heavy

May is filled with so many amazing things. My son Jax graduated preschool and turns 5, my other son Josiah turned 4, and we just had Mother’s Day last weekend. And… summer starts!

And while these events bring so many smiles, there is also a sense of sadness.

It is hard to explain, but today I decided to try.

Adoption is beautiful. It truly is. Everyday I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God stepped in and changed the path for them. Jax and Josiah bring so much joy to our lives. I am very blessed to be their mom.

But, the reality is there is no adoption without loss and pain . . . and grief.

We became a foster family to these boys through hard circumstances. We became their forever family because attempts to reunify them with their biological family failed.

I grieve the loss of my boy’s birth parents (all four of them). I am sad they are missing these big moments. I am sad for my boys that something so precious as a bond between a parent and child had to be broken. I know ultimately this is what was best for everyone involved. But, it’s still loss.

So, the past few weeks I kept wondering why I felt so all over the place with my emotions.  I think it is just this journey we are on. And I know they are still so young, but I think there will be a day when it becomes bittersweet for my boys as well.  Luke and I pray all of the time that we will have the wisdom to listen, guide, and love them through it.

It’s easy for any of us to sit in our circumstances in life and judge others who are in a different place. 

This week Luke and I brought a young woman we found on the street to the hospital. I spent hours with her and the more of her story I learned and put together, the more I understood she was in a very desperate, dark place. So young. So beautiful. So Broken.

I couldn’t help but cry my eyes out on the drove home. Her story was so similar to many of the parents that have children removed by child services. Honestly, her story was freakishly similar to my own boy’s moms. 

I couldn’t help but think, what if I had been born into different circumstances? It could have been me. And I know what people say (I agree) that your past and current circumstances don’t have to define you. But, the reality is when its been generation after generation, it is not easy to break the cycle. I am just incredibly grateful that my boys were given the gift of life despite the hardships their parents were facing. 

So I will pray for my children’s birth parents. I will think about them often. I will grieve their loss, even in the moments I am celebrating.  

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direction

I like having a plan.

It sounds like something that I should go to a group counseling session for: “Hi, my name’s Jenny and I need a plan, no seriously”

Can anyone else relate?

I am a little over half way through this study from Priscilla Shier called Discerning the Voice of God. Guys, it’s so great. Truly one of my favorites and I am not even finished! And it has been incredibly timely because I have been in this, “ok, what’s next God?” mood.

The study has had so many nuggets of truth, I can’t even begin to share them all. But I did want to tell you about one today.

So she compares God (the Holy Spirit) to your smart phone’s Maps App. You know the destination and type it in. Then you just simply follow instructions. Turn right here. Exit here.  And every once an awhile.. when she doesn’t speak up.. you check your phone to make sure it is still on. Yep, its still there. It just isn’t time to change course yet.

It’s funny because the same thing can happen in life.

We go through stages where we just want to know ok, what’s next? Is it time to turn now God? Ok, what about now?

Sometimes when we don’t get an answer. That can make us feel confused and maybe even doubt that God is still with us.  But what we may not realize is the answer could be that we need to keep on going. Stay the course.

Luke and I have been talking and praying recently about whether or not we should keep our fostering license open (our renewal is up).

Sometimes, if I am being honest, I am totally overwhelmed with four kids and the thought of adding a fifth seems way out of my league. Other times I worry about where we are even going to fit more children (our house is only 1500 sq ft and we already have 6 people in it!) Selfishly, there are a ton of other reasons to not keep fostering. It’s not easy.

But, we don’t make decisions based on easy.

So, because we do not feel the Lord is asking us to stop or change course. We keep on.

We will be keeping our doors open.

I have no idea what exactly that means or what turns or direction that has us heading towards, but I trust that HIS ways are better.

Bringing it back to the illustration. I was driving home from Miami a week or so ago. Caught some traffic (big shocker there). Decided to myself Siri doesn’t know what she’s talking about, I am going to go another way.  Why? Because I know better. Well, my detour ended up costing me almost another hour. If I would have stayed the course and been patient.. I would have saved myself the headache, pain, and precious time of going a worse way.

We always appreciate your prayers and support while our family continues on this journey. Please pray for wisdom and lots of patience 🙂

 

back to school

They are growing way too fast!

School may be a hard transition for some of our kiddos (so prayers appreciated for that).. but this morning they all seem pretty excited!

