Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Feeding the Ducks

Love, love, loving this weather!!!! Yesterday, Ella & I went to our local park to feed the ducks. It was SO nice to be out in this gorgeous weather that is just too few and far between for us Texans.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Foster Care | Part 9 - LAST Training Update

We are officially done with all our classroom training!!! 27 hours in a class over the past 1 ½ weeks and I can’t believe it’s over. We still have a lot we have to get done, but that is certainly one HUGE check mark off the list.

Just like last week, at the end of this weekend of training, I was filled with much joy and peace over this process and our coming journey! VERY minimal anxiety, which is a huge testimony!

The training this past Thursday, Friday & Saturday was a lot more of the technical stuff with the process, so it was at times a little boring. But my brain is definitely on information overload.

As strange as this sounds, I’m kind of sad our trainings are over. There is something so comforting about being in a room full of people that are at the same place as you in life. There were probably about 30 others there besides us and just knowing that we are all about to embark on this same journey together brought me much hope. It’s kind of a feeling of…if they can do it…I can do it.

I had one incrediblely divine appointment on Saturday I have to tell you about because I’m still so excited over it! Part of the training on Saturday was CPR training. As a foster parent you have to have your CPR training renewed every 2 years. So a couple came in the back of the class just for that part of the day.

They were very noticeable because it was a middle age Caucasian couple with a little adorable African American boy that looked about 5 years old.

When they came in, they sat in the back of the room. The entire time I kept thinking to myself how badly I wanted to go talk to them and hear their story because Heath and I very much so have envisioned are family similar to what we were seeing. And he was just the cutest little boy and so cuddly I couldn’t just watching him!

I’m not typically the type to go up and talk to a stranger unless the perfect opportunity presents itself. And I so badly wanted that to happen. Well, just as God would have it, that opportunity presented itself none other than in the ladies’ restroom. I mean would it be anywhere else.

I asked her while we were at the sink washing our hands if this is her foster child. She said that he is actually her adopted son. They got him from the hospital when he was a newborn. I was excited when she said that because Heath and I are setting our age bracket for newborns to 2 yrs old. I have heard a lot of difficult stories about getting newborns, so I have felt a little bit of anxiety over it. But to see this successful story in person brought me much hope.

Through conversation, she told me that her and her husband go to Gateway. I told her that there is a huge foster ministry at Gateway (as if she didn’t know that) that I often get on the website for research and support. She said, “My husband and started that ministry at Gateway!” WHAT?! The veil was lifted from my eyes and in that moment was in awe of the orchestration of this moment. I knew I needed to soak it in.

We talked for quite a while and I told her about my 2 main concerns.

1. Getting a newborn and thinking we will be able to adopt this newborn and then 4 or 6 or 10 months later, that newborn gets taken out of our home and placed with a family member. Ultimately, I do realize that this is probably the best for that baby, but how heart wrenching for the foster parents.

2. My concern for Ella and protecting her heart and her emotions through this.

She spoke such amazing truth to me, not holding back! This is her passion and it showed. She basically was telling me that I cannot protect Ella. But God can! That I cannot guard her emotions but God can and will. That I cannot guarantee a baby staying with us, but God knows. That I cannot control my heart breaking many times through this process, but God has already supplied the grace needed.

She was telling me how strong her little 5 year old boy is. That when a baby comes in to their home and then leaves, the 5 year old will come up to his mom and pat her on the back and say, “It’s okay mommy.” I know. She told me he is stronger than she ever could have imagined.

I have always felt that God has something in store for us that is a little different than the norm because of our daughter. If you have ever met Ella, you noticed her joyful, sweet spirit, but also sensitive spirit. She is a very compassionate child and very intuitive. Rarely misbehaving, but constantly striving to be pleasing to us. We've always noticed this, and I have always thought about what God could have for us by giving us a child with these characteristics. Over the past year, as this plan has been unfolding, it has become obvious why this strength and compassion has been in her since the beginning. God has been equipping us for the past 4 years and we had no idea!

This lady also told me that she used to hold one arm up to the child (metaphorically) so the child wouldn’t get to close to her heart, while with the other arm holding the child close. It was her way to manipulate her feelings so if the baby was taken away, she wouldn’t be as hurt. But she said after doing that with the first few, she felt God very strongly telling her to STOP IT. To love that child like you would if he was your own and if he doesn’t stay, then God will supply the comfort and grace at that time. But to stop trying to manipulate her own feelings and to trust HIM!

