Matching Hearts

by Katie

When we got the call we didn't expect you to come. We were expecting the call before you. So my heart already knew you weren't coming. And then you came. Pink blanket, tiny pink pjs and the pink piggie. We weren't expecting a girl, we were told you were a boy. When we got the call around 11pm that you were in fact coming in the next 2-3 hours I expected a rough tumble-y boy. But instead you came. Tiny. Too tiny for your age. 

You were so fragile. We held you constantly. And then we knew we had to gently transition to not being held all the time. So we handed you toys and you had no idea what to do with them. You slept, cuddled and ate. You would sleep for hours and hour and hours and still sleep 12-13 hours at night. People kept telling us how "lucky" we were. Yes, because having a child with trauma is so lucky. We knew you weren't sleeping so much because of luck but because of escape. 

We bonded with you quickly. It made me nervous how attached you were growing to us. It didn't seem right, I talked with another foster mama who let me know it was okay and that you were comfortable and knew you were safe. 

The reactions you have had are ones that break me over and over and over. Reactions out of what you've been through, what you have witnessed. Which are things we will never know. 

I don't know what the future will bring. What court will bring in August and then again in November. I don't know how to handle your hurts. And I don't know if we'll be together forever. But what I do know is our hearts match. Our skin is so different, but our hearts match.

When we started this foster care journey I read that somewhere and in my head that made sense but now I really know the meaning. Now I know what's it's like to know that with my heart. 

Katie is a 30 year old mama to three children, twins that are 9 and a 4 year old. She has been married to her husband, Douglas for 10 years. They have been foster parents for 2 1/2 years.

 

Listen to more of Katie's story here.

I Never Set Out to be a Savior

by Rachel

I never set out to be a savior.  Which is probably a good thing, I would make a terrible savior.  I'm far too selfish, lazy and all around human to be any body's savior.

I never set out to be a hero. Also, probably a good thing. I am the last person anyone should claim as a hero.

All I set out to be was a Christ-follower.

I found myself saying, "Take me where you want, Lord, and please, for the love, make me less selfish along the way."

It turns out when you say those kinds of things to the creator of the world, and you actually mean it, He listens.  He begins to extend branches of "Will you do this with me? Will you trust me to get you through it?"  And if you find yourself saying yes, you might just need to grab on for dear life.

At first you find yourself knee deep in poo.  That part is not great. It feels a little like a bait and switch, which can be confusing and terrifying.  The poo in my life is metaphorical.  Though I suppose, perhaps, yours is not, depending on the age of your kids. 

Over time you start to experience only ankle-deep poo.  This feels relieving and surprising, though you know better than to get too excited.  Poo is still poo after all.  

Before you know it, you realize all that poo is actually fertilizing something.  You begin to see flowers emerging from what you thought was only wreckage and waste matter.  Your eyes are opened, and you see that things have been working below the surface when you didn't even realize.  

Suddenly a child who seemed to only hate and spew vile at you, buries himself in your arms seeking comfort.  You're shocked to watch a hardened heart begin to soften.  You begin to see layers that have been present for years, in the name of self protection, begin to peel away.  Someone who could barely receive the words, "I love you" is now saying them first.

It is in these moments you become hooked.  You see redemption and the gospel played out before your very eyes.  

And. You. Want. More.  

More of this refreshing path He has led you down. More beautiful flowers you were a part of fertilizing and growing. More of the healing and love that pokes its head out after all the hard work you pour in.

This people, is exactly how you end up adopting teenager after teenager after teenager.  

Call it idiotic; I know I sometimes do.  Or call it living radically for Jesus.  It's called that too.

I am seeing more and more how Christ is taking me on a personal journey where I have front row seats to watch the gospel unfold daily in my home, in my family.  We experience the offering and receiving of grace, forgiveness, mercy, unconditional love, repentance and acceptance.

And I am blessed to be a part of all that. 

I find myself signing up for more, time and time again.  I can't seem to say no. It's become something I don't even want to say no to.

