, back in the day, Seth managed a very popular Gold's Gym for around 4 years. He has tons of knowledge about how to start a gym, run one and make it profitable. Because of this, we have prayerfully decided to open one in our new town. We have received incredible feedback and have no doubt that it will be successful. We are finishing up financing details right now, but are hopeful that we will open within 6 months. With the profits from this, we plan to support local and international ministries that God lays on our heart. This is the part that I am most excited about and leads me to my part in all of this.

God has put a passion in me to help others achieve healthy pregnancies, educate them about childbirth and the importance of bonding after birth. I also love to help others learn about natural health and cooking "real food." Combine this with my calling to help those in and who age out of foster care and you get my Chazown. I want to create a small housing community of support for teenage mothers and girls who age out of foster care with nowhere to go. I want to stop the cycle of foster care by teaching them and equipping them to be successful mothers and productive members of society. I want them to have a loving mentor and motherly figure to depend on for advice and support no matter what. Recruiting foster parents will never be enough if we don't begin to treat the cause instead of just the symptoms.

I believe that we have been faithful with what God has given us since He began this work in us, so now He will bless us with even more responsibility to share His love with others. How exciting is that?!

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much..." Luke 16:10


Friday, September 26, 2014

Former Foster Mama...

2 weeks ago we closed our home. I had fought and wrestled with this decision for months while we waited for our adoption to finalize. Initially we decided to stay open, even taking another 2 year old for a month. While we had this placement, our newly adopted children were a little confused with DHS at our house and their foster sister leaving for visits with birth parents. They began to ask when they were going to have more visits and if they were going to be leaving as well. My husband and I were both stretched very thin. We were just in survival mode. After a Saturday morning of cleaning up diarrhea on walls and bedding, we made the decision to close. I cried writing the email and wondering where this 2 year old would end up while praying that we were just a stepping stone to the perfect family for her. The new foster mom contacted me and we talked and I had so much peace. This little girl is getting so much more attention than I ever could have given her. When she left and we officially closed, I expected to breakdown, but it never came. I am so relieved and happy to be able to focus on MY family! We get to choose who we want in our life and our children's lives now!! The freedom that comes with this will definitely take awhile to process. It's been almost 4 years with DHS constantly all up in our kool-aid. :) We are free!!! I can cut my kid's hair, leave the state, change my phone number... ahh, the list is endless!


Lord, my God. You sustained us these past 4 years. You provided for us. You gave us compassion for those who seemed unlovable. You gave us strength to endure and to forgive so many times when we thought we couldn't show one more ounce of mercy. You filled this house with love and laughter and Your Spirit. How thankful we are Lord!! In You, we can do all things! We can do all things with great love ONLY because You live within us. We are unworthy and undeserving of Your blessings, but You so greatly bestow them upon us. May Your name be lifted high always by our words and our life. My ultimate joy is found in You alone. May I never forget that truth.



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sibling group of 3... their story.

I share the stories of my children to personalize foster care for those not yet involved. When you hear a child's story and can see their face, it changes them from a depressing statistic that you can just ignore to beautiful, innocent children that you can help. "Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows what we know, and holds us responsible to act." Prov. 24:12

Lord, for every person who reads this, speak to them. Make this story real for them, help them to walk a mile in the shoes of a child in foster care. All children are of equal importance to You and they should be to us as well. Reveal to them their next step in being Your hands and feet to orphans. Amen.

We had 3 biological and 1 foster child all under the age of 6 before Ellie came to live with us. It was never our plan for her to join our family, but God's plan always trumps ours. I thought we were maxed out with 4 children in our 1100sqft, 3 bedroom house, so we were done taking in children, but wanted to help get a child out of the shelter for Thanksgiving. I contacted a foster friend and she connected me with a caseworker who was helping connect families with children. We were told that there was a very overweight 5 year old that was constantly bullied in school that would love to spend the holiday with us, so we happily agreed. A couple days before Thanksgiving we were told that little girl had found another family to spend the holiday with, but there was a 3 year old that we could take for the day. The first time I met Ellie at the shelter, I thought they must have gotten her age wrong when they told me that she was going to be 4 in a week. She was the size of a 24 month old, could barely speak intelligibly, couldn't run and could barely stand up for any length of time without her ankles giving out and falling to the ground. She did not want to be hugged and had the saddest eyes I'd ever seen.  We tried all day long to make her smile and laugh and she did... a few times. Most of the time she glared and yelled at the other kids or ignored me. I was looking forward to the end of the day and thinking that this little girl was definitely not a fit for our family, BUT GOD. After taking her to see Christmas lights, we drove her back to the shelter. I will never forget her screams as she realized where we were at. She clung to me with her little arms and legs holding on as tight as she could as she screamed over and over again, "NO! NO! DON'T LEAVE ME!"  Tears were rolling down my face at this point, knowing there was no way I could rescue this little girl immediately with it being Thanksgiving evening. As they peeled her off of me one limb at a time, I promised her that we would come back for her.
Thanksgiving Day

