Friday, July 29, 2011

One Night of a Thousand Dreams

This is a shameless plug, but who knows?? Some of you might be interested in joining us for this special evening in September!

One Night of a Thousand Dreams

Tickets $50 per person
Casual Elegance Attire
Where: The Manor Golf and Country Club
16002 Hopewell Rd Alpharetta, Ga 30004 
When: Saturday September 17th
6:30 to 11:00 pm
 A magical evening benefiting foster children awaits you and your friends at The Manor Golf and Country Club. Come enjoy dinnermusic and a special guest speakerAshely Rhodes-Courter, author of a New York Times Best Selling Book “Three Little Words”. The evening will also include a live and silent auction featuring a Philip Stein Limited Edition Oprah 25th anniversary diamond watch, Las Vegas Get Away, Judith Ripka Eclipse Earrings, autographed Chipper Jones Jersey and much more. This is the night for YOU to help make foster children’s dreams come true.
As a reminder, "Three Little Words," is the book I reference several months ago - a memoir of a young girl who spent age 2-11 in foster care in Florida. She has an amazing story of resilience, and provides chilling insight into what life looks like for a small child navigating this complex, often unfair, system. I can't wait to hear her speak!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Home, Sweet Home!

We are home and relaxing after a fun beach vacation last week. We went with my mom, dad, and brother, and yes...we took the baby AND the puppy. We had a blast, although it was a much different experience than our prior trips to the beach. I guess I didn't realize that babies and puppies don't live by the same general principle that you're supposed to sleep in, have nice, pleasant dinners out, and have an overall calm disposition while on vacation :) Thankfully, we had many hands to help throughout the week, so all was well. I learned a few valuable lessons along the way:

  • Pack some kind of noise-maker! We had to get a cheapo floor fan, because our room was really warm, but I think the noise helped more than anything for Emmy.
  • If possible, rent a room or a condo with a pool that is right outside the door. We lucked out on this, and I wouldn't have done it any other way! When Emmy was napping, I could carry my monitor with me and lay by the pool - far better than sitting inside for hours while you're at the beach.
  • Pick up some cheap $1-a-yard dark fabric, fold it up, and take it with you on vacation. We would have loved to have been able to darken Emmy's room a bit during the day.

It kills me that I can't post pictures of Emmy. We got some ADORABLE ones. I can, however, post pictures of Layla's beach fun. Yes, at the beach we visited, dogs are allowed on the beach in the mornings and evenings. We had no idea how much Layla would enjoy that!!

As you can tell, Layla is not such a small puppy anymore. She is still all puppy, but in a much larger size...haha. Her ears are cracking us up. When we got her, they were both floppy, then she had one floppy and one that stuck straight up. Then, last week they were both straight up. Now, her right ear is crooked again. She's a funny dog. Ask me today, and I adore her. Ask me on other days, and I can't stand her. Fortunately, we've been having many more good days than bad recently. I still have hope that she's going to be an amazing dog one day!

We also got to spend a little time at the beach with some friends of ours who have since left to begin training to be foreign missionaries for 2 years. We are in awe of their faith, and watching their daily obedience to the Lord has been a huge encouragement to us recently. Unfortunately, we will sorely miss their presence in our lives now, which is difficult knowing that we're all entering such new, scary territory these days. It would be nice to have those sweet friends nearby, but alas...we will hope for more time together in the future, and for now, Skype will be a beautiful, beautiful thing!

Emmy loved the beach and came back a completely different child than when we left. The woman who comes to work with Emmy's development each week was blown away when she showed up this morning. Emmy has really come a long way in a short time. She is extremely social these days, smiling, laughing, babbling, reaching for things, rolling all over the place, trying to crawl. If you met Emmy before, you know what a huge answer to prayer this is! Watching the Lord work in her life has been an amazing thing. I can see life getting even busier soon!

Her case worker also had to visit once we were home from the beach, so she came on Monday with a few updates. Emmy's grandfather has expressed interest in being involved in Emmy's care, although he's not interested in adopting Emmy. I'm not sure how that will unfold, but we're taking it one day at a time. The judge has also asked that no sibling visits occur between Emmy and her older brother. At this point, I see that as a huge answer to prayer, but we still wonder what this all means for Emmy's future.

