Friday, June 29, 2012

A New Twist

'while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us'

Because Jared & I were focused solely on adoption while we were going through our GPS classes, we tended to tune out a lot (okay, any) information that was specific to fostering. More than once, this has come back to bite us. Thankfully, we had an awesome training worker, Tara, who continues to generously help us with anything we need. Anyway, today was one of those times when we realized that we really should have paid more attention. 

While speaking with Sabrina to kind of debrief after yesterday's surprise visit with mom, I learned that we are expected to allow Princess Petunia to call her mom. As foster parents, we get to set the parameters, which is nice, but PP's mom does have the right to speak with her. This is so out of my comfort zone. I guess I just had it in my mind that we really wouldn't have any direct interaction with Princess Petunia's mom. I just figured that we would take care of Princess Petunia and DHR would handle all things related to mom. Obviously for the most part, this is the case. But at least for now, we get the opportunity (I need to start viewing it as such) to facilitate phone calls on the non-visit weeks. 

*Confession* I don't want to do this. I had a long discussion with God about that fact earlier. I told Him that we were already providing for and loving PP. We didn't sign up to deal with her mom. Her mom has obviously made some seriously bad choices to have her children placed in care. Why should we go out of our way and our comfort zone do anything more for her? God stopped me in my tracks right there as He brought His word to my mind, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 

The Creator God died for me (us) in the midst of my ugly, vile sin. Surely I can, in His strength and love, handle a simple phone call every other Monday. And further, pray that He might be able to use those times to reveal Himself to PP's mom. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012


'In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps'

So, today was our last day of Rock the Block, and as a treat, I told the kids that we'd go get McDonalds and have super water play when we got back home. That plan was met with big cheers all around. Yay! Mom's the best! Yeah, she's awesome! That sort of thing. :)

On our way home from McDonalds, my phone rang. It was an out-of-town number that I didn't recognize which normally means that I just hit 'ignore' but for some reason I answered it today. The lady on the other end (I still don't know her name) asked if I was Princess Petunia's foster mom and said that PP had a visit with her mom today at noon (it was 12:10) and that she was on her way to pick her up to take her to DHR for the visit. All kinds of red flags went up for me because...
1)  I knew nothing about a scheduled visit with mom.
2) I couldn't understand the lady very well and she never told me her name or who she worked for. Well, to be fair, she might have but I definitely didn't catch it. 
3)  She called me by my first name, and everyone that we work with at DHR knows that I go by my middle name, Dawn.

 As politely as I could, I explained that I needed to check with our social workers before I would let Princess Petunia go since this visit was news to me. The lady was okay with that which made me feel a tad more comfortable. Also, she said that she was still on her way over and not sitting at our house waiting on us, which gave me time to figure out what in the world was going on. *Confession time* I actually had momentary thoughts of driving straight to the CH police department if I couldn't get in touch with anyone at DHR. 

I made a couple of frantic phone calls to Tara (our former SW) and then to Sabrina (PP's SW.) I was able to get in touch with Sabrina on the 2nd try who told me that yes, there was a visit scheduled for today. She just had forgotten to let me know. Profuse apologies followed and all was well. But man! My heart took a little while to calm down!

Just another reminder that we are definitely not sovereign over our days. ;)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The honeymoon is over....

'morning by morning, new mercies I see'

'and grace upon grace flows down, flows down'

Yes, the honeymoon is definitely over. Those initial bursts of emotions can only get you so far and then reality sets in. And I don't think that's such a bad thing.

We are smack dab in the middle of a crazy busy Rock the Block week. Its a good kind of crazy, but crazy nonetheless. I got the sweetest, most encouraging email from a very new and yet already dear friend tonight, saying among other things that she was fervently praying for me and reminding me that my family and I were carrying on a sacred task. Or something like that. She worded it much more beautifully than I just did. It was, as I said, such an encouraging email and at the same time, such a convicting one. I started thinking back over our past few days. I certainly didn't feel very loving when little miss Princess Petunia disobeyed me at dinner or when she intentionally tried to get Noah in trouble, as though he needs help in that arena. I certainly didn't feel very patient when PP and Rach were letting their sillies run wild 15 minutes after lights out. I certainly didn't feel very sacrificial when PP asked for more orange juice just as I finally sat down to eat. And those are just the beginnings of the many, many times that I've fallen short, just in the past few days. I was overwhelmed by how I just did not deserve that sweet email. Nor did I deserve the precious surprise gift a sweet friend left on my computer desk. Nor did I deserve the handful of hand-me-down dress up dresses for the girls from our neighbor.
It was at that moment when God spoke to my heart in that inaudible but oh so real way, "what do you think the word Grace means?"
He lavishes His grace upon us moment by moment. And one of the sweetest gifts He gives is eyes to see it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Meeting Updates....