I didn't sleep for 4 nights. When I closed my eyes, I imagined how scared this little girl must be living in a shelter, knowing no one. I didn't know a single thing about her story. I didn't know if they would let us foster her, if she would be with us 2 days or forever. I didn't even know if she had siblings. We just said, "yes." We called first thing Monday morning and they gave us permission to pick her up that afternoon - an absolute miracle in the DHS/foster care world. Seth took 2 of the kids to go pick her up and I will never forget seeing her sweet, smiling face as she walked in our front door, only God knowing that she was finally home.
Then we heard her story. This was the 2nd time Ellie had been in DHS custody and this case was classified as "shocking and heinous," just like the case of our other adopted daughter, Hannah. Ellie was taken into custody at the age of 16 months because she was found wandering alone in just a diaper in a parking lot. Friends of mom's were supposed to be watching her. The place mom and Ellie were living at was with multiple people and it was covered in human blood, feces and had switchblades and axes on the floor. There was also no food in the home. DHS returned Ellie to her mother a week later. Fast forward 2 years... and this brings us to Kristian's story.
Right before
entering state custody.
The first day Ellie was officially our foster daughter, we found out that she had a 6 month old brother, Kristian James (KJ). He was staying in an emergency foster home. When they came into care, KJ was only 2 months old and was brought to the hospital for 2 fractured femurs and a fractured humerus.  2 months old. Not only did he have 3 fractures, but two of them were healing fractures, which means they were broken at an earlier date and his parents did not take him to be treated medically. It is still hard to wrap my head around this as I type. At least one of the fractures occurred during a diaper change and for over a year, KJ would scream and scream, every time I laid him down to change his diaper. KJ and Ellie stayed in a kinship home for 3 months, which is a home of someone the birth parents knew and recommended to care for their children. They were taken out of that home because the kinship family was dealing drugs out of the house, among many other things. The children were separated after that. Ellie went to a shelter and KJ went to an emergency home until we reunited them 2 weeks after we picked up Ellie. We now had 6 children under 6 in our tiny house, and God was almost tangible, His presence was so evident.
KJ was a quiet, sad and floppy baby for the first week we had him. He seemed depressed and almost like he was in a constant daze. I thought surely he had major delays, but almost miraculously after that first week, he perked right up. He gained 5 lbs in one month, started smiling and laughing and hasn't stopped since. 
Baby sis.
When KJ had just turned 1, I noticed their birth mom's clothes getting tighter and tighter around her midsection. Shortly thereafter we found out she was 20 weeks pregnant with a baby girl. Talk about a SHOCK. Honestly, it shouldn't have been a shock based on mom's history, but when that baby is most likely coming to live with you in a few short months, it's a shock. It was an odd feeling to know that quite possibly our future daughter was in someone else's womb. A womb that likely did not provide her with the nourishment she needed or the protection. Mom would have deep bruises on her body at some of the visits, that greatly concerned me. Our sweet Charlotte (Charlie), joined us at 3 days old. She was so tiny at just over 5lbs and she was in this huge carseat that DHS transported her in. Her big blue eyes were so wide and bright and I could not put her down. I was heartbroken for her birth mom that was holding and feeding this baby just hours before and now she was gone. Only those who have gone through this can understand the joy of having a new baby, but also the heartbreak of knowing this baby's mother was going through hell. It leaves you with a very unsettled soul regardless of the reasons the baby was taken into custody.
Ellie is almost 7 now, and my most attentive little helper. She adores helping with the younger children and has the most encouraging spirit. Just a month after having her, the caseworker was astounded at the changes and couldn't believe it was the same little girl. Since Ellie was almost 4 when she came to us, she has had the most difficulty bonding, but she has made huge strides in the past few months since visits with birth parents have been stopped. Her health is excellent and she requires no more speech, physical or occupational therapy.  

KJ is 3 and my most joyful child. He is full of energy and smart as a whip. He has no health issues from his past abuse, but I often wonder how it will affect him mentally when he is old enough to understand what happened to him.

Charlie is almost 2 and is a spitfire... still petite and as stubborn as she can be. She is a mama's girl and her favorite place is on my hip.
Oh, and do you remember the 5 year old we were "supposed" to get that Thanksgiving? I found out a year later that she spent that holiday with our pastor. How fun it was to share that their obedience in welcoming a child into their home, brought us 3 of our children. Only God. Love HIM.

Sometimes I worry about the future and some of the situations that adoptive parents and children face as they get older. But then God gently reminds me of how they came to our family and that He has plans that I can't even begin to imagine. Love these words of wisdom from Oswald Chambers, "God is my Father, He loves me, and I will never think of anything that He will forget, so why should I worry?" Thank you Abba for my 3 babies. What a gift they are from the Lord!
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Gotcha Day!

 
Today we adopted our 5th, 6th and 7th child. All glory and praise is given to God! We feel so unworthy that God has blessed us with all 7 of these beautiful children to raise and call ours forever. Ella, Kristian and Charlotte have been mine in my heart since the day I laid eyes on them. To love, care for and desire to protect these children for the past 3 years while we watched helplessly as court battles and unseen spiritual battles were fought between DHS, birth parents, CASA and many others was the hardest thing we've ever done, no doubt. For this 1,110 day journey to be over for them and to give them our last name is the ultimate reward. We are not superheroes or saints, we are ordinary, weak human beings. We said yes to the call of orphan care and we loved like we weren't scared, endured and tried to trust. HE did the rest. He empowered, provided and protected us and the children. Our journey cannot be duplicated, but I have no doubt that the Lord can work miracles in your life too, if you choose to say yes.

