Friday, September 19, 2014

Dark Days Give Way to Light

No, we're not dead. We're not even in a deep depression or other terrible crisis over here. Life has just overflowing...and I have needed time to put thoughts together in order to communicate the unparalleled grace and wisdom of our God. I pray that after this long hiatus you will be encouraged by the faithfulness of God. Now, strap on your seat belts and get ready for an unbelievable tale :)

Last September, I failed to tell you a very important piece of news...

We found out in September that we were expecting a little one in May - an incredible answer to prayer and the beginning of a wild journey. Those months from September - December were the hardest I've ever endured. The emotions, the exhaustion, the turmoil. I also began having major back pain during this time. The Lord was breaking me and The Lord was sustaining me.

On December 17, 2013 my parents came in town, and we celebrated Christmas with the boys. We went downtown and rode the new Ferris wheel. We went out to eat, and we came home and opened presents. All of this was dotted with angry tantrums from K-man that had become so commonplace. On December 18, 2013, my husband and I woke up with food poisoning. Both of us. I was scheduled for my gender reveal ultrasound - an hour away - they swore they couldn't change it, so off I went, alone and miserable, to what was supposed to be the sweetest day. I found out I was having a girl, came home, fell asleep, and didn't tell my husband or anyone the news until we woke up around 4pm. It was a rough day - not quite what I had pictured. On December 19, my mother came to stay with us, and we spent our final day with our boys. My husband and I mustered up enough strength to take them to Build-A-Bear and spend a ridiculous amount of money on 2 stuffed animals - a real sacrifice that was met with a lot of ungrateful begging for more and a few close calls for angry tantrums (sigh) These were such dark days - just trying to be real. My husband and I recorded our voices to go inside the stuffed animals. "K-man/B-boy, this is Mrs. E and this is Mr. R, and we want you to know that we will always love you and that God is with you wherever you go."

On December 20, 2014, we packed the rest of their stuff while B-boy played unknowingly - laughing, singing, squeezing his bear's hand to hear our voices and his name, and breaking my heart into a million tiny pieces. We loaded up the car and drove away, and I think all three of us adults lost it as we drove away from the house. We stopped by K-man's school (it was his last day before Christmas break) to deliver cupcakes to his class and eat lunch in the cafeteria. He knew what was happening. We had been very clear with him. As we gathered his things, hugged his teacher and the administrators, and walked towards the door, he looked at me with excited eyes and said, "Mrs. E! We had an assembly today, and we wrote down our wishes, because all of our wishes can come true! I wished that I could stay at your house forever!" And then the waterworks started as I turned my head. Why must we tell lies to children? We hurt so many of them when we pretend that this life is about them and about their dreams. Never have I had a harder conversation than when I had to look into the eyes of a hopeful 5-year-old and tell him that our wishes don't have any power but that our prayers do and that our wishes are not what are ultimately best for us but that God's wise and perfect plans are.

We drove in tears and silence to our foster agency's office - trying to be strong and honest at the same time - mostly taking turns turning our heads and crying. When we arrived, we discovered that the case manager was running a good 3 hours behind.  Not sure I've ever been angrier in all of my life. My grace was worn slap out, honestly. I wanted to stay with my boys until the bitter end, but our agency recommended that we say our goodbyes, give them some time at the office to decompress with the staff, and then get in the car and head to their cousin's house. We went into the conference room, where the agency facilitated a sharing time of our favorite memories, the things we would miss about one another, the things we loved about one another, and other tear-jerkers. It was a total sob-fest, except for K-man and B-boy. B-boy was still clueless about how much his life was about to change. My heart hurt, because there's no good way to explain to a 2-year-old that you adore him but can't be with him anymore. K-man was guarded. When we asked questions, he cracked jokes. When we told him what we would miss about him through our tears, he wouldn't make eye contact. I was thankful for the opportunity to speak love over his precious soul, but I could see how frightened he was and how little he was willing to trust anyone in that moment. We gave hugs and left, and I grieved hard for a long time.

The Lord is abundantly kind and gracious and gave my husband and I some really sweet time together over the next several months. We grieved and put the pieces back together as we adjusted to a much quieter and much more boring, honestly, life without those two. My entire identity changed. I didn't know what to do with myself, but the Lord placed so many sweet graces in my path, filling my time with worthwhile endeavors that filled the gap so sweetly.

