Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why Have We Chosen Foster Care and Adoption? PART 1

We've already heard the typical crazy comments and questions about foster care and adoption from the foster care system...and we don't even have our first placement yet.  Heck, we haven't even finished the classes yet. 

It's clear most people don't have a great understanding of how the foster care system works or about the kids it helps. 

Allow me to start by clearing up a few misconceptions and maybe answering some of your questions.
The children in foster care are not bad kids.  They have done nothing wrong.  They're not second rate citizens or "less than" our biological children or anyone else's.  Although they've been victims of neglect and/or abuse and these things effect their development, they were not necessarily born that way.  They did not ask to be born into dysfunctional families or to parents who need to work on their own issues.  They didn't do anything to deserve the treatment they've received.

Just as their are misconceptions about the children, there are certain "labels" put on all birth parents who end up with kids in the foster care system.  But I'm rarely quick to slap a label on anyone.  Don't judge someone until you've walked a little while in their shoes.  Many of these parents were victims of the same things their kids are now going through.  It's a cycle that needs to be broken.  Many of these parents need mentors to give them hope and show them a better way.

Even though there are obvious reasons that children are taken from their birth parents and put into foster care, it doesn't change the fact that those kids still want to be with their parents.  No matter what their parents have done or how dysfunctional they're home life was, every kid wants to be with his/her parents.  Likewise, many of these parents love their kids and fight to get them back.

The point of foster care is not to rip families apart.  In fact, from everything I'm learning, there has to be real, solid evidence of abuse and/or neglect.  I know you hear of "horror stories" of kids being taken from their parents when they shouldn't have been.  From what I am learning, that is not the norm.  In fact, DHS doesn't want to remove the children and work to do everything they can to keep families together.  Once the kids are taken into care, the goal is reunification of the children with their birth family.  Only when it becomes clear (usually after multiple chances) that reunification is impossible are the parental rights terminated and the children put up for adoption.  That's why many of the children you hear of who need adopted out of foster care are older children.

That being said, not all the kids in foster care are teenagers.  In fact, from what we've learned, 43% of the children in foster care in the state of Iowa, where we live, are 0-5 years old!  The reason the child welfare service is always advocating for foster teen care and adoption is because there are so few people willing to take teenagers, especially teenagers with special needs.  So many of these kids stay in foster care homes or group homes and eventually "age out" of the system without a family.  Sad, but true. 

We have two young sons, 7 and 4.  Because we are thinking of their safety and well-being, and what child(ren) will work best in our little family, we are hoping to foster young children.  This isn't some selfish, self-protective stance.  Actually, in our PS-MAPP classes they have emphasized "knowing your family", really assessing your family and knowing what would/would not work best for/with your family, before taking placements.  This is better for everyone involved, including the foster children who do not wish to be moved again and again.  I have utmost respect for people willing to foster older children and that may be something we do in the future, but, for today, we're in "little kids" zone around here.  We hope that some day we will have the opportunity to adopt out of the foster care system. 

This is not PLAN B.  When I was a teenager I knew I wanted to adopt some day, whether I had my own biological children or not.  I felt strongly about it.  I wanted to help hurting children, to show them the love of Christ. After Alan and I were married I mentioned the idea of adoption to him, he didn't like the idea.  I was shocked because up to that point we had agreed on so many things.  I decided that I wouldn't nag him or even mention it again, I would just pray.  And that's what I did.  Four years later, he said out of the blue one day that had been thinking...maybe we should adopt some day.  GOD is amazing!!

We're not pursuing foster care/adoption because we had three miscarriages and have given up on having more biological children.  We don't know whether we will have more biological children or not.  Only God knows the answer to that question.  We're open to what He has for us.  We believe that children (ALL children) are a blessing from the LORD.

Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb (*any womb) is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. 5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate. *extra words added by me

I thought adoption was something we would pursue later, when our children were older, especially if we went the foster care route.  But last year God changed my heart and mind.  Over the whole year He was working on me.  It seemed like everywhere I turned, everything I heard or saw was about adoption.  And I kept hearing about children in foster care.  Still, I was leaning toward the idea of international adoption.  However, the first time (last year) that I mentioned this stronger tug on my heart, the idea that the time might be now not later, to Alan, he wasn't enthusiastic.  I asked him to begin praying about it, which he did. 

As the year proceeded (we) kept processing and praying and it still felt like the Lord was leading that way.  I couldn't shake it.  The tug eventually became a burning conviction.  Alan and I had several in depth conversations about it.  In one of those conversations he expressed a desire to adopt children right here in Iowa.  Together we decided that foster care was something we should do; that we could also care for and love children that we may never have the opportunity to adopt.  In fact, we felt God directing us that way.  We've always known God calls us to care for the widows and orphans. These are our modern day orphans.