LORD, thank you. We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.

"In the same way, when you obey Me you should say, 'We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.'" Luke 17:10

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

In Search of a Better Way

One of my absolute favorite parts about being a foster parent is the ease at which teachable "Jesus" moments come unexpectedly. We had a newborn and a toddler join us for the night this past week. As soon as they were dropped off, everyone started doing their part. The big kids welcomed the toddler, fetched baby gear and watched as I fed the baby. Everyone was just giddy to be the hands and feet of Jesus for these 2 little ones.

One new thing that happened with these placements was that my oldest daughter was very concerned about the birth parents, mentioning often how sad they must be that their kids were taken away. How precious for her to realize this aspect of foster parenting when most adults don't. It's easy to forget that most birth parents haven't lived a privileged life like us. A majority were raised in foster care themselves and/or abused and neglected by those that were supposed to protect them. Many have aged out of foster care because they were considered "too old to adopt" or "unadoptable." The statistics are awful for most who age out of care. A lot end up homeless, involved in sex-trafficking and/or in jail. The cycle of foster care continues for many when they end up young and pregnant with no support system. There has to be a better way friends.

The number of children in care in Oklahoma is growing by more than 1,000 every year. 3 years ago, there were 8,000. At the beginning of 2014, there were 11,400 children in state custody. Mentor, advocate, foster, adopt... the opportunities are endless. Listed below are some Oklahoma organizations striving to help in this area, click on the underlined text for their website.


Bethel Foundation for single moms - this is an incredible organization that I am personally connected to. Contact them for needed donations and volunteer opportunities.

OK Foster Wishes - (from their website) "OK Foster Wishes shows people ways that they can get involved with a foster child without the commitment of becoming a foster family. Most people don't know that there are many ways to help a child in foster care like mentoring, baking a birthday cake or buying a gift, or just taking them to the zoo for the day."

Breaking Chains & Mending Hearts - this is a new organization in the OKC area that is helping connect mentors with pregnant teens or teen moms in foster care while developing plans for a girls' home. "Like' their Facebook page for more info.

Stand in the Gap Ministries - "Stand in the Gap Ministries is a prayer-based, church-driven, small group movement, focused on helping a neighbor rise above overwhelming life challenges through a loving, spiritual family experience."

Infant Crisis Services - "Infant Crisis Services provides life-sustaining formula, food and diapers to babies and toddlers in times of crisis..." This organization is an invaluable resource for birth families and is always needing donations. Please like their facebook page for more info.

Next week marks the 2 year anniversary of the death of Hannah's birth mother who was a victim of many of the hardships I wrote about above. Pray for compassion, forgiveness and salvation through Christ for those who have had their children removed from their care. Everyone has a story and everyone is in need of a Savior.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Best Friends and Forever Sisters

Only God knew that these two girls, born 29 days apart in the same hospital to different mothers, would become forever sisters almost 7 years later. They love bugs, dresses and arts and crafts. Thank you Jesus for my "twins."







 

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up." Eccles. 4:9-10

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Opened Eyes

When Seth and I were seeking God and His calling for our life, we knew that adoption would be involved somehow. I researched international adoption and domestic adoption and was met with closed doors. I knew absolutely nothing about foster care, but was drawn to look into it after reading an article about how when children are removed from their home, they are often given a black trash bag to put their things into. By this small act alone, we are basically telling these children that their possessions aren't valued and neither are they as they are bounced around from placement to placement. It broke my heart. My eyes were open just a little bit. Then I discovered the crisis that we call the foster care system in Oklahoma. As followers of Christ, Seth and I were outraged at what was going on and the fact that NO ONE was talking about it, at least no one that we knew. Once our eyes were opened we could not be silent or sit passively by while innocent children were treated like statistics and ignored by the Church. So if I'm on here pushing foster care a lot, it's because I'm thinking that just maybe some of you don't know about the 11,000+ children in foster care in Oklahoma and the lack of good foster parents to help them. Maybe you're like us and all you need is to be informed and then you won't be able to sit by anymore and sleep comfortably at night knowing the pain and suffering many of these children are going through. Maybe your future children are waiting and praying for you to take that first step of obedience to God's command to care for orphans. My desire is not to guilt you into foster parenting with my posts, that would never end well... but my prayer is that you will seek God's will in this area and obey when He answers.

“Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows we know and holds us responsible to act.” Proverbs 24:12

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A New Beginning

After rights were relinquished, we had 3 visits, 3 weeks apart with the birth parents. Our intentions were to continue these indefinitely, but as of now, we have decided to bring them to a halt. Our decision has been influenced by many things, but ultimately we believe this is what God wants us to do for the mental and emotional health of not only our adopted children, but for the whole family. We loved, prayed for and reached out to the birth parents for almost 3 years, many times when we did not want to, but because we felt prompted by God to do so. We have offered job help, parenting help and spiritual help countless times, with no acceptance on their part over the years. This quote that I read recently really encouraged me to re-assess and pray about their involvement in our family's life. "It’s part of my DNA to love others. Love them and not disappoint them. But I have to realize, real love is honest. Real love cares enough about other people to say no when saying yes would build up a barrier in the relationship. Real love pursues authenticity rather than chasing acceptance. We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please.” - Lysa TerKeurst  I feel that my intentions have been motivated by guilt and the desire to "save" or "rescue" these parents recently, instead of what would be best for our children and our family. God can save their birth parents without my help and I've accepted now that I am not responsible for their salvation. I can plant seeds, love them and show them Jesus, but only God saves. Our adopted children began acting out with very noticeable anxious behaviors after visits with the birth parents and they soon taper off after a little time has passed. I believe that God wants our family to bond and our children to heal and begin anew.