'Christian, you have the power of God in you! Why? To make this gospel known...' ~ David Platt (loosely :-) )

Friday was a big meeting day. First, Pam, another CA/N worker, came out to discuss the disturbing things that Princess Petunia had been sharing with me. She spoke with Jared & I first, then PP, then Rach, and finally Isaac. Originally I had thought that she would only need to talk with Jared, PP, and me. I only found out Friday morning that she'd need to speak with the whole family. That threw me off just a tad. :) All went well for the most part. Princess Petunia did share something more with Pam that will require further investigation and possibly counseling for PP. We just have to wait to hear back from Pam about that.

Our second meeting was with Sabrina who is Princess Petunia's SW. We finally have an official SW for her, YAY! We were able to get some basic background and health information on PP. No big surprises. Sabrina said that PP's mom was pretty insistent on her needing a dentist appointment right away, so I guess I'll get on that at some point this week. We also discussed school for the upcoming year. Princess Petunia REALLY wants to homeschool like Rach & Noah. Sabrina said that her last request for homeschooling was met with a resounding NO, so we're fairly certain that PP will be headed to CH Elementary.  We also found out that our ISP meeting will take place sometime early next month. We'll be there along with PP's brothers' foster parents, Sabrina, and PP's mom. Please be in prayer for this. I don't even want to think about the incredible awkwardness and tension that will be in that room just yet. 

Switching gears now...hopefully with all those meetings behind us, we can focus solely on Rock the Block this week! God Always Wins!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Meeting updates to come, but first....

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 

I woke up this morning praying. It was definitely not a holy or inspiring or thankful prayer. It went something like this: 'Lord, I can't do this. I can't. I just can't. I don't have anything in me that wants to do this' And that prayer continued through breakfast, even after my coffee. :) It continued when the kids went outside to play, and I started to do the dishes. 

I pulled up a sermon to listen to, and one of the illustrations caught my attention. David Platt was preaching through Matthew 14, specifically the feeding of the 5000. Platt said it is as though we are surrounded by a multitude of thirsty people, and we're standing in front of Niagara Falls. We have all the resources in the world to meet their needs, not within ourselves, but in Christ. 

It was as though God was saying to me, 'you're right, you can't do this, but I AM.' 

I'm going to be completely real here for a minute. My love for Princess Petunia at this point is only a trickling stream at the best of times. God's love for her is a towering waterfall. My job is not to try and dig deep to somehow muster up more. My job is to remove all the rocks and leaves of sin that would block His love for her to flow through me. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This is where it gets hard(er)...

"'Because he is strong in power not one star is missing' Isaiah 40:26. Why so many stars? To give an inkling of his strength." ~ John Piper

Princess Petunia has a very important meeting coming up this week. Just in the last few days, she has begun to share some things with me that are frankly disturbing. Enough so that Jared wanted me to contact Matthew, which I did this morning. Matthew called back a couple of hours later to let me know that a SW will be coming to talk with Princess Petunia at some point this week. He said that if she were at home, someone would have been sent out immediately. However, since she is in care, we should have a visit within the next five days. 

Sometimes it is almost easy to actually forget the reason that PP is with us. It will almost just seem like Rach has a little friend spending the summer with her. And then PP will come up to me at some random time like when I'm folding laundry and tell me things that just make me want to cry. I obviously can't let her see that, but it is so difficult when that jolt of hard reality hits. 

Please be in prayer for PP and for the SW that will be talking with her. Pray for wisdom, for clarity. Pray that Jared & I will know how best to help our little friend, that we would be able to speak truth to her little heart. Pray also that we'd be able to balance caring for PP and protecting our other children.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

1st road trip...

'God makes a home for the lonely...'

We just got back from a long wknd in Foley to introduce Princess Petunia to my parents and a couple of aunts & uncle. :-) Good times. LONG car ride! Just for fun, Jared and I started keeping a count of the "are we there yets" and the "i have to go pottys" and the "he's touching mes."