Over the course of those next several months, we went through alternating periods of being able to talk with our boys on the phone to receiving short e-mail updates to no communication at all. Every moment on the phone was healing for me. Every opportunity to reassure them and tell them I loved them was a moment I didn't expect to have, so I overflowed with gratitude to God.

In February, the boys' mom "T" was scheduled to appear in court for sentencing. With my newly freed up schedule, I decided to attend with my two friends who have visited T faithfully. It was a long day at court, but we were so glad we were there. T's mother wasn't even there. We were her only support, and she was very grateful. She was sentenced for a total of 5.5 more years, and she's now been moved to prison to serve the rest of her sentence. Most noteworthy that day was T's display of humility and self-control. I've rarely known T to be able to hold back anger, and this judge said a lot of very hard things to her - things she needed to hear. I kept waiting for her to explode, but she remained calm and respectful - a miraculous gift from The Lord. "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." T's heart was different that day than I've seen it before. I continue to pray that the Lord will redeem her broken life to the praise and glory of His name.

Through a miraculous turn of events that ONLY our mighty God could orchestrate, The boys' cousin agreed to bring the boys to see us on Easter weekend. There was such a complex mix of emotions that day, but it was overall very sweet and encouraging.

A friendship began to blossom between us and their cousin, but we never dreamed it would sink roots so deep. Towards the end of the school year, their cousin agreed for my husband and a pastor from our church to take the oldest two brothers to a live-in ranch for kids from troubled homes to visit and check it out. Their cousin and I continued to speak weekly - telling each other that we loved each other and expressing our gratitude.

That's where things stood when May 12, 2014 came and this little one stole our hearts the very moment she was born!

With the boys' grandmother out of the picture mid-June (another story altogether), the cousin agreed to let the boys come and spend 10 days with us in July. The three youngest came and spent the most precious week with us. We ran all over the city. We relaxed lots of our rules. We laughed. We hugged. We said a million "I love you"s, and we had many sweet conversations about our Lord who is mighty and good. B-boy is potty trained, still hilarious, a bit strong-willed, and just the biggest bright spot in every day I spend with him. K-man is reading, still a pill at times, but really showing a lot of maturity and security with his cousin's leadership. D, their brother, is a HUGE help. He is a delight in many ways and thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the family for a week. They all adore their new "sister" and argue about which brother looks most like her...haha! And she adores them, too :)

How great is our God?!?!?!?! The train wreck I watched unfolding over the last year was never supposed to end like this. ONLY God could have accomplished this, and for that we are in awe, and we are grateful. Regardless of the outcome, we give all praise and glory to the one true God who is the wise Author of all things, but when He blesses us so, we fall flat on our faces in humble gratitude. Far, far more than we deserve.

I pray and am hopeful that this is the beginning of a much longer story with our boys - a story filled with football games, birthday parties, awards ceremonies, high school graduations, college graduations, job applications, weddings, and more! I pray I will see each of them come to know and trust in Christ and lead their peers and their families well. Please join me as often as you think of them in praying these words.

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 
that according to the riches of his glory 
he may grant you to be strengthened with power 
through his Spirit in your inner being, 
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—
that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 
may have strength to comprehend with all the saints 
what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, 
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,
according to the power at work within us, 
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus 
throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen"
Ephesians 3:14-21

Friday, December 13, 2013

Watching it Crumble

I don't have much time, but I wanted to just write a quick update in an attempt to be real and honest and transparent. We are going through some of the darkest days we've ever had to go through over here, and emotions are different than we ever imagined them being.

Disclaimer: this is real, folks, probably showcasing sin in my heart. I'm not attempting to justify anything I'm about to say. I just want to tell it like it really is over here. 2 months ago, we had a 5-year-old living in our home who was, on-the-whole, a grateful and joyful and respectful and obedient and compassionate boy. The last 2 months, that 5-year-old has turned into a selfish, disrespectful, ungrateful, angry, impatient, and disobedient child before our very eyes. I don't say this in slander but out of heartbreak and sorrow and compassion. I say these things with hope that the Lord has every power to restore and redeem what Satan has stripped from him. Still, this is what we're living with 24 hours a day over here. It is as if the child I raised has completely vanished most days, being replaced by a terrible distortion.