Because of these decisions, we have also chosen to completely change their names. One of the greatest privileges and rights a parent has is to name their children. We want that for our adopted children too. Our 6 year old is very excited about her new name and we've discussed that whenever God did something great in the life of one of His people in the Bible, He gave them a new name. There are safety reasons for doing this as well, which is why DHS often recommends it. There are so many people who told us not to foster and if we had listened to them, these children would not be ours. I anticipate that many of the same people will disagree with our decision to change their names. I hope they remember that we seek God in our decisions, not men. We have peace and joy about these decisions and I trust that God will honor them.

Love this explanation I found about God changing names in the Bible.

"Why did God choose new names for some people?

The Bible doesn’t give us His reasons, but perhaps it was to let them know they were destined for a new mission in life. The new name was a way to let them in on the divine plan and also to assure them that God’s plan would be fulfilled in them."

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Find your life.


Today is the last day of Foster Care Awareness month. As I read Matthew in my Bible today and watched two of my adopted children play together in the front yard, God placed it on my heart to remind others of how we got to where we are today. God didn't bless us with a 7 bedroom house, 12 passenger van, financial resources and Seth being home part-time BEFORE we became foster parents. No, He blessed us in response to continued obedience, fulfilling this promise found in James 1:25! "But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it." We lived in an 1100 sqft house with 6 children for a year while Seth worked full-time in another city and then after work he would gut/remodel our new house until 11pm. If you are waiting until you have a bigger house, more money or more time to serve God, you are missing out on experiencing His miraculous provisions in response to your faith in Him and His promises. And if you're afraid of the risk to you, your family or your comfort, I ask that you spend some time meditating on Matthew 10:37-39 and determine where your love for Him who died to set you free, stands. "If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it."


"He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins." Ephesians 1:7

"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:19

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New Placements - Questions Foster Parents Should Ask

This is such a great list, one that I didn't have when I first became a foster parent, so I wanted to share it with my readers. Thanks to the Foster Care and Adoptive Association of Oklahoma for providing it. A lot of workers, will most likely NOT know the answers to all of these questions, but hopefully they can get you contact info for someone who does. 

NEW PLACEMENTS - QUESTIONS FOSTER PARENTS SHOULD ASK

Why is this child being placed?

What is the previous placement experience(s) of the child?

What is the child's legal status?

What is the family situation?

What is the plan for the child? Expected length of placement? (most probably will not know the answer to these questions upon initial placement)

What will my role as foster parent be in the reunification plan? (Should always be to support reunification in every way possible if adoptive placement, ask about mediated agreement visitation/contact with birth family)

What is the child's understanding of why he has been moved/separated from his birth parents and/or prior placement?

Will there be a pre-placement visit? (Usually not if coming directly from the birth home).

Where are the birth parents & possible relative/kinship placements?

Give me a clear understanding of the rights of the child's birth parents and the plan for visitation. Who may visit? Who may not visit? Where does visiting take place? When? How often? Who transports? (Usually 1 visit/week supervised by a CPS staff member at a CPS office)

Have the birth parents been dangerous or threatening in the past?

Have the birth parents made complaints against other foster parents? I f so, what was the complaint?

Has the child made complaints against other foster parents? If so, what was the complaint?

Are there brothers and sisters? If so, where are they and what is the visitation plan, or plan to reunify them while in care?

Is the child in good health? Allergies, immunizations, dental care? What are the plans for current and immediate future medical and dental care? When was the last physical? Are there any food, medication, or animal/general allergies?

Is the child taking any medications at this time? Will there be written instructions regarding them?

School - What grade? Prior School Name/Address? School problems? Achievement level and/or any special problems? Enrolled in Special Ed or other special classes (GT, Speech, Alternative Education Setting)?

Does the child have any special behavior problems, unusual habits, or dangerous propensities? Ask about fear of animals if you have them in or around your home.

What will make the child feel most at home? What are the child's food likes and dislikes? Favorite toys, sleep habits, etc.

Religious affiliation? Is it important? Does foster parent need to make special arrangements to have child attend services, education classes, etc?

Does the child qualify for a special care rate? If so, when is the effective date?

Does the child have adequate clothing? Will there be a clothing allowance? If so, when can foster parent expect to receive the clothing allowance check? Ask the placement worker for details. Save all receipts for reimbursement up to the current limit.

What are your (placement worker) expectations of me (foster parent)?

What is the name and phone number of the supervisor of the unit overseeing the child?

Who is the attorney/CASA/GAL for the child? Name & Phone numbers.

