Monday, December 19, 2016

Life on Paper

Thanks for visiting,

If you've been here to follow our foster care and adoption journey I'm so thankful that you cared to spend your time finding out how we are.

I began to write about foster care and adoption as we entered into this world more than 3 years ago.

I cannot begin to tell you how different my life is that then.  Heck, I feel like a different person than even 365 days ago. There have been many ups and downs that you've weathered through with us. We've taken many paths that have led us to entirely different places than we thought we'd be.

This Christmas it's just the three of us.  Which is not where I thought I would be right now.  I've been unable to even attempt to make a Christmas card.  It just stings like salt in a wound of the dreams I had for our family this year.

This last year has been incredibly difficult in many facets, and I've just not been able to report where I'm at with it all on "paper." A year ago we were eagerly awaiting a referral for our second adoption from foster care, and since then we've endured a disruption, a miscarriage, and been foster parents (or respite) for over 10 kids (since November 2015).

I have spent a lot of time moving people in and out.  Changing out one bed for another.  Boxing up mementos.  Saying hello, and goodbye.  One of the kids, who I never got around to writing about, lived with us for almost 5 months and was successfully reunited with her family!

We saw every angle of foster care this year.  The good, the bad and the ugly. I'm so glad we were able to end the year on the redemptive side of foster care.  A child who desperately wanted to go home, who was able to.  A family we'll have a relationship with for a long time.

For the first time in years we don't have a plan of what is next.  We're on hold for at least 6 months as a much needed break from the chaos that adding and moving people around entails.

We're in a season of rest, waiting, and deciding which direction to head.

All of life is on pause.  I've not had this much space to breathe in years.

But I still don't know what I have to say, as we are waiting in limbo.  And this limbo has brought out the feeling that everything I've said up to this point is too close, too weighty to leave out there on the internet indefinitely.  So guess what? I took it all down. Everything.  Maybe forever, or maybe until I can sort through it a bit and decide what there is that may be of use to someone else.

I don't mind sharing.  I read a bunch of foster care blogs, and still do.  I know that the people who have read my words might be right there with us in the midst of trying to figure out adoption and foster care, or we might be the only crazies they know in this world where family can look a little different.

In the beginning I started out prompted by the direction, written on a rock, at the end of the IF:gathering (a women's conference).  "Write what I've done."  Not, what I, myself have done.  But how God has intersected our lives.  Write what HE has done.

He has done great things.  The greatest of which are the hardest to put into words.  The peace we felt in the most difficult of situations.  The view I have of heaven, which has changed all of my earthly longings.  The sheer ability that God alone has to rescue and redeem us.  I cannot fix it all.  I am not the rescuer.  But I know who is.

I have been changed this year.  I'm still sorting it all out in my journals and in long caffeinated conversations with whoever is unlucky enough to ask the wrong question.  I have been marked by the contents of 2016 in a different way than other years.

So much so, that I tattooed a visible reminder on my forearm to close out the year.

It reads "Hope Always," because Jesus is the only hope I have, despite the circumstances.  Because He is alive I can always have hope. My hopes have been so tied to what I want my family to look like. But I can have hope that does not disappoint or fade, even when suffering is near.  We lost 2 children in 6 weeks this spring.  I'm still in over my head, but somehow this time in our lives is molding us into people whose hope is solidly in Jesus, and nothing else.

The flower is a Magnolia, because the week we miscarried the magnolias were blooming throughout our city.  It was such a gift to be able to see even one beautiful thing, though it was fleeting.

So that's where life is.  More silent than I'm comfortable with.  More raw that I want to admit.

I'm not planning to blog on this personal space in the coming year, but I'll be continuing to "Write what He's done," at Anchored Voices, a collaborative Blog my dear friend started.  The once a month commitment (and deadline!) is good for me.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Trauma and "Inside Out"

This weekend my family visited my hometown and got to see "Inside Out" in theaters.  Which was fantastic #1- because there was NO theater when I lived there, #2 because there is nothing like a movie the whole family likes, and #3 it is a great picture of what life with kids with traumatic backgrounds is like.

If you haven't seen it, don't worry, I won't give too much away before you can make it to the box office (or Redbox).  Just enough to make sense :)

The movie shows what's going on inside as a young girl's memories are stored in short term and long term memories.  Color-coded, glowing orbs replay every moment of her life.  Some even become her "Core Memories" that shape her personality and her outlook on life.

