Friday, January 31, 2014

To the Outer Parts

Five years ago on Monday, we got the call that forever changed our lives.

Two Rebekahs cried out to God for his intervention...his rescue...on the same day. And because his name is Faithful. Redeemer. He answered.

On January 27th, 2009, I read the words of my son's mother for the first time. God started a revolution in my heart that day and cracked open a window in my life that had been locked down for years.

It's not just life that buried our plans and required us to start new. God has, continually, urged and stirred our hearts beyond our comfort. I can't tell you how many times we've, metaphorically, drawn a line, saying to no one in particular, "We are willing to go this far. We are willing to love this much." No sooner do we put the pen down and God moves our line beyond the horizon. He could keep it within eyesight...but, instead, he asks us to the outer parts. Wooing us with his spirit.

We go. We always go.

Because our love for him is greater than any comparison.

On January 27th, 2014, we got an outer parts call.

We were in the midst of setting up triple bunk beds in preparation for whatever four year old God intended to send our way. Our life is sure to be dominated by them.

I hung up the phone and looked at Ben. I was already neck deep in love, ready to swim away, if it weren't for Ben's steady grip. "No. We didn't sign up for this."

I know.

"This is too far."

I know.

That morning, I received a note from our foster care case worker. Another family was chosen for Lya and Jamar. Their case worker felt that a family with no children was the best fit. I took the call in stride and knew that God was at work because my response was void of emotion, I just felt peace.

Sibling set number two was moved overnight to a prior foster family's home for a reason unknown to me. That foster family decided to move forward with adoption.

The "no" prompting phone call was from our adoption case worker. She was calling about sibling set number three.

My mind swirled. In four days, we had talked and thought through details on three different sets of siblings. I, officially, fell in love with all six.

Sibling set number three were not part of our plan, but I was drawn to their story...

For now, we'll call them sweet boy and little sis. Sweet boy is four years old (I know, right?) and little sis is four months old. Due to lack of progress, the judge, uncharacteristically, changed the status of the file from reconciliation to adoption, even though these siblings have been in care less than 12 months. Sweet boy is suffering loss as he deals with the painful understanding of no-show visits from his birth mother. Little sis has her own struggles in life as she was drug-exposed and fighting for normalcy inside her little body.

Our case worker asked for our consideration even though the case was outside our plan. Our plan never included legal risk.

I had a conference call with our adoption case worker, the siblings' worker, and the agency supervisor on Wednesday. They are sure that we are the right family. No other family was being considered. They, confidently, expressed their reasons for believing this case will move toward parental termination by April, but they were transparent in making sure we understood the risk.

The siblings' case worker would like to place sweet boy and little sis in our home within the next two/three weeks and then walk us through the steps of court petition, pre-trial, and trial for termination. We have a pretty good idea of what should happen....but this is foster care; anything can happen.

We spent Monday night talking through every scenario, all of our plans, and the ever-steady hand of God in the life of our family.

There are too many thoughts to pound out, here, tonight.

But, I wanted to give you an update of where we're at...

On Tuesday morning, we will go to the agency to meet our lovies for the first time.

We said yes. Yes to God. Yes to risk. Yes to sweet boy and little sis.

We don't know God's purpose, but we're sure of its existence.

This will be an interesting journey as the path is unknown. The only confidence we have is in the one who makes known. We are desperate for his guidance as we follow a plan that wasn't written by us...

(If you have any experience with drug-exposed infants please email me. I covet your thoughts/advice)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bring in the Bunk Beds

This is getting comical.

Ben has a friend at work that we've encouraged along the way as him and his wife pursue foster care adoption for their family. They have boys much older than ours and want to bring a girl into the family. They were called about a set of girls, last week. They took time to pray through it, but in the end were not prepared to bring two girls home.

Their case worker called me, yesterday.

She had urgency in her voice.

The girls are in a home that has given her 30 day notice. The girls suffered a failed adoption placement, over Christmas, when the foster mom fell, seriously, ill. The, current, foster mom is willing to adopt the younger sister, but doesn't want them both, but the case worker is unwilling to separate the sisters. The case worker only has until the first week in February to find a new home.

Tragically, these sweet babies have been in 10 placements. Their case worker is desperate to find their permanent home before February, so that they don't have to move two more times.

The case worker reminded that talking to me, directly, wasn't protocol, but that she was anxious to know if we would be willing to consider her kids' case. If so, she would contact our case worker.

She gave me the specs.