Because of this, our emotions are so different than we ever imagined. The visits we once dreaded, we now look forward to, in a way. as a much-needed time to catch our breath. The sweet and heartbreaking evenings we anticipated of snuggling on the couch, making sweet memories, and dreading that final day have turned into awful, gut-wrenching evenings filled with disrespect, yelling, spitting, hitting, throwing, name it. We're tempted to feel as though we are watching 2 years of hard work being destroyed before our very eyes, but we know that the Lord is the one who builds, and the Lord is the one who produces fruit, and the Lord is the one who is faithful to water and cultivate seeds planted in our hearts. He can cause all things, even this, to work together for our good.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 
And let steadfastness have its full effect, 
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." 
James 1:2-4

We are thankful for the steadfastness that the Lord has so clearly produced in each of us through the entirety of this journey. If you had just dropped us in the middle of this season, we would have crumbled, but having been through very rough patches along the way, we have an endurance that has been produced by the Holy Spirit. I say this to point out the truth of the phrase I mentioned months ago - God does not give us grace for our imaginations! If I had been sitting in foster parent training, hearing stories like the ones going on in my house right now, I would have been very tempted to run in fear. God gives us grace for the specific tasks He calls us to. In this season, I am tempted to give in to fear every single morning, every single afternoon around 2:30 when the bus comes down the street, and every evening around 7pm when I know the bedtime melt-down is about to strike, but over and over God is faithful to give me the grace that I need. 

"He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Sometimes, He gives me strength to endure. Sometimes, He brings my husband home at just the right time. Sometimes, He sends me an absolute saint who spends the afternoon with us. Sometimes, He supernaturally brings peace to my home for a moment or two. His grace goes before me...despite my unbelief.

"If we are faithless, he remains faithful." 
2 Timothy 2:13

Oh, the joy and peace of being a child of God. He is so, overwhelmingly good to us. patient with us, merciful toward us, and loving. I am repeatedly reminded lately that my patience and mercy and love are so very small compared to His. I have 3 hours alone with K-man in the afternoons, and I'm about ready to tear my hair out. Honestly, there have been many nights that I have come closer than ever to throwing in the towel. My sinful heart has cried out that I just wanted the boys out of my house. For lack of faith and lack of selfless love, I wanted an end to being spit on and disrespected and disobeyed and pushed away. And now it's Christmas, and we're celebrating God's response to OUR disrespect, disobedience, and wickedness. I want to selfishly step away. God chose to lovingly, mercifully, and patiently draw near - to the point of being put to death by those He came to save. I'm deeply humbled this Christmas by how much wider and longer and higher and deeper is the love of Christ than my love will ever be, and I'm praying to that same God to show that same love to these boys for the rest of their lives and to captivate them for the gospel - something He does not need me for at all.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why It's Worth It

Some days it's hard to say why it's all worth it, but today was a day when I feel like God just showed off a little bit. He is so faithful to encourage me. I felt the need to sit down tonight and write it out.

The day started around 4:30am with a wet bed. K-man is wetting the bed again fairly regularly..go figure. After a little more sleep, we were up and at em for K-man's eye appointment. All was well, really, all morning. 

On our way to the appointment, we drove down a long interstate with a train track down the middle. I heard K-man murmur a prayer in the backseat, asking God to send a train. Sounds silly, but this might be the first time I have ever heard the child pray on his own accord without prompting, and it's something I've been praying over specifically for a year or more. Part of me wanted to go into a lecture on prayer...haha...but then I thought better of it and let the Lord do what the Lord wanted to do. Lo and behold, a train came. "Mommy!" K-man said, "Do you know why that train came? Because I prayed and asked God." I responded, "Isn't God kind and generous? He didn't have to do that, but he chose to send that train as a gift. What should we say to God?" And Keshaun thanked God for the train :)

When we got there, we waited in the waiting room for about 20 minutes or problem! Went in to see the first nurse and get eye drops...he didn't love that, but he did just fine. Waited in the waiting room again for about 30 minutes...piece of cake! Then, we went in to see the doctor. K-man did great for the whole appointment, but when the doctor said he needed to take out K-man's prosthetic eye, K-man was surprisingly upset. It's not all that uncommon for the eye to come out. It was strange he was so weepy over it, but he got through it just fine and wiped his tears. Then, he came over to me still a little weepy and asked to play with the iPad that he knew had died about 15 minutes before. "I'm so sorry, baby. The iPad's dead, remember? When I get home, I'll charge it up, and maybe you can play it this afternoon." And then it happened..."I WANT THE IPAD!!!" And he was gone...full tantrum mode - tried to open the door and run, hit me several times, spit in my face, took off shoes and threw them, turned over chairs. It was a sight to behold...just me, K-man, the doctor, and the nurse. 