I am thankful God asked me that very first time, "Will you say yes to this with me?"  What followed has been an insane amount of work, prayer, awe and growth.  Three adopted teens in, and I feel truly blessed to be a part of the radical-gospel-living insanity.

Rachel is a 32 year old mom with 6 kids married to the best man she knows, Joey. Her kids are 2,4,7,16,20, and 21. God keeps bringing them teens and asking them to adopt them. Like crazy people, they keep saying yes. What could seem like the worst possible age to adopt in the world, has become God's beautiful redemption story playing out right before their very eyes. And it is good.

All Kinds of Baggage

by Jen S.

I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who has dreamed of having a special needs child. God may have placed a calling on your heart to be open to a child with needs beyond the norm, but it isn't something people lok forward to with eager anticipation. When we think of becoming parents biologically everyone says, "as long as they are healthy." Well for many that isn't the reality. And when we foster or adopt kids from hard places parental choices or experiences have left those kids with baggage. Some of the baggage is carry on size, while others carry a trunk full. Either way these needs take a lot of extra work and the learning curve is steep.

My kids all have baggage. Some of it is emotional/behavioral while others have medical baggage. When we said yes to each of them we knew the risks but did not fully grasp the realities. We weren't looking through rose colored glasses, but you can't know what life will be until you live it. When case workers and doctors start thowing terms at you like FASD, ARND, RAD, ODD, SPD, PICA, CP, CVI, ADHD, and the numerous other acronyms that we encounter it is overwhelming. It's intimidating.

If you as a foster or adoptive parent have opened your heart to the possibility or reality of a child with special needs, then you my friend have become one of the fiercest of warriors! We learn to fight for our children in a way parents of typical kids don't have to. I usually refer to parenting my children as parenting on steroids: there is no room to let down my guard or take the wait and see approach. We have to charge ahead with full force to ensure our kids have the most support possible, so that they can reach their fullest potential.  

When we have kids with challenges the biggest adaptations come from us. We have to learn a new way to parent. It won't be the picture we saw when we dreamed of having a family. We learn about early intervention, IEP's, 504 plans, PCIT, Theraplay, Brain Balance, EMDR and so much more. As a special needs parent you need to educate yourself. Learn as much as you can from as many sources as you can. I promise you there are tons of therories and schools of thought. Find what is right for you and your child! Don't let someone push you into what they feel is best. It has to be workable for you.  Advocacy becomes a way of life. Special needs parenting can be very isolating, but I have found that when I reach out to the special needs community you can find some of the best encouragers.

So no matter how much baggage your child brings, know that the most important thing to remember is that you don't have to carry the load alone. Reach out. Find your support team and lean on them. Learn from those who have gone before you. And know that God is going to give you the equipment to be exactly what your child needs!

Jennifer is a 40 yr. old wife and stay at home mom. She has been married to Ryan for 18 years. Their 4 children joined their family though international and foster adoption. Together they have fostered for 8 years and welcomed over 70 children into their home. Jennifer has a love for travel, her big crazy family, and tiramisu.

"I don't know who my mommy is."

by Rachel

My darling little daughter has been mine since the moment she came into this world. I was there when her birth mom pushed her out, I was the first to hold her, I named her and brought her home from the hospital.

And yet, she isn't only mine, and I'm not only hers. She has another mom in this world. One who we are open about, open to, and love very dearly.

We have talked about Jackie, and to Jackie, for all of my daughter's life. She doesn't have any memories where she didn't know Jackie was very special. We have always talked about growing in her tummy, and that she is her birth mom.

However, at 4.5, she is just now starting to understand that those facts also make Jackie her mom.

And that is confusing to any person, let alone a 4 year old.

My little girl, so far, has only happy things to say about being adopted. Talking about having a birth mom brings her joy, and you can see that on her face.

So imagine my surprise when the other night at dinner she said out of
nowhere, "I don't really know who my mommy is."

