Training Day 1

We made it! Our first day of training was today. It was a long day and pretty overwhelming – but very informational and most of all exciting. Like I’ve mentioned before, we have training five Saturday’s in a row. There are two sessions each Saturday: 9-12 and 1-4. They give us an hour for lunch each week. 

Here are the highlights from today..

The people:

  • There were 21 potential foster parents there. I believe that three of them were making up sessions from a previous training, so there are 18 in our class. 
  • They all seem great! Tons of Christians and they were very open about that. It was amazing to be able to talk to and hear from people that are going through the same process and can really understand and relate to each other. 
  • I am pretty sure we are the youngest. There were three other young couples, but I think they were older than us. Most people are already parents and have older children. One couple has young children, and three couples have already had experience fostering or are fostering right now. So while we can relate to everyone in some ways, we still seem to be unique in the group. 
  • There are three trainers. I loved them all, but I’m most excited that one of them is a current foster parent. 

The process: 

  • Apparently, we were misinformed at the informational meeting. We were told that from the moment we turned in our initial paperwork (early January), that it would take about three months to get licensed. This was when we were told that they try to do home studies and interviews while you are in training. They do try to do that, but the timeline is more like three months from when you start training. To be fair, I think the woman at the informational meeting may have just misunderstood our question. She may have been talking about paperwork we fill out during training. Regardless, we are looking at around June to be licensed. After the shock wore off (because I’ve been scrambling to get clothes and rooms ready thinking we had six weeks), a voice of reason set in and I realized this is a good thing. In June, school will be winding down and I’ll have much more time at home to be with children. It also gives us six more weeks to prepare our house and our rooms. If it happens to be earlier, great! But right now we are just trusting God.. and we were warned we may be told this because apparently things change very quickly with this process and lots of things could make it take longer. 
  • Trainings are broken down into topics. Some of them include: permanency, discipline, working with parents, dealing with trauma, and working with the court system.
  • Next week focuses on the home study, interviews, and health inspections. After that we should be assigned a social worker. 
  • The last session will be amazing! Foster parents, former foster children, and biological parents that have had children in the system will come share their stories with us. Everyone brings a dish to share for lunch, they set up this panel for questions, and we celebrate! 

The heartbreak: 

  • We spent a lot of today doing activities that gave us an idea of what these children go through when being taken from their parents and their homes. It was extremely difficult to think about, but led to a lot of great conversations about hope and the future. 
  • Need was talked about again and again. There are just not enough foster homes. We heard stories about siblings being split up and how that’s one of the worst possible things that can happen to these children. 
  • We watched THIS video.. Which will break your heart make you want to go scoop these kids up and love them forever. 

On a more positive note.. we heard so many success stories. About 40-45% of foster children end up reuniting with their birth parents. 25% end up being adopted by an extended family member. Our trainer that fosters, she gave me hope. She talked about giving up the infants she’s loved and cared for, and spoke to how difficult it was. Then she told us all about how those children refer to her as Aunt now and she sees them often. She said that she not only gained these children into her family, but now their parents as well. It was such a touching story and a beautiful testament to how the system can help heal. 

By the way..there is a Part 2 of the Removed video. It’s called Remember My Story. 

Thanks for being on this journey with us! 

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Quote Challenge Day 3

Ten days later.. and I’m finally making moves to finish the last day of the quote challenge. Needless to say I failed the challenge, but hey, it inspired me to write more. Tomorrow Mike and I start foster care training. And tonight I am feeling all the feels. Here is the poem that I kept crossing my mind..

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson

There are a lot of changes that will be happening in my life. In the next few months, I’m most likely going to be a parent. In the next year, I’m most likely starting a new teaching position. These two things have been on the forefront of my mind this week, because of an opportunity that was presented at work, and because training starts up tomorrow. And my mind has been playing the what if game lately:

What if my children don’t like me?
What if I can’t handle the behaviors they may have?
What if they don’t feel loved by me?
What if I can’t give them all they need?

What if I’m making the wrong decision?
What if I don’t succeed with a new position?
What if my new teammates don’t like me?
What if I can’t start from scratch again?

Basically.. what if I fall? 