Five dominant emotions- Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear take turns reacting to situations and coding the memory appropriately.  Everything is pretty cut and dried.  Most of the memories are a golden hue representing joy.

I wish every child's life was that way.

Every once in awhile as a joke a commercial jingle was thrown forward into the conscious memory and "stuck in her head".

Now take that same construct and imagine that instead of happy/joyful feelings of being cared for an infant is neglected. Orbs of  Purple (Fear), Blue (Sadness) and Red (anger)  line the walls of memories.  The child begins to feel that the world is a scary place.  A bad place.  An uncertain place.

Or a child is beaten
Never touched in a loving way
Screamed at
Witness or recipient of physical abuse
Left to fend for themselves and siblings at 5 or 6 years old

Those early memories tint the entire world.  It is overwhelmingly fearful, sad, rage inducing.

They aren't the only memories.  All children have some moment of sudden joy.  But the moments of chasing bubbles are quickly overturned by the fear of being hurt by people who should be there to keep you safe.

Quickly, all things negative become the Core memories.  A personality with limitless potential bends towards being dominated by fear and anger.  Safety becomes primary at the loss of everything else.  The child's eyes lose the spark of wonderment.

Instead of a silly ditty about chewing gum, violent crimes pop into mind at incredibly inconvenient moments.  Sitting in class and remembering.  Standing in line and the fear hits unexpectedly.

This picture explains so many behaviors and attitudes of children from hard places.  So here's what I want to remind us all.

Be kind.  Love.  Give people chances.

Lots of chances.

You don't know why they react the way they do.

Keep loving.

No matter how much they try to fight being loved.

Because God isn't finished with anyone.  And He can change and shape and redeem.

The core can be rebuilt on truth that is true and lasting.  The world may never feel entirely safe.

But joy does exist again.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Thank YOU- People along the way

This morning I made a phone call to my daughter's elementary school.  I wasn't sure what would happen, but had to try.

"Hello, I have kind of a strange question.  We adopted our daughter from foster care and have only one picture of her when she was little.  I wondered if there might be a class picture or something we could get a scan of."

While I don't have a picture (Yet, the extremely nice office lady is still investigating), I was blessed by the kind staff as she said "Oh yes, I remember her."


I didn't even know I'd ever adopt when my daughter was in the middle of the hardest things in her life.  I wish I could have been around to know her at those ages, to try to make her laugh, to help her feel safe.  But I wasn't in her life yet.

I am amazed and thank for the MANY people God brought into her life along the way; who she has such positive memories and experiences with.

So I just want to say Thank YOU.

THANK YOU to the office lady who remembered her :)  To the Teachers in the many schools she cycled through for little parts of a year as she came and went through various foster placements

THANK YOU to her 4 caseworkers and the DHS supervisor who walked her through all the changes in her life and all made time to come to her adoption ceremony!

THANK YOU to the many other DHS staff who work unto exhaustion to care for kids and their families

THANK YOU to the caseworker who matched us with her, even though she was out of our expected age range.  She saw a good match and we are so thankful!

THANK YOU to her Lawyer and his assistant who were the most stable part of her time in care.  Thank you for keeping the little gifts she brought on your shelf for years.  Thank you for answering her questions and being there with her on the hard legal days. 

THANK YOU to the 2 CASAs she had throughout her time in care.

THANK YOU to her awesome Doctor, who lets her ask all the questions in the world and has cared for her for years.

THANK YOU to Churches who offer Foster Parent Night out that provide a fun safe place.  She loves it so much that she still wants to go!

THANK YOU to Royal Family Kids camps and the churches that put them on.  She will often sing a song or hear a song and say she learned it at Royal Family Camp :)

THANK YOU to anyone who has ever bough a Christmas gift, pjs, school supplies, or anything else for a child in Foster Care.

Thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU to the other 8 parents who have cared for her.  Some, for years at a time.  We are so thankful that we still are in contact with many of her foster parents and for the sacrifice they made to love and care for her.

And because many of you probably won't ever hear about it, or know the outcome


Teachers, Neighbors, Concerned Citizens, Parents of Classmates, Youth Leaders, Camp Counselors, Generous Givers, Professionals who work with Children and many more.

You make a difference.  You help shape how children see the world.