My first thought was, "Are you kidding me? Now?? Here??" But I just did what I do at home. I took him in my arms, hugged him really tight, and tried to calm him down. Over and over for half an hour, I said, "I love you...I need you to calm down...If you calm down, I'll let you go and we can go home." Wasn't working...I tried something else..."K-man, are you mad about having to move in with your cousin?" Didn't work...just kept screaming about how he didn't love me, was going to tell my husband and my mom on me, and was going to call the police to come take me to jail. "K-man, you are SO MAD...I know you are...I'm kinda mad, too! Can you say it? 'I AM SO MAD!!'" "No," he screamed. I tried about 4 times to let go of him, but every time he flew off the handle again. Eventually, I had to pick the child up, pick up everything that was strewn about, and carry him out of the office, down the elevator, across the crosswalk to building #2, down the long corridor, up the elevator, through the parking garage, and put him in the car. There were a few moments I didn't know if I would make it...haha...he's a lot heavier than he was 2 years ago! We had a bit of a stand-off in the car seat, but eventually, we were on the road...driving home...whew!

Adrenaline was pumping...emotions were high...our local Christian radio wasn't cutting it for me. I reached for my iPod and turned my favorite playlist to shuffle. Some of the lyrics we heard on the way home...(tried to cut the list down, but these lyrics were all just too good!)

"How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom"


"There's a peace I've come to know 
Though my heart and flesh may fail 
There's an anchor for my soul 
I can say 'It is well'

Jesus has overcome 
And the grave is overwhelmed 
The victory is won 
He is risen from the dead 

And I will rise when He calls my name 
No more sorrow, no more pain 
I will rise on eagles' wings 
Before my God fall on my knees 
And rise 
I will rise 

There's a day that's drawing near 
When this darkness breaks to light 
And the shadows disappear 
And my faith shall be my eyes"


"I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who's broken
The one who's torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I'll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I'll know every tear was worth it all

Though tonight I'm crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You're still all that I need
You're enough for me
You're enough for me"


"In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand."


"Grace reigns to pardon crimson sins,
To melt the hardest hearts;
And from the work it once begins
It never once departs.

The world and Satan strive in vain
Against the chosen few;
Secured by grace's conquering reign,
They all shall conquer too.

Twas grace that called our souls at first;
By grace thus far we've come;
And grace will help us through the worst,
And lead us safely home."


Somewhere in the middle of the drive, feeling so full after meditating on these words, we came down that same road with the train track. Wouldn't you know, a train came rolling down that track. I muted the music and said, "Look, K-man, a train! Look how generous God is and how much he loves us. He blesses us even when we sin." ...and I started the music again, but periodically, I heard sniffles in the back seat. I didn't acknowledge them...just kept looking forward and singing my heart out.

When we got to K-man's school, he was a teary, snotty mess in the back seat. 
"What's wrong?" I asked. 
"My head hurts," he said, "and my feet hurt."
"Do they? I am so sorry, baby. It's probably from that big fit you threw at the doctor's office. Tell me, buddy...who did you hurt when you threw that fit?"
"Me," he said.
"That's right, buddy. Did you hurt Mommy when you threw that fit? Did you hurt God when you threw that fit? Did you hurt the people you were mad at when you threw that fit?"
"No," he said through tears.
"K-man, when we let our anger control us, we always hurt ourselves more than we hurt anybody else. What could we do with our anger instead?" I asked.
"Tell mommy," he said.
"Yeah, that would be a great idea. Do you know what mommy does when she gets angry? I pray, baby, and I ask God to take care of all of the things I'm angry about. I ask him to help me trust Him. I ask him to calm my fears, and I ask him to take my anger far away from me. Do you think God would hear K-man if he prayed that kind of prayer?"
K-man nodded.
"And did you know that mommy sometimes makes foolish choices with her anger? Sometimes mommy says ugly things when she's angry or does things she wishes she hadn't done. Do you think God forgives mommy?"
"Yes," he said.
"Do you think God has enough forgiveness to forgive K-man when he does foolish things out of anger?"
"Yes," he said.
"He sure does. Do you think mommy has enough forgiveness to forgive K-man?"
"Yes," he said.
"That's right. K-man, I want you to think of the worst thing you could ever do...the very, very worst. Do you think God has enough forgiveness for even that??"
He nodded.
"That's right, buddy, there is nothing so bad that you can't be forgiven if you apologize to God, trust Jesus, and turn from your sin.
...and after a few more words, he apologized and went to class...had a good day the rest of the day.

