Following the Call #6 – Back to School We Go

Throughout the last 6 years, I have watched many of my friends and family experience the joy of becoming parents. Not even one, felt like they had it all together or knew what they were doing. The phrase I remember most, and to be honest dislike was, “You just can’t fully grasp what it is to be a parent until you are one”. And I knew it was true.

My career has been working with children, from teaching Sunday school to running after-school programs with at-risk youth to becoming a teacher and now a parent of children who have experienced trauma. It was and is my best career choice. I have a degree in psychology and a good portion of that degree are child development classes. I even studied and wrote papers on attachment theory in foster and adopted children. The list could go on and on of why I think I am so prepared for becoming a parent, especially an adoptive or foster parent. I’m sure all of those things were great things to do, but in the end they don’t actually matter. A person that did none of those things still would end up in the same, “You just can’t fully grasp what it is to be a parent until you are one” circumstance.

Our adoption agency knows that truth, and prepped us for it. Thankfully they did not just leave us there to ponder our inadequacies. They prepped us with great classes that gave us practical knowledge of what to do when you finally realize you know NOTHING. We took five classes and each class focused on something different.

img_0750

The first class was orientation. It gave an introduction to our agency and what it means to foster/adopt from the foster care system. Helpful Hint: many people suggest going to multiple orientations for different agencies to see which one is the best fit for you. It is a very helpful class for understanding the basics of the process, feeling comfortable with the system, and shows if the agency is a good fit.

Next we took a safe sleep class. It focused on safe sleeping conditions, babies that have experienced drugs and alcohol in the womb, and shaken baby syndrome. The class was emotionally difficult to sit through, but helpful and informative…and just a tiny bit repetitive. We also did a CPR and first aid class. Part of the class was online and part in person, like many CPR classes.

The other two classes were called Child Focused and Parent Focused training. I found these classes to be very helpful. We were given good information in the child focused class on how to treat and interact with children of trauma. Discipline and attachment were major areas of focus as well. It also gave us the perspective of a child going through the system, which is heartbreaking. In the parent focused training, we discussed the emotions we could experience and positive ways to deal with them.

One thing I did not expect to take away from this training was seeing things through the eyes of the biological parents. Creating compassion and understanding in a place where I honestly struggled to feel any. In both trainings we were able to discuss interracial adoption and the implication for children and families. It really gave us the opportunity to research and discuss how to best honor children from a different race or culture.

Overall the classes were extremely beneficial. Although they can seem long and sometimes repetitive, the information I walked away with was more helpful than anything else. It also was a great starting point for my own research in parenting children of trauma.

Once we finished the paperwork and classes, we only had one step left to becoming certified…the home study!

Following the Call – They’re HERE!!!

img_1742

We are so thrilled to announce that our sweet sweet children are home and finally in our arms!!!! After a few long weeks of traveling and visiting they are HERE.

 

img_1751

We have three adorable little girls, four and under.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for and supporting us through this process. I will be getting back to sharing the process of our foster adoption and will share more detail on how we got to this point. We also would like to ask for your help and understanding with our sweet little ones. They are easily overwhelmed by meeting new people and are just learning that we are their new parents. As we build trust and attachment in our relationships with them we ask that you be patient as we very slowly introduce them to each of you. When we are able to introduce you or if we happen to see you out and about please don’t rush up to them, pick them up, or put them in your laps. Please ask them and us before you hug them.

We love you all so much and we are so excited to share this journey with you! Thank you so much for all of your love, prayers, and understanding.

Following the Call #5 – Mounds of Paperwork

Devastated. That is how I felt after finding out we would have to wait a quarter of a year to take the classes we needed to move forward. I was under the impression that we had to take the classes before we could begin the process of becoming certified to foster and adopt. Never have I been so thankful to be wrong!

We were quickly assured that we would have plenty to do while we waited! We had mounds and mounds of paperwork to look forward to. Paperwork that exposed all of our “deep dark secrets”. We had three packets to complete. Packet one (the application) was complete before we found out that we would miss the classes. Then we had packet two…oh packet two…the exposing packet! Packet two was fun. It asks tons of questions about marriage, the good, bad, and ugly. I mean it dives right in, sex life and all! This packet also asks a billion questions about your parents, your upbringing, and your always fun and entertaining teen years. The best part of this lovely form was that 90% of the questions were multiple choice. No need to explain your answers here…

Fost/adopt is not for the faint of heart or those looking to hide from their past. This is authenticville, the open book lifestyle! Thankfully I am open to a fault and maybe overshare on occasion. Packet two was long and it was an individual packet so Luke and I had our own. SO. MANY. QUESTIONS. I may have been a little nervous to turn it in. I mean do they read the answers to the questions about the teenage years? That can’t still be held against me right?!?!? Just kidding. I wasn’t a rebellious teen by any means, but still teenagers are crazyville. They aren’t fully baked.

