This Little Life of Mine…

This week has been so good ūüôā

I am just¬†so enjoying each day I have with my girls and it feels like we’re hitting a nice little groove…which I will try not to expect to last too long!¬† Last week felt a bit bumpy and I just felt the Grumpy Mama Syndrome setting in, which is the last thing any of us need these days.¬† So this week I was determined to be positive, say yes when I can, keep things light and just enjoy my daughters.¬† The pay off has been awesome! ūüôā

Monday we just enjoyed being together after a busy weekend.  Hung out at home, cleaned up the house a bit so we felt sane again and ran a few errands.

Tuesday we went strawberry picking with some great friends of ours.¬† It rained a bit on us, but that was ok.¬† It was wonderful to spend time with friends again, and since these particular friends include kids ages 4 and 6, the girls had a great time.¬† By the time we made it home it was pouring rain and the house felt cool and damp, so we all ended up in jammies making strawberry pie for dinner.¬† On my way home from our friends I had noticed Pizza Hut’s sign…Tuesdays kids eat free…and we couldn’t quite pass that up on a rainy day ūüôā¬† So we ate pizza for dinner and even managed to squeeze in biking up and down the street with Alexis from across the street.¬†¬†Akeisha and Alexa love to bike, especially with Alexis, and I am so proud of how¬†well they’re doing!¬† Akeisha loves to zoom up and down the street, showing off her tricks to us.¬† Alexa is gaining confidence each day and making lots of progress, despite the hard work it is¬†for her little legs to pump those pedals.¬† She’s so proud that she can now bike down our big hill!¬†¬†The girls also had fun watching Alexis¬†try out her¬†four¬†wheeler-turned-two wheeler on Tuesday night.¬†¬†She had been saying for about a week to Kirby, me and her Mommy and Daddy that she was ready for her training wheels to come off!¬† So Tuesday night ended up being the big night, and off she went!¬†¬†The first few rides were rough, but in no time she got the hang¬†of it and by today she’s a pro ūüôā¬†¬†This is what I love about¬†our¬†neighbourhood…the whole street felt like it was lit up as the kids zoomed up and down shouting out “Look at me!”¬†and parents and neighbours waved and smiled and clapped.

Wednesday was¬†the day for grocery shopping,¬†making strawberry¬†jam, and some laundry since it was nice and my dryer is broken ūüė¶¬† I just have to insert here that I LOVE strawberry jam!¬† I love it on toast, muffins and icecream ūüôā¬†¬†My girls now love it, too, and even though it is super unhealthy because it’s loaded with sugar we eat it almost every day.¬† Alexa loves PB+J…on toast or a wrap, especially with this jam!¬† It is the recipe off the Certo¬†package, which my Mom used when I was a kid.¬† I just¬†can’t quite imagine anything better!¬† Yesterday I realized there is also a recipe on their for Strawberry-Banana Jam, and since I had¬†bananas I tried a bit of that too.¬† Thinking that is going to be super yummy as well, though I haven’t actually tried it¬†yet.¬†¬†Anyway, back to Wednesday.

Early afternoon Alexis wandered over, as she does most days, and she and Akeisha got creative making a fort in the bushes!¬† Copying Franklin’s Secret Clubhouse,¬†I agreed to sacrifice an old sheet and they strung it up over their little house.¬† All afternoon they blazed¬†trails, collected¬†treasures and cared for their worms and caterpillars in their little fort.¬† I love seeing kids¬†use their imaginations to play this way, so I¬†was delighted¬†ūüôā¬† They had hot chocolate…yes, in July…made¬†signs and got¬†covered in¬†mud and sand.¬† Alexa joined¬†in the fun a bit, but was a little less enthralled with tromping through the bushes.¬†¬†Akeisha was so excited, it was all she could talk about all evening.

Today¬†we are enjoying the beautiful sunshine and¬†scheming¬†about our camping trip this weekend.¬† As long as the weather cooperates we plan to spend the weekend roughing it on one of the many crown land islands on beautiful Georgian Bay.¬† If it rains…well…I guess we can always head out early, since it’s so close.¬† FREE, FUN and CLOSE BY!¬† Love¬†living here in the summertime ūüôā¬† We’ll see how tenting treats us and what kind of adventures we can come home with on Sunday.¬† This morning¬†Akeisha woke up early and went straight out to her fort, bundled up in her housecoat and two coats over top of her¬†pajamas!¬† LOL.¬† So far she has eaten breakfast (her toast, milk and banana) and lunch (KD) out there.¬† Alexa cautiously joined the fun a bit later, but was a little worried there would be bears!¬† She came in¬†sniffling to tell me that Akeisha was out bear hunting with her water gun¬†but she was afraid she would get “attackled!”¬† I reassured her that, though there are bears around here, they would stay far away from noisy children ūüôā¬† She still has not ventured back there much, however.¬† I guess the mud, sticks and mosquitoes don’t draw her quite as much.