It was AMAZING to me that my two biggest concerns about this process was exactly this lady’s two biggest concerns. Isn’t that awesome? I still am getting goose bumps thinking about how God is even now preparing Heath and I for the journey He has for us. It’s so true…if He has called you to something He will equip!

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Foster Care | More Training

Just wanted to let y'all know that we have our last 3 training sessions this week. Thursday and Friday night from 6:00p.m. - 9:00p.m. and then all day Saturday.

Please pray for perseverance. As you read in my last post, this has been a non stop kind of week. And to top it off, I locked my keys in the my car last night after worship rehearsal. So the band and I were at the church until 10:45 waiting as a former fireman friend of ours worked to get them out.

So I'm pretty exhausted already.

Thank you so much!! I'm so pumped to be finished with these trainings. That is one huge check mark on our list of things to get done!

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Foster Care | Part 8 - Trainings Update

My intention was to update immediately following our training days last Friday & Saturday, but it has been a whirlwind ever since.

I have praise band rehearsal Sunday mornings, which means Sundays start for me at 6:00a.m., which means Sunday afternoon naps start promptly after lunch! :-) Can I get an amen? Then we had church Sunday night. One of the classes being offered this semester is a class on fostering/adoption taught by an amazing lady in our church that worked for Buckner for several years. Isn't that so perfect?!

So this brings us to Monday and Tuesday in which I attended the “Refuge” conference put on by Student Life. It was designed to be a time of rest and renewal for youth leaders. Since I work at our church for our student ministry, I was asked to go. I wasn't sure what to expect, but man am I glad I went. Not much in the way of resting but great for some renewal.

The speakers were Greg Matte (First Houston's pastor), Matt Carter & David Platt! They were out of this world amazing! I will be processing their messages for a while. I’m trying to find out if there's a podcast of the sermons. If so I’ll let ya know. Regardless of your involvement with youth they are so worth hearing.

ALL THAT TO SAY...this is the first non-working, non-sleeping, non-mommy moment I have had to sit and record my thoughts on our trainings.

Let me first stop and say thank you to everyone for all of your facebook comments, tweets, texts, and voicemail messages of encouragement! I am truly thankful for my family and friends, my church family and staff that are supporting us and covering us in prayer during this time. I literally several times throughout the trainings would grab my phone and read through comments or tweets. Those messages helped me immensely get through some intense and very sad moments and for that I am so thankful. It was once again a reminder of the great people God has placed in my life.

I am SO glad that I did not come home Friday night and get on my computer and write my thoughts from that first night. Let's just say it would have been a COMPLETELY different post than what it has become.

Friday night was rough. The stories we heard and the video that they showed of real life situations was really hard to hear and watch. The video was a documentary of a CPS worker who went into people’s homes and took their kids away due to abuse or neglect. It's was REAL LIFE. Not a reenactment. I’m not going to go into any further detail, suffice it to say it sucked!

So after 3 hours of that on Friday night, I had a mini breakdown and pretty much came home and went straight to bed. One of my fears was that I would be haunted with those images all night and not sleep a wink. But as I was going to see throughout the weekend, the Lord was beyond faithful and allowed me to sleep. When I woke up that morning, I told Heath that was the best night of sleep I have had in a LONG time. And it helped that Ella was having a blast staying the night at my parent's house, so the house was very quiet.

His mercies ARE new every morning!!!

Saturday I woke up refreshed and excited and ready for our 9 hours of training that day!

Saturday was focused all on Behavioral Management. Even if a person is not going to adopt or do foster care, but has children of your own, this class would beneficial. It amazes me that it is required for a person to have hours of training to drive a car but zero to have a kid. It would be a different world if all parents had to go through a class like what we went through on Saturday. I wish we would’ve gone through it before we had Ella.

The principles taught that day were incredible. I won't go into it all right now because your forehead might hit the keyboard. But I will say they basically talked about how the brain developments over 17 years of life beginning in utero and when brain development is interrupted because of abuse and neglect, then those effects are only seen behaviorally. It gave us an incredible understanding of not just how these kids are going to act out, but WHY!

Then that led to training on how we are to manage that behavior. It was amazing. Very eye opening.

Hang in with me because this is the part that I am the most excited about and gets me the most pumped up about!