Thank you for pouring your lives into helping children.  For some of them it fills a gap we wish never needed to be filled.  Thank you for being there when I wasn't.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Our Adoption Timeline

I can't believe that it's actually official!  She's adopted.  Name changed.  Party over.  On to "normal" life as a family.

I just wanted to share a snapshot of our adoption timeline because only God could have made all these pieces fall into place.  The story He is writing in our lives is so much better than anything I could have come up with-- and I know that ups and downs He's there.

We were married in July of 2010 and I know that we talked about adoption even before we were married.  It was something we both wanted to be a part of, how or when we didn't know. I (Holly) had spent some time in Nigeria in College and it opened my eyes to the many kids throughout the world who really need parents.

Oct 2010- I went to a bridal shower of a friend and I remember walking inside to use the restroom and meeting the hostess' mother in law.  She was canning with her kids and foster kids and I asked her if we could ever get together to talk about fostering and what it was like.  She introduced me to the kids she had there at the time and I recently realized that one of them was Annie... Woah.

Summer 2011- We were working at a Christian camp and I specifically remember driving down the long hill and talking about the Royal family kids camp that was meeting there and if we could ever adopt. Ephesians 2 was really impacting us at that time.  We asked outloud, "What if we adopted one of the kids who are here."

>>> Super strange but true story-- We discovered a picture in Annie's scrapbook from Royal Family Kids Camp and my husband was in the picture driving the bus.  We were there. 

October 2012- We went to a dessert put on by a local church highlighting the many different ways to be involved in caring for children through fostercare or adoption.  When we got home that night we prayed on our knees in the living room and came upon the realization that while we could wait until we "had it together" or until the "right" moment, children who are legally free for adoption in foster care can't wait.  They need parents now.  We started making phonecalls.

Feb 2013- Foundations Training-  We finally got in to the required training for anyone who adopts in the state of Oregon.  It is offered locally for several weeks or you can do it all in a weekend if you are ok with waiting to get into the class (which only happens quarterly).  We walked away slightly scared but feeling like we were on the right path.

I also started listening to all the time!  It was so helpful to us as we thought about the various topics related to foster care.  Now that I've heard them all I really miss Tim and Wendy and their intro and outro music :)

March-September Homestudy and pursuing infant adoption.  This was a whirlwind confusing time.  You can read about it if you scroll back through our blog.  Now I see that we got our homestudy done MUCH faster than we would have otherwise.  It really hurt.  We thought we would be waiting years from this point.

September - It all fell through.  You can read about that a bit if you want to scroll back through...

Mid September- Call our DHS certifier Somehow on facebook I heard about a terrible situation where a teen girl needed a home so that she wouldn't be in an area where she had previously been trafficked.  We decided that we'd make a phone call and if it worked out we would love her for a little while and help out.  I'm so glad that it didn't.... It would have been rough.  BUT, that conversation opened up a possibility.  "How long would it take to get us certified for Foster Care?"  "Oh, like 2 days" 

Late September- She asks us about Annie. I got a call.  "I never do this, but would you be willing?"  I love the DHS staff we've interacted with.  This particular one is a Christian and later told us she felt that it would be disobedient not to call us.  Even though she was "out of our age range" and we weren't actually planning on being foster parents, but were working on adopting through foster care we said yes.  I had more peace in that scary decision than anything else in my life.    The first yes took a lot of faith but after that we just kept walking forward.  I always look back at how I really heard from the Holy Spirit in that time and am encouraged that God is working in our lives.

Oct 2nd 2013- We're Instant parents of a 12 1/2 year old
This time is going to get its own post at some point.  BIG CHANGE.  Big hurts. Lots of tears.  Lots of growth.
She had been in an adoptive placement and was not told she was leaving until a few hours before she showed up on our doorstep. What did we do that first night?  Got limeberry. 

When did we know?
We knew that our daughter was legally free for adoption (everything with birthparents had been finished up long ago.)  She had been in an adoptive placement.  We decided that we were going to love her like she was never leaving even if she eventually would.  However, the moment that stands out to me was after a really hard day.  A day she was fighting lies about who she was and I had no idea what to do.  I was laying on the floor in her bedroom making sure she was safe even if she was mad or didn't want to talk to me.  I remember thinking, " I never want you to have to start over again."  It wasn't up to us in the end, but we decided that we would do whatever we could to keep her stable and with us.  We told her over and over again that we would never send her away.  We  couldn't promise yet that we could adopt her (and at that point she asked us daily if we would), but we could say that we would never be the cause of her having to move again.