When we turned in packet two and no one told us to take a hike, we moved on to packet three. Now I have to say, I am list person and Koinonia was very kind to supply me with the ultimate list. Packet three had the most things to check-off, so naturally it was my favorite. It also had way less questions and a lot more things to do. We had to get fingerprinted twice for the foster care and adoption background checks (please do not believe that California shares fingerprints you have to get different ones done for everything). The prints are the most expensive part of getting certified, I think Luke and I paid around $150 each. That is one of the very few things that we had to pay for.

We also had to get our DMV records ($5 each), take a CPR class ($50 each), and pay co-pays for our physicals ($20 each + blood work cost). Yes, you have to get a physical to adopt! They gotta make sure you are healthy enough to chase after little ones! That is basically the total cost we accrued through the certification process. We did have to spend some money to get our house up to home study standards, but that cost will depend on what you already have in your house and usually isn’t much (more on this later).

Packet three also required us to draw up floor plans for our house and yard, make an emergency contact list, write rules for our home, name someone guardian of our kids if we croak, get vaccine records for the pups, prove our income and employment, make a detailed financial statement, and I am sure there’s other stuff I am missing…

IMG_0932

I was so anxious to check things off our list that I may have become a little bit of a stalker. I definitely called our doctor’s office a few hundred times and might have camped out in their office on a Friday afternoon to make sure they gave us the LAST piece of paperwork that we needed before they closed. I’m pretty sure the receptionist thought I lost my mind. She might have contemplated calling security when the words, “I will wait as long as it takes” escaped my lips. They were already closed at that point.

In my defense, that piece of paperwork was SUPER important, it meant we could start the home study process. So ya know, it had to be done because waiting until Monday sounded like eons of torture. Plus I was fairly confident the Lord would do what He needed to do to slowdown this crazy train if He wanted to, even if I was camped out in my doctor’s office.

Did I mention waiting isn’t my strong suit?

Following the Call #4 – Applications and Orientations

I hate unfinished things…I think I might have mentioned that before. It’s this weird feeling I have, like things aren’t real until they are actually complete. I can’t get excited about going to Disneyland until I am standing in the park. I can’t believe I am going on an international adventure until the plane lands in another country. That’s just how I am about pretty much everything. This drives Luke CRAZY he is excited about the thought of any of these things!

With the adoption process, I have struggled THE. ENTIRE. TIME. It was difficult for me to even tell people about what we were doing at times because it hadn’t happened yet. I didn’t want to get excited and I didn’t want others to get excited, until and unless it was really happening.

Once we decided to get started and picked Koinonia we emailed the Resource Parent Coordinator. She is the sweetest and most helpful woman you could meet. We received a response from her right away. She let us know that the next orientation meeting was a couple days away, January 21st! YEAH!!! Perfect timing!!! I was so excited!! No waiting was the best part.

The orientation was exhilarating! We were FINALLY starting, actually doing something to fulfill this calling I’d felt for so long. Don’t get me wrong it was a lot scary, very informative, and made the whole process seem so much more real. Yay!

In the meeting, they gave us tons of information on the process, told us the different avenues we could take, and answered so many of our questions. It was a great meeting! We were rearing to go after the meeting and couldn’t wait for the next step.

That step was to fill out the application, easy enough right? This application was intense. We needed references, information about family, normal application stuff, and it was 17 pages long! After turning in the application, we were told our next step was to take three classes. Two out of the three classes were 4 hours long and focused on learning about foster/adopted children. The other class was 8 hours long and focused on how to parent. The classes are given once a quarter and they happened to be the following 3 weeks!

I was so excited to have the timeline falling so perfectly into place, but this is a story about God’s plan, waiting on Him, and of course adoption! NONE of the classes would work with Luke’s work schedule. So we tried to go to the Koinonia branch in Bakersfield for those classes and they didn’t work either. That was such a testament to the Lord’s timing. Luke’s boss has been so incredibly flexible and helpful through this process!

I was so angry, frustrated, and just really really down that we wouldn’t begin these classes until the end of April/beginning of May. It really didn’t fit with the timeline I had in my head and I hated feeling the pause button being pressed again.

For still the vision awaits its appointed  time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. (4)

BUT deep down I felt peace and knew this was God’s way of setting the timing just right to make His plan for us spring into action. It is so funny how we can feel so many emotions at once and still know and believe that God’s plan is working in our lives.

My word of advice to myself and anyone else that might need it, trust His plan more than you trust those ever changing, flimsy feelings.