I saw my husband's shock and he started to rise to my defense. I stopped him short and asked her what she meant. It became clear she wasn't sure between myself and Jackie, who she was suppose to consider her mommy.

I listened to her and helped her process through it.

I could tell the confusion made her a little embarrassed. My husband was ready to insist of course I was her mommy, and I stopped him again.

I told him I would rather her joyfully claim having 2 moms than feel any ounce of shame over loving us both.

I explained to my daughter that because Jackie was her mommy when she was in her tummy, and I am her mommy in life, that makes us both a mommy to her. And that it was ok to love us both.

She looked relieved when I gave her that permission. Then she asked if she could make Jackie a video.

For 4.5 years I have worried how my heart might react to conversations like these and I have prayed regularly for wisdom.  When it came down to it, though, it was easier than I expected.

It's important for me remember, as well as my husband, that her questions are in no way meant to hurt me. The last thing my precious little girl would want to do is hurt her mommy.  I know that.  Yet, the way I respond to them CAN and will hurt her, if I let myself take them personally.

I will keep on praying for wisdom and strength for when more questions come. And I will keep praying for the ability to lovingly and selflessly help her process through them.  I mess things up a lot as a mom, because I am normal.  But It is because I love her so much, that I have to get this one very right.

Rachel is a 32 year old mom with 6 kids married to the best man she knows, Joey. Her kids are 2,4,7,16,20, and 21. God keeps bringing them teens and asking them to adopt them. Like crazy people, they keep saying yes. What could seem like the worst possible age to adopt in the world, has become God's beautiful redemption story playing out right before their very eyes. And it is good.

Love is a Sacrifice

by Jen

I have had a lot of things in the foster care world lately bring my thoughts to how crucial sacrifice is to the success of relationships. Not just any kind of sacrifice, but self sacrifice. If we really think about it most kids are in care because their parent(s) hold something in a higher place of priority over their children. Whether its drugs, anger resulting in abuse, girlfriends/boyfriends or spouses, those things take the priority over making sure that their child is safe and cared for. We see time and time again how hard it is for the parents to break that cycle. And how foreign it is to think first about the child's needs. Yet that is exactly what has to be done to heal that relationship.

As foster parents we have no choice but to sacrifice for each and every child in our home. Our world is turned on end and we MUST hold on and fight for order, for love, for healing and for that child to be the priority. Sometimes that is a uphill battle! Sometimes we are fighting alone. While our case workers want what is best for the child, sometimes their hands are tied by laws that protect the parents, rights. And don't get me wrong they should! But this is where we have to lay down our biggest sacrifice. We have to fight alongside those parents!! We have to be on their team! They need to see examples of love and sacrifice in order to learn that lesson themselves. Putting those children first means that we put aside our personal feelings of anger. We take ourselves off of our pedestals and see the parents for what WE are, flawed human beings, full of sin and in need of grace.

Our priority will always be the child. And our lives will always be filled with sacrifice. We are going to swallow the pain and take every nasty word thrown at us by a hurting child. We will listen to every suggestion from a mom who hasn't learned how to parent, and thank her, because at least she is trying... even if it is just trying to prove she is better than you. We will sacrifice sleep to calm a scared child or to sooth a baby withdrawing from drugs. These are the things we signed up for.  This has to be our focus. When we let our eyes shift from this goal it's easy to let our own desires creep in and stand in the way. It isn't easy to protect our hearts. Most of the time they will break a little. But the heart is a muscle and the more we break it down and build it back up the stronger it becomes. So keep making the sacrifice. Love BIG and give all you have. These kids deserve every bit of it. Their little love tanks have been running on empty for a long time. Love might be sacrifice, but the sacrifice is worth it!

Jennifer is a 40 yr. old wife and stay at home mom. She has been married to Ryan for 18 years. Their 4 children joined their family though international and foster adoption. Together they have fostered for 8 years and welcomed over 70 children into their home. Jennifer has a love for travel, her big crazy family, and tiramisu.