By letting myself feel these thoughts, spend time thinking of these fears, and buying into the negativity that surrounds it.. I’ve already decided that I’m going to fail. And that’s not okay. Today I’ve felt inspired, encouraged, and positive. And I am choosing to reject the negative thoughts and emotions that come with both (and any more) of the changes that are going to happen in my life.

Yes, I might fail. In fact, I know I will at times. But.. I’m choosing to think of new what ifs tonight:

What if I move to the grade I’m meant to be in?
What if I’m exactly what these children need?
What if my life and the lives I touch are changed forever?
What if God is pushing me and challenging me in ways I never imagined?
What if I love my new position?
What if these children get to experience new opportunities because of me?

Basically.. what if I fly?

I know God’s plans are better than any of my own. And I know he wants to see us all fly.

Quote Challenge Day 2

So…clearly I have already failed at this three day quote challenge. I didn’t post three days in a row. Life happened, as it always does, and I didn’t make the time. However I still plan on completing the challenge by posting about two more quotes. Here is the quote I chose for today:

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”   E.E. Cummings

My first thought about this quote is that it makes you think about people. The people that have helped shape who you are, the people that inspire you, challenge you, encourage you. E. E. Cummings is saying that we don’t believe in ourselves until someone shows us that we are worthy and valuable. I agree with that completely. Immediately, some students come to mind. Between teaching, subbing, and being a Young Life leader, I’ve watched kids of all ages struggle with their sense of worth. There are kids that don’t feel like they can do anything, kids that don’t think they will have friends, kids that don’t think they will ever succeed. I’ve witnessed teachers, mentors, and leaders change lives for these kids just by being there for them and being a part of their lives. Sometimes all it takes is one person. And it breaks my heart to think that not everyone has that person. Which leads me to.. who did this for me? There are so many people that have made an incredible impact on my life.. my parents, my Young Life leaders, my mentor, my friends, and when I finally understood what Jesus did for me – God. All of these people have helped and continue to help me realize my worth and my value. So, who am I doing this for?  Many people have believed in me… who am I believing in? My prayer would be that I am doing this for my students, my friends, my family, my future foster children. But I am realizing that I am not as intentional as I should be with the people I love. I’m feeling this overwhelming sense of urgency to let the people I love know the meaning they’ve had in my life – and to let them know that they’re worth it and that I believe in them, too. Actions speak so much louder than words, and I don’t think my actions have been supporting my words with some of my relationships lately. Add that to the list of why I am a work in progress.

The second part of the quote cannot go unnoticed. “..Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” This is the effect of the first half of the quote. Someone believed in you.. now you can fly. Because someone told or showed you that you are worthy and that you have value.. you are more likely to take risks. It’s a beautiful thing. Thinking of some of the risks I’ve taken or some of the scariest journeys I’ve jumped into (foster care being my latest), I see this quote come alive. It’s taken me years to really understand my identity, my value, my worth. But I would not be living the way I am living if I didn’t believe in myself and if I didn’t know my identity in the Lord. And the reason I do know those things is because of the people who were there for me, who showed up, who refused to let me see myself in any other way. I’m forever grateful for those people.

I’m challenged by this quote. Challenged to be that person for others. Challenged to reach out to the people who helped shaped me. I hope you’re challenged too!

 

Quote Challenge Day 1

Want to hear something exciting? Okay! Today I found out a few people I don’t know are actually reading this blog about my thoughts and my life. How cool is that?! Maybe I am a nerd, but I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Earlier this afternoon, a blogger I’ve been following tagged me in the Quote Challenge. The challenge is to post about a quote each day and then ask other bloggers to do the same. I’ve decided to accept this challenge for a few reasons. First of all, I love me a good quote. Being a book lover, the possibilities for this seem endless. Second of all, someone I don’t know personally challenged me, and I love that. Third of all, it’s an excuse to keep writing. I know I don’t need an excuse but confession: I’ve felt a little annoying posting again and again without much of a purpose (except that I love it), so I’m thrilled for an excuse. So here goes..