 

 

Following the Call – The Decision to Start #3

IMG_0034

One year ago, almost to the day, our journey towards adopting started. I was getting ready to start a new school year. As I sat on my bed prepping and watching TV, a commercial for an online school came on and I had the strongest feeling that the Lord was telling me this would be my last year teaching. I was very excited about going back to school and so I shook it off, thinking that can’t be right!

As the school year continued, more and more signs started popping up, it was a rough year to say the least. The year started with severe behavior issues, difficulties with parents, and quite a few CPS calls. Interacting with CPS and having to put a student in a cop car, in September, that would take her to a foster family was really heart-wrenching. I didn’t know if I would ever see that student again or what the family would be like and she kept asking if she could come home with me. That broke my heart.

Luke drove right over to the school and comforted me. His first response when I told him the story was, “Is that an option? Could we actually take her?”. We weren’t approved, plus we lived with Luke’s parents at the time, so it didn’t seem like a possibility. But at that moment I knew we needed to start praying about adopting from the foster care system in the very near future.

Our dear friends, Russell and Janna, began the process to fost/adopt shortly after that day. I was so ridiculously excited for them and a teeny bit jealous. Luke and I started picking their brains, maybe annoyingly. We wanted to know everything about the process!

The school year continued down a sad road, I called CPS several more times on many different students. I really started to fall into a dark sad place realizing what some of my students and their families go through. God really used that dark place to lead Luke and me.

In January, Luke and I started researching adoption agencies. I had always thought that you only used an agency if you were adopting out of the country or if you were doing a private adoption. I also thought that if you used an agency, that you would have to pay agency fees. That is NOT the case. We found out from Russell and Janna that there are agencies that you can use free of charge for adoptions through the foster care system. On a side not, I just want to let you know adopting from the foster care system is very low cost (I will cover cost in depth in another post). These agencies help people to navigate through child protective services, educate, and teach what to expect.

After researching for a week or so we decided to use the same agency as Russell and Janna, Koinonia Family Services. We know a lot of people that have used Koinonia and loved them! We were ready to get started!

Waiting, Just Wait

Writing clears my head and on a day like today, it really needs clearing. See everything seems very frazzled and half done. I hate half done things. Half done things stress me out, give me anxiety, and make me want to finish the task at all costs. I’m also a detail-oriented person, most likely to a fault. Maybe even a very big fault. But see details don’t really go with half done things.

Life is changing and lets be real, life is always changing. ALWAYS…but sometimes the changes are small and gradual. Like a slow, tiny, barely noticeable drip of the faucet over years. Yes, the dripping may be annoying, but after a while it fades into background noise, maybe you don’t even notice it anymore. You, especially if you’re like me DO notice it, but its not the end of the world. It happens. Its life.

The kind of change that is happening this year though, isn’t like that at all. It’s that weird kind of change that feels really fast and really REALLY slow all at the same time. It is also the kind where you know nothing, or very little will be the same after it happens. I find myself in a constant state of I CANNOT WAIT ANY LONGER!!!! I’m so excited and happy and joyful and thankful and just AHHHHHH, WHOOHOOO, FINALLY!! Yet, at the same time ohmygosh, fear, worry, anxiety, can I even do this, am I ready for this, are we ready for this, what’s going to happen, will my heart be ripped out and stomped on, are we insane, are we equipped for this, God are you sure we can handle this? And those are just the thoughts I have in a one minute time frame.

Well, here’s the thing, I don’t actually have any doubt at all that this is what God wants us to do. With the details and the when, you can just call me Doubting Thomas, but with the actual main event there isn’t a single doubt in my mind that God has called us to do this. So unlike me, I know! Don’t worry though I am most certainly still me am I going to do it well and all those other thoughts I listed above are still fully active. But the thing that is making me crazy and frazzled is that I have done all I can do.

And you know the worst best part?!?!?! I am not actually waiting on any people. I am waiting on my God, my Lord, my Father, my Savior and He has quietly and gently said wait my child, I’ve got it all under control. And I know He does, I know He knows best, and loves me deeply.

He even sent me a very special verse, He sweetly tucked it in my heart and mind. You know it’s special when I didn’t even have to try to memorize it. I read it once and it stuck and He repeats it to me over and over. I can honestly say I’m not sure I wanted it…not even a little bit (read more about that here), but even now He whispers, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). I don’t like it, I don’t want to wait. I want to KNOW because knowing I can plan for, knowing I can prepare my heart for. In the knowing, I don’t need God as much or should I say, I surely don’t rely on Him as much.