It is all the wonderfully ordinary moments that I am just loving this week.¬† Dirty feet, sticky hands and messy faces.¬† My bathroom floor covered in bubbles from a little girl’s messy bath; what feels like thousands of ketchup stained purple and pink shirts in my laundry; tousled auburn hair against my cheek every morning on top of a sleepy smile.¬† I guess it’s because that’s what motherhood looks like.¬† KD on the floor, caterpillars on the deck, little arms and legs covered with scabs and bruises, shoes inside the door and markers and stickers everywhere.¬† Right now there’s a little girl sitting in my lap with hair that smells like mosquito repellent.¬† There’s another little girl dashing in the door giggling about something.¬† It’s time for me to go and give them some attention, but I hope this gives you a peek into our lives these days ūüôā

The other¬†night the girls were dancing around the living room¬†and snuggling with Daddy while I played the piano.¬† Since we’d just been biking I thought of the song “You Can Let Go.”¬† I started singing it, but even though I’d sung it a thousand times before I only got a few phrases in and felt my throat closing up.¬† For the first time I thought about these two little girls someday growing up and walking down the isle beside my husband.¬† Because of that, I want to treasure every moment.¬† Too soon they won’t be little girls anymore tugging at my hands and holding up their treasures for me to see.¬† There is so much to do, and so little time…so one day, one moment at a time we will treasure this little life we have.

YOU CAN LET GO

By Crystal Shawanda

Wind blowing on my face
Sidewalk flying beneath my bike
A five year old’s first taste
Of what freedom’s really like

He was running right beside me
His hand holding on the seat
I took a deep breath and hollered
As I headed for the street

You can let go now, Daddy, you can let go
Oh I think I’m ready to do this on my own
It’s still a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, Daddy, you can let go

I was standing at the altar
Between the two loves of my life
To one, I’ve been a daughter
To one, I soon would be a wife

When the preacher asked
“Who gives this woman?”
Daddy’s eyes filled up with tears
He kept holding tightly to my arm
‘Til I whispered in his ear

You can let go now, Daddy, you can let go
Oh I think I’m ready to do this on my own
It’s still feels a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, Daddy, you can let go

It was killing me to see the strongest man I ever knew
Wasting away to nothing in that hospital room
You know he’s only hanging on for you

That’s what the night nurse said
My voice and heart were breaking
As I crawled up in his bed and said

You can let go now, Daddy, you can let go
Your little girl is ready to do this on my own
It’s gonna be a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, Daddy, you can let go

Hope you all have a super weekend!¬† I’ll let you know how the camping goes ūüôā

AF

 

Adoption Update

Hi everyone ūüôā

So I thought maybe I should give a quick update on how things are going with our adoption.

No, that’s not true.

The truth is I AM JUST SO EXCITED I WANT TO TELL THE WHOLE WORLD!!! ūüôā

We just had our very first weekend with the girls here at our house and…

it

was

AWESOME!

All four of us have been waiting and waiting and waiting for this.  Our first sleepover.

For Kirby and I it was amazing to have our daughters here in our home with us for three whole days, where we got to be their parents for more than a few hours.

For the girls it was so exciting to be able to play together all weekend in their new backyard, sleep in their new beds, and bring a truckload of toys to their new home…because obviously we don’t have near enough of those!¬† :/¬† Overall the weekend went way better than we expected!¬† The girls were very comfortable and happy most of the time, thanks to all the groundwork that’s been done before this.¬† We are now familiar people they love, and they’re used to spending weekends in strangers’ houses so this was not totally new.¬† They also paid a visit a few weeks ago to their new home so they could visualize where they were coming.¬† We did lots of fun stuff, but also had lots of down time just relaxing and being a family ūüôā

I won’t¬†go into every little detail, but I’ll give you some of the highlights.

1) Bedtime.¬† If you’re a Mommy¬†you will get this.¬† To be able to¬†do bedtime with our¬†daughters for the very first time¬†was such a gift.¬† Baths, brushing teeth, reading stories,¬†saying prayers (which are totally new¬†for my kiddos, but they love it), giving hugs and kisses and backrubs…the whole deal is just one of my favourite parts of having children in our home, so I was looking forward to this in a¬†BIG way.¬† Being in a new place is a bit scary for most kids at bedtime, so they needed some extra loving to settle down and sleep, but that was no problem for us ūüôā¬† Once their restless little bodies were finally relaxed and breathing deeply I just stared at them and felt incredible awe.¬†¬†Why God has chosen to place in my amateur hands such precious little lives I will never know, but I am honoured and¬†humbled beyond words.

2) On Friday when the girls arrived Kirby was still at work, so¬†they were waiting anxiously for him to get home all afternoon.¬† I kept hearing,¬†“When will Daddy be home?!”¬†¬†I’m pretty sure I got a gigantically goofy grin on my face every single time I heard those words¬†ūüôā¬† When he finally did pull into the driveway it was…”DADDY!¬† DADDY!¬† DADDY!”¬†and two little girls flying out the door¬†to jump on him and fight for hugs and kisses, just because I am married to the most amazing¬†Daddy on the planet and every single child who enters our home absolutely adores him ūüôā¬† This whole driveway episode is¬†totally normal around here, and it is always one of my favourite parts of the day.