Tonight, after we read from the Bible, I asked the boys what we should pray about. B-boy wanted to thank God for horsies and cows and firetrucks, so we did. K-man wanted to pray that God would keep us safe from robbers. He wanted to thank God for his doctor, and he wanted to say he was sorry for throwing a tantrum. I had him say the last part, himself, and out of his mouth came, "God, I'm so sorry for throwing a tantrum and thank you that you forgive me. Amen."

That, my friends, makes it worth every single hard moment. God is at work, and I'm thankful he encouraged me by showing me tiny glimpses in the midst of chaos today. Please keep praying.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Well, today marks what is potentially the last Saturday we will ever spend with our family of 4. From here on, the boys will be spending weekends with their cousin. We had hopes of what this day would be like...all fun and hugs and good times and sweet memories and "I love you's" and laughter and silliness. We had Mexican Stack-Ups for dinner last night and then piled on the couch to watch a movie. It was a late night to bed for the kiddos, but it was a fun time. This morning, I found myself (shockingly) awake around 6:45am as K-man (not shockingly) was getting up, too...earlier than the rest of us, as usual. Usually, he goes and plays downstairs until the rest of us lazy bums join him, but since I was up, I thought to myself...maybe this is a gift from the Lord. Instead of lying in the bed like a slug, I got out of bed, went downstairs, curled up on the couch with a blanket and watched The Justice League for an hour with K-man...a real treat for him, but he oddly chose to sit on the chair across from me rather than snuggling up with me. "He's 5," I thought, "I guess they all grow up eventually." But deep inside, I wondered if this was just another sign of his heart struggle right now...scared to death, insecure, and pulling away from us - me, in particular.

That is what has been going on in our house lately, and I have to admit, it's been hard and ugly and painful and a matter of much prayer. As a 5-year-old, K-man is struggling with grief that I will probably never truly know, and he has no capacity to process it all. It just has to come out, and it comes out in defiance, disobedience, whines, and disrespect. As parents, my husband and I are constantly struggling to tease out which behaviors and attitudes are typical 5-year-old behaviors and attitudes vs. traumatized child behaviors and attitudes. Generally, my philosophy is to discipline the same, regardless...with compassion and patience, but with consistency, but K-man's fuse has become so short these days that if I so much as say a correcting remark, he goes off the deep end. The child who came to us biting and screaming and hitting at 3 1/2 years old is leaving us biting, screaming, hitting, spitting, overturning furniture, and yelling physical threats at 5 1/2 years old. This is hard. It's really hard. We saw growth, and now we're seeing decay. We saw affection, and now we're getting the cold shoulder. We saw selflessness, and now we're seeing pride on display like we've never seen before.

So, today started sweetly. Once everyone woke up, we had a "big breakfast" as we call it...just eggs and waffles, really. My sweet husband put on his Pandora Christmas station. I guess if our family Christmas is going to be cut short, we might as well start early! Breakfast was fun. Then, we went to the store to buy some birthday gifts...still felt a little like Christmas. All was well, really, until this afternoon. From about 4pm on, we saw the attitude creeping in for K-man. We corrected verbally, but showed grace so as not to push him across that line. He responded, but you could see that his heart was still so hard. We went to a birthday party tonight...showed more grace...and then it happened. He pushed the envelope past the point where grace could abound. We had to correct with a consequence, and then he hit me and ran away and said all sorts of arrogant, rude, disrespectful things. My heart just ached! These days, I find it so difficult not to give in to anger towards everyone causing this to happen in this child's heart...and to be honest, selfishly, causing this to happen in my home! Life was sweet and settled and fun...and now even the one day we were determined to end well ended poorly.