Would it be easier not to do foster care and/or adopt?  Sure seems like it.  But what blessings would we miss?  What about the children?  Is there anything a person/family could do to impact the course of another person's life than this?  Most things worth doing are not easy.  We're moving ahead in obedience, peace and with joy.  We know God has good plans for us and our family! 

Our understanding of foster care has changed since we started this process.  We have learned so much...and we continue to.  The reasons we began were perhaps a bit different than the reasons we're continuing to pursue it.  We can see more clearly now why God has called us to this!

But I will share more about that next time.  I have so much more to say.  This has to be more than one post...

Join me next time.  :)

"Teach me how to live, O LORD.  Lead me along the right path...I am confident I will see the LORD's goodness while I am here in the land of the living.  Wait patiently for the LORD.  Be brave and courageous.  Yes, wait patiently, for the LORD."  Psalm 27:11, 13

At the beginning of the year I chose my words for the year 2014.  God gave me: FEAR NOT.  :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Random Rachel Returns

What do I write about.  Which thing? 

I've been stepping back...simplifying...allowing the refining. 

I've felt pressured to write (I mean, this blog is just sitting here...) and yet, I don't. 

Do I write about the things He's been showing me?  The way He's been chipping away at my character.  The way He's been renewing and restoring things lost...and giving what perhaps never was.  Understanding.  Change.  Newfound joy.

Do I write about the foster care classes?   The stuff we're learning.  The way God is opening my eyes and heart even more to just why He's called us to this.  The class content is absolutely fascinating and educational.  Not sure what I expected, but the classes are better than I thought they would be. 

Do I write about the licensing process and the preparation to care for a foster child?  It's quite a process.  Many steps, a lot of paperwork, home studies and preparation necessary.  Sometimes it seems taxing, then I remember the goal.  It's worth it!

Do I write about one of our classes?  About Managing behaviors? Assessing strengths and needs?  Maybe about gains and losses?

Do I write about our loss?  It was 2  years ago that we lost our baby Faith to miscarriage; our third miscarriage.  Two years!!  Wow.  We've grieved.  We've questioned.  We've processed.  We've accepted God's promises to be true.  He has a good plan for us and we can trust Him, even when we don't understand.  As we move ahead, we see more clearly how He has worked in it.  How He has grown us; prepared us; lead us.  In joyful anticipation we look forward to seeing what He will do next, in His timing and in His way. 

Do I write about our two precious little boys?  They're constantly changing, growing, learning, bringing joy to our lives and home.  What about my 3 year old asking me what breasts are for!  :)  Or his little sweetness telling me daily, "You're the best mom!  I'll never forget about you."  Melts my heart!  Or what about my 7 year old who's suddenly a big boy; changing, growing increasingly independent and pulling away from mommy in some ways.  He's a little man.  Time is passing.

And I realize more and more and more the need to be here, to be fully present.  I can't be attached to a computer screen or my iPhone.  I can't be running around to numerous commitments.  I could miss it.  I don't mean just missing them growing or missing my chance.  Even worse, I could miss their hearts.  THIS is my call: to love God and others, starting at home with my husband and sons.  To spread the gospel, starting here.

To spend time just being with them (and their daddy), modeling, loving, nurturing relationships...
maybe even get a BONUS ride in the wagon every once in a while.  :)

Do I write about the disconnect between what our culture (as a whole) says is important and how we actually live?  How are we, especially we Christians, living out what we say we believe?  We say our mission field begins at home and yet it seems to me that the people in our homes often tend to get the worst of us rather than the best; as if everyone else "out there" is more important.  This is the true test of the every day. 

Or do I write a Random Rachel post to just say...I can't write that much here?  I guess so.  That's what I'm doing.  I'm saying I just can't write that much right now.  At least not here.  Not now.  It's just not the time.  Today is the day to He leads me/us to the next place of promise.  I know it's a good place to be.

What would you write about?  What is God showing you? 

Philippians 2:1-11
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,[a]
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
    he took the humble position of a slave[c]
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Feeling Small

Sometimes I feel so small.  I feel insignificant, of little use or value.  I live in the boonies, not even a small town.  I'm not rich or famous.  I'm not "special" by the world's standards.  I'm just me; a farmer's wife.

My days are spent taking care of small things.  Two small children.  Seemingly menial tasks.  Small ministries, at least in numbers. 

