No One Would Take Her

artur-aldyrkhanov-3bwMp-TyxOE-unsplash foster care photo

Last month was Foster Care Awareness Month. To be honest, I wouldn’t have known that if we weren’t a foster family. But I’m thinking, for those of us living in SoCal, it would be good for us to start paying more attention because Los Angeles has the highest number of foster children in the NATION!

The. Nation.

Thirty-thousand kids are currently in the foster care system in LA. I had no idea before I started this journey. Our sweet foster daughter is from LA, and they called us because NO ONE WOULD TAKE HER – This is common. There are not enough foster families in LA, so the overflow calls get sent to Orange County and beyond.

On a side note, she just turned one and we couldn’t be more in love with her! 

cara4

I’ve had a lot of people ask me what it’s like– if I’m worried how it will affect my kids, and how we’ll feel if she is reunified with her bio parents. I’ve found it’s common for people to misunderstand what foster is and assume we “get to keep her” now that she’s been placed with us. I shared many of the same misconceptions about the system before we started this journey, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the subject.😊

I’m attempting to keep this non-emotional (not a typical blog post for me!), and as informational as possible. However, this is how I perceive the information based on my personal experience with foster care thus far. Also, when I approached my Facebook Foster/Adoption group with the questions of misconceptions, there was a much longer list than what I’ve included here. This blog is just scraping the surface of a deep and complicated subject. But I will say, for the sake of complete transparency: The system is incredibly broken.

Misconceptions about Foster Care

  1. Foster care means adoption.

I’ve had well-meaning, precious people say, “Congratulations” …not understanding that a kid who has been removed from their bio parents by DCFS, was taken because they were in danger of, or were being neglected or abused. However, the goal of the foster care system (judges, attorneys, social workers, therapists, investigators, rehab centers, parent educators, foster families) is to reunify these precious kiddos to their biological families. Adoption is the last resort and a result of their biological family not being well enough or safe enough to take them back home. For most of the foster families I know, if the adoption took place, it took two to three years to finalize. I have friends who’ve had children living with them for two years, and then they reunite with their biological family.

2. Parents who have their kids taken by DCFS really don’t want their kids.

In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.  The court has given them a “case plan” designed (in theory) to provide them with the tools and healing to be the parents they want to be. I’ve heard many foster families say they wish they could take in the biological parents into their home, too. They need love and a family to support them. Unfortunately, with a large percentage of foster youth parents having been in the foster system themselves, that support is usually not set in place. And let’s be honest, no social worker, attorney, judge, or therapist can replace the healing power of a loving family, leading a child to a loving God.

3. Once you have a foster child in your home, you won’t have contact with the biological family besides court dates.

Biological parents are usually granted visitation with their children (even if they are in jail or rehab). We started with seeing our foster daughters’ mama four hours a week, then it was increased to nine hours a week. Some foster agencies will transport and monitor the visitation for the foster family. We, however, have been responsible for transporting and supervising the visitations for baby girls (until recently). The parents have court given time to work on their “case plan” and towards reunification–attending visitations and bonding with their children is typically part of that plan.

   4. Foster families are emotionally stronger than other families.

The number one comment I receive is, “I don’t know how you do it, I would get too attached.” Guess what? I am super attached. I’m no different than you, no foster family is. We aren’t stronger than anyone. Surrendered, yes. Strong, no. If you are a person who would get too attached, then guess what?! You’re the perfect candidate to be a foster parent. Attachment is what these kids need.

Things you may not know:

*Statistics from CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)

It means so much that you’re taking this journey with me.❤ I’d love to send you a FREE SEVEN-DAY DEVOTIONAL: CLICK HERE FOR DEVOTIONAL

Three Things to Do When You Can’t Plan the Future

img_9410

Knowing you may not hold someone you love for much longer leaves the days feeling fresh and fragile. I remember sitting next to my Poppa when he was passing away. I listened carefully for the next breath, knowing any moment the next breath wouldn’t come. I wanted to be with him, inhale deeply next to him, sing to him, pray with him, hold his hand while it was still warm.

I find myself watching our foster daughter with similar thoughts breaking ashore–just allow one more day with her; Father God, give me more than one more breath.

With our baby girl, I can only plan for her needs six months at a time…because that’s how long it is between court dates and decisions. I turned down bigger sized clothing, walkers, and high chairs when she was first placed with us. Now, I’m turning down toddler beds and trikes. I don’t plan for her life past April, our next court date. I find myself thinking, “this may be the last time we (fill in the blank) with this sweet girl.”

I’m waking up. I want to be as diligent and intentional to soak in every life around me, not just my foster daughter’s. We’re not guaranteed one more breath with anyone. Many of us know this truth well. Life can change in a flutter.