And so, the Lord has been at work changing my perspective...causing me to be thankful for the opportunity to live out the gospel in such a clear, tangible way. The other day, as I sat with my arm and face wet with spit, I realized that I would never trade the gospel-rich opportunity I had just had in sincerely and repeatedly saying "I love you" to this precious boy while being spit on and hearing "I don't love you!!" yelled right back. Oh, how much more deeply He loves us than we know.

I'm in the business of being real on rose-colored shying away from the hard reality. It is so hard to watch this train wreck coming and feel helpless to do anything about it, but we're thankful, even today, for the opportunities the Lord is giving us to clearly live out the gospel in front of this child. I pray that one day, the Lord may use even K-man's memory of spitting in our faces and hearing us say "I love you" to draw him to Himself. 

"He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed."
Isaiah 53:3-5

Friday, November 1, 2013

His Ways Are Not Our Ways

On Tuesday of this week, we received a phone call from our case manager that went something like this:

"Hi Mrs. _________! How are you? [all very upbeat and cheerful] Well, the cousin's home study has been approved, so we're shifting the visitation schedule a little bit. Starting this Friday, the boys will begin visiting in the cousin's home for 2 hours each week. Then, in November, we'll start doing overnight visits. Hopefully, they'll get to spend Thanksgiving with her, and we hope to place them in her home permanently before Christmas. Now, you had asked permission to travel the weekend of November 15th, right? Yeah, well the boys will be with their cousin that weekend, so they won't be able to travel with you. Does that all sound good?"

I was, quite literally, speechless. I just kept choking back tears and saying, "ok..." and of course immediately after, I called my husband and cried a thousand tears.

I only share this detail with you so that I prepare those of you walking this path for the way these huge milestones happen. I had a certain idea in my head...this was not it. My idea involved a face-to-face conversation, a concerned and compassionate case manager, a certain level of reassurance. This was none of that. It was upbeat and lackadaisical, as though she was asking me to run by the grocery store and pick up some bananas on the way though we were obviously all on the same though the lives of 2 boys hadn't just received a major jolt.

But there it was, and there we were...anticipating a Termination of Parental Rights hearing this Friday (3 days after this phone call)...a TPR hearing we'd been waiting on since April. And now this...what was happening??

We took K-man to play therapy that afternoon, where he drew a picture of our family and wrote a list. At the top of the page, it said "K-man wants", and here was his list:

1. To stay
2. To stay
3. To stay
4. To stay

To give you more of an idea of how this is affecting K-man, our previous "Super Friend" winner at school threw a tantrum all the way to church and in the church parking lot last Sunday that was a sight to behold - hitting, kicking, biting, was a real throwback to our early days. It's all too much for him to comprehend. He's terrified. He can't sit and talk about it, because he has no capacity for that right now. He just gets tied up in knots on the inside and then explodes in disrespect (usually toward me), hostility toward his brother, or all-out rage like we saw Sunday. He doesn't know just bubbles up. Needless to say, we've had our work cut out for us over here - trying to walk the tightrope - praying for wisdom every second to know when to show grace and when to discipline, and the battle has mostly been fought on my knees, trusting God to do the work in his heart that I can never do. I've seen much fruit from time to time after specific, Bible-centered prayers, consistently prayed over the struggles in his heart.

We went to court today, but we did not have a TPR hearing. Without violating confidentiality, I'll just say we made a huge leap closer to a permanent guardianship placement for the boys with the cousin. There will likely be one more hearing before that is accomplished. We're praying that they remain in DFACS custody for at least a few months after guardianship is granted so that they will continue to check up on our boys from time to time.

The boys' mother, T, was there, and I was pleasantly surprised when my two dear friends, who have faithfully visited T and prayed for and with her every week in jail since last year, were there as well. They sat on her side of the court room, praying over her and loving her in a way I just cannot do as things stand right now. The cousin was there also with the boys' grandmother.