Another answer to prayer is that we received the results of Emmy's medical testing from a month ago, and all was clear! Hallelujah! I will thank God for this amazing grace on Emmy's behalf for many years to come!

Prayer requests are mostly the same as before, but I must ask again that you join us in praying for the Lord's guidance as we try to discern our role in Emmy's future. We are still not there yet. I also ask that you pray for the Holy Spirit to steer this potential involvement by Emmy's grandfather. Pray that it is a blessing to her life and not another hurdle she has to overcome.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Countdown to Vacation!!

We received approval on Tuesday to take Emmy to the beach with us next week, so we are now packing and preparing to head out Saturday! We'll be there for a week with my family, and I can hardly wait!

Seeing as this will be our first vacation with a baby and a puppy in tow, preparation doesn't seem quite as relaxing as I remember it being in the past, but we'll make it! Being the minimalist that I am, I cringe as I am creating our extra-long packing list. How can we possibly need all of this stuff?? Can't we get by with fewer material posessions this week? As I look at the list, my logic says, " really do need everything on this list." The other side of me, however, tends to think that in many places across the world, mothers get along just fine without Pack n' Plays, High Chairs, and Johnny Jump-Ups. Oh well, they probably will make the trip with us along with the dog crate, bicycles and what is shaping up to be several bags of miscellaneous items. Hopefully we'll be able to cram them (and us) into the car on Saturday.

Our case worker told me on Tuesday that she had given the photographs we printed to Emmy's mom, and that she was very appreciative. I was happy to hear that. Emmy's mom also asked for more photos to share with her family, so I'm working on that. I'm hoping to get some adorable shots at the beach to keep Emmy's mom in-the-know about her first-ever beach vacation and for us to document what is sure to be a precious week of memories!

There is one other thing that has come up since I last posted for which I would ask your prayers. Emmy has a 17-year-old half-brother who is also in foster care in Georgia. Until now, he has never met Emmy, but his case worker is pushing hard for them to have regular visitation from now on. This brings up a lot of questions and concerns on our part.

Fortunately, our agency has offered to take the wheel on this, so I won't have to be the one navigating this sticky situation. However, I do feel a strong need to cover this in prayer. For one thing, we happen to know that this brother visits with Emmy's mom regularly and doesn't always take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of her illness. We're concerned about how it might jeopardize Emmy's safety to come in contact with her brother if he is carrying his mom's illness on his clothing. We also don't know how this contact with Emmy's brother will affect her future. Will this be a long-term relationship that Emmy is expected to keep up? Will this ultimately become a relationship that Emmy's adoptive parents will have to manage once Emmy and her brother are both out of the foster system? So many questions, but we will cover Emmy, her brother, and her mom in prayer and lean on our knowledge that God is sovereign over all things.

I'd say after the last month or two, we've never been more ready to dig our toes into the sand and RELAX!! I look forward to a fun update when I return!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Emmy's Review Panel

I attended the first review panel for Emmy's case today, so I'm going to try to update you the best that I can and give you a clear picture of what it was like.

It was held in a conference room at the courthouse. We waited in a different waiting room than the huge court waiting room I had experienced with Zizi. It was much less intimidating and less overwhelming, especially because I was so familiar with all of the other team members in attendance. Here's a run-down of who all attended the panel:
  • The panel supervisor who reports directly to the judge.
  • 2 members of the panel who mediate the meeting and make official recommendations based on what they hear.
  • The CASA
  • The CASA's supervisor
  • Emmy's DFACS Case Worker
  • Volunteer lawyer representing Emmy. (He visited with the CASA recently, so I had gotten to know him a bit before.)
  • The Early Intervention Specialist
  • Myself
  • Emmy
  • Our agency case manager
  • A few interns from various departments
  • and a uniformed officer
Emmy's mom was not present, but she was present via speaker phone in the center of the conference table.

First, we all went around the room to introduce ourselves. Then, we went around the room giving updates from every person involved. This was really the only time that I actually spoke in the meeting.