We're finding that the longer PP is with us and the more memories we make with her, the less "weird" this foster parenting thing seems. I'm not saying that it feels as though PP has always been with us, because it doesn't. It's just that we feel more and more like we are doing exactly what God had planned for our family to be doing. It is a sweet place.

Anyway, the weekend was filled with outings, from Mickey Mouse pancakes at the Foley Coffee Shop to watching rescue dogs perform frisbee tricks at the Hot Air Balloon Festival. The girls got our toes done....PP chose my color for me, and she & Rach made sure that their toes matched. We took PP to the beach on Sunday morning. She says that she had been once before when she was a baby, but as it is still hard sometimes to distinguish her truths from her imaginings [more on this later], I kind of think that this was her first trip. She had a blast until a wave knocked her over filling her swim suit and mouth with sand. She was all done after that! She loved swimming in the pool. 

I was thinking during that LONG car ride about how much I am impressed by Princess Petunia's ability to just roll with her life. I can't imagine how I would've responded as a child, or even now as an adult, to being taken from my home and placed in a new place with perfect strangers. Tomorrow will mark the end of her 3rd week with us, and she continues to just be a joyful, energetic little girl. She's definitely not perfect, and we are continually working through challenges little by little. But the strength she has in her little heart is just remarkable. 

A couple of Princess Petunia's challenges that you can be in prayer for along with us: 

*We are really trying to help her tell the truth all the time. We've noticed a tendency in her to 'tell stories' about things that don't matter, usually when the kids are talking about things they've done or places they've been. She'll also lie to us some when she thinks she's going to be in trouble. It's getting better....she'll usually eventually fess up to us. But we want her to trust us and her place in our family enough to tell the truth the first time and also to not feel the need to make up stories to match the ones that the other kids tell. 

*We're also working on manners....mainly things that are appropriate to say or talk about and things that are not. This area is definitely not her fault, but it can be a challenge to correct her without making her feel ashamed. She has started to pick up on things that would be inappropriate and will whisper them to me or Jared instead of talking about them right out loud. It just makes me sad to see how many things she knows about that a little 7 yr old has no business even being heard mentioned. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hangin in there...

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence

*another definition*
ISP ~ DHR case plan, basically all the history as well as the goals that need to be met and how those goals will be met. Includes visitation plan and court dates, etc.

Things are just rocking along here. We've introduced Princess Petunia to a lot of our favorite things and people here in town and are taking her on a road trip down to Foley this weekend. She's still fitting right in with our family so amazingly well. She & Rach are best friends...doing pretty much everything together just as you'd expect sisters to do. She & Noah get along for the most part but tend to enjoy frustrating each other at times....just as you'd expect brothers & sisters to do. :)

We're still waiting for our initial ISP meeting to be scheduled. Tara told us that this could take up to 30 days, which sounds crazy to me. Think about it....we've been given a child to take care of whom we know next to nothing about, whose history we learn about in occasional bits and pieces. And we have no plan. And we're good with that....because we serve a God who does know all that information and who shows us daily that He's got this!

Some of what we've learned about Princess Petunia's personality ~

* she's got a ton of energy and craves attention - the longer that she's with us, the calmer she becomes, but man! For those of you who know him, take Noah and multiply him times 3 and add in fearlessness. 

*she's a great eater - she originally told us that her favorite food was asparagus, apparently we don't make it right though. :) 

*she's a super helper - she'll do things without being asked just because she sees that it needs to be done, like putting toothpaste on all the toothbrushes and picking up Jojo when he's having a moment. 

*she's definitely a tomboy but does enjoy doing crafts with Rachie. 

*she loves being outside - Walking on the trail and through the Gardens have been her favorite outings. 

*she's very obedient and not a big complainer or grumbler - something that we're hoping will rub off on the other children. :) 

Monday, June 11, 2012

This is what matters...

'And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come'

This fostering thing is not easy. I'm reminded of that line in The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe where the beavers are talking with Lucy about the great lion, Aslan. Mr. Beaver tells Lucy that no, Aslan is not safe, but he is good. 