It's easy to feel small in such a big world.  I tell God this and He lovingly corrects me.

The enemy of my soul would love to keep me feeling small.  To lead me to believe that I have no influence or power.  The Truth of God's Word tells me different.  In His Word I find that:

God has good plans for ME! 
The Savior of the world knows me, sees me, loves me and has a purpose for my life.
I am significant and what I do matters.  It matters very much.
In the small stuff...that really adds up to the big stuff!
Not only in the small, but especially in the small.  In the every day, mundane stuff of life.
In the seemingly insignificant one on one contact with those in my unique sphere of influence.
What I do for the least of these...
It matters!

God wants me to see that.  And He wants to do even more.  He doesn't want me to miss the joy and opportunity He has for me in the small.

When we are faithful in the small...
He gives even more...
More of Him which means:
More insight, wisdom and revelation.
More faith and hope.
More joy and peace.
More strength and courage.
And isn't that what I want?!  More of Him and less of me.  To become smaller.  Small isn't so bad.  When I become smaller, He becomes greater in me.

So although I am valued, loved and powerful in the name of, because I am all of those things...I am okay with being "small".  And I will choose to see the miracle and joy in the every day stuff of life.  All of it...every part...matters!

"Who dares despise the days of small things..."  Zechariah 4:10
I'm participating in Five Minute Friday.  Okay, so I'm a day late, but who's really keeping track, right?! :)
This is a time when I write on one word for five minutes.  This weeks one word prompt was "Small". 
Jump on over to Lisa-Jo Baker's page to see what others had to say on this subject by clicking the link below:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Lego Birthday Party ~ Fun Day Monday

It's hard to believe our oldest son, Andrew, turned 7 at the end of January.  But he did!  Where does time go?!  He's quite the young man, so inquisitive, insightful and full of zest for life!  And he's really growing up on us!!
Andrew decided on a lego Birthday party this year.  Here's a picture of the birthday boy with his party spread...
BUT I need to back track a little first....
The day before Andrew's big day we surprised him with a trip to Cabela's where we let him pick out his own gift.  He chose, with the help of Daddy and little brother, Noah, a nice fishing pole.  Now he's eager for spring to come so he can try it out!!
On his Birthday we celebrated with a few more little gifts...
and our traditional birthday pancakes complete with chocolate chips, whipped cream and sprinkles!
Before his birthday came we started working on his Birthday Party Pinata...
A lego piñata...made with a shoebox and a toilet paper roll cut into thirds...
Then the birthday boy and I covered it with paper mache...
Just paper mache paste and strips of newspaper...
We added several layers of paper mache to the piñata, removed the shoebox, then covered the bottom with aluminum foil and more layers of paper mache.  We let each layer dry between adding the next.  Finally it was time to paint it...
Then I made easy lego cakes using loaf pans and oreo cookies...
Not perfection, but cute none the less...
Andrew was thrilled with his lego cakes!!
FINALLY it was time to party!! :)
He had 7 friends attend.  With him and his little brother there were 9 kids under the age of 9.  Fun!
We set up the piñata in our partially finished basement, hanging it with twine from one of the rafters under the false ceiling.
That thing was tough!!  Much tougher than I thought paper mache would be...
By the time all 9 kids had, had their swing at it with the plastic bat, the excitement had really built!!
Finally we had to get out a real metal bat.  That did the trick.  :)
The Birthday Boy had a great time...and I believe all the other kids did too.  Daddy even refereed a dodge ball game.  Little kids love throwing things at each other, go figure.  :) 
We even had time to eat the cake, treats and ice cream in the midst of the children posing their best silly faces for the camera.  :)
But every day is a fun adventure with the little guy!  We are so blessed to be his parents!
HAPPY 7th BIRTHDAY ANDREW!!  You are a treasure!!

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
Psalm 127:3-5


Thursday, February 6, 2014

When You Dare to Ask God What He Wants...

I utter, “Use me, Lord.” “Show me your will, Lord.”  “I want to honor you, Lord.”  Do I mean it? 

What about my agenda.  My plan.  My way.  My dreams.  All good things, many of them sought with a desire to glorify Him.  I ask for what I want.  But I’m not God.  And I don’t know His plans.  What do I know of His ways?  How often do I dare to ask God what He wants? Really ask Him…and wait to hear His answer.  Hands open to whatever He has for me; even when it looks much different than what I thought…or planned…or dreamed. 

What about when His honor comes through the unexpected?  Or when it’s uncomfortable.  Or scary.  Or downright hard.  Or it involves suffering.  What then?   Do I ask for that?  Or do I keep my hands in tight fists, clinging to what I “know” is God’s best for me, and my loved ones?   It’s human nature to want “easy”, “happy” and “comfy cozy”.    