3) We were incredibly blessed to have Kirby’s aunt and uncle give the girls money to buy new bikes and helmets as¬†their¬†homecoming¬†gift!¬† Thank you Dave & Sheri Shantz! ūüôā¬†¬†So¬†on Saturday we went to Canadian¬†Tire and let Akeisha and Alexa pick out their very own bikes and helmets.¬† They were thrilled.¬† We went for a bike ride¬†as soon as we left the store!¬† ūüôā¬† Alexa is only 5 and still learning to ride,¬†so her little legs got tired¬†pretty quickly, but Akeisha¬†is confident and fast on her bike, so after Alexa and I were done she and Daddy¬†went out on another long ride.¬† I’m thinking we will be using those¬†bikes a lot this summer!¬† We have a beautiful trail that runs down along the bay that is wide, gravel and perfect for biking as long as you can do some little hills ūüôā¬† It’s one of my favourite places to walk, and it also goes by¬†our favourite park so that’s a bonus!

4) Even though neither of our daughters have had much exposure to the gospel or the idea of God,¬†they are totally intrigued with the idea and love for us to sing and talk about God¬†with them.¬† We¬†have had good little discussions about heaven, God living inside our hearts, God as a spirit, and God creating the whole world.¬† Alexa will sometimes¬†ask me, “Will you talk to us about God?”¬† We are¬†in awe and¬†praising God for the curiosity we see in them regarding spiritual things.¬†¬†They are like sponges, ready to soak up all we tell them.¬†¬†We are doing our best to pour¬†the heart and¬†soul of the gospel into them at every opportunity.¬† This is why we are here!!!!¬† I¬†feel so refreshed and excited seeing the wonder and curiosity of a child hearing about¬†the things I have taken¬†for granted so much of my life.¬† In His name there is power!¬† I¬†am confident that as the girls simply enter our home and lives they will be enfolded in¬†the power, love and security we have in Jesus Christ.¬† What an incredible blessing!¬† All the things I have to give to my daughters are¬†nothing¬†compared to THAT glorious truth!

We also had a campfire, went to the park, went for walks and played outside in the beautiful sunshine!

So there’s my little recap of our first weekend as a family of 4!¬†¬†We are enjoying the ride so far, but know¬†there are many hurdles¬†to come.¬† Please continue to pray for us and our daughters as we begin this new phase of our lives together.¬† To those of you¬†who are rejoicing¬†and praying alongside us…your support and confidence¬†mean more to us than you’ll ever know!¬† Thank you for being willing to believe with us that with God, all things are possible!

AF

Ps. This is¬†Akeisha and Alexa’s favourite song for me to sing right now:

THE BUTTERFLY SONG
(If I Were a Butterfly)
Words and Music by Brian M. Howard
If I were a butterfly
I’d thank you Lord for giving me wings
If I were a robin in a tree
I’d thank you Lord that I could sing
If I were a fish in the sea
I’d wiggle my tail and I’d giggle with glee
But I just thank you Father for making me, meCHORUS

Because you gave me a heart and you gave me a smile
You gave me Jesus and you made me your child
And I just thank you Father for making me, me

If I were an elephant
I’d thank you Lord by raising my trunk
If I were a kangaroo
You know I’d hop right up to you
If I were an octopus
I’d thank you Lord for my¬†good looks
But I just thank you Father for making me, me

If I were a wiggly worm
I’d thank you Lord that I could squirm
If I were a fuzzy, wuzzy bear
I’d thank you Lord for my fuzzy, wuzzy hair
If I were a crocodile
I’d thank you Lord for my great smile
But I just thank you Father for
making me, me

Plan A Adoption

I have been trying to post this blog for weeks now, but I was having so much trouble trying to get it just right.

Trying to say it just the right way.

Because it matters SO much to me!

But I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sum up everything stored in my heart about this issue, so I finally gave up and decided to just post it as it is.¬† Please forgive the errors or the places where I stumble all over someone’s toes.¬† I really don’t mean to!¬† Here goes nothing!

***

Despite my HUGE skepticism of ‘telling our story’, I do want to share with you a bit about how we ended up where we are in the world of adoption and foster care.¬† It’s been an adventure of faith¬†and God has done incredible things for us along the way. ¬†My husband and I are both passionate about adoption and foster care since it has played such a huge role in our lives and hearts, but ultimately¬†it is a passion that has grown and matured over time through God’s Voice speaking to us through His Word, other people and lots of reading material ūüôā

Just so we’re honest and have everything ‘on the table’,¬†even though I love¬†talking about adoption and foster care, I also¬†dread these conversations.

Here’s why:

1)¬†When you talk about adoption or foster care being apart of your family, many people get that look in their eyes where they mentally dissociate and go…”Wow, that’s not for me.”¬† Or they might say things like:

“That is so amazing!¬† That’s a very special calling.”¬† (I’m not that special, people.¬† I’m actually pretty normal and most of the kids out there waiting for homes aren’t waiting for special.¬† They’re waiting for something pretty normal.)