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
–Dumbledore, The Sorcerer’s Stone (written by J.K. Rowling)

I knew the moment I read the challenge that Harry Potter would be referenced. As my favorite book series.. I figured it was only fitting. It took me a while to think about what quote I wanted to use. There are so many to choose from,  but obviously I wanted it to have a personal meaning. In an effort to be as transparent as possible – I chose this quote because I struggle with it. I am a dreamer and I always have been. It’s one of those things that I truly believe is both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing: I have lots of goals and aspirations. I’ve always loved thinking about the future – and I never really feared it (and those of you that know me know that I fear a lot of things). To me, the future was (and is) full of endless possibilities and I could do whatever I wanted. Because of these dreams, I’ve done some pretty amazing things. My dream of going to Africa came true – twice. My dream of becoming a teacher and having my own classroom. My dream of getting married and owning a home with the man I love. My dream of taking on leadership roles in ministry. I could go on and on. The life I live today.. I’ve spent a lot of time dreaming of it.

A curse: Sometimes I don’t feel satisfied and I start wanting more. What’s next? I graduated college – I needed to get a job immediately. Got a job – but I still needed to get the classroom I always imagined. Got the classroom – and now I find myself wondering what’s next again. This goes for everything: Dated Mike, got married, got a dog, bought a house, got another dog, now what? I know these aren’t bad things.. and I know I’m living the life God planned for me. And I love it. But I also know that I’ve wasted a LOT of time dwelling on dreams and not living in the moment. I’ve planned many road trips and adventures that have not happened. I’ve talked about moving states and that has not happened. I’ve talked about joining things, starting things, etc. And I think (or maybe hope) this is normal, but I am really trying to become more aware of it. How much did I miss out on during my engagement because I was too busy dreaming about the wedding (and life after the wedding)? What am I missing out on now when I’m busy dreaming about the days we have children in our home (literally – it’s all mapped out in my head – 4 girls..)?

Don’t get me wrong, I will always be a dreamer. It’s something I actually like about myself. But I do want to find the balance of it all. There are so many good things ahead of me, but I need to take more time to be present. To be content in the moment. Because really, what’s happening now may never happen again. And it is good.

In Harry Potter, this quote is used in reference to the Mirror of Erised. This mirror shows the “deepest, most desperate desires of our hearts.” When Dumbledore finds out that Harry is visiting the mirror frequently, he had it moved and asked Harry not to look for it. Even though I know it’s good to have dreams, I don’t want to get stuck sitting in front of my Mirror of Erised.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
–Dumbledore, The Sorcerer’s Stone (written by J.K. Rowling)

 

 

 

 

Q & A Part 2

I posted a few weeks ago about some of the questions Mike and I got when we first announced we were going to pursue fostering. Since then, we’ve gotten a lot more. We can’t express how much we appreciate the comments, phone calls, emails, texts, etc. It’s amazing to me how interested people are – and I’ve been shocked to hear that lots of people we know and love have either been involved in the foster care system or hope to be one day. So again, thank you for all your support! And here are some answers to all that you’ve asked:

How long will each child stay with you?
We don’t know. It will vary case to case. We have heard stories of families that have had placements as short as a week to placements that ended up staying for years (or forever). It really just depends.

How much will you know about each child?
I don’t know the answer to this question either. Again, I think it will vary case to case. However, I will say that whatever we do know is confidential. Our future foster children’s stories belong to them and not us. We will never give details about why these children are in our care, their biological parents, their history, etc. Those are not our stories to share.

Tell me the truth.. are you hoping to adopt?
Like I stated in one of my previous posts, the foster care system is not about adoption. The goal is reunification of families. We are beginning this journey with that mindset and we want to stay focused on that. Yes, everyone knows I hope to adopt one day. I’ve always talked about adopting from Africa, and if that’s where God leads then we will pursue that.  Right now we feel called to foster and we are going to be faithful in that. If we have a placement that’s case changes to adoption, of course we will consider it. We want to grow our family however God intends us to. But right now, we are most excited about reuniting families.