Two girls. One is 4; the other is 2.

I smiled to myself. We are destined to raise three 4 year olds.

The case worker seemed startled by my lack of hesitancy. She was expecting me to say, no, with each piece of information. She, skeptically, continued through the file when I didn't.

God has prepared our hearts. I feel, amazingly, calm and cloaked in peace.

Once she realized I was, legitimately, interested in adopting the kids in her care, she leveled with me, saying, "These girls are a full time job. They are going to be a challenge. There are no signs of abuse, just serious neglect. They are, emotionally, broken and they need serious structure, boundaries, and consistency. I believe all of their behaviors stem from having 10 placements."

Of course. Anger stirred in me. There is something broken in our system that all of these little ones have suffered so much disruption. All of the children we're looking at are under 4. What about the 8 and 10 year old? If 2 and 4 year olds are switching homes 7-10 times, how many homes has a 12 year old lived in? We have to do something about this.

I pushed my soapbox aside, for the moment, and listened to the endless list of behaviors that the girls display.

I told her a little bit about our family and how we're waiting on God for the next chapter of our story. I let her know that we would, seriously, consider her case if we were not the family chosen for Lya and Jamar.

As we talked through it we discovered that all four kids are assigned to the same agency. What!?! And that she works down the hall from the other case worker. Seriously!?! What are the odds? This agency isn't even our agency.

She knew of Lya and Jamar and the other families being considered.

The case worker rushed off the phone and let me know that she would have the supervisor call me.

Of course these conversations keep happening on Friday nights, so that we have to suffer the wait of a weekend!

My heart is malleable. I told the Lord to use us where he needs us most. It's that simple.

The second "4 and 2" set do not follow our birth order criteria. The four year old little girl is a few weeks older than Ty. That has made Ben pause, but God's plans, historically, don't mirror ours. 

They are better. Rich in redemption.

One thing is for sure. Our family is growing and we need more bunk beds!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


This morning, I woke up to an incredible sunrise. Every shade of pink and orange filled the sky and my heart burst with thanksgiving to God. He filled my heart with such peace and I began to sing, Jeremy Camp's, Give Me Jesus:

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise

Give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus.
You can have all this world,
Just give me Jesus.

I hummed through my shower, getting the boys dressed, and breakfast.

I thought about Hosea's faithfulness to God during his tumultuous relationship with his harlot wife and God reminded me that he is not into trickery.

He asks for our hearts. And we've given them.

If we are chosen to parent Lya and Jamar, than it's part of God's plan for our family. If we're not, than God will honor our willingness and direct us, again. As I watched the sun rise, I was awed at the simplicity of it. What is there to be anxious about?

It was just one of those mornings where God shows his face, fills your spirit, and sends you on your way.

Around midday, I got a text from Ben:

We need to do this thing as best as possible...If we don't get picked then we know it's a "no"...otherwise we need to see this through.

I smiled. God wasn't just working in me, this morning, he was moving through Ben, too.

We haven't been talking about this sweet sibling set much because there are just more questions than we have answers and, truth be told, everything on the outside says to turn the other way...

An hour later, Ben sent another text. This time it was the lyrics from Jesus Culture:

Set a fire down in my soul,
That I can't contain, that I can't control,
I want more of you God -
I want more of you.

He followed it with, I can't sing that and then, blindly, turn my back on this.

I was moved to tears.

We may be one in heart, but Ben and I are not one in mind. We think, feel, and process life very differently. I start running as I say, yes, and Ben sits down to think about his no (you can imagine our home buying process and why it took us two years to find the right one).

We are different people with different drives, but God brought us together to raise one family with His purpose.

At bed time, LJ told me that he was going to teach his new brother how to wrestle. I told him how much his brother would love that and then reminded him that Jamar might be really sad and grumpy for awhile if he comes to live with us. LJ was thoughtful in his response, "Because he doesn't have a mom and dad?"

Yeah, buddy...

"But you're a mom...and daddy's a dad...and I'm a brother! We should adopt him, Mom!"

I agree.

God spent the day weaving through the hearts of my family. Whether for this sibling set or the next, we are ready for all that God has for us.

Now we just wait...

Monday, January 20, 2014

In the Balance

I contacted our case worker on Friday that we were willing to be considered, but if selected, we have some serious questions and concerns before moving forward. I felt like I was telling her it was okay to choose another family...that we just aren't sure...but she emailed within a half hour asking me to write out our questions and concerns; they want to work through them with us.