Or maybe, “So can’t you have kids of your own?”

And then there are the people that take a step back and say things like…

“CAS?¬† Yeah…I used to work for them.¬† Never again!¬† Did you hear about that¬†girl in foster care who killed¬†a little kid?¬† It was all over the news!”¬†¬†(True story.¬† I stood there speechless at the sarcasm and malice laced in her tone.¬† Really?!¬† There are still people around who say things like this out loud?¬†¬†Thank goodness¬†I didn’t have any of my kids with me!¬† How do you respond to that well?)

2) I have no interest in my family…especially my kids…being the next big ‘news’ topic.¬†¬†For us, this is not news.¬† This is¬†our life.¬† It is important to me that my children’s story is treated with respect.¬†¬†This means I do not like to share details about my children’s past, their family dysfunctions,¬†or their personal difficulties…just as you don’t discuss your children’s painful, difficult moments with others.¬†¬†This goes for adoptive and foster¬†children.¬†¬†It is not¬†important that everyone know exactly how and why¬†our children have come to us.¬† Sometimes people may¬†need to know these or other details, but¬†most of the time it is simply curiosity.¬† If caught between protecting and affirming my child or satisfying¬†someone’s curiosity, my child will win every time!¬† I am hoping to learn to do that gracefully without offending others, but please help us by not asking inappropriate questions.

3) Pride.¬†¬†Yes, pride.¬† It can make me feel good to tell you my story.¬† It can make me forget that it’s really not my story at all.¬† It can¬†tempt me to take credit for¬†decisions and events that were not orchestrated by me, but¬†by my Heavenly Father.¬† He has planted all the love, all the joy and all the inspiration.¬† This is His work, not mine.¬† Every time I tell our story…I want to make sure that you go away knowing¬†it is really God’s story.¬† It is Him alone that deserves¬†any honour or glory that may come.¬† It is Him who will take care of all the questions and fears others may bring.¬† I don’t¬†need to have all the answers because it’s about obedience, trust, and choosing to believe His voice above all else.

So many times I find myself standing there¬†wondering how¬†in the world I am supposed to respond or explain that I am not in this thing because I’m a saint.

I am not¬†in this thing because I think all these kids are¬†cute and cuddly and it gives me warm fuzzies.¬† (They’re not and it doesn’t…though we get a few of those moments, too.)

I am not in this thing because it’s easy.

I am not in this thing because my husband and I couldn’t have children biologically.

I am not in this thing because of ME!

Now, I understand that many people’s comments are not meant to be invasive or insensitive…and I need to work on¬†extending¬†as much grace as I expect when I fumble my way through a conversation about something I know nothing about!¬† Working on that.¬† However, it does give you a bit of a lonely, sick sort of feeling in your stomach when you walk away from a conversation and realize you completely failed to convey the passion, reality and importance of the topic you care about so deeply!¬† In our world, it is not just a conversation about a social issue.¬† It is personal.¬† We have faces and names that will be engraved on our hearts forever.¬† So please forgive us when we over react or respond negatively to an innocent question or comment.

So….

With all that between us, let me share our story ūüôā

For us, adoption was always Plan A.

My husband and I have been married for 4 years.¬† As far as we know, we are able to have children biologically, and may or may not add to our family naturally in the future.¬† That is not our decision, but God’s.¬† Giving Him control of our dreams and desires surrounding our family is at the core of this journey, and an ongoing act of surrender.

I have been interested in¬†foster care and adoption for as¬†long as I can remember.¬† Being the passionate, idealistic dreamer that I am, the social issues of child abuse, neglect, poverty and addictions quickly captured my attention.¬† I also had people in my life whom I was able to observe¬†who were foster and adoptive families, and from a very young age I decided that was what I wanted to do.¬†¬†At this point¬†my tender heart was simply yearning to swoop in and rescue these innocents, playing the grand heroin of the story.¬†¬†It felt like a noble¬†adventure.¬† One where happily ever after came quickly and everything was painted¬†black and white through my na√Įve lens.

As I matured and learned more about the realities and challenges surrounding foster care and adoption, I realized it was not quite as simple as I had first thought.  I did, however, still feel very strongly that this was something I wanted to do.  In the next years I had experiences in my life that grew this passion with leaps and bounds.  Looking back, I can say confidently they were planned by my Heavenly Father, nudging me forward toward His goal.  I began a relationship with my husband, fell in love with many children and starting seeing the hoops I would need to jump through in order to reach my dream of fostering and adopting.  Thankfully, alongside the growing realization of the challenges, misconceptions and fears that were thrown at me from every angle came the steady, consistent, assuring Voice of God.