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josiah’s adoption day

This day was so special! Our family felt incredibly loved and supported by our tribe and of course we had the blessing of adding Josiah permanently to our family.

God is good. In the hard times and in the beautiful ones like this day.

So its my pleasure to introduce to you our son, Josiah (his name means “God has redeemed”).

and then there were 4

So today is a great day! It is this adorable guy’s 3rd birthday!

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He’s a blend of sweet kisses and defiant scowls.. haha. He is incredibly bright, in fact he may be the most perceptive kid I have ever met. His laugh is just perfect and very contagious. He loves to dance. Oh, and he’s built like a tank (45 lbs of awesome)!

In his short life he has had to overcome so much already. I have no doubt God can use this child to do great things. I pray for that each day!

You may remember us announcing his arrival to our home last September. And the past 7+ months have been a journey for him and for us. I can’t get in to all of the details, but I can say this… God works in ways we do not see or can’t truly know at the moment.

My daughter Ellie was asking some pretty deep questions about God the other day. “Mom, how does God know everything that has happened and will happen? And why doesn’t He allow us to know everything?” It’s hard to explain an all-knowing God to anyone, never mind a nine year old.

But, I told her I think that God keeps certain pieces of information from us, not to prevent us from knowing things or because He wants to be sneaky, but to protect us from the burden of knowing things before we are ready.

A great example of this is foster care. Five years ago, he said “do this.” We asked why? What if? He said don’t worry about that right now, just obey.

I am so grateful we did, though it has been a journey.

The grief, the struggle, the weight of each child’s story we read, take in, and experience first hand… all that, is way harder than I realized it would be. You become aware of the brokenness all around. If we knew how hard this would be five years ago, we probably would have been too scared to do it. But He didn’t show us all at one time, God allowed us to grow throughout the process. And, He was with us each step of the way.

And all the goods, they were so unexpected! We have been able to grow closer together as a family and closer to God. My girls learned to live selflessly by sharing their home, parents, and things with other children.We have received the blessing of adding to our family through adoption. And, because our family is a little different, it has created many opportunities for us to talk to others and have conversations we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Also, I don’t think we realized just how passionate we were about defending the cause of the fatherless or the privilege it is to be a parent before we were on this road. No, if God had told us how good this whole thing was going to be, we probably wouldn’t have believed it back then.

But it is good. Foster parenting continues to change our family in ways I never could have imagined. So many things we couldn’t have prepared for. So many moments along the way, some ending in very beautiful ways while others still sting every day. It’s exciting to think about all of the things ahead that God still has in store!

I just wanted to share those thoughts. If you are in a place where you have a lot of “whys?” Or you just wish God would just tell you whats going on.. and now. Trust that maybe, out of love, He is waiting. Maybe there is something for you to learn along the way. Maybe you can’t handle knowing it all just yet. Just trust and obey. His promises are true. He is good.

We also wanted to share some big news for us…

This adorable birthday boy will be joining our family permanently! And soon! Yes, we are officially adopting him in June!

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We are excited for the opportunity to be his mommy and daddy and his forever family. And we are thankful for you, our support system, because we know you will help us love on him and encourage him in the years to come!

Yay! We will be updating once the big day is set!

god is always

It’s been awhile since I wrote on this thing. Yikes! So, I apologize!

But, I am still thankful for this little blog. It has given me a place to share what’s on my heart. It has also been a way for me to go back and remember where we have been as a family and what I have learned along the way. If you are one of those people that pop over every once and awhile or have followed along the way, thanks! And to new friends, hello. I am glad you are here.

I wanted to share something that has been such a huge for me the past few months. These truths are so important and have really changed my perspective. They are all things I “knew” or heard before. But, I feel like these things have come to life right in front of my eyes and lifted so many burdens off my back! I hope they encourage you as well.

So, we just started 2017. Happy New Year by the way!

Did anyone else sit and wonder, what this year will bring? I feel like our family has so many unknowns ahead, so I found myself thinking a lot about the future. And I came to this conclusion…. I have no clue what will actually happen this year. I really don’t. But, I do know this… God is always.

What does that mean? Basically this… You don’t know what you’re going to face next week, month, or year, but you can know that you don’t have to face it alone. God is always with you. God is always in control. God is always good.