What do I do and who do I call in case of a weekend or evening emergency? (BIG one if you don't have any thing that shows medical coverage for child)

When will I receive the following placement information? Medical Consent Form, Medicaid Card Placement Agreement Form (must include name of social worker, supervisor, payment rate, effective date, case number, and signatures.)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Love like I've loved you.

I've been waiting for this journey with 3 of my foster children to come to a close now for almost 3 years. I'm not sure what I expected if and when it did happen, I guess no more visits, no more stress, knowing they are mine would ease any heartache and worry I had about the situation. I knew and prayed that if the birth parents relinquished, it would be an open adoption, but with an open adoption, especially the kind that I feel God is calling us to, there's not a lot closure for me. It's just more growing pains as I continue to learn to love like Christ and "share" these children that I've been praying to not have to share all this time.

We had our first visit since relinquishment recently and it went very well. We met at a park and we all hung out together as one big family. All 7 of my children hugged and interacted with the birth parents, which surprised them I think. They brought us diapers that they had leftover and mom thanked me many times, something she's never done before.
It would be easier for me to just be done, to sever all contact. But whenever I consider that option, I get knots in my stomach and am deeply convicted by the Holy Spirit. I truly believe that God is joining our families and I have to surrender to that. He is joining our family with a family that experiences hardships in a way that I will never have to experience and that I will never completely understand. He is calling us to minister and love not only the birth parents, but the extended family of the birth parents. He's been quietly speaking to my heart and filling it with compassion. I pray for God to bring me people to minister to, but when He does, I question Him, "Are you sure God? Share my family and blessings with them? Indefinitely?" As Christians, we often desire to help, but in a way that only makes us feel good, not in a way that might make us uncomfortable and challenge us. I DO want this. I want to be challenged and I want to grow closer to Christ. I want to learn ways to help and encourage poverty-stricken families and disciple them to become followers of Christ. I want this. (Preaching to myself here.) It's not about me, it never has been. It's about showing His love, grace and mercy.
Please pray for me and my husband. Pray that we can develop 100% genuine relationships with the birth family, relationships that don't feel awkward because love will outshine any other emotion or action. Pray for wisdom for us and that God continues to use us to share His story and His plan for the salvation of the world.
"This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you." - Jesus, John 15:12

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Process - Foster Parent Certification in Oklahoma


Foster parents are referred to as "bridge parents" by OKDHS. From OKDHS publications, Bridge Resource Parents are: "Oklahoma parents who foster a child, have adopted a foster child or both. Bridge Resource Parents keep a child/children connected to their kin, culture, and community and mentor the child's family whenever possible." It's important to know what is expected of you when you begin this process. The process is intensive for good reasons. There is a high rate of abuse for children placed in foster care. Some foster parents should NOT be foster parents. It's a good thing that these safeguards are in place.

If you are a complete newbie to foster care, you need to know that no matter what agency you choose, you will still have to deal with/partner with DHS. They are legally responsible for the children and your agency is responsible for certifying foster parents. You will have a caseworker from your agency and each child/case has a caseworker from DHS who manages the case and will do home visits monthly to check on the children.

In Oklahoma, the certification process has been privatized, so your first step is to find an agency.  Below is not a complete list, but it is the extent of my knowledge.

  • Tribal Certification - If you're Native American, you can get certified through your tribe and take only tribal children. You need to have a roll card for this, but the degree of Indian blood is not important, at least in my experience. There is a great need for tribal foster parents. 
  • Private agencies - Tallgrass, St. Francis and Angels are 3 of the agencies that received a recent grant to contract more foster parents. I have heard good things about them all. Make sure to ask your agency if you are able to foster more than one child from different cases, if that is something you might desire. Some agencies view it as a benefit to only have one child/sibling group per family and for some it is, but for our family God called us to a different task and we are thankful that we were able to make that decision and it wasn't made for us. 
  • Therapeutic Foster Care - From the OKDHS website, "TFC is designed to serve children ages 3 to 18 with special psychological, social, behavioral and emotional needs who can accept and respond to the close relationships within a family setting, but whose special needs require more intensive or therapeutic services than are found in traditional foster care." I have no personal experience with this, but I know that it is greatly needed as well. SAFY is one of the organizations that provides therapeutic care in Oklahoma. 
After you find your agency, they will walk you step-by-step through the rest of the process which will include multiple homestudies, fingerprints, background checks, physicals and driving records. Homestudies include a walk through of your house to determine if it's safe and what needs to be changed to make it safe. They do not expect your house to be perfect. I would definitely clean up, but do not stress too much about this part. The rest of the homestudy is an insane number of weird personal questions including, but not limited to: your parents, your siblings and your extended family. It is normal to not know the answer to some of these questions. Just be honest. Last but not least, your, ahem, 27 hours of "training." Training needs to be revised. Some of it is helpful, but I do not believe it prepares you fully for being a foster/bridge parent. I recommend reading the Bible as often as possible to prepare you. :) Seriously. 

Once all of your paperwork, homestudies and training is complete, which usually takes 3-6 months, you will sign your contract and you should begin getting placement calls within a week if you live in the larger counties, like OK, Canadian, or Tulsa. It might take longer in the less populated counties, but I am not certain of an average timeline for them. You will receive your first monthly stipend 1-2 months later. They pay them a month behind. I know a lot of people are curious about the amount per child that you receive and in Oklahoma it varies from $400-$565 depending on the age of the child. I hope this information will encourage some of you to take the first step by taking some of the mystery out of the process.