Kirby and I started talking about adoption and foster care about a month or two into our relationship.¬†¬†At that point¬†he had really never considered it at all, but¬†was more than willing to listen patiently¬†and open his heart to the possibility.¬† It is funny to think about this time¬†because looking back I vaguely recall his hesitations and questions, but if you spoke to him now you¬†would quickly realize¬†he is a strong, passionate advocate for adoption and foster care.¬† I can¬†hardly remember when it was just me, spouting out my¬†feelings¬†and passions and sobbing with the weight of my one big question.¬† If I didn’t do this…if God didn’t call me…who would go?¬†¬†What would I do with the gigantic burden¬†that pressed on my heart if God said no?¬†¬†I¬†knew God didn’t need ME…but I also didn’t see many people stepping up to the plate.¬†¬†When I tried to talk to people about how I felt, I heard¬†questions.¬† I heard fears.¬† I heard…it’s hard.¬† But I didn’t hear a lot of people saying…YES!¬† This is right!¬† This is good!¬† This is God’s heart!¬† I will go.

Despite what many people may think, the Bible is full of confirmations that God is interested in adoption and foster care.  God loves children, wants us to protect and care for orphans, and is very interested in us going the extra mile to serve others.  These are some passages that became very special to me as Kirby and I began wading through the hard questions about adoption and foster care.  I am amazed how already in the Old Testament, when God was primarily focused on His chosen people, Israel, He commanded them to love and care for those who were outside the protection of His family.

“A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.¬† God setteth the solitary in families.” Psalm 68:5-6

“Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” Deuteronomy 15:11

“For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: he doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.¬† Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:17-19

“You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere mortals will never again strike terror.” Psalm 10: 17-18

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.¬† Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4

 

Journeying into the gospels and seeing how Jesus treated children, we see a love so deep and tender.¬† I love the picture of Jesus’ physical body holding, smiling and loving the children who were brought to Him.¬† In a time and society where children were not valued as we are accustomed to today, it must have spoken powerfully to these little ones to be treated with such gentleness and joy.

“And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.” Matthew 18:5

“And they brought young children to Him, that He should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.¬† But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased, and said unto them, Let the little children come to me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God…and He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16

 

Jesus also taught radical love for others and that has been the driving force behind our decision to pursue adoption and foster care.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27

“For this is the message we have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another…But whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion, how dwelleth the love of God in him?¬† My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3: 11, 17

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: naked, and you clothed me…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” Matthew 25: 34-40

“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own donkey, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him…Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:23-37

 

And last of all…each one of us who has been born again into the family of God has been adopted!¬† We, out of nothing we have done, have received a loving Father who has chosen to extend his grace to us and redeem us from the loneliness and darkness of sin.¬† He did not decide it was too hard, despite the fact that we would reject Him.¬† He did not decide it was too painful, even though He experienced very real, undeniable pain!¬† He did not decide we were not worth it, despite our sinfulness and utter desolation.¬† No.¬† He chose to love us, bring us into his family, and make us His children.¬† Ultimately, that is the picture we are duplicating as we bring children into the shelter, love and protection of our families through adoption and foster care.

“But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Galatians 4:4

 

In the earliest days, the primary hurdles were spiritual and emotional.¬† We needed to hear God’s Voice affirming we were on the right track.¬† We needed to sense His presence there beside us and know that He would complete the work He was beginning in our hearts.¬† We needed to get our families on board and know that we had their support, which sent them on their own journeys to discover God’s will.¬† This took a lot of time and prayer, and was not always easy.¬† There were days we felt very alone.¬† There were days we felt confused and frightened.¬† There were days we wanted to race ahead of God’s timing.¬† There were big questions to grapple.¬† Sometimes God gave us answers to those questions, and sometimes He simply urged us to obey Him and trust Him.¬† We still don’t have all the answers to those questions, but we are confident when the time comes…if the time comes…God will be faithful to provide us with the strength and grace we need.¬† In the middle of these struggles there were many hard, honest conversations.¬† Though at the time I felt they pulled me down, I know that they were also a part of God’s plan.¬† The feelings of loneliness, the fears, the hurt…drove me to God’s Word where over and over again I found affirmation and the strength to keep moving forward.¬† He was there.

We…correction I…did a lot of reading during this time. ūüôā¬† We wanted to know all our options.¬† I have a great resource called The Christian Family’s Guide to Adoption that helped get us started.¬† It’s a great tool to educate yourself on the three main adoption options (public, international or domestic), the pros and cons to each and the steps needed to proceed.¬† It’s an American resource, so a few things are different here in Canada, but it’s a great general outline of the process.¬† It also dispels a lot of the myths¬†people have about adoption.¬† I also read every adoption/foster care¬†story I could get my hands on,¬†dug into resources¬†tackling the challenges of adoption/fostering and bumped into just the right people at just the right times.¬† It was amazing the way God provided me with conversations, radio broadcasts (Focus on the Family), Bible verses and books to answer the questions¬†I faced just when I needed them.