This journey has taught me to stand in awe, awakening to each day as one more gift from God. The sunrises are stunning, snoring husbands are cute instead of irritating, stinky soccer socks cause me to pause and give thanks for healthy children, and every baby milestone feels magical. Seriously. Baby girl shoving puffs into her mouth (and all over the floor) makes everyone in this house party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine. It’s so stinkin’ cute.

We’re trying to dig into every day over here. And although we cannot plan out the future, God is teaching me three things we can do: Pray, Prepare & Play.

  1. Pray for God’s purposes.

Instead of trying to force the future into the box I’ve delegated for it—I can lay that all down and pray, “Lord, I ask that your perfect purposes for the future be accomplished in my life and the lives of my loved ones. Let nothing stand in your way.”

  1. Prepare your heart.

God’s plan may not line up with my limited ideas of perfection. We can remember God’s good and always trustworthy. This helps us prepare our hearts to accept whatever the future holds. Since we’ve become a foster family, I often pray, “Lord, please prepare my heart (and the hearts of my children) for whatever lies ahead. Give us peace.”

3. Play with the people you love.

Grab the people you love and take pleasure in them. We may not have tomorrow, but we have today! I’m not sure why we don’t memorize this scripture in Sunday school, but maybe we should make it a thing (especially the part about bread and wine),

“Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,,”  (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 MSG)

Dear Lord,

      I don’t know the future of my children and loved ones, but I pray for it. I ask that you go ahead of them, paving the way for peace and provision. I pray you are parting seas they don’t see. I pray you are planting people of godly influence in their path before they get there. I pray for wisdom when they are pressed against the hard rock of life. I pray for forgiving friends who point them to your love. I pray for protection over their hearts and bodies. I pray faith rises fiercely in their soul when doubt pushes down. I pray for eyes to see your blessings when they feel cheated. I pray they run to you, instead of away, when their hearts are broken. I pray they love bravely because that’s why you made them. I pray your voice reaches them when mine cannot and whispers, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I pray they know love because they know you. Amen

It means so much that you’re taking this journey with me.❤ I’d love to send you a FREE SEVEN-DAY DEVOTIONAL: CLICK HERE FOR DEVOTIONAL

Seeking Answers or Abba?

boram-kim-W-wGFm54R-k-unsplash

The phone rings. It’s just the eye doctor. I send the call to voicemail and surrender to tears.

Please, Father. Give me answers.

It’s court day. I’m waiting to hear if our foster daughter will stay with us for six more months, or if she’ll go back to her biological mother.

I slide my phone over so not to sob over the screen.

I text a veteran foster mamma, hoping she can predict the outcome. She’s can’t say for sure. I text another foster mama. Goodness, how about I just throw the question out to my Facebook foster group?

Someone. Must. Know.

God, please. You know. Let me know, too.

And just like that, I was a modern-day Evedesiring answers more than I desired Abba, my Father in heaven.

Eve had the honor of walking in the cool of the evening with her Father God. She had unimaginable intimacy with the craftsman of her soul. Yet when she was offered the chance to know more—more than the presence of God—she bit.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Genesis 3:6 NIV, emphasis added).

Eve traded intimacy for information. Soon after, Eve and her husband “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8 NASB).

I do the same thing. Most the time, my appetite to know what God has planned overtakes my desire to walk with Him. When He doesn’t share His plan with me, I run from Him. Sometimes I flee in anger, sometimes in shame, sometimes dragging grief, but always looking for someone else to tell me what the Lord won’t.

The trouble is, the moment we pull ourselves from the presence of the Lord, anxiety rises. We do crazy things (like sew dresses out of fig leaves), and our joy deflates. Because only in the presence of the Lord is the fullness of joy. Only by spending time with Him will He make known the path of life (Psalm 16:11). And, yes, waiting for answers is exhausting, but “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31 NASB).

I turned my phone on silent, closed my eyes, and prayed, “Father, help me to pursue your presence over understanding your purposes. I want you, Abba, more than I want answers.”

I know now that answers, knowledge, even wisdom, do not give peace.

Peace is not a revelation; peace is a person. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

 

It means so much that you’re taking this journey with me.❤ I’d love to send you a FREE SEVEN-DAY DEVOTIONAL: CLICK HERE FOR DEVOTIONAL

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11 NIV)

“The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’” (Exodus 33:14 NIV).

Hitting Rock Bottom

mommyandcara

I turned to Aaron last night and said, “If she goes home in April, I don’t think I’ll survive it, baby.”

Taking my hand, he said, “We’ll get through it.”

The depths of human emotion are astounding. As soon as you reach the bottom of the well, your soul strikes a geyser, emotions rush to the surface, shattering the limitations of how you thought you could ever feel, or give.

The number one comment I’ve received after becoming a foster mom is, “I could never do that. I could never love a child and then give them back. It would be too hard.”

I know some of you’ve said those very words to me. You know the first person to say this to me?

Me.