Philippians 2:13 says, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (NLT).

Do we realize what this means? That we don’t have to survive this year on sheer willpower. We don’t have to make it through the week in our own strength. How big of a relief is that? We don’t have to walk around exhausted and stressed out of our minds anymore. For those who know Jesus, we actually have Him working in us! He gives us the strength and the power to do His work.

Not only is God with us and in us; God is also for us. Romans 8:31 says,“If God is for us, no one can defeat us” (NLT). The Bible says we can trust God. He has promised to give us what we need.

“Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
     the LORD answered me and set me free.
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
     What can man do to me? —Psalm 118:5–6

Doesn’t it make a difference if you know someone is for you?  Someone has your back?  For those who know this, life doesn’t seem as overwhelming. The God of the universe is your father! And he is a good, good father!

Because of his goodness, God gives us things we don’t deserve, such as forgiveness, salvation, and second, third, fourth (etc) chances when we mess up. If you have not experienced God’s forgiveness, I encourage you, make things right with Him today. He isn’t some far off, scary God up in Heaven.

He wants to know you.

This next year may not be all flowers and rainbows. But that’s ok, because when you know God, goodness can come from all circumstances. 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”– Romans 8:28

This fostering thing has taught me this particular lesson over and over. Its hard, SO hard, sometimes. But, I have seen SO MUCH GOODNESS, even in the midst of pain. I have experienced God in a way I probably would not have without those hard times. And I am so thankful for each experience we have had, good and bad.

He has a purpose for every season of your life — the lonely seasons, the sad seasons, the seasons of success, the seasons of waiting, and the joyful seasons. Your life is not a random series of occurrences. God knew and He knows. He uses everything. God can draw good out of each event. That means every single thing, no matter how dark or shameful or bitter you feel about it, God can bring good out of it.

So trust as you look ahead to 2017 that…

God is always with you. God is always in control. God is always good.

Always.

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new kid on the block

How adorable is our new foster son?

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This little guy recently joined the bunch and has been a joy to have in our home.

He came in about a month ago and it’s been a good transition for the most part. (Life with two year olds has its challenges, especially ones that have been through a tough journey already in their short lives). We are trusting that God has a special plan for him and excited we get to be a part of it (for however long God allows).

Some recent photos… Can you tell Jax is just a little excited to have a new buddy around?

saying goodbye 

Saying goodbye is the hardest.

As foster parents, our home becomes a place where children placed in the foster care system come for a period of time. We love them, pray for them, snuggle them, treat them as our own. They truly become part of us. It’s what they deserve and impossible to do it any other way.

All of this is with the goal and prayer the parents can get their lives right. And after they receive the help they need, they can all be a family again. If reunification is not possible with the birth parents, many foster children instead are placed into a birth family member’s home. Whatever the reason might be, reunification can be a good thing but also an incredibly difficult time for us as foster parents.

The precious child we have come to love leaves us. There are also many times when the removal of a foster child may come suddenly, and without any prior warning. We may only have a few days, or even a few hours, before the child is moved from our home.

Our latest foster child was recently placed with a family member after being in our home for 9 months. And it has taken me over a month now to actual sit down and write this. Because in some ways, it was too hard.

I can barely see right now because my eyes are filling with tears. (I may or may not be getting funny looks from others in the local coffee shop… No wifi at the lake house.)

Our family has had other days of shedding tears but then some where we don’t talk about the subject of baby I and try to hold our emotions inside. There are stretches we have busied ourselves so we can’t think about it or maybe it won’t be as noticeable he is gone. But then the next day, we don’t feel like doing anything because we are just too sad.

Quite simply, I think we (in some ways) are grieving the loss of a child.

At first, I felt like a wimp. Others have fostered kids longer then we have… They’ve even done this dozens of times. I mean this is what we signed up for , right? So, why do I feel like a piece of my heart has been ripped away? Why is it so hard?

And I guess that is partially why I wanted to write this today. In case you are in the same boat or have been, don’t feel weird! This is hard. It’s not natural! And it’s not easy! In a perfect world adoption and fostering wouldn’t exist. But we live in an imperfect place. And the right thing isn’t always the easy thing.

Time has passed a bit, I guess. I don’t find myself going to get him out of his empty car seat or grabbing the diaper bag out of habit anymore. So in some ways, time has helped. But I still miss him so much.