Love this quote by Amber Smart from the OK Foster Care Forum on 4/24/14:

 "Don't let the process get in the way of your purpose."

Monday, April 7, 2014

Wonderful Things

"O Lord, I will honor and praise your name,
for you are my God.
You do such wonderful things!
You planned them long ago,
and now you have accomplished them." Isaiah 25:1


The Lord gave me this verse today to meditate on, and as I watched these 2 forever sisters brought together by God, I praised Him for the wonderful things He has done, that He planned long ago! Thank you Father!


Sunday, March 9, 2014

ReMoved

Through the eyes of a foster child... You MUST watch this 12 minute film. Please.



ReMoved from HESCHLE on Vimeo.

"I am small and young, yet I have sustained the greatest loss ever known to humankind for I have lost my birth mother. Good or bad, right or wrong, she was all I had and now she is gone. Before I was ever placed in your arms, my heart was broken into a thousand pieces because the only voice, the only touch, the only heartbeat I have ever known has gone away. I will spend the rest of my life reconciling this loss and I will need your help. My pain has nothing to do with you because you did not cause it. When I work to ease the hurt, do not feel rejected because this is merely my effort to feel whole again. You cannot heal me. That is my job. Just know that healing is required from the very start of my life. Accept me, love me, adore me, see me, and let me be the person I was born to be." -Amy Ford

Monday, March 3, 2014

Approaching the end.


Nothing is official yet, but we are very close to closure for our children. Be in prayer this week for everyone involved as things are explained and decisions continue to be made. God is GOOD! 

"Lord, you are my God; 
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done wonderful things,
things planned long ago." Isaiah 25:1


Friday, December 27, 2013

3 Christmases


My foster children have been with us for 3 Christmases now and they are STILL foster children. When we brought these children into our home, they sent us adoption paperwork after 3 months because they were certain that was where the case was going. Over 2 years later, we are almost in the exact same spot as we were then. Would I do it again if I knew then what I know now? Without a doubt, YES. If I can assure that these children are safe, loved and well cared for, I would do it for 10 years. They are worth it. HE is worth it. I have peace that God will bring closure soon and that it will be in the best interest of the children. I look forward to sharing the stories of the angels God has placed within this case and how even in the midst of adversity, He was fighting for our family and these children. To quote my 6 year old today, "You can always trust God. He keeps His promises."

"And since you are so special, 
God wanted to put you in just the right home...
Where you would be warm when it's cold,
Where you'd be safe when you're afraid,
Where you'd have fun and learn about heaven.
So, after lots of looking for just the right family, 
God sent you to me.
And I'm so glad He did." 
- Max Lucado, Just in Case You Ever Wonder

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward." Matthew 10:42

Friday, November 29, 2013

Choosing to say "Yes."

I'm re-reading Kisses from Katie and have to share this quote because it is so true for us and for so many others that God uses in mighty ways.

"Sometimes, the everyday routine of my life feels so normal to me. At other times the idea of raising all these children seems like quite a daunting task. I realize that since I have chosen an unusual path it is easier for outsiders to look at my life and come to the conclusion that it is something extraordinary. That I am courageous. That I am strong. That I am special. But I am just a plain girl from Tennessee. Broken in many ways, sinful and inadequate. Common and simple with nothing special about me. Nothing special except I choose to say "yes." "Yes" to the things God asks of me and "yes" to the people He places in front of me. You can too. I am just an ordinary person. An ordinary person serving an extraordinary God." - Katie Davis

Katie Davis and her girls

Thursday, November 21, 2013

You Shouldn't Become a Foster Parent

You shouldn't become a foster parent if:

You're doing this for you. This isn't something you do to make yourself feel better. You won't get much appreciation for it, even from people who you'd think would appreciate you. Our family does it for Him, to share our incredible blessings with the "least of these," the less fortunate, the needy, the poor. I look around at everyone we grew up with, associate with for the most part. We are all so incredibly blessed. We were born in the U.S.A. We have garages where we put our cars that our immensely nicer than millions of people's homes all over the world. Why have we been blessed so much? Is it to sit in our comfort, while others starve to death? Is it to have an elliptical in our guest room while a 4 year old sits in a shelter during the holidays? 1 John 3:17 says, "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?" 

You want to be certain of the future. It was this week 2 years ago that we picked up our surprise from God, well, one of our surprises. When we began our fostering journey, we planned on fostering 1 child, for a total of 4 kids in our 1100 sqft house. God had different plans. We already had 1 foster child, our now adopted daughter, Hannah. We wanted to help in some other way though. He connected us with people who were working with the shelters to get children out just for the day during the holidays. We said yes to that with no idea that through that simple decision, we would end up with a sibling set of 3 that we have had for almost 2 years now and complete our family of 9 in ways that only God could ordain (and provide us with a MUCH bigger house.) Hallelujah! Uncertainty is a given on this journey. Accept it, embrace it, grow your faith and seek Him through it. You just never know. If you try to predict or control the outcome of the case, you will only be disappointed. Only God knows and you have to continually remind yourself of Romans 8:28. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

You want to stay the same. I tell people often, "If you want to be more like Jesus, become a foster parent." He challenges and changes you in ways that you never thought were possible, which is AWESOME, because then He gets the glory. But it is just as HARD as it is AWESOME. It is hard to trust Jesus, like really trust Him with children that you love like your own. I am controlling and prideful and just full of sin and everyday He forgives me and helps me change gradually with the situations He places in front of me. I can fight them, and I have and I still struggle with wanting to be right, or I can pray, and I can trust and I can love and give grace. He has placed every single person on our path during this journey for a reason. We might be the only people they see who are following the true Christ. You will live out Matthew 16:24 every day. "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." 