About a gazillion times before you opened your mouth, so don’t sweat it. I’m pretty sure my head will pop off like a Barbie doll when/if she isn’t with us anymore. So…there’s that.

I try not to think of that.

Oh, yes, sweet friends. You’re right, it’s hard.

Loving a child like they’re yours, but they aren’t is like trying to settle untamed land. I’m unsure which attachments to let grow wild and where it’d be wise to put up some fences.

Is she supposed to call me, mommy? I’m not her mommy.

What do I say when someone says, “Congratulations”? She’s not adopted. In fact, she’s with us because of traumatic circumstances.

Knowing we’ll probably only have her for a season; the knowledge breaks and heals, gives and takes away. I don’t know how to feel, so I feel everything. It’s fascinating and difficult. Please, pray for me.

Some days lunge at me like a ginormous octopus. Emotional tentacles are yanking my gut, trying to reach a new understanding of what God’s love is really about. How can it spread in so many directions at the same time, with the same purpose? Is it even possible for me to love like him?

I promise I’m trying. I’m finding I don’t know how to successfully love my foster daughter, her birth mama, her birth daddy, her paternal grandma, the two social workers, three investigators, three lawyers, and the judge equally.

I’m failing.

Somewhere down the line, I’ve come to believe that if I love one too much, it will interfere with my love for the other. What if I love too hard, will the wells eventually dry up?  I don’t want to find myself cracked and parched, unable to love brave again.

The word tells us, “For God loved the world, that he gave his only son,”(John 3:16)

In other words:

He loved, so he did a very hard thing;

He loved, so he gave what was most precious to him;

He loved, so he endured.

He loved, so he hung, his lips cracked, his mouth parched.

The veil was torn. His body was buried. But it wasn’t the bottom of the well.

When the world thought Jesus hit rock bottom, a bigger rock rolled away, and the fierce love of God rose up.

I’m learning we can’t put boundaries and borders upon God’s love. We’re the ones slapping labels on His callings: Too Hard. Not Worth It. I. Just. Can’t.

Of course, we can’t! Love wouldn’t be holy if we could accomplish it on our own. Only through Jesus, “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

After our last failed adoption, I was convinced a piece of me would never feel again. I was wrong. The death in that experience gave birth to a new depth in me I didn’t know existed. Under the surface of that suffering was an understanding that God’s designed us for more. More perseverance, more strength, more wisdom, more hope, more fight, more courage, and abundant love.

He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

We’re made in the image of God. So our love story on earth should look a bit like his.

Because he loves, we’ll do hard things. And because he’s with us, we’ll get through it.

Sign up for your free printable download: “Three Things You Must Do Before Making a Big Decision”

I hope you love it!



`

 

Inviting Grief to Dinner

tamara-bellis-125877-unsplash (1)The Southern California rain surprised all humanity this year, giving my kiddos a false sense of hope, “Mommy, do you think they’ll close the schools because it’s raining?!”

Um, no. That’s not a thing.

The brown hills by our house have exploded into yellow flowers. They press on their tippy-toes waving hello. Maybe California should cancel school, offering a day to admire the new life with neighbors. Because when it comes to new life, we really go out of our way to celebrate it don’t we? If we desire the company of new life, we’ll find she always brings a guest.

Life and death sit side by side. So often we shoo the experience of grieving to the “obligatory guest” table. No one wants him at the party…but sooner or later, he shows up. I photographed weddings for years, and I promise you, there’s always a wacky relative in attendance (psssst… it’s your uncle). One wedding reception, the exuberant uncle was on the dance floor, flat on his back, pretending to look up the bride’s dress. Yeah. Sometimes grief acts like that guy.  Meaning- he has no sense of social awareness. We find ourselves asking, who invited him anyways?! 

But it’s not his fault. When we shove the process of grieving far into the burrow of our lives; he’s forced to rear his head at the most inconvenient times. Can you relate? The checker at Vons asks if you have bags and you burst into tears because you left them in the car. If grief wants your attention, he’s ruthlessly successful. I’m finding that depriving him the attention he craves, only makes him fervently jump up and down.

I’ve decided it’s best to offer him a space to be heard.

Learning to set a place for grief at our table is a grueling and powerful act of faith. But it needs to be done. Joy is painfully birthed out of sorrow. When we pull the chair out from under him and ask him to leave, we’re telling him he’s not important to our story; that he has nothing of value to add to the conversation. When in reality, God often uses our grief to scoot our chair closer to joy.  God wants to speak to each of us through our sufferings.

Many believers experience guilt over admitting they’re sad. The idea of feeling guilty for grieving is not biblical! We’re taught we should rejoice in our sufferings, to always be happy because we have Jesus. There’s truth here. However, the rejoicing does not negate the suffering- it accompanies it.