The boys' attorney advocated on behalf of our boys that they would have a longer transition period than their older brothers, if needed. We were thankful, but we were also saddened and angered by our DFACS case manager who stood up (with her back to us...never making eye contact or speaking to us) and was content to lie for the sake of her case. We had no cold hard evidence to dispute her at that very moment, so we had to sit idly by, jaws on the all-too-familiar helpless feeling. Our agency worker encouraged us that even if she had told the truth it would have made no difference. We get that, but the stirring in our souls as we sat and listened to someone speaking lies, intentionally trying to mask how difficult this might be for our boys, was dark and disturbing, and reminded us of the battleground we live in.

Perhaps the most significant moment of the day was at the end of the trial. All of a sudden, after a solid 2 and a half hours in the courtroom, the boys' mother stood up unannounced and erupted into an emotional/angry outburst as she refused to sit down. She said repeatedly, "Take me back to jail", clearly escalating into a rage. It was nothing new for any of us to see, but there was really no telling what was stirring inside her to warrant such anger and emotion. My friends prayed for her. Several of us got teary. We all had to exit the courtroom, wondering what had just happened. In the hallway, I had the opportunity to connect with the cousin briefly, and it was an oddly encouraging interaction. She feverishly jotted down my phone number, exchanged a teary hug with me, and assured me that I would be a part of the boys' life. Emotions were high, and the time was short, but I do thank God for that hug and for the opportunity to look her in the eye, shed a tear, and offer my support to her in whatever way I'm able.

Please pray:

  • that we will have the opportunity to weave our lives together with this cousin in a loving and helpful way. This is the lot we've been given. Pray we are all able to embrace that.
  • that the visits that are scheduled in the cousin's home would be accurate depictions of what life will be like, and pray for wisdom for this cousin as she puts one step in front of another. Pray that she feels the freedom to admit if it is all too much for her.
  • that I would seize every opportunity to share the truth of the gospel with their cousin, and that if she doesn't already know the Lord, that she would repent and believe and receive everlasting joy, peace, and freedom from sin.
  • that their mother, T, would continue to seek the Lord faithfully, and that He would draw near to her with Truth and with Peace
  • specifically, if released from jail soon, that T would agree to move into a residential restoration program rooted in the gospel
  • that K-man would trust God, and that God would draw K-man to himself. Specifically, we're praying each and every verse of Psalm 34 over this boy.
  • that B-boy would embrace his cousin and attach to her quickly
  • that the Lord would continue to encourage us in the gospel and in His supremacy and sovereignty over all things as we live these next couple of difficult months
"Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, 
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Hebrews 12:3

"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, 
the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, 
the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 
YET I will rejoice in the Lord; 
I will take JOY in the God of my salvation. 
God, the Lord, is my STRENGTH; 
he makes my feet like the deer’s; 
he makes me tread on my high places."
Habakkuk 3:17-19

Monday, September 16, 2013

No Purpose of His Can Be Thwarted

"I know that you can do all things, 
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted."
Job 42:2

I do not pretend to know the purposes of the Lord, but I do know that this week we have, quite clearly, seen this aspect of God's character on display. Since April or May of this year, we have been hearing murmurs about the boys' grandmother being a likely placement for the boys. Round and round we've gone, crossing hurtle after hurtle. It all culminated in our most recent court date, held on August 6, 2013. We left court that day more discouraged than we've ever been - more beaten down by the system than we've ever felt. Tears were shed in front of numerous people who were powerless to change the course of events unfolding before us.

Now, I feel the need to explain myself a bit. If you've followed our story, you know that we are totally bought into foster care and the goal of reunification. We are champions for biological families...within reason. This case, however, has gone so far beyond reason that we feel an increasingly strong need to advocate on behalf of the two boys in our home. The two boys in our home are thriving more than we've ever seen them thrive. K-man's countenance is virtually unrecognizable in relation to the way he came to us in November of 2011. They are desperately attaching to us as "mommy" and "daddy" after being in our care 20 of the last 22 months, B-boy being only 27 months old. Not only that, but they've been in care numerous times before, and there are countless reasons why we have strong reservations about placing the boys with their grandmother...reasons which have evidence to support them.

But I digress, what we heard after court in August was that the department was going to do pretty much all that they could to approve the grandmother's home study. I'll be bold and say we really felt like they were willing to cut a lot of corners in order to get this thing done. We fully expected to begin transition visits within the month.