Lord, glorify Your name. I need to give this whole journey back to You again. Take it. I trust You. I trust these children to You. I trust that You are sovereign over every single detail of this journey. Soften my heart, humble me and please, make me more like You. "He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
 if you love one another. John 13:35

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Great idea... modified. (Cheap, easy & HEALTHY dryer sheets.)

I saw a post about homemade dryer sheets and thought "What a great idea, except for the whole carcinogens and fabric softener part." I thought for those who are health conscious and who are sensitive to chemicals or who have children sensitive to chemicals, I thought I'd share this easy modification. (In bold)

"WHAT YOU NEED:
1 Container with an airtight lid (grabbed out of my pantry)
 -
No change
4 sponges cut in half ($1.00 for a 4pk at the dollar store) - Leave sponges whole, less likely to fall apart.
1 cup of your favorite fabric softener - Replace softener with white vinegar and fill to top of  container.
2 cups water - Water is unnecessary, no need to dilute vinegar. 
10 drops essential oil - my favorites are tea tree oil and peppermint oil mixed together

WHAT TO DO:

Mix the water and fabric softener into a plastic container.  - Pour vinegar in the container and add essential oils..
Add the cut sponges so they can soak in the mixture. - Add sponges.
When ready to use, squeeze the excess liquid from 1 sponge and place into the dryer with your wet clothes. - No change from here on out. 
Run the dryer cycle as normal. Once complete place the now dry sponge back into the container of liquid for use next time.
Clothes smell good, are soft and have no static just like the expensive non-reusable dryer sheets." 

For more info, here's a post I wrote 2 years ago on "Deadly Dryer Sheets."

Monday, October 7, 2013

Court this week...

I'd really appreciate prayer for 3 of my littles and that decisions made this week are in their best interest. I ask for prayer for peace for everyone involved. May the Lord be glorified through it all.

"But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Exodus 9:16

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Do what it says."

Sitting on the porch this morning watching the kids play, I focused on memorizing the first chapter of James. I am very close to this goal and I've noticed that God will stop me on specific verses that he wants me to meditate on. Today, it is James 1: 21, "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." I must have repeated it 10 times before stopping to think about how it applies to my life right now.
3 years ago, we stopped listening to all secular music and that decision has played a big part in my growing faith. I don't doubt that others can have strong walks with Christ and listen to secular music, but for me, to constantly have songs of praise filling my house and my thoughts, brings me back to Him constantly during the chaos of my days. We also trimmed down the shows/movies we watch to shows that do not include cursing, sex, violence, etc... mainly PG is what we watch over here on date nights. With the new season of shows starting though, I have found myself getting excited for a few of my "guilty pleasures," such as Grey's Anatomy, New Girl, Parenthood... So, while meditating on James 1:21, I hear God say, "Get rid of ALL moral filth." But God, I have to get rid of my shows? "What does ALL mean to you?" So, just to make sure, I looked it up online in my Greek/Hebrew interlinear Bible. All = Pas in Greek, which means, each, every, any, all, everything. Okay God, I realize that You want me to get rid of ALL the moral filth, but I don't really want to. God says to me, "Read the next few verses..." James 1:22-25, " Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word and does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But, whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it- not forgetting what he has heard- but doing it, he will be blessed in what he does."
As I sit here typing this, I'm a little bitter. I know that to strengthen my faith and my walk, I need to give up these silly shows that do not glorify Him in any way. It's hard though, because it seems like something so small and insignificant, but clearly it's too much of an idol if I have to debate this much with God about it. I don't want to be numbed to the "moral filth that is so prevalent." I want to grow more like Him everyday and I don't think He would be amused by some of the things on my favorite shows. I challenge you, friends, to join me and seek Him. What is it that you need to "not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves?" Do what the word says and you will be blessed. What a simple, yet great promise. 

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Phil. 4:8-9

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Joy comes in the morning...

Oh my. Sweet Joy left yesterday morning after 7 days and 8 nights to be exact. I use the word "sweet" very loosely. Bless her heart. With some placements, things get easier the longer they stay, but then there are those that only get harder with every second of every day. Time seemed to stand still these last few days with Joy. The fit throwing, the fearless climbing on everything, the name calling, the sleepless nights with my husband having to sleep on the couch... The last morning she woke me up by hitting me as hard as she could on my chest. I about had a meltdown. I promise I tried. I tried so hard. I even found other foster families to take her because the worker "couldn't." The kids fondness for Joy deteriorated as the days went on as well and they were all asking for her to leave, which made the decision a little bit easier. For now, she has been placed with a foster family who has no other children and the mom is a teacher, so I am hoping and praying that we were just a stepping stone to get her where God wanted her to be.