At 4:30p.m. when Heath and I got in the car, he asked me if I was okay and if I still wanted to do this. I told him with a smile on my face, that I am not only okay but that I am filled with such joy and peace it was crazy! Not only was I totally not freaked out, I felt a bigger, stronger, stirring in my heart to move forward with this!!

Earlier that day, I had met with my pastor's wife to pray and to get some words of encouragement. If you know Jen, you know she's kind of good at that...just a little bit. :-)

I told her about the anxiety I was feeling over these trainings and how I was feeling a little guilty about even going with these feelings and asked her if I should not until I have dealt with why I have such anxiety.

She reminded me of this simple truth from Revelation...
What door God opens, man can not shut. And whatever door God shuts, man can NOT open. So I can go into these trainings with confidence knowing, if God does not have this in store for our family, we CAN NOT open the door and make it happen. It is impossible. And just the opposite, if He has opened this door for us then we can not close it.

On the way home Saturday, I knew that as of RIGHT NOW God still has this door open for us and who am I to shut it.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Foster Care | Part 7 Trainings 2 & 3

It's definitely been a while since I updated about our process of becoming licensed foster care parents. It feels like we haven't progressed much since our first training night back in June.

But in reality this has been what I have been doing in regards to foster care for the last 2 months...

Working through this ginormous binder of paperwork. Y'all, it's shocking! All of you adoptive moms and dads and foster parents are amening me right now. It really is a tad overwhelming. And most of this paperwork isn't just filling out that paper. It's instructions on a much larger project that has to be done. So it isn't even just this binder of paperwork, it's much more. Like, creating a scrapbook with pictures of everybody you know. It's copies of every document that claims you exist. It is drawing out a floor plan of your home and a fire escape route and a schedule of what your days will look like and a list of rules for your home. The list goes on and on and on.

However, as overwhelming as it has been, and I feel like I've just made a dent in it...it's NOTHING in comparison with what these kids in the foster system have been through. So you know what? I'm thankful to have to spend HOURS upon hours filling out this tedious paperwork in exchange for a life of enduring, up to this point, the most minimal of trials.

Heath and I will attend our second and third trainings this Friday night and all day Saturday.

Please, please pray for us. Friday night's training is the brutal of all brutal ones. Apparently, this is the training where we will hear in detail on sexual and physical abuse, neglect and abandonment cases. Along with pictures and videos.

Part of me feels guilty for the anxiety I am experiencing over this when I am not the one that had to live through the stories we are going to hear. I am not the one that experienced the absolute most horrific traumas imaginable.

But anxiety is what I have. I'm scared. I'm terrified that when I hear story after story tomorrow night, I am going walk out of there and never look back. That I am going to want to abandon this entire process and feel that there is absolutely no way that I am equipped to be able to handle it.

So please pray that I will not be overwhelmed. That God will allow me to process the information in an appropriate way. Because I know in my heart that if God has called Heath and I on this path, than without a doubt HE will equip us. Convincing my mind and emotions of that is what the hard part is going to be. Please pray that I will believe that with every cell in my body.

Thanks y'all!! I will let you know how it goes.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Ella's 1st Day of School!

Today was Ella's 1st day of school. This was the start of her second year at this preschool and it is just precious! We couldn't love it any more.

My husband is especially excited about her school this year because one of the Dallas Cowboy's player's sons is in her class this year. Let's just say Heath will definitely not be missing any school functions this year, not that he would any way. He's an amazing daddy!

Our precious 4 year old. She is looking way too old in these pictures.

Walking down the hall to her class. How many more years can I get away with this before she gets embarrassed?

Ella's teacher greeting her at the door.

She had a great 1st day! She was so excited when I picked her up telling me all about her day. She said she loves her teachers which makes me very happy.

I really think it's going to be a great year. She goes 3 days a week this year. I'm kind of struggling with that, but I really think it will help her transition into kindergarten. But this mommy is not excited about being away from her 3 days a week.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Ella Loves to Sing

One thing I love about Ella is her animation. Heath and I are both very outgoing and animated, so she didn't really have a shot at not being that way. She is rarely not making some kind of noise. Usually she sings. While she's watching t.v. she's singing. While she's going potty, she's singing. Riding in the car...singing.

She provides her own background music for just about everything she is doing. And if she doesn't know the words to the song, she either makes them up or just sings "la la la" to the tune.

I caught this video of her a few weeks ago singing in bed before she fell asleep one night. I couldn't resist.

Ella Singing in Her Bed at Night 5-29-10 from Janelle on Vimeo.

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