I sent them off and enjoyed the weekend. I am okay with whatever direction we head in, from here.

Ben was out of town, which gave me lots of one-on-two time with the boys. I didn't talk about Lya or Jamar, unless they brought it up. Ty brought it up several times.

He told me about all the things he would teach his "baby" sister and how he would play barbies and house with her and that they could ballroom dance together. Such a tender heart.

LJ didn't say a word.

At one point, Ty and I were talking at dinner. He had asked me why so many kids don't have "Mumas and Daddys" and I looked over to see LJ crying. I scooped him up and showered him with affection and affirmation. When I asked him if he could tell me why he was sad, he shrugged his shoulders and held me tighter.

By Sunday, LJ wouldn't eat or play. He moped around the house waiting for Ben to come home. No matter how many times I told him that Daddy was coming home, I don't think he believed it until Ben walked through the door.

Looking back on our weekend, it's hard to imagine more kids in the house. LJ feels so deeply and his spirit is sensitive. We are limited in the movies we can watch, because of this. If we're watching a Disney movie (and we're talking rated G, mama-approved) and the character is sad or facing conflict, LJ will have tears streaming down his face. Even if he is on one of our laps, his little heart cannot handle the insecurity. He needs to know that we're all okay, all the time. That his world is safe and stable and constant. Ty doesn't even know to question it.

We've gotten good at recognizing LJ's cues. Even in the midst of discipline, sometimes we have to stop and hold him tight for several minutes, affirming his place in our family, before addressing the issue. He has also gotten better at letting us know when he's feeling uneasy. Lately, he's been coming to me and saying, "Mama. I feel sad." He can never verbalize why, but it's enough that he's able to tell us. This is a huge step forward.

After dinner, tonight, Ben said, "I just don't know if LJ's ready."

It's difficult to know.

He is a completely different boy, from the one we brought home two years ago, but the lingering insecurities will exist for a long time to come.

Part of me feels like it would be good for him to get to be an "older" brother. He would get the opportunity to lead the way; to guide a younger sibling. Especially one that is, noticeably younger than him.

We've been working on building LJ's confidence, thanks to the therapist. One of the easiest ways to do this has been to give him "important" jobs, giving him the opportunity to show us what he can do. Every time he completes a task, he beams with pride at his accomplishment. I feel like a younger sibling could really help his growth in this area.

At the same time, this wouldn't be a younger sibling that has lived a full, loved, well-adjusted life. We worry that the insecurity brought in by new siblings, with his same story, will add to his self doubt.

We need the Holy Spirit's direction more than we ever have before.

He knows my kids. All of them.

The ones we care for now; the ones we'll care for in the future. I have to trust that he will lead us in his way and that we'll all be the better because of it.

Please continue to pray for Lya and Jamar. Pray that their rescue is coming...

Friday, January 17, 2014

God Help Us

I wasn't holding out on you. We just got the file, yesterday.

I opened the email with anxious fingers and a shaky heart.

My questions were many, but the most important question, for us, was the date of sweet girl's birthday (I'll refer to her as Lya - sounds like Leah). There has been one constant guideline in our adoption journey and that is birth order. For many reasons, Ben and I are firm on this "rule" for our family. I know, I know, lots of families overcome this just fine....but for us, it's important. Ty is a fithborn being rasied as a firstborn...and he IS a firstborn. His tendencies and perceptions all point to his status in our family as oldest. Even if only by a few weeks.

During the wait for the file, I fell more in love with these babies with each passing day. If it was God's way of preparing my heart, it worked. I was concerned with what we would do if the birthdays didn't align. Would our hearts win over our logic?

I scanned the file, quickly, to find the printed date.

All three four year olds were born in 2009.

Ty was born in June, LJ August, and September. I bit my lip and my eyes swelled. God is in the details.

It's amazing how you can fall in love with words. No picture; no video clip. Just lines on a report. I was smitten by paragraph three. Absolutely washed in compassion and love, I cried through all 18 pages.

Lya is four. Jamar is two (mostly three). I couldn't help but replace their names with "Ty" and "LJ" when reading through the injustices done to them. Thinking about my babies living through the same tragedies, knowing LJ, did, in fact, survive similar experiences, was too much for my mama heart. I wept over loss.

While my heart went to heavenly places, pleading for these new babies, my eyes read through blurred vision, "neglect...emotional instability...disruption...trauma..." Lya and Jamar have been in care for two years, lived in seven homes, and never stayed more than a few months in any. Sound familiar? I was reading LJ's story all over again.