We have been spending the summer at our little lake shack. And I think I can say now this was God’s incredible timing. At first, I hated the fact that I had down time. That I had moments to sit and watch the sunset. It gave me time to reflect. To process. Ugh. I’m one of those people who is tempted to stuff emotions or stay busy so I don’t have to think about it. Anyone else relate? I couldn’t do that here at the lake.

Little did I know those sunsets would be so healing for me. It’s given me time to learn more about myself and what God feels for me.

I love this little piece of a blog post written by Jason Johnson (if you are fellow foster parent… Check out his posts. So many truths)

A consistent theme running throughout the narrative of Scripture is the assurance that when God is near, all is good. When He is with us we do not have to afraid, we do not have to worry, we do not have to wonder. Psalm 46:1 reassures us that, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” When He is near, everything changes. He is an always present, always attentive, always engaged God. He weeps over our mourning and sings over our joys. He meets us in our weakness and reminds us in our weariness that He has been there before us and He is there with us now – sympathizing, holding, understanding and encouraging. In the beautiful, sacrificial, redemptive work you are doing of laying yourself down for the sake of these kids know that you are not alone. You are never alone.”

In these waves of emotions, I have felt peace. I have felt hope. And I have never felt alone.

Look at the beauty! His presence is so real.

So what’s next? I won’t be surprised if our family fosters again in the near future. We are still praying for God to make it clear to us when the time is right.

But, it is something I still feel so passionate about. Because, in the midst of all the uncertainties and unknowns that come along with caring for and loving a child that isn’t yours… this is 100 percent something close to Gods heart. These are precious children created in His image.

Though the “system” is incredibly frustrating (that’s a blog post for another day) and our hearts break over each new story of why a child is coming into care… This isn’t hopeless. If a foster child could experience the chance to be loved, no matter how long they stay with us, we would want to be willing to do it. I say this even after feeling the heartache of having to let one go.

Because what these children stand to gain is far more valuable then what we may lose in the process.

update

Yikes. It has been awhile.

I am sorry! Life got busy.. and blogging became harder. But, I am hoping to be back more and more in the next coming months!

A quick catch-up on life for us…

We still have this cutie.

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He has been with us for 6 months now. Time surely flies. We are still uncertain of his future.. but we are trusting God has a wonderful plan for his life. God has used this little man to teach our family so much. Going to four children was a super hard transition for us, but I believe those hard times have brought us closer to God and to each other.

We have been sneaking away to the lake house as much as we can. It has become such a retreat for our family. The time we spend there is so precious.

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And we just got back from an amazing trip to Haiti. Ellie did her annual shoe drive and we were able to bring over 500 pairs of shoes! This was her first trip with us. It was so special. I will be posting more images and details from this trip soon. Here’s a little peek.

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calling in the troops

I saw that a friend wrote recently that Foster Care is equal parts good and bad. It’s joy and sorrow. It’s beauty and brokenness. So much truth in that.

With Baby I being placed in our home.. I am reminded of the blessing it is to be a foster mom. God uses our family to provide safety, security and gives us an opportunity to love and care for a child in a way they likely would not have had available to them otherwise. But, along with that comes the reality of their story. Their past. Sometimes those stories are full of hurt and brokenness.

While the opportunity to love these kids is good, no doubt the circumstances that brought them to us are usually not. And that’s a lot to take in at times.

We choose to love a child, as our own, whether it’s for days, or years, or a lifetime. The unknown is so hard…but in the same, a blessing, because it keeps us focused on God. He has already used our new placement the last two months to teach me so much (I hope to blog about some of those lessons soon).

And, yes “our hands are full” (as I have had a bajillion people tell us, and then look at us like we are crazy). We are super busy. I hit the pillow exhausted every night. But, you know what? So do most people. Most of us are really, really busy. In a lot of ways, I was just as busy before we started fostering… but probably with some things that weren’t as important.