God has filled me with inexplicable joy over our new journey to be foster parents. But honestly, it’s the grief of failed adoptions that brought us here. It’s impossible for me to separate my new joy from my concurrent grief. They’re powerfully intertwined. Have we forgotten that Jesus wept three times in scripture? Each time, coupled with an occurrence of great joy: before the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:35); right after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:41); and in the garden before his own death and resurrection leading to the salvation of mankind (Hebrews 5:7).

It is possible to sit next to joy and grief at the same time. It’s healthy to look grief the face and “talk it out” or “cry it out” or slap him in the face. Whatever you need to do to acknowledge they’re times he’s going to come to dinner and you can’t ignore him. We’ve got to deal. But we’re not alone. God’s table is big. It may mean we pull up more chairs for counselors or sisters in Christ to help us mediate the conversation. Or, maybe we need to excuse ourselves for a “prayer break,” or take a moment to wash our wounds in The Word.

As we become more intentional in setting a place for grief, we can’t lose sight that where God allows sorrow, he assigns great joy.  “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b)

God’s word beautifully reminds us that he’s with us in our suffering. Check out these Bible verses for inspiration: God’s Word-Marked by Love- Suffering

p.s. If the voice of your grief is consistently louder than the voice of your loving Father, you may be experiencing depression. They are not the same thing. Please feel free to message me and I would be honored to help you find a counselor.

Sign up for your FREE printable download!

I hope you love it!

* indicates required


I

`

 

Facing the Emptiness

alessandra-onisor-781101-unsplash.jpg

I have baby onesies with no pudgy legs to fill them. I have space where I hung dresses for a job I didn’t get.

Having empty space in our lives, doesn’t mean we’re called to endure emptiness. Once a woman wept outside an empty tomb and was met by the hope of the world.

Remember Mary, the shamed woman whose heart was seen by Jesus? In Him, she was most likely cherished for the first time. Then she witnessed the desire of her heart mocked, beaten, and nailed to a cross.

Mary’s new identity was mercilessly pinned to a piece of wood. Her hope was in Jesus. And now it hung lifeless for the whole world to see.

Our desires may be holy and epic!  For me, wanting to adopt is that one desire I feel I’ve been watching die a gruesome death. It’s out of my hands.  All I can do is stand aside and feel the fool for believing. Have you ever felt this way; that God entrusted you with a longing but it seems it’s a no-go?

I’m guessing Mary may have felt this way. She proclaimed the hope of the world had come, and the next day they rolled a stone sealing His grave.

Still, she knelt outside the tomb, where her unmet expectations lay buried and dead.

Dying to self is a true death.  And it’s OK to treat it that way. As long as we don’t forget: We worship a God of resurrection!

Mary went to Jesus’ tomb, terrified and confused to find it hollow. She pleaded with the angels, asking where they’d taken him. (John 20:11-18). It’s not that she wanted Jesus to be dead, but it’s what she expected.

Sometimes, we’re so busy focusing on the hollowness of a situation…we miss the hallelujah!

We’re so much like Mary. If we’ve watched a desire of our heart be abused and buried, we visit the grave expecting it to stay that way forever.

We forget what hope looks like. When this happens, we can miss it staring us in the face.

Hope looks like Jesus.

Hope is Jesus.

Mary didn’t even recognize Him when he appeared to her outside the tomb. She mistakes him for the gardener!  (John 20:15) She was seized by the fact things didn’t remain irredeemable. The world was whispering, “What’s the point? What you hoped for is still dead.”

But the world lies. There’s always a resurrection!  Whatever’s  lifeless, looks different after revival.

Jesus looked different. He was glorified. (Philippians 2:20-21) I think it’s why Mary didn’t recognize Him right away.

It’s the same with the desires of our hearts. It’s not that they aren’t lovely, but God has something planned to take our breath away! Something we haven’t considered. Something impossible.

This. Is. Faith. Standing outside a graveyard and believing resurrection will come.

We’re completing our Foster Certification. Something mind you, we said we’d NEVER do. God, through the past five years of loss and frustration, has been tirelessly crafting our powdered dreams into something completely different than what we expected to see. The idea of becoming Foster Parents was our equivalent of Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener. We initially flipped out, “Where have you taken our dead dream?!!” I just wanted to remain face down, ugly crying like Mary.

Sometimes, it’s easier to sit in disappointment then to step into the unknown. This is a big unknown for us! But I know the sweet face of hope. I refuse to mistake Him.

We’re approaching a desolate space and expecting the impossible to happen.

We’re expecting God to resurrect all that was lost.

We’re expecting desires to look different.

Standing right in front of us, could be the glorified, holy, resurrected will for our lives.

God has the tender ability to resurrect ANY situation in our life. Check out these Bible verses for inspiration:  God’s Word-Marked by Love -Resurrection

Sign up for your FREE printable download!

I hope you love it!

* indicates required


I

`