November 2014- Current caretaker Status
After being foster parents for a year in Oregon you are eligible to be considered "current caretakers" and be the first choice as an adoptive resource.  This was a crazy experience because it was like a job interview.  There were 12 people in the room and we were asked a bunch of questions about our daughter.  Her heritage and how we encourage her connection to it.  How does she respond to discipline?  What happened at this Dr's apt?  When was the last time she was in to the dentist?  Is she bonded to your family? 
Afterwards we were asked to leave the room while they deliberated to decide if we could be her parents, or if they would look elsewhere and recruit other options.  They came back about 15 minutes later and said that they unanimously decided that we were the only option they would consider for her adoption.

March 2015- All paper work is done, waiting for a court date
There is a lot of paperwork.  Some of it I think I filled out 4 times by the end.  One important one got lost in the mail.

April 28th, 2015  Adoption day!
Her adoption day was so special!  It was a long time coming for her and for us.  She had been in fostercare for over 5 years.  1891 days exactly.

Part of what made the day so special was all of the people who came.  ALL of her caseworkers from DHS came.  She had 4 caseworkers who were there with her through all of the changes over the past 5 years.  They brought her flowers and told her how proud of her they are.  Some she hadn't seen since she was little.  Her caseworker's supervisor even came! 

Her lawyer, and her lawyer's assistant were there representing us.  They had been with her longer than anyone.  All 5 years.  When we went in to sign the paperwork for her name change a few weeks before, she showed me a few little gifts she had given them that were still there on his bookshelf.  A pen, a bookmark and some kind of small stuffed animal (I think). A few days later while we were driving she asked me if he is still her lawyer.  I told her that she doesn't need a lawyer anymore, but if she did I'm sure he would say yes.

We took pictures and said goodbye to all these special people.  One of the caseworkers commented on how she just loved her "huge" family.  We didn't tell her that we were missing a bunch of us!

She had 4 grandparents, 2 great grandmas, her new parents, her mentor, my friend Robin (who was my official instagrammer for the day) and some family friends to take photos!

And now we are on to the rest of life.  Graduating 8th grade and moving to highschool.  Just being able to be a kid.

I'm so excited that she doesn't have the huge uncertainty hanging over her head anymore.  Early on she once told me that she had "bigger priorities" than being in choir or other normal kid afterschool clubs.  When I asked what her priorities were she said, "Getting out of Foster care."  Done!  Now the plan is for her to possibly do Band and Choir next year and learn an instrument over the summer :)  I'm glad she can have kid priorities again.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Over Hashtagged

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31

I plead guilty.  I totally missed the point.

At one point (a few years ago) I was riding a wave of emotion related to our adoption progress and hashtagged #ifGodisforuswhocanbeagainstus.  Guess what?  Exactly what I thought would happen is exactly what fell apart.  That instance rocked us and I still feel the residual effects of my misguided ideas.  It wasn't that God was wrong, it was that I did a little origami with what I thought He was saying and that whole thing crashed and burned.

Over the last bit as God has pointed out to me what my issue was I've come to realize a few things:

1- Hashtagging entire sentences should be outlawed #justsayin #whydowedothat #wewilllaughatourselveswhenweareold

2- I never Hashtag unless I'm being opinionated or oversimplifying and I probably shouldn't do either one.#justsayno

In this case I just forgot that the entire rest of Romans 8  has a theme of suffering.  I totally oversimplified and in the end got the exact wrong message.  If I would have read the rest of the chapter I would have seen that the point is that God loved me and saved me and is with me despite suffering that may happen in life.  He is near.  He is for me even if the entire world is against me. Nothing can separate me from Jesus.  The point was NOT God is for you, so you'll get your way. The verse I opened to was not a crystal ball to tell me the future. #badtheology

3- I took what was going on in my life + a verse that goes on lots of coffee mugs = things will happen like I think they will. #Goddoesn'tworkonmytimeframe #hurtswhenyoufalldown

4- What the verse ACTUALLY says is what I needed to hear the most for the next season of life.  When a whole bunch of stuff is disappointing, feels hopeless, or just plain hurts what I need to know is that nothing can separate me from the love of Jesus. #verse39 #preachtoyourself

5- God's actual plan (that He hadn't filled me in on yet) was so much better!  I wouldn't have ever guessed it.  I would have probably been scared and run away. #yourthoughtsarehigher #adoptateen #Godwritesabetterstory

He is so much more complex that I can understand.  And I'm glad for that.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Temporary Home

Have you ever lived somewhere that you knew would be temporary? The 3-month or year long in-between place?