The next step was the physical part of moving forward.¬† We were aware right from the beginning that in order to become adoptive or foster parents we would need to have been married for at least 2 years.¬† However, we were anxious to move ahead and wanted to at least ‘get our foot in the door.’¬† So we’d only been married about 6 months the first time we knocked on the door of our local Children’s Aid Society and explained our intentions.¬† We met a woman that day who would play a huge role in our lives for the next few years, though we didn’t know¬†it at that time!¬†¬†She explained to us the process (most of which we were aware of) and¬†told us to be in contact again once we had reached that 2 year mark.¬† She also told us that day that our local society did not currently have the foster-to-adopt program we were familiar with other people¬†doing.¬†¬†At this point we were mainly focused on adoption, not foster care, and¬†had kind of decided that would be a nice in between way to approach things.¬† However, we were told at this point that would¬†not be an option.¬† We could either do just adoption, where we would need to wait to¬†be matched with a child and then proceed, which could take years…or we could become foster parents¬†while we waited to be matched with a child for adoption.¬† Well…that was easy.¬† Wait with nothing to do, or wait with kids in our home?¬† No problem! ūüôā

After that little meeting we were back to the waiting game for another 1.5 years.  During this time I did lots more reading, completed my teaching position at a local private school, started a home daycare and spent heaps of time with kids of all ages and needs.  God blessed us with some very special little kids in this time that helped shape our hearts for the challenges we would be faced with down the road.  We realized we could love special needs kids, and that my passion and idealism made me a great advocator for their needs.  We got lots of practise dealing with behaviours, the 24/7 reality of parenthood and exposing kids to the gospel.  We realized what it meant to pour out our hearts and lives for families and children who were not our own.  We realized what it meant to offer grace, both to the kids we loved and their parents.  We realized what it felt like to fail miserably.

We needed that time.

It strengthened our resolve, humbled our pride and braced us for reality.

We were, in the end, able to start our home study process before we reached the 2 years of marriage mark.¬† Four months before our second anniversary we officially began.¬† A home study is an assessment of your home and family to consider whether or not you¬†are capable of caring for children from hard places.¬†¬†It involves some paper work, a training course called PRIDE, interviews in and out of your home and some anxiety.¬† It’s nerve wracking having someone analyze every part of your life, but it is also good to have to wade through all the parts that have made you who you are.¬† Despite what we like to believe, we bring all our baggage into every relationship we enter, including those with kids.¬†¬†Luckily we had a really wonderful woman completing our home study who was gentle, a great listener and easy to talk to.

Our home study took FOREVER!

Ok, not forever.  But a long time.  WAY TOO LONG for this girl!  I do not wait well.  I tried to wait well, I really did, because I just knew that God was trying to teach me to wait, and I just wanted this to be over so I really, really, really tried hard to succeed with this waiting thing.  Sigh.  In the end it took ten months.  It was a long summer!

By the time November rolled around, I was pretty dejected.¬† We had started in January.¬† I was so anxious to start this thing!¬† We were doing NOTHING and I knew there were so many kids out there who needed homes!¬† I still really have no idea what took so long, but I began praying that we would get our first¬†foster care¬†placement before Christmas.¬† Like serious praying.¬† Begging, in other words.¬† My sister even prayed it too…because I have an awesome sister who, by the way, had to listen to every little bit of this journey from start to end a thousand times over and still loves me! ūüôā¬† XOXO Amberley, I love you!!!!¬† Thanks for being the other half of my heart.¬† It is such a relief not to have to explain things sometimes.¬† ūüôā

So anyway, a few weeks into November, before our foster care home study was officially approved…we got that call.¬† “Would you take a 5 week old baby?”

WOULD I TAKE A BABY?!?

ARE YOU SERIOUS!?!?

WOULD I TAKE A BABY!?!?

I literally called Kirby at work sobbing and laughing at the same time.¬† I couldn’t believe we were finally there.

Thus, our foster care adventure began!¬† Christmas of 2012 we spent on cloud 9, adoring our Christmas miracle baby.¬† We brought him home from the hospital, where he had spent the first 5 weeks of his life due to prenatal drug exposure.¬† We loved that little one with every ounce we could muster.¬† That first tiny little baby stole our hearts and absolutely took our breath away.¬† I totally forgot to brace myself for the letting go…which happened 6 weeks later and totally crushed me.¬† I will never forget that pain.

But still…we knew.

This was what we were called to do.

This was worth it.

See, that little boy deserved to be adored just like that for those 6 weeks, no matter how painful it was to let him go…and amazingly enough, the pain does go away.¬† It dulls and it fades a bit…and the joy is the memory that stays vivid.

During the next year and a half, we fostered 8 different children, most of those short term or relief placements.  Some of them only stayed for a weekend before they moved on, but each of them were valuable little souls we feel honoured to have loved, if only for a day.

We had two little boys, ages 2 and 4, who¬†stayed with¬†us for 10 months of that time.¬† They changed our lives.¬† I still get an ache in my chest thinking of them.¬† It’s been five months since they left and I¬†can still feel the weight of their bodies in my arms,¬†see their smiles and hear their voices in my house.

I miss them.

One of those¬†8 children sent¬†us¬†on a journey we didn’t know we could¬†survive.¬†¬†We spent 2.5 weeks at Sick Kids with him, watching him struggle to survive and recuperate from a¬†complicated heart surgery.¬† Another child carried us into the world of Autism, and I am officially a wizard with PECS!¬† ūüôā¬† (Seriously…if you know anything about PECS call me up because¬†I am just in love with those things!¬† Me and speech¬†therapy are like two peas in a pod!)¬† We had a newborn, we had a 9 year old.¬† We learned more than I could ever sum up in a few sentences from those 8 children,¬†and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.¬† I¬†wouldn’t trade a second.