Are you going to still have biological kids?
Yes? Maybe? One day? This is a hard question for me. A lot of you know that my answer changes to that all the time. In the past when people asked me when Mike and I were going to try my answer would vary anywhere from 1-5 years. The soonest we were ever planning on even talking about trying was going to be after 2 years of marriage (which hasn’t happened yet, by the way). Biological children is on the backburner for us now. The answer is YES we are definitely going to try to have biological children one day. Everyone knows I have a weird obsession with pregnancy and I am hoping to one day experience that. However, I can’t say yes or no we definitely are or aren’t, because that’s not up to us. We are just going to have to see how everything plays out!

Do you have a preference of what children you’ll receive?
I think I may have answered this question in my first post, so sorry if I am being repetitive. Right now, we are planning on accepting up to 2 children ages 0-3. We decided to go younger (we first thought 0-5), and we want to accept up to 2 because there is a large amount of sibling groups in the system. This does not mean we will always have 2 children with us within those ages. Whenever a placement is available and we have the space in our home, we will get a phone call. We will get whatever information they have about the child or children and we will have the opportunity to say yes or no. Even if we say we only want up to 2, they could call us about a sibling group of 3.

How will you not get attached? How will you give them up?
We plan on getting attached. That is what these children need.. and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Foster parenting is not about children just having a bed to sleep in. It’s about being a family, providing a safe place, being consistent, loving, growing, learning together.. everything that comes with raising a child. These children will be loved and cherished and we will consider them our own. When the time comes for these children to be reunited with their parents, we will celebrate. And we will grieve. And we will heal. God is so much bigger than any emotions we have that we feel might break us.

What do you need?
SO many people have asked this and we are in awe of your kind hearts and generosity. Right now, we are just starting to get rooms ready. We are praying this is not too premature – because we definitely aren’t licensed yet – but were told that many people begin doing this when they are signed up for training. The two spare bedrooms we have are being converted into a toddler room and a nursery. Thankfully, we already have all the furniture we need for both. Our goal for the next few weeks is to start collecting clothes for newborns – 3 years old. A lot of people I’ve talked to have bins for each age group and keep them organized by season, size, gender, etc. So if you know of anyone getting trying to sell some clothes at a reasonable price – please send them our way! Other than that, we haven’t really started figuring out what else we need. I mean, we know we need things, but we are trying to get through our list one big item at a time and right now it’s clothing.

How can we support you?
Similar the last question, and again we are so grateful for that. Right now, we are asking for continued prayers. We want our hearts to be prepared for this journey we are about to go on. We want all of the children in the foster system to have people praying for them daily. This week, I’ve focused on praying for parents that have children in the system. I would love to have people praying for these parents alongside me.

I think that’s all for now! Feel free to ask more questions, if you have them. And thanks for being a part of our journey!

 

Valentines Day and Priorities

At 24 years old, I still haven’t decided how I really feel about Valentines Day. I guess I’m just indifferent about it. Mike and I celebrated once while dating, and we haven’t really celebrated since. It’s not that I think there is something wrong with Valentines Day – it’s just that I want to be celebrating the love I have for those around me every day. However, I do know that is easier said than done and it is nice that there is a day devoted to the people you love.

When I became a Christian, my thoughts on Valentines Day started changing. Every year I find myself reading posts on the internet from people saying they are:

  1. so thankful to have found their soul-mate
  2. can’t live without their significant other
  3. love each other more than anything else in this world

…etc, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, stalk me long enough and I know you will find posts where I have said things along these lines. I am not trying to offend anyone here, I’ve just been trying to change my mindset and I am curious if anyone else feels the same. I want my love for the Lord to be greater than my love for any human, including my husband. And I know Mike would want that for me as well. I adore Mike and we love our life together. But when someone mentions love, I want my first thought to be about the Lord. I want this for a few reasons..

  1. “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
    God was first. The only reason I can love Mike, my friends, my parents, is because He loved me first. He demonstrated that love by creating me, dying for me, and giving me this crazy, difficult, wonderful life I have. I would not be able to love Mike the way that I do if I didn’t have some sort of understanding of the unconditional love God has for me.
  2. “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:37-39
    People debate this scripture all the time. I am sure it may mean something different to you than it does to me. For me, it’s clear. We are not being told we cannot love our family members, we are just being told that our love for God must come first. We must be willing to identify as a Christ follower more than we identify as a wife, mother, sister or friend.
  3. “And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”” Exodus 20:1-3
    We cannot put anything before God. Even if they are good things – jobs, kids, spouses, friends. God created these things to bring us joy, but we need to have priorities. And we need to ask ourselves what is really important in this life.