Anger rose up.

Sweet Lya hoards food, displays aggressive behavior when she's not feeling in control, has no understanding of personal boundaries, becomes unruly and frustrated when overwhelmed, displays a tick when she feels threatened, and doesn't seem to have the tools for expressing her feelings.

Of course, not. How in the world is a four year old...a FOUR year old...supposed to process living in seven homes over 24 months?

Little Jamar rocks himself back and forth to sleep, every night, until he falls over in exhaustion. The file infers this is due to lack of mothering... I can barely even type that.

The file goes on and on and on.

My God. Help us.

"Lya has no significant relationships to speak of, with the exception of her younger brother..."

I had to stop reading.

These are children. Children of the Most High God. Treasures on this earth...and they've been treated as rags. This story is a mess; this system is a mess. Both birth parents spent their life in the same system that ravaged their children.

My God. Help us.

Ben has spent the last several months buried at work. He's worked many long hours and weekends. We do our best to make life at home easy, loving him through this time. I had many hours with the file, while I waited for him to come home.

I felt guilty that he was going to have to read through such terror after such a long day. It was late in the night before we finally had a chance to sit down together. As sure as I was/am that I want to bring these babies home, Ben's reaction wasn't what I expected. It wasn't "yes". It wasn't "no". He was hesitant; reflective; and extremely protective toward our boys.

Ben's pause sent me in a tail-spin.

I respect my husband more than any man on earth. I run my life on passion and recognize that often times it clouds my view of reality. God gave me Ben's love to help ground me. He is steadfast and logical in his reasoning and I appreciate that.

We went to bed with more questions than answers and didn't come to a decision.

I woke up, this morning, in complete peace.

The part I haven't shared, yet, is that the agency is considering three families for this sibling set and I imagine, the other families are having similar conversations.

I snuggled in close to Ben (we are not pop out of bed people) and sat in silence for awhile. We agreed to allow the case worker to consider us, but want her to know that we have questions and concerns.

Our prayer moving forward is that God will make this easy. If Lya and Jamar are not part of his plan for our family, than we're asking God to pull our name from the ring. I only want to be selected if Ben and I can stand in assurance that this is God's path for us. We cannot be divided on the greatest challenge we'll face.

To no fault of their own, these babies are broken. And my heart weeps for them. I am desperate for God's restoration and redemption. It's theirs for the taking...they only need to be ushered in.

Please pray with us that Lya and Jamar will find security soon and that they will be welcomed into the unparalleled love of our God.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ready or Not

God has such a sense of humor.

I was going to wait to share this, but I have so many stirrings in my heart and mind, that I decided to go for it.

The three of us walked out of the counselor's office hand-in-hand. We met after work, so before we caught up to the line of cars, LJ yelled, "I'm riding with dad!"

We smiled and buckled him in. No surprise there. Ben is LJ's favorite person.

That meant I was on pick-up-Ty duty. It took about two minutes to debrief our session in the fog. Literal fog. It's been crazy weather, here, skipping from negative thirty to forty. We laughed, agreed that we are doing just fine in the parenting realm, and apart from a couple of tips, found therapy unnecessary at this time.

I'm glad we went.

I buckled in and thanked God for the peace of mind and heart that washed over me.

Two minutes into the drive my phone rang.

It was the supervisor at our foster care agency.

"Rebekah, we had a case sent over from LAS (Lutheran Adoption Services - our foster agency is Lutheran Social Services). We think your family would be a great fit."


"Do you have time to talk, right now."


"We have a sibling set of two that we'd like to keep together."


"A four year old..."

I laughed out loud and in my heart sent a "Really?" God's way. Does he remember that we already have two four year olds?

"...and a two year old."

She went on to read me a summarized list of information and then asked, "Do you think you guys would be interested in reading through their file?"


"Okay, we'll email it on Monday and will look forward to talking about it early next week."

I let my mind swirl for a few minutes before calling Ben.

I love my husband. I really really do.

He never freaks out or asks questions. He just takes the information in stride. This time he answered with, "Okay...I was hoping to get through the summer, but this is what we want...what we've been waiting for. God didn't give us this house and property to sit empty."


I picked up Ty and hesitated only for a minute before telling him about the phone call. I didn't tell him that he will be getting new siblings or make promises, but our kids are a part of this family and process. Every night at dinner they pray for God to bring them a sister (or five brothers). They watch Disney movies (Despicable Me) and tell me that we should adopt all the kids that don't have families. And they are, acutely, aware that there are lots of kids out there praying for a family.