There were definitely some things that happened during the week, that I believe were God ordained. We prayed a lot over this sweet girl who clearly has attachment issues and developmental delays. She had to have multiple rabies shots a few days apart and because of my "crunchy" knowledge I was able to supplement with some things before and after that I believe softened the blow on her body and immune system. I was also able to minister to her birth mom and pray with her over the phone and offer my friendship even though Joy won't be with our family any longer. I know God has His reasons and I still believe He wanted us to have her for the time we did, but once again, it confirmed that unless a sibling pops up unexpectedly, we are staying at 7 for now. I emailed our worker and begged her to please not call me again, because I want to help so badly, but with the ages of my children right now, it is not an option. I have to be sane for their sake and mine. Please continue to lift up Joy in your prayers. I spoke with the caseworker tonight and she said that she is adjusting just fine with her new family and foster mom.

God is good and I am so happy to be back to normal with "only" 7. :)




Friday, August 23, 2013

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7....8?


This week started off seemingly simple. The hubs and I sat down Sunday evening and made our first ever weekly meal plan and he went to the grocery store to buy supplies. Monday follows the schedule seamlessly. Our girls went to Kindergarten, our sibling set went to visits and I was in heaven with ONLY 3 kids for 7 hours. I spent the time reading my Bible, drinking coffee, journaling, doing 3 loads of dishes... I was feeling very productive when my cell phone rang at 7pm that evening, immediately followed by a text message and my home phone ringing. Yikes. Clearly, someone was trying to get a hold of me. It was, shockingly, the Dept. of Human Services. "Hi, I just got your name specifically from our regional director and we have a 3 year old little girl who we need to place. We know that you are at 7 already, but you have already been approved for one more by my boss. I have never been told to call someone specific before, so do you think that you are up for it?" Um. Okay. Obviously they have a list of "foster moms who can't say no," and I am numero uno on that list. I promised to call them back after I talked with my husband, because last month I took placement of two boys without asking and it did not go well. I completely left the decision up to him after confirming that she does sleep at night and she is potty trained. He gave me the go ahead and sweet Joy was dropped off at 8pm. And all of a sudden, we have 8.

My kids go to bed early and are usually asleep by 7pm. What a surprise it was to wake up in the morning with a new sister! Only at our house... and a few other friends I know. lol After the sleepless night we had, I was on the verge of calling and yelling at DHS, but that changed as soon as Maggie met Joy. I swear, it was like Maggie had been searching for Joy all her life and she found her. Hugs and kisses all around, I'm thinking the best Christmas gift for Maggie is going to be another foster sibling. She immediately took her under her wing and they have been best buds all week.

I took Joy to the doctor 2 days after we got her like I usually do with all my placements, to document any current issues and to get a baseline of where they are at health wise. She had a dog bite a week before and needed stitches out. While there, the doctor determined that the dog was never caught, so she would need to be vaccinated against rabies. Seriously? Of all the vaccines, rabies? This little girl has already been traumatized by a dog biting her and being in her second foster home in under a week and I have to get her painful rabies shots to her face. Not awesome, not what I signed up for. I prayed and prayed and had lots of wonderful prayer warrior friends pray. God gave me a peace that she is supposed to stay and that she will be okay.

So now, Joy, who also has a newborn sibling, will be with us indefinitely. We are still taking this one day at a time and seeking His will through it all. Who needs Big Brother when you're a foster parent? I am always expecting the unexpected. :)

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward." Matthew 10:42

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My vision, my legacy, my Chazown...


Seth and I have been given so many different passions and gifts and I think we just might be on the verge of figuring out God's next step. Growing our family from 5 to 9 was definitely a big one, but it still doesn't encompass all of our past experiences and training, so I know that this is just the beginning. I don't know all the details yet, but I'm so excited and hopeful that the Lord is going to bring this to pass. Let me brainstorm and share with you what God has laid on my heart.

First thing, back in the day, Seth managed a very popular Gold's Gym for around 4 years. He has tons of knowledge about how to start a gym, run one and make it profitable. Because of this, we have prayerfully decided to open one in our new town. We have received incredible feedback and have no doubt that it will be successful. We are finishing up financing details right now, but are hopeful that we will open within 6 months. With the profits from this, we plan to support local and international ministries that God lays on our heart. This is the part that I am most excited about and leads me to my part in all of this.

God has put a passion in me to help others achieve healthy pregnancies, educate them about childbirth and the importance of bonding after birth. I also love to help others learn about natural health and cooking "real food." Combine this with my calling to help those in and who age out of foster care and you get my Chazown. I want to create a small housing community of support for teenage mothers and girls who age out of foster care with nowhere to go. I want to stop the cycle of foster care by teaching them and equipping them to be successful mothers and productive members of society. I want them to have a loving mentor and motherly figure to depend on for advice and support no matter what. Recruiting foster parents will never be enough if we don't begin to treat the cause instead of just the symptoms.

I believe that we have been faithful with what God has given us since He began this work in us, so now He will bless us with even more responsibility to share His love with others. How exciting is that?!

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much..." Luke 16:10