It's interesting that when I know something is going to be temporary I just kind of angst at the place the entire time. No reason to put things on the walls. I might leave half of the boxes in the corner and only forage through when I happen to need a glue stick for the first time in 6 months or sandals I totally forgot I had.

We've been in a temporary house for almost 5 months now following a kitchen fire that looked really minor but caused enough damage that the kitchen, living room and dining room had to be completely gutted. Only things that were sentimental were saved and we are still in the process of replacing stuff. God has been so good to us in this process. He provided for us through rental insurance (best thing I've ever bought in my LIFE!), through friends who graciously let us stay with them and who invited us to eat with them in the middle of getting everything settled down., but

We see some great things in this temporary place. But it is still temporary

I've been thinking a lot about how for Christians we should be seeing this world and this life as a very short and temporary place in the light of eternity with God. I can't even choose which verse to point out because there are SO MANY. I think I might need to do a word study on eternity and eternal because there is so much in the Bible about thinking about that rather than the here and now and yet what I do in life is usually think about now and how to make my life better short term. I think I've been missing the point.

1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Colossians 3:1-3
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

I really don't know how to do that. When we're making decisions as a family to think about what is better in the really long term rather that what makes us most comfortable. When things just are hard in life to not let depression take over but to see that this is a short season in light of forever.

So that is what I've been thinking about lately.
We're just passing through.
Enjoy today, (or just get through today) knowing that it is a season and not the ultimate goal.
Seek what is above.

Right now

Some of you may know that in addition to my home-life with my husband and 13-year old ALMOST ADOPTED daughter, I work at a homeless shelter. I just completed my first year here. I handle the educational part of a drug and alcohol recovery program aimed at finding the root causes and ending homelessness for the women we serve. So I teach or facilitate math, writing, computer and financial classes. I love that everyone in the program is required to spend 2 hours a day with me. I get to know people I would not have interacted with otherwise over several years. I get the privilege of hearing their stories and seeing them grow.

One of the things I DID NOT expect was how blessed I would be by the comments and encouragement of women who are on the other side of adoption and foster care. Somehow, despite the fact that many do not have relationships with their own children they have become some of the most encouraging voices I hear.

Working here has expanded sights to see how God restores people's lives. The sad, messy truth is that often the things that haunt people can't be fixed in a matter of a few years. In fact, I've heard that it takes 5 years of the right kind of work on your life to solidly be on the path of recovery. I don't know about you, but from my experience most people don't like to change because someone says they should, and wait instead until they absolutely have to. The excruciating pain of not being able to be in a child's life can further the spiral and add further depression, drug abuse, and self destructive behavior.

This is normally the time when those who are able to care for the children involved are introduced onto the scene. Right in the middle of the worst of the worst time in their life. I hear people talk about how someone "Isn't a safe person" and use that current reality to justify cutting off future contact. I just want to suggest that in all the thoughts about this you add one thing... "Right now"

His Biological mom isn't safe right now.
The family doesn't understand boundaries right now.
She isn't able to be part of her life... RIGHT NOW.

There is a huge difference in these thoughts. I've met women who are amazing Christian women 10 years to late to raise their children. People who are working hard at addressing the root issues that caused them to be hurt, and in turn hurt others. It takes a lot of reconciliation. But that is what God does.

In a strange way it has been a blessing to me to see first-hand the lives on the other side of the equation. Rather than selfishly holding on to what is "ours" I hope that other adoptive parents can vow to never shut the door entirely. Yes, protect your kids if it isn't safe right now. But hold on to the hope that someday it could be. Pray fervently for them and don't give up hope.

And when it does come around, celebrate! You saw a miracle before your very eyes. Someone who was stuck in self-destruction is set free! Someone who limped along in life can walk forward once again. Someone who was blind to the hurt they were feeling and the hurt they caused others can see clearly.

It is easy to categorize people. But my experience is that there is often much more going on. Brokenness comes from somewhere. And I believe that God can restore that too.