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.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Peace that Passes Understanding

First, let me say thank you for praying for all of us today. We were blessed in many ways as we walked through the day. We had asked a few of you to pray that our case would be heard quickly, because time in the waiting room is not often pleasant. Today, however, we were thankful that the Lord's plans are not our plans. We sat in the waiting room for three hours talking with the boys' extended family and building a very cordial relationship with them. Without breeching confidentiality issues, we were able to clarify a lot of things and God granted us favor and peace.

Inside the courtroom, there were moments when we questioned whether Eden should stand and speak or not. In the end, she did stand and speak, and it was very well-received. We were able to advocate for the boys, expressing the reasons we believe the boys are thriving and what we believe are there needs going forward - namely stability and attachment to a committed parent. In the end, it was pretty clear that the case will, in fact, continue to move toward this family placement, but we know that our words made an impact on all involved. The judge gave a sincere, "Thank you." There were others, including their mother and extended family, who cried. Their mother caught Eden's eye in the end and nodded kindly. We were blessed to be used by God to speak out in favor of justice for these two children. We were also blessed by the opportunity to show a room full of jaded people something different - a sincere love for our boys, a sincere love for their family, a passionate desire for justice, and yet peace that could only come through faith in a good and sovereign God. 

In the end, we do have peace. We were somewhat encouraged by our conversation with the family. We also realized that much could still happen to prevent the boys from being moved at all. It's unlikely, but it's possible. At this point, there are a few remaining variables, so we're unsure about the timing of everything. We are grateful that we were heard and that we will likely continue to be able to support our boys after (if) they move. Please continue to pray for the home study process - that it would be thorough and that the evaluators would show much scrutiny when choosing whether to approve this placement or not. Praise God for giving us peace. We are, as always, overwhelmed by the blessing of the Church. Thank you for praying with us today!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Walked into my parent's church late this past Sunday...just in time to open my hymnal and sing this hymn by Isaac Watts.

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

My Shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His Name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy's sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay;
A word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head. 

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise!
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Please pray

We have court on Monday, April 29. We have been on the phone frequently over the last several days trying to sort things out. It's looking more and more clear every moment that the boys will probably be placed with their cousin soon. April 29 may very well be our last chance in the court room to advocate for these children. We are struggling to find the avenue to do this or the words to say. To give you an idea of the struggle, here are just some of the things we need to consider:

1. We want to be gracious and kind.
2. We don't want to speak out of selfishness or out of self-righteousness. We want to speak objectively on behalf of the boys.
3. We don't want to unnecessarily burn any bridges. Grandma, mom, and cousin will all be present in the courtroom. They will control the extent of our interaction with the boys once (if) they are moved. We would hate to speak in such a way that we unnecessarily cut off all chances of a relationship with the boys once (if) they are moved.
4. However, we want to be faithful to our task of advocating for these boys. The unfortunate reality is that no one involved with this case has ever truly spoken on behalf of our boys. We have waited for that. We have hoped and prayed to that end, but it appears that it won't happen unless we do it ourselves.

Please pray for wisdom as my husband and I pour over all of this this weekend. We plan to write a letter to the judge. We're trying to arrange meetings next week with everyone involved. The word we're hearing from everyone is that nothing we do will make any difference. We just feel responsible to give an accurate picture to everyone involved. If we don't, we feel that we're not fulfilling our responsibility as foster parents.

In addition to wisdom, pray for peace, pray for faith, pray that our hearts would look like His in all that we do and say this week. Pray, also, for B-boy and K-man...too many requests to even state here. Pray however you feel led. We'll keep you posted.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Taking Thoughts Captive

"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion 
raised against the knowledge of God, 
and take every thought captive to obey Christ."
2 Cor. 10:5

The Lord has been teaching me a lot lately about taking my thoughts captive. As you can imagine, and as you've probably seen in my posts often, my thoughts can just get away from me sometimes. I'm not often a worrier, but this foster care thing is enough to corrupt the best of us :) Allow me to illustrate what I mean using some of the thoughts that have been creeping into my head most recently since Tuesday's Family Team  Meeting...

What will K-man do if I have to tell him he's going to live somewhere else again and may never come back?
What if they don't let him finish the school year?
Will they be screaming and crying as I put them in the transporter's car with all of their bags to move away?
What if I'm tempted to just hold onto them both and not let them rip them out of my hands?
Will it be better for me to stay strong for them or show them my broken heart so they will remember how dearly loved they were?
Will they be here for their birthdays?
Will their birthdays come and go without so much as hearing their voices?
How will I ever have another child in this house again?
I don't think I'll ever love another child as much as I love these boys.
What if no one tells them they love them?
What if no one tucks them in at night?
What if B-boy only eats Cheetos every day for the rest of his childhood?
What if their hearts harden?

...and on and on it goes.

Some would say I'm entitled to these thoughts. They may be understandable, but at their core, they are anxious thoughts that deny a Sovereign God who is in absolute control of all things on this earth. It's similar to the feeling I get when I hear the age-old phrase, "Oh...I just don't think I could ever do what you do. I could NEVER love these kids and watch them leave." I get it. I do. BUT we need to really think about what that phrase might be saying about our faith. At the center of that phrase might just be a lack of faith in a very big and mighty God. If that has been your thought, I challenge you to check your heart.

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, 
for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. 
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
Matthew 6:34 are some things that have helped me in seasons like this.

I often heed Elisabeth Elliott's reminder that there is no grace for our imaginations. He's simply not pouring out grace for whatever horrible scenario I can dream up. He is in the business of giving all-sufficient grace for every real life trial that comes my way. I need not worry. His grace will be there to greet me. In the same spirit, I had a friend tell me once that God didn't intend for us to live things over and over and over. He meant for us to live them once, and He intends to sustain us. I need not start living that day until that day comes, with all of the grace that has been poured out on me in every trial before.

I read the Old Testament. I like to think on the great things He has done. He encourages us over and over again throughout scripture - from Genesis to Revelation, He encourages His people to remember His past faithfulness. My dear friend called and shared Psalm 77 with me just the other day. What a precious Psalm to meditate on, primarily because it causes us to look at God's past faithfulness, not our present circumstance, to increase our faith and devotion to the Almighty God.

Psalm 77

I cry aloud to God,
    aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
    in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
    my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
    when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
You hold my eyelids open;
    I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
    the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
    let me meditate in my heart.”
    Then my spirit made a diligent search:
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
    and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
    Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
    to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
    and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
    What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
    you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
    the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
When the waters saw you, O God,
    when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
    indeed, the deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water;
    the skies gave forth thunder;
    your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
    your lightnings lighted up the world;
    the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea,
    your path through the great waters;
    yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

I also do my best to be honest. I'm thankful for the Psalms. I use them often. God has given us such a gift in the Psalms and even through many of the prophets. He has put his stamp of approval on some words that, honestly, seem downright faithless and disrespectful at times. He's given me these words that I, myself, can pour out to Him, because each and every time the Holy Spirit has written the words in such a way as to turn our hearts back to Him.

Psalm 13

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Finally, I think about heaven. It is often the only thing that sustains me. I teach fitness classes and often tell my class, "We have 15 seconds left. You can do anything for 15 seconds..." I guess that's what the promise of heaven does for all of us. When we know for certain that this life and these trials and this world and this sin is temporary, we can press on in hope of an eternity in glory.

"But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward 
to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness."
2 Peter 3:13

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'"
Revelation 21:1-4