And we're a family.

I spent last night dreaming and scheming and praying for these sweet babies.

When I woke up, this morning, I felt like I was in a choke hold. My heart was gripped with anxiety. Four children. FOUR CHILDREN! FOUR CHILDREN FOUR AND UNDER! Are we crazy?

I, suddenly, had more questions than I did answers.

I flipped through my catalog of challenges we experienced when we first brought LJ home. When the supervisor was reading through the four year old little girl's history I made mental checks - LJ, LJ, LJ. Can I really parent two four year olds with similar challenges? On top of parenting an additional four and two year old?

Today, was a game of tug and war.

Lord, you hem me in. You go before and behind.

This is crazy; I can't parent four young children.

 You've given me everything I need for life.

But, what will I do about my job? Daycare? A vehicle?

You direct my paths.

I won't be able to grocery shop or run to Target; no one will want to watch our brood of children so that we can get away; get will we ever afford vacations; will such a change be good for LJ; will such a change be good for me?

This all sounded better in theory.

I think I've felt every shade of emotion. I found myself soaking in every second of the boys, tonight. Will I have enough time to give four children? Will Ty and LJ feel as loved and safe as they do, right now? What will our families say?

Ah. So, crazy.

Thank God for Ben. He has concerns, too, but he is so level headed.

At dinner, we talked about whether or not the boys would want to share their room of if they would like future kids to have their own room (they want to share - unless the "baby" is going to keep them up at night. Ty was concerned about that). They both seemed non-threatened by the thought of more kids coming to live with us. Ty did remind us that "some kids have a hard time when babies come into the family because they stop getting all the attention," but he doesn't see that happening with him. When we asked where he learned that he said, "TV."

That made us all laugh.

Please pray for us!

Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit will give us clear guidance as we read through the file on Monday. That we will be in complete agreement on whether or not we are the right family for these precious kids. And if we are....

Lord, have mercy.

Monday, January 6, 2014


We had such a great break for the holidays.

It feels like we are living the dream. We are raising great boys in a great house. It took us so long to get to this place, now that we're, here, it feels surreal.

Moving to the country was the best decision we ever made.

It's easier to be simple, here.

We didn't go crazy with presents for Christmas. Instead, we enjoyed special time with friends and family. We spent hours playing outside and making memories. It was one of those breaks that felt like a break. We spent most days doing puzzles by the fire, watching movies, cooking in the kitchen, reading books, taking naps - all the things we love most.

LJ loves being home and really needed the break to re-fuel. I spent a lot of time thinking and praying about the challenges we're facing with him and I feel refreshed. God has encouraged my heart and given me confidence for our future. We start seeing a new therapist on Friday.

Our adoption case worker hooked us up with some local resources. The therapist we'll be meeting with specializes in post-adoption behaviors in kids between the ages of 2-6. I'm really excited to meet with her and am hopeful that she will help us build security in LJ.

It was nice to reconnect with our adoption case worker; it had been several months since we've connected. She is such a blessing in such broken work. She says she has a few cases that she expects to move toward adoption in the next few months that would be a good fit for our family.

We didn't talk specifics. I know who holds our future.

Ben and I went on a date, last week, and talked about or goals and dreams for the year. It feels good to live in a place of perfect peace. If we spend the rest of our lives as a family of four we will be content and grateful. If we add 2 or 10 kids to the mix, we'll be, equally, as content and grateful.

I know we're not "done" because the corners of our hearts still feel the tug, but the peace makes the waiting easy.

We, actually, got a call a few days ago regarding one-year old twin boys. It was 20 minutes of high excitement and text messages back and forth (with limited information). When I texted Ben to tell him, his response was, "Wow! Okay, Let me know."

I, instantly, fell more in love with him. How many husbands would respond that way about expanding their family by two with only a few hours notice? He's a treasure.

The twins were just coming into care, but the agency called us because they were desperate for a family. Thankfully, there was another family that was able to take them. Working full time and living more than an hour from our agency makes fostering kids a no-go for us, right now.

It was the first phone call we've received to foster, so far. I thought it would be harder to say, "no", but when you know you're walking inside God's plan, the "nos" come with a measure of confidence.

Whether more lovies come to us this year or not, I'm looking forward to a new year of revelation from the Father and opportunities to make a difference in the lives of the three boys I have.