Well, last week I was paid a visit from my case manager, who announced that the grandmother has been once and for all denied for placement of these boys. No real explanation. I didn't push it. She, honestly, seemed a bit defeated having to even share the news with me. I just sat in awe of a God who can do whatever He pleases.

"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases."
Psalm 115:3

"There is no wisdom, no insight, 
no plan that can succeed against the LORD."
Proverbs 21:30

"Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; 
propose your plan, but it will not stand. 
For God is with us...The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, 
he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread." 
Isaiah 8:10,13

"For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? 
His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?" 
Isaiah 14:27

"The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
    he frustrates the plans of the peoples. 
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations."
Psalm 33:10-11

There we sat at court last month, crying and pleading on behalf of our boys, feeling terribly helpless and hopeless. We were trusting God to comfort us. We were trusting God to use it all for our good and His glory, but we were also clearly putting a lot of trust in ourselves - feeling hopeless because WE were powerless in the situation. He keeps renewing our confidence that He can, in fact, do anything He wants to do. This week, we have seen Him frustrate the plans of men, thwart evil strategies, and bring the counsel of the nations to nothing.

I want to be careful here that I don't seem to be only claiming events like this one as evidence of God's sovereignty. God's sovereignty certainly does not equal God acting according to what we think should happen. God is sovereign  Period. Whether I understand it or not. Whether I like it or not. The boys could have been placed with grandma and I would have still proclaimed His sovereignty over all things. This particular scenario, however, was so clearly shrouded in evil, that we see the Lord's hand in sorting it out. All parties were, not leaning...charging down one path, and there was deceit and untruth all over it. In a very abrupt manner, they've been inexplicably stopped in their tracks, and we are praising our good and loving God.

It is all still far from over. There is still another family member being evaluated. We should hear by the end of the month whether this family member has been approved. Please continue to pray for our boys. Your prayers have great power, because they enter the throne room of the Most High God - Creator and Sustainer and Ruler over all things. 

To Him be the glory!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Home Study Denied

I've had several of you asking lately about the boys, and we did receive some news today that I wanted to share with you all and ask you to pray over. Our case manager came to see us today and shared that one of the two biological family members being considered has had her home study denied. Of course, our hearts jumped a little bit when she said that, but she quickly followed up with some less than exciting news. Basically, although the agency has denied this home study, the judge has the final say. Our TPR date is scheduled for September 27. On that date, DFACS is recommending this family member not be considered for permanency, HOWEVER, our case manager made it clear that the reason for the denial (unemployment) is very little ground to stand on when making this recommendation. The judge could very easily say, "Was the biological family denied simply based on unemployment? If so, the court overrules that denial, and asks that the boys be placed with this cousin permanently." We know our judge, and we know that this is highly likely. The most unnerving part about this scenario is that if the judge overrules this denial, the boys will likely be moved that very day with no transitional visits. The reason for this is that if they did transitional visits, they would have to reconvene everyone 2 months later in order to grant full custody (heaven forbid). They will also begin the second family member's home study in the next few weeks, so that's another wild card out there somewhere.

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! 
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
'For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?'
'Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?'

For from him and through him and to him are all things. 
To him be glory forever. Amen."
Romans 11:33-35

Please pray for all of us as we are trying to walk through this faithfully. Our hearts are doing somersaults these days - wanting so badly to believe that this denial is evidence that the Lord will keep them in our home, but realizing that we do not know the mind of God and we ultimately have to trust Him to do what is best, regardless of how it may appear to us.

"When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?"
Psalm 56:3-4

Pray for K-man, especially. He began to test the waters this week by calling us "Mommy" and "Daddy." He has a lot stirring around in his heart. Pray that this momma would be patient and perceptive, and pray that the Lord would give K-man faith to trust in Him.

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."
Psalm 37:4

Pray that we will hold loosely to all of our desires, and praise God for his answer to countless prayers along this journey, including this one!

"But Jesus looked at them and said, 
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26

Finally, we are praying that, Lord willing, the boys will stay with us permanently. If the Lord wills otherwise, we're praying that the judge would be wise and tender to these boys' needs and would grant the 2 month transition period before placing the boys in a new permanent home.

Thank you all so much for praying and for riding this crazy train with us! We love you.