I wish I could say that the meeting went wonderfully, but that was just not the case. Unfortunately, there was a lot of drama among the panel, and things got a little heated at times. However, in the end, decisions were made that I believe will be in Emmy's best interest. Within the next 30 days, papers will be filed to begin what most people call "TPR," or termination of parental rights. You can imagine that this news was not received well by Emmy's mom, but the panel supervisor made it very clear that Emmy's mom is the one who has control over whether or not Emmy returns home or is put up for adoption.  If she is able to follow the case plan, she will still get Emmy back. If not, she won't. Filing for TPR, from what I can understand, is basically a wake up call to say, "OK...if you weren't taking us seriously before, you now have a very limited time to prove yourself before the court, because we are proceeding as though your child will be adopted out of your care." 

I hate that I didn't have the opportunity to look into Emmy's mother's eyes and offer grace and understanding, but the Lord knows what He's doing, and He will give me that opportunity when and if the time is right. For now, my responsibility is to Emmy - to offer her a sense of stability while these storms unknowingly rage around her. I did bring Emmy's mom a framed photo of Emmy along with several other photos that she can switch out as much as she would like. I hate that she hasn't been able to see Emmy for the last 2 months. What a different child she is these days!!

While these papers are being filed, it is only the beginning of an even longer process to find a permanent placement for Emmy. She could still return to mom. She could still be adopted by a family member. Any number of things could affect the outcome of this case. I take great comfort in the capabilities of the people on Emmy's team. I have developed a love and respect for many of the people fighting on her behalf, and I look forward to the day when we will all celebrate a happy ending for Emmy - whatever that may be!

Thank you for praying. Continue to pray for Emmy's mom, and continue to pray over the future and the potential family members that might still come forward to adopt Emmy.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Prayer Reminder

I just wanted to send a quick reminder to pray for Emmy today at 10am. My oh-so-gracious mother-in-law has offered to attend the panel with us. That way, she can step out with Emmy if needed. What an answer to prayer! I look forward to updating you all tomorrow evening. Thanks again!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wondering what the future holds...

Since I last updated everyone, we received news that the potential family placement for Emmy has seemingly fallen through. The family member came to the courthouse to begin paperwork but left without doing so. The case worker tells me that this likely means that he will not proceed. What this means for Emmy, we do not know. What this means for us, we do not know. We are not allowing ourselves to entertain any ideas about what the future might hold. I don't even have confidence in typing the words here to share what we are praying about. I'm sure you can read between the lines and join us in praying for Emmy's uncertain future and our role in that, whatever it may be.

As far as life at home is concerned...yes, it is, it is not always fun, but I would say it is mostly fun and mostly enjoyable. I have a couple of sweet friends who are in middle school now but were in elementary school when I was working in children's ministry at our church. They come and spend several hours with me and my little family every few days, and it's such a tremendous blessing. They love to interact with Emmy. They're great at making Layla behave. It just lightens my load, and I adore our sweet conversations each time they visit. Let it be a note to each of you...visitors are welcome anytime at our house! The more, the merrier!

Sometimes my husband and I just sit back and laugh at the whirlwind of activity around us. The good news is that we thrive on this kind of energy. The other good news is that I am convinced that this builds patience in each of us that will certainly come in handy as life goes on. At the end of the day, everyone sleeps soundly and wakes up happy, so what reason do we have to complain?

Please join us in praying these words in the coming days, weeks, months, possibly years:

"For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course."
Proverbs 2:6-9

May the Lord prove faithful to that promise as we attempt to discern His will for our lives.

Emmy and I will be attending a review panel for her case on Monday at 10am. Everyone who is involved in her case will be there, including Emmy's mom if she is well enough to attend. Please cover that morning with prayer for all of us:
  • Pray that Minnie and I would have the words to say and the countenance of Christ when we meet Emmy's mom.
  • Pray that Emmy's mom will, indeed, be well enough to attend.
  • Pray that Emmy's interaction with her mom will be positive.
  • Pray for wisdom for the judge, attorneys, and case workers as they review this case and determine what the future might hold. 
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit would go before us and protect this little one, whatever that might mean for her.
  • Logistically, pray that Emmy will be in good spirits during the panel. If she is fussy, I will likely have to step out with her, and I really want to be in the room to hear all that is said.
Thank you all again and again for your prayers.