But, most often, when I ask Him what He wants…and actually wait to hear what He says, He doesn’t say “easy”.  He often calls me to the hard.  To things that seem beyond my reach.  To things that stretch my faith and cause me to rely on Him more.  

I see Christians do it all the time.  We say we want to be used of God.  What we often mean is we want the spotlight; the glory.  We want to do the good things on our agenda…and invite God to join us.  We may  look mature on the outside.  But the LORD sees us as little children with fingers in ears, singing, “La la la.”  Only willing to hear what we want to hear.  We want to hear words like blessings…and good gifts…grace and joy.   
The trouble: blessings, good gifts, even grace and joy often come in unexpected wrappings. 

Lately, my LORD has bee doing some serious sanctifying work in me.  Preparing me for His next place of promise (a Susie Larson quote).  I've watched Him do His work in my husband's heart as well.  Obvious and glorious!  He's doing a new thing...or two or three.
As my husband and I venture into the world of becoming foster parents, we face so many unknowns.   It’s exciting.  It can also be nerve wracking apart from faith.  He’s leading this way, no doubt about it.  We dared to ask.  We also dared to listen.  He answered.  So we step forward in faith and obedience, taking God at His word; choosing to lean on Jesus; humbly dependent.
We don’t expect easy.  We expect challenges.  But we’re compelled; compelled to help children.  We’re compelled to love with open hearts and arms; pouring out the love He’s so abundantly given us.  So many hurting kids, we can’t sit with eyes closed and hands clinched, clinging to our desire for unchallenged lives.  Growth stunted.
Honestly, it seems it would be easier not to.  Things are good and comfortable here.  Why mess with a good thing?  It will be work.  It will cost us something.  It will be inconvenient at times.  But what if we don’t?  Who will help?  There is a critical need and Jesus is calling us to intervene!  We can't help everyone, but we can help someone. 

If  we chose self-centeredness what seemingly haphazardly wrapped gifts would we miss?  True blessings given and received, designated for us and them, for such a time as this.  I shudder to think of passing it up for the sake of complacency.

Would it really be easier to say no?  Is not the center of God's will the best and safest place to be?  Christians often say it.  But do we live it?  We can be missionaries, His ambassadors, right here, right now, in our own home, in our own community.  But it requires faith steps.
I look ahead in anticipation of what He’s about to do.  Thankful for what He's already done.  Joyful.  Expecting.  Trusting.  Without fear.  Hands wide open and lifted up.  When doubt and fear and the Enemy’s lies rear their head once more, I will again choose faith.  Not because I am good.  Because He is good and I know I can trust Him. And truly my heart aches to help; to do His will. 
Will you dare to ask Him what He wants of you?

Will you pray for us as we move forward in faith? 

Will you please pray for the 450,000 children currently in foster care in the United States? 

Remember God doesn't call the equipped.  He equips the called.
"...Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him."  Philippians 2:12-13
 You might also like this post:  Want An Easy Life?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why Haven't I Written?

Some time has passed since I posted last.  Why?

Well, the good LORD's been doing some things in me.  He's been doing some refining, sculpting and downright cleansing.  He's been speaking.  I've been listening.  Being still.  And being still includes being quiet.  Focused.  It's been a sweet time...that I'm not sure I want to see end.

So excited to share with others some of the "stuff" He's been doing here in me, in my family, in my life.  He's doing a "new thing" or two or three.  Changes on the horizon.

When I return I hope to have words to share from this time.  Until He directs me further, I will remain quiet.  Waiting and learning.  Hoping to emerge with fresh insight.  I will share when I'm certain it is Him giving me the go ahead. 

Stay tuned... 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How to Simplify this Christmas...and Save Your Sanity!

How do you picture the perfect Christmas?  If you're like me, you probably picture something like this...

A beautiful family, in perfectly coordinated sweater, and with unified hearts, sit around a perfectly shaped and decorated (real, not artificial, of course) Christmas tree, sipping hot cocoa with marshmallows.  A cheesy smile on each face, as they open gorgeously wrapped gifts that are not only exactly what the receiver wanted, but given in the purest desire from the bottom of the giver's heart.  Inside, the house is not only decorated beautifully, it's in perfect order.  Outside, the ground is covered in a fresh, white snow.  And, in the next room, there's a long dining room table covered with a feast fit to feed a king...and his family...his court...and his entire kingdom.  Every dish is filled to the brim, looks absolutely scrumptious and perfectly browned turkey, fully intact and steamy hot, sits right in the middle of the table.  Peace, joy, love...Christmas bliss.   