It also helped us get a clearer…or maybe more hazy…picture in our minds of the kind of child we felt we could parent.¬† It’s important to realize that just because every child needs a family, doesn’t mean you are qualified to be that family!¬† But it’s also important to realize that just because a child has some challenges that may look huge to you, does not mean God is not calling you to see them through His eyes.

Every child is valuable.

Every child deserves a family.

As Christians, we should be the ones willing to sacrifice our own comfort and idea of perfection.

Maybe my kids won’t be the cutest,

or the smartest,

or the most athletic,

or socially ‘successful’ in other people’s eyes.

In fact,

they might spend every day of their lives just struggling to get that C-.

They might fight against the long term consequences of their biological parents’ choices for the rest of their lives, even to the point of needing my assistance to live independently as a 30 or 40 year old.

They might be social misfits.

They might have behaviours that make them hard to love.

But they are valuable and they are lovable.

So if all you care about is a perfect family picture, straight A report cards and children everyone else will understand and love…adoption maybe isn’t for you.¬† But you know what?¬† I am idealistic and optimistic enough to believe that¬†there are many more people out there who are willing to sacrifice those things to be Jesus’ hands and feet for these kids!¬† I think there are more people who will be able to lay aside their selfish pursuits to make a difference in the life of a child and the Kingdom of Heaven.

In January of 2013 we¬†were officially approved for adoption,¬†but were knee deep in foster care.¬†¬†This brought some challenges.¬† We loved fostering, but we also were anxious to find¬†the children who would be ours forever.¬† I don’t¬†even know how to explain how God lead us through the next¬†year.¬† We continued to foster,¬†saying yes one child at a time.¬†¬†We also began attending¬†the Adoption Counsel of Ontario Education Day and the Adoption Resource Exchange in Toronto.¬†¬†We were searching for our forever children, even though we knew we couldn’t do both foster care and adoption¬†at the same time.

The A.R.E. is held twice a year (once in the Spring and once in the Fall) in Toronto at the Metro Convention Centre.  This is an event open to the public, and I would encourage anyone to attend!  Many, many agencies throughout Ontario attend this event, each bringing profiles of children within their region they have not been able to find homes for locally.  Many of these children need to be placed out of their local area for safety reasons, are part of a sibling group, or have medical or emotional needs making it difficult to place them.  These children are all considered special needs, but that could mean they are siblings, above the age of 5, have had trauma in their past or have allergies.

These kids are not unlovable!

If you are a family with an approved¬†adoption¬†home study, you can fill out expression of interest forms for any children you would like to learn more about.¬† Anyone can also talk to the adoption workers presenting the children’s profiles and learn more about¬†them and what the process would look like to¬†adopt them.¬†¬†EVERY SINGLE CHILD presented at the A.R.E. is¬†legally free for adoption and waiting for a forever family.¬† If you’re interested, there is also a website you can become a member of, AdoptOntario, which is a website displaying more profiles of children available for adoption in Ontario.

Right now in Canada, there are more than 30 000 children legally free for adoption in foster care, waiting for a family who will love them enough to give them forever.

To put this in perspective, if merely 10% of evangelical Christians in Canada adopted 1 child, all those children would be looking at a future that includes a family of their own.

What would Jesus do?

What would He say?

Would He care?

The Children’s Aid Society is doing the best they can with the funding and resources provided to them by the government.¬† No, they are not perfect…but to be fair…nobody is.¬† Originally, the Children’s Aid Society was run by the church, not the government.¬† In fact, throughout history it has always been the church who stepped forward to care for orphans.¬† Until now, of course.¬† Now we seem to think it’s someone¬†else’s job to do.¬† This was our baby.¬† We dropped the ball.¬† So before we get too upset for the things the government is doing wrong…please remember these are not society’s children.¬† These are God’s children.¬† And if that is true…I can only think of one group of people responsible for their care.

The body of Christ.

What really put that in perspective for me was seeing profiles of children at the A.R.E. that specifically mentioned a Christian family as the ideal fit for the child.  Wow.

The first time we attended the A.R.E. was in April of 2013.¬† That is officially the first time we¬†saw our daughters’ profiles.¬† We talked to their worker that day, saw a video of¬†them, and took home their one page profiles, which we poured over alongside some others for the next 6 months.¬† We were not in¬†a position to move forward at that time, since we were¬†fostering two little boys.¬† Kirby, especially, was really drawn to Akeisha and Alexa’s profiles, which caught my attention.¬† Usually I am the one with the gut feelings and the drive!¬†¬†To be honest, I was a little apprehensive.¬† Akeisha and Alexa were 6 and 4 at that time.¬† Though we were never looking to adopt an infant, I wasn’t sure I was ready to be Mommy to a 6 and 4 year old, either!¬† But I was really attracted to them, and I trusted Kirby’s instincts on this one.¬†¬†As the weeks and months went by, I got more and more used to the idea of an¬†‘older child’ adoption.