Physically, sure, we're safe enough doing this. I definitely don't feel the slightest bit of danger physically. On the off chance that anything does happen, we're maybe 2 minutes away from the nearest police & fire station. :) Emotionally & mentally, however, we're not safe at all. We're constantly being attacked by all kinds of the evil one's 'flaming darts':  fear of the unknown, worry over saying the right thing, mean-spirited words from Princess Petunia's mom, etc. We're also constantly being bombarded by our own sin: selfishness, impatience, idolatrous desire for quiet, favoritism, etc. No, being foster parents is definitely not safe. But, it is good. 

God has given us an amazing opportunity to do what truly matters....spread His gospel of grace, hope, love, and mercy in and through our own home. 

No, we don't always (or even most of the time) see our day through that perspective. It is a constant fight to look beyond ourselves and see what is really true. Please pray for us toward that end. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Heart Hurts

'You have kept count of my tossings;[c]
     put my tears in your bottle.
     Are they not in your book?'

Oh God, I cling with feeble fingers to the ledge of your great grace

Matthew brought Princess Petunia back from her visit a little after 7. She was her same old Princess Petunia self most of the night. She shared her stash of snack that mom had sent back with her, ran & played with Rach for a little bit before family worship time. *side note* She's memorized the 1st two verses of Psalm 1! Bedtime routine went fine as usual. 

Then a few minutes after the girls had been in bed, Princess Petunia came into the den asking if she could call mom, which is a big DHR no-no. Matthew had told us that there is to be no contact except for the scheduled visits. Mom knows this and sent her phone number home with Princess Petunia anyway. We told her that we couldn't do that. Princess Petunia took that news well and went back to bed. A few minutes later, we heard her crying. We went in and prayed with her. Then I brought her into the den and we rocked and read Biscuit for a little while. She went to sleep fine after that. 

I understand the necessity of visits with mom for both mom & Princess Petunia. It's reassuring for both of them, and hopefully it's motivating for mom to follow through with the plan she has been given. There's still a part of me that wishes that we didn't have to have them. It was just so sad to see Princess Petunia's little heart hurting and not be able to just fix it. The pain in her little life is so very beyond any of our ability to heal. Only God can mend her little heart and turn what she's been through into something beautiful. I was praying this morning just about all of this, and God showed me that not only is that true for Princess Petunia, but it's true for every one of us as well. 

In and of ourselves, we can do absolutely nothing. Nothing. He is our life. 'In Him we live and move and have our being.' 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gearing up for first visit with mom...

'you are good and do good'

So Princess Petunia has her first visit with mom tomorrow afternoon. We went ahead and told her about it last night. She initially didn't show any emotion, didn't seem to really care one way or the other. Rach, on the other hand, began to cry and had to leave the room. Princess Petunia even tried to make her feel better by assuring her that it'd only be for a little while and then she'd come back. How precious is that? 

I have to admit that I am feeling a lot like Rach. She said she doesn't like it when Princess Petunia talks about her mom. At first, it didn't bother me at all, mainly because frankly it just didn't happen. Princess Petunia rarely mentioned her mom or her brothers or anything like that. But now that she knows she'll be seeing mom soon, she's been speaking of her more and more. She made her a bracelet last night when the girls were playing with beads. She collected shells for her today down at the creek. She made her another picture this afternoon. And just being real, it pricks my heart every time. And this is only after a week! 

I keep reminding myself that the reason we took this step into fostering was to help redeem & reconcile families. It's not about us. It's about Christ, and what He wants to do in Princess Petunia's heart and life. And yes, even what He wants to do in her mom's heart and life.

Please pray for me (& Jared) that we would have compassion for Princess Petunia's mom, that we'd truly desire her to know the Lord and be reconciled with Him first and then with her children, if that's His will. And please pray that the visit tomorrow would be fruitful and good. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

"You found it!!!!"

'...I have learned in whatevver situation I am to be content.....I can do all things through him who gives me strength.' 

We had Jared's sister & her husband (Natalie & Kyle) over for dinner on Saturday night for Kyle's birthday. The Lightning twins made birthday cards for him, and Princess Petunia told him a Happy Birthday knock-knock joke. :-) Anyway, so after supper, the kids wanted to show them the slideshow of our trip to the zoo. *side story* The slideshow was somehow set to Dancing Queen by Abba. Lovely. The kids got a big kick out of Uncle Kyle singing about seventeen jelly beans. ;)

While we watched it (for the 4th time), I noticed Princess Petunia run to the girls room. I followed her, because she looked kind of distressed. I found her crying on the bunk bed saying that she had lost her anklet. She hadn't noticed that it was missing until she saw it in the zoo pictures. She was really distraught because she said that her mom & Nona had given it to her when she came into care. (yes, I started crying with her at that point.) 