It's a sight right out of a Hallmark movie, right?!

Then there's reality.  

You make the long trip to Grandma's house despite a long week of caring for puking kids and the treacherous, icy road conditions of the day.  You're stressed out before you even arrive.  The kids run off as soon as you get in the door.  And, before you can even get your coat off, one of them is crying.  A cousin hit them in the head with a toy.  You try to comfort amd lecture about sharing, both at the same time.  Child hanging on you, you begin to "pit out" in your holiday sweater (of course, you are the only one wearing a sweater...and the house feels like it's 500 degrees).  Grandma's in the kitchen slaving away over the meal while three other family members try to help.  Someone scorches the potatoes.  Grandma, hair all disheveled, looks like she's going to cry.  The turkey completely fell apart, so she's disassembling it piece by piece.  And you think, "At least it's not dry and chewy like last year."  The guys are camped out in front of the TV watching football.  Grandpa is asleep in the recliner.  The house is a mess due to the kids running in every direction.  You stick the gifts you brought under the lopsided, artificial tree that is covered in handmade ornaments of years past, wondering if even one of them is something the receiver will like.  The kids helped you wrap them and they're plastered with scotch tape.  You bought every one of your family members a gift even though you couldn't really afford it because, well, that's just what you've always done; it's what's expected.  Uncle Bill, who you haven't seen since last Christmas, approaches you with a hug.  He proceeds to tell you about his recent hemorrhoid surgery.  You zone out as he goes into detail.  You look out the window; the ice has turned to slush.  You're reflecting on all that's wrong with this picture when someone yells from the next room that little Johnny just threw up... again.  Ugh!  You're stressed out, tired, sweaty and disappointed before the party even really begins.  This is not the Christmas you signed up for.

Darn, those Hallmark movies, right?!  

I really think unrealistic expectations can ruin our holidays; unrealistic expectations that we put on ourselves, our families, our get-togethers and even our gifts.  Life isn't perfect.  People aren't perfect.  WE aren't perfect.  

But, so what?!  

We put so much pressure on ourselves and others that we can miss the joy in the midst of reality's chaos.  It's a blessing to be with our families, and yet we can miss the blessings if we're so focused on our unmet expectations.  If we focus on all that's wrong, and focus on all the wrong things, our stress level will rise and we will miss all that's right.  It can be tough, but we can choose to simplify.  We can choose to accept our lives for what they are...and our families for who they are.

"Don't just pretend to love others.  Really love them." Romans 12:9

Four things that have helped me to Simplify and Save My Sanity through the Christmas season:

1. Cut back on the gifts.  This means not giving gifts that you can't afford or that you think are unnecessary.  Just because you gave them a gift last year (or every year as long as you've lived), doesn't mean you have to give them a gift this year.  Giving gifts that come from a begrudged heart defeat the whole purpose anyway.  The gifts you do give, give joyfully, expecting nothing in return.  It might be hard at first.  But, trust me, it gets better...and it takes a lot of pressure off.   

2.  Don't overextend yourself or overbook your family.  This is especially important if you have young children.  There are so many things going on in December!  Think through your commitments and look over your calendar before committing to yet another event; be realistic.  This may mean saying no to a few things, even good things that you want to do.  However, remember balance and maintained sanity are your goals.  

Note: Keep in mind, sometimes we also can't make it to events we committed to because of realities like vomiting kids.  Let go.  You can't control it!

3. Take time to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.  Do this as an individual, but also as a family.  The more our minds are set on the true reason we celebrate, the Savior Jesus Christ, the more other things will seem less important.  Choose to invest time in meaningful activities that nurture your faith and renew your perspective, and that of your family.

4.  Choose to love and accept your family, both immediate and extended, just as it is.  So you're family isn't perfect.  Guess what, no one else's family is either.  It's okay.  Choose to overlook their faults and little annoyances to see the blessings of the moment.  And thank God for an opportunity to love as He does, humbly, unselfishly and wholeheartedly.  Remember this moment in time will never come around again.  Use this time to love on those you...well, love.  It still won't be "perfect".  Embrace the imperfection.  

I don't have all the answers!  However, I really think if we let go of our unrealistic expectations; if we simplify and embrace reality; we will find joy this Christmas season...along with our sanity.  :)

Today I'm joining the Third Thursday Blog Hop.  Head on over to Jill Savage's blog, by clicking on the link below, to see what others had to say on the topic "No More Perfect Holidays".