Psalm 27-14

Trust is a funny thing. I want so desperately to trust the Lord whole-heartedly and every time I think I’ve got it down He shows me another area I haven’t fully given Him my trust in. He wants it all, my whole heart and I keep praying I learn to trust Him fully. I guess He’s going to really see me through on that prayer! And I am just so very thankful for that. For right now, I wait. I rely on Him for my strength, I remember He’s got this, and I wait.

*I wrote this a couple of months ago and it is still so true today. A friend recently told me how important it is for us to learn how to wait on the Lord. It is such a difficult, but important lesson to learn. Wait on the Lord, for He is good!

America the Afraid

I spent a lot of the last few weeks crying. Crying because I cry a lot, I’m really emotional, hate violence, and frankly nothing else seemed right, there aren’t any easy fixes. Heck there are very few difficult fixes, actually only one, His name is Jesus.  I cry out to God to understand, to hear His heart on these matters. All I hear is pain, hurt, sadness and I sit here confused. Why? Why does this keep happening? Why so much pain, so much violence. I know we live in a fallen world and sin will always be here until Jesus comes. BUT we are called, all of us who claim to love Christ, to make disciples.

My heart is sick. Sick for the families and friends of the men shot by police, the police shot, the terrorist attacks, and for all of the outright meanness and complete lack of empathy and love that I have seen on social media and heard people speak. It makes me so sad and frankly nervous. Can we really have our heads buried so far in the sand that we actually believe that only our own feelings have value? That only our experiences speak of reality? That if it doesn’t happen to us or in front of us it doesn’t exist? I won’t pretend that I haven’t been guilty of those thoughts. I think if we are all honest with ourselves it is most difficult to step outside of ourselves and try to understand someone that has experienced things that we never can, because our worldview is colored by the experiences we have and the experiences of those closest to us. Our worldview then frequently dictates our feelings.

Feelings are the most complicated pieces of human beings. We all have them and they are all our own. You should NOT under any circumstances to be in control of someone else’s feelings. You can try to manipulate someone’s feelings (but don’t because that would make you a jerk or a politician), but you cannot control them. It is often difficult to be in control of our very own feelings. Yet most of the arguments I have seen on social media are trying to tell people how to feel. Don’t be upset they deserved it, don’t feel angry, don’t feel that because I don’t feel the same way you do, don’t feel that because I don’t like how it makes me feel. Just don’t feel anything I don’t like, understand, or that will make me uncomfortable. That CANNOT be our response as Christians to anyone on any side of this discussion.

Now some people will try to argue “facts”. I have two things to say to that… the “facts” are different depending on who your listening to and are often interpreted by our worldview. And if you have a close relationship with anyone and have been in an argument with them you KNOW that people don’t just feel things because of the “facts”. Frequently the “facts” in an argument, where someone is hurt, are not the most important part. My point here is not to say anything about the facts in these cases, but to say that the people we are arguing with have feelings. They are real people, they have real experiences, and those experiences may be things you can never experience. So let’s stop letting a computer or phone screen make us forget that and let’s not hide behind the so called facts. Could we honestly tell the crying son of Alton Sterling that he really shouldn’t say Black Lives Matter, shouldn’t call this racism, or be worried about cop brutality? Could we really tell this cop he shouldn’t cry over his fallen cop friends because cops deserve it?

UnknownScreen Shot 2016-07-08 at 6.38.04 PM

 

 

 

 

I surely hope we wouldn’t be able to. I hope that once we were face-to-face with people we would be able to listen, try to understand, and put aside our own thoughts and feelings and really hear someone else’s heart. The same goes for our “friends” on Facebook that have different opinions than than we do. The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18. And healing is what we all really need. 

The anger has to stop. Why are we all so angry? Stop and think about that rant you just went on or that angry post you just shared and really ask yourself, why am I so angry and what is my anger doing to further the Kingdom of God and to help others? The funny thing is anger is a secondary emotion. That means anger stems from something else, most likely fear, hurt, or sadness.

So what are we afraid of and will being angry really help to fix that problem? Let’s stop being angry and get to the core of the matter. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9. We need to figure out where our fear comes from because we have been commanded not to be afraid, but to be strong and courageous. Being strong and courageous in this situation may mean swallowing our fear, trusting God, and hearing someone else’s pain, even when it cases us pain. 

Would we yell at someone that said they were hurt, sad, or afraid? Probably not. Hopefully not. So let’s stop hiding behind the anger and violence and start talking about why we are all so afraid and what we can do to ease each others fear, hurt, and pain. Let’s not only talk, but start listening, let’s stop thinking we’re righteous because the “facts” are on our side (There is no one righteous; not even one. Romans 3:10), please don’t forget whose we are or who makes us righteous…hint hint it isn’t you or me, and please show the love, compassion, and empathy of Christ. Our angry posts and violence are never going to make disciples and neither will demanding our way.