We looked all over for that thing. I was praying, God, please, we have got to find this little anklet. The whole family looked all over the house and under the swings and in the van. Could. Not. Find. It. She was fine, still pretty sad but fine. Fast forward to last night after church....

It had just been a very long day, and I was tired and stressed. Kids were grumbling about having to take a shower. Jojo had hit his wall and was screaming. It had just been one of those days. Jared told me to take a break, and he'd get all the kids showered and in bed. Nice, right? When I get stressed, I tend to clean. So I was cleaning the girls' room and praying through everything. As I picked up a sock, I thought I heard a faint jingly sound was Princess Petunia's anklet!!!! I guess she had unknowingly pulled it off when she was taking her socks off. I called her in there and showed it to her, and she screamed and gave me the biggest, longest hug! And yes, I cried again. :-) 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Fingerprints of God

'but this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope'

                         a sampling of Princess Petunia's artwork

As believers, we all know that the Lord is in control of all things. One of our pastors says that He is sovereign over even the tiniest molecule. We know this and trust this. Sometimes, though, its almost like God pulls back the curtain and lets us really see His handiwork in our lives. There have been several of those moments already during our time with Princess Petunia...

*One of the placement workers was out all last week. Our SW, Tara, just happened to be covering for her on the day that Princess Petunia was coming into care. 

*Princess Petunia's CA/N worker, Matthew, is friends with a friend of ours that we used to go to church with. 

*Whenever I've had moments where I've been really questioning our decision to do this at all, I've received an encouraging txt or phone call or a product of the girls' craft time like the one in the picture.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

All we need for life and godliness...

'but he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you , for my power is made perfect in weakness.'

I've had moments where I think, what in the world are we doing? We have brought this new little friend into our comfortable, familiar lives with all of her challenges and all of her history. How are we going to do this? How are our kids going to handle this? How can we love this new little friend (however cute she may be) when the feelings aren't there yet? How can we invest so much of ourselves into her little life when we're not promised the end result? And then I am reminded of the cross. Christ faced so much more rejection, hurt, humiliation, questions, doubts, and on and on than we ever will. He's called us to walk in His steps, and He's promised us His presence and power while we walk. 

Anyone who knows me at all knows how attached I am to my routine and my schedule. Princess Petunia has blown that out of the water, and let me tell you....that stretches me! But God has shown me that I am not master of my life, I am a steward of what He gives me. Stewards do not own or control anything....they manage and care for what has been entrusted to them. My reward is ultimately found in serving and pleasing my master, not following my plan. 

*specific prayer request* Princess Petunia has her first visit with mom on Thurs afternoon. A SW will come and take her to her visit and then bring her back. This could understandably rock our little boat here, so just please pray for Princess Petunia and her mom. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Wow, we are so inadequate....

'All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation...'

There are not words to express how very encouraged and lifted up we feel by all the many emails, texts, phone calls, FB msgs that we have received....such merciful gifts of God's grace. Several have asked how to help, what we & Princess Petunia need, etc. I don't want to sound cliche, but first and foremost we all need prayer. I think we all tend to discount what an incredible gift that God has given to us in intercessory prayer. It is so encouraging to know that our friends & family are praying for us; its a tangible reminder that Jesus is himself interceding for us continually. Secondly,  just be who you are in our lives. Our friends and family are for the next few months Princess Petunia's friends and family. One of the greatest gifts of fostering is to be able to (however imperfectly) show Christ's love to a hurting child, to be able to (however imperfectly) allow God's glory to be seen in our family, our friends, our church, our community. Princess Petunia sees this through even the smallest interactions she has with folks. Even these brief glimpses help her to form a picture of who God is and how He cares for and loves her. We want her to see what a Christ-centered family looks like, what Christ-centered friendships look like, what a Christ-centered small group looks like, what Christ-centered churches look like. And yes, we are woefully inadequate, but praise God that He can take broken sinners and display his magnificent glory through our lives. 

*cute note* My girls have dubbed themselves the Lightning Twins, Light Bright & Light Strike, and they have 3 Thunder brothers, Crash, Boom, & Bang. Guess that means we have the perfect storm in our house?