Let me be clear: I stink at this. I am work in progress, and most of the time the progress seems very slow. One step forward and two steps back type of thing. I worship things other than God on a daily basis. I find validation at work, in friendships, in comparing myself to others. I gossip, I’m negative, I struggle with anger and resentment. It’s hard to put God before all of these thoughts, feelings, and actions that I’m so accustomed to. Every night I am so thankful for grace and forgiveness because I know that I need a lot of it. And I know that I will always need it.

I am okay with owning my mistakes and admitting that I need grace. But I am not okay with staying where I am in these struggles. Being a follower of Jesus means that you are actively pursuing and trying to live like Jesus. Leading up to today I’ve thought and prayed a lot about this need to put God first in my life again. I’ve said it a million times before, and I know I’ll say it again.. but this time I want to have the mindset of one day at a time. Instead of me proclaiming, “From now on I’ll always put God first!” I am just thinking, “Today, I will think of God more than I did yesterday.” My hope and prayer would be that this leads to changes in my heart and the way I live my life.

I know this post was supposed to be about Valentines Day, but clearly other things were on my heart as well. Valentines Day can be great – and I hope everyone is out celebrating with those they love. However, don’t forget to take some time today to worship the One that created love.

 

Update: Invited to Training!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated – and not because I haven’t wanted to. This waiting part of the foster parent process has been difficult, but we’ve learned so much already. We’ve taken the time to study and process the paperwork and information we’ve been given, to reach out to support groups and friends/family that have fostered, and continued to pray, pray, pray. I went to an informational meeting in early January, we turned in our paperwork soon after, and then we just waited. And waited. Don’t get me wrong – I know that 3-4 weeks is NOT a long time. People in other states wanting to foster wait much longer before anything happens. However, I am not a patient person. And I was struggling. I knew the training started February 27th, and yesterday I couldn’t shake the feeling that we would not be accepted. I spent the day telling myself that if we had to wait until April or May for the next training it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I can picture God laughing at me as I was having this internal battle trying to convince myself that His plans are far better than my own and that He knows what He’s doing with my life.

At work today, I tried not to think about it much. Teaching is good like that – I never have much time to worry about things outside of my job. I did have a conversation with a coworker during lunch about how I’ve started setting up our two rooms extra bedrooms for future foster children. We were talking about home projects and I said I was struggling to get anything finished because I didn’t feel like I had any idea when I will need them to be ready. Well – after the students left I got my answer. We got the email we’ve been waiting for! You know, the one that starts with:

Congratulations! Your preliminary information has been reviewed and accepted. We would like to invite you to join our Foster Parent Program.

..and then you scream and run into the classroom across from yours because you just need a hug and someone to celebrate with you.

It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how much fear I had. Yes, we feel called to this. Yes, we think we are ready. But what if we were wrong? What if we aren’t good enough? What if they reject us? God immediately silenced the doubts I’ve been having with that email. Yes – things could still change or go wrong. We still have to get through training, interviews, home inspections, etc. But we were accepted. Things are moving forward. It’s a good feeling.

So – what’s next? Well, like I said before, training starts February 27th! We have eight hour training days five Saturday’s in a row. Someone told us that home studies, inspections, and interviews typically happen as we go through training. Meaning that when we wrap up our last session on March 26, we should (hopefully) be able to apply for our license shortly after. They say that our first placement (aka our first baby!?!) sometimes happens before we even receive our official license in the mail.

Guys, God answers prayers. I have the timeline I asked for. I have dates in mind and goals to reach when it comes to getting rooms ready and starting to prepare for kids. Mike and I are about to be busy list-making, thrift store shopping, baby proofing, and dreaming of what life will be like when we welcome some little’s into our home! We can’t wait.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all of your support over the past month. Your prayers, kind words, and encouragement have meant the world to us. Please continue to pray for us through this journey. And PLEASE pray for the children that will be placed in our home – in potentially as little as three months! We know that God already knows them by name and that He is preparing our hearts for what’s ahead.