I read this on a foster parenting friend’s blog recently… when he was talking about the need for more foster parents…

“Your life is probably crazy busy. But you are far more brave than you realize to say yes, despite all the reasons you have to say no, and you are capable of handling far more than you could ever possibly imagine – even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. The good news is that Jesus does not call you to control everything in the foster care or adoption process, nor does He expect you to. He actually wants you to be okay with the fact that you can’t. Your success in this is not measured by your capacity to keep everything in order; it’s determined by your ability to trust that even in the chaos Jesus is beautiful – and even in the mess, so is what you are doing by loving these kids the way that you are. He doesn’t expect you to understand it all now; He’s simply asking you to trust Him with the next step, and then the next, then the next…

Now, the challenge. Kids in crisis can’t afford to wait until it’s most convenient for you to care for them. They don’t have that luxury. They need you to stop rationalizing what you know God is calling you to do – and just do it. Your “no” is a lot more difficult on them than your “yes” will ever be on you. Perhaps these kids needs your family as much as your family needs these kids. One is given comfort and security for likely the first time in their life while the other is freed from comfort and security, and as a result, actually finds life. Jesus Himself said, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) In perhaps one of the most counterintuitive and countercultural statements He ever made, we find what life is all about – losing ourselves for the sake of someone else’s gain. Hard? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. What you stand to lose pales in comparison to what everyone, including yourself, stands to gain. There’s never really a perfect time to foster or adopt; just a lot of opportunities to say yes to losing yourself despite the many reasons you have to say no. 

Before someone pulls the Jesus card on this post and says that there is in fact a perfect time to foster or adopt – when God says to – let me be very clear: I agree, the perfect time to foster or adopt is when God says to – but be aware, He may tell you to when it’s not the easiest, most convenient or comfortable for you. Obedience for you, then, is about considering the costs and choosing to believe that Jesus is better – that what He wants you to do for these kids is worth it and that He will take care of you every step of the way.  Let me end with this: If you’re someone who keeps wondering about it, talking about it and praying about it then you’re probably someone that just needs to do it…and most likely somebody that would be great at it.”

Anyways, I am not trying to guilt anyone in to fostering/adopting. I know it’s not for everyone. But, if you have been (like I have been before) guilty of rationalizing, justifying and delaying for the sake of convenience or even because of fear, I ask you to pray about how you can get involved.

ALSO.. I wanted to add something else today. Not everyone is in a place to personally foster or bring a child in their home.. but there is SO MUCH you can do to support those who do. And that is so important.

Even this past week… I had a friend come by for a couple hours… she watched the boys, and I was able to go for a run and take a shower (two luxuries I don’t always get these days). My mother in law took our new foster baby for me this weekend so I could have a morning to myself. And, I even had a friend approach me this morning, asking how she can support us. THIS is what the church should look like. Those acts of service are a huge blessing to us. HUGE!

So.. here are some other ideas for you guys..

 

You can:

–  Treat foster parents with a new placement the way you would a family that had a baby – it is JUST as exhausting and stressful. And really an adjustment for everyone in that family (children and parents).

           – offer to bring them dinner  

           – help out with the children

           – lend a hand in running errands

(In the same…this applies to a family that has just lost a placement as well. This can be a time of adjusting too. Bringing them dinner, or helping out during that time could be important)

–  Be a Foster Grandparent. Spoil the kids as if they were your own grandchildren and build a relationship with them.

–  If God has given you the financial means, support! Buy a foster family a new vehicle they can actually fit everyone in. Donate to pay for a kid’s gymnastic classes for a year. Even though we do receive a stipend for children from the government, it barely covers food and resources. Having help financially is huge and opens the doors to more possibilities.

–  Offer up your children’s outgrown stuff to pass on 

          – baby items

          – clothes

          – toys 

–  Offer to babysit.  Foster parents have lives. And they need date nights. Or take some of the kids and give them a chance to spend more one on one time with their children (especially families with multiple children).

– Be an extra pair of hands when foster families go somewhere challenging – offer to come along to the zoo, to the playground, etc. 

– Be mindful of what you say. Please don’t ask every time you see a foster parent the details of their child’s case. Or when they are adopting that child.  Most of the time not much has changed and we don’t know. And maybe the better goal is to reunify that child. Also, isntead of hearing, “Oh, you are such a saint…” I prefer…”How are you doing? How can I support you?”  I don’t know about other foster parents, but when I hear the words..  “You are a saint”.. it puts this unsaid pressure on me. I feel like I can’t ask for help.. or be sad.. or say it’s hard. 

And last… please PRAY for the children and the families involved.

As always, if you are interested in helping or getting involved… send me a note at jenny@capturedbyjen.com

And.. for fun.. some fall photos from the past couple weeks… 😉

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