By November of that same year, we were preparing to say goodbye to our little boys and attending the A.R.E. for the second time.  After having the boys for 10 months, we were ready to move on.

We wanted a family.

We wanted kids who would stay.

We felt a little wiped out; a little jaded by the pain…because yes, foster care will do that to you.

We had no idea if Akeisha and Alexa were even still available for adoption, so we did some investigating through our adoption worker and found out that they were, indeed, still waiting for a family!  This was exciting news, and we had high hopes going to the A.R.E. that November.

We came home even more enthused!

There were many kids (over 10) we were interested in, and our adoption worker assured us she felt we would¬†be able to follow through with many of those options.¬† All the workers of the children we’d inquired about¬†were very interested in us!¬†¬†It felt like everything was falling into place,¬†making our goodbye to our boys easier than it might have been.

The future looked so bright.

Over the next few months, I went through a dark and scary time.  Slowly, one by one, all the doors closed on us.

No.

No.

No.

I didn’t understand.¬† What was God doing?¬† Why was this happening?¬† I¬†felt, for the millionth time, so out of control!¬† At the same time, I was missing my boys desperately and had no new foster children to distract me from the emptiness.

The only door that remained open…just a crack…was Akeisha and Alexa, now 7 and 5 years old.¬† We didn’t get a no, but¬†we didn’t get anything!¬† We couldn’t get through to their adoption worker no matter how hard we tried.¬† She always seemed to be away.¬† Our¬†adoption worker¬†was not hopeful that option would work out, considering we had heard next to nothing.¬† We tried every little crack and hole we could possibly think of, but even I could¬†not manage to get results!¬†¬†God¬†was making it¬†clear that this was HIS work, not mine.¬† I would need to trust Him.

Christmas came and went.

I was starting to lose hope anything would change before the next A.R.E. in May of 2014.  That felt like a long time to wait!  We were resolved at this point to pursue adoption, not fostering, since taking another foster child would jeopardize our position of being available for adoption.

Then our foster care worker phoned.

Our local fostering agency was in a crisis.¬† They were desperately in need of more foster families, especially for babies.¬†¬†Would we take this one child, on the condition that if something changed and we were¬†able to move forward with adoption he would be moved to a new home?¬†¬†Though it terrified me to think that this might¬†mean waiting…again, for adoption…we felt like God was saying this was something we needed to do.

So, to be perfectly honest, I moved forward kicking and screaming, with walls built high.¬† I was determined not to commit too fully to¬†this child.¬† I was not going to fall in love with those huge, brown eyes.¬† I was not going to get addicted to the soft baby skin.¬† I was not¬†going to let that feeling of possession and protection overtake me.¬† Most importantly, I was going to¬†try to¬†make sure they were looking for a more permanent place for him.¬† Because if it came right down to it, I desperately wanted to be able to¬†make the decision to have him moved if it meant we could move forward with adoption…and that was something I had never, ever wanted to do.¬† It went against everything I believed in.

But God had other plans.

Bigger plans.

I did fall in love.¬† Even when we heard from Akeisha and Alexa’s adoption worker and found out we could move forward!¬† Even as we went for meetings and fell in love with the girls we knew were going to be ours.¬† In the middle of it all, I had a choice to make.¬† Could I trust God to take care of the details and love this little life placed in my hands now?

I did give up and fight with all my might for this precious little life…especially when¬†we traveled with him to¬†Toronto for his heart surgery.¬†¬†After all…it was not about me, was it?¬†¬†I could not longer¬†maintain my wall of self protection when I held his hand and watched him fight for every breath.¬†¬†There was no space for any resistance in my heart as we spent hour after hour at his bedside, waiting for him to open his eyes.¬† We needed to be there.¬†¬†God¬†knew what¬†He was doing.¬† It was far from my dream come true when we got the call that we were officially chosen for Akeisha and Alexa.¬† I had pictured being ecstatic…and free to just throw myself into excitement for the first time!¬† But instead, I was in a crowded cafeteria at the Eaton Centre, worrying about my baby two blocks away at the hospital.¬† I had no idea what we were going to do.¬† I was overjoyed to be chosen…but the sky was pretty dreary.¬† I couldn’t see how it was all going to work.¬† I felt like a traitor to our little boy, while at the same time knowing there were two little girls who desperately needed and deserved our commitment as well!

This little one’s story is still unfolding, as he is now in the care of my brother and sister-in-law while we move forward with adopting our daughters, Akeisha and Alexa.¬† (Long, amazing story :))

While we were in Toronto we got the final yes for our adoption, and we got the final yes that my brother and sister-in-law would take the little one we were caring for, and we watched the prayers of the saints lift one precious little boy to our Heavenly Father.

It was overwhelming.

It was a test of obedience.

It was beautiful.

Now, it’s June 2014.

We have spent the past two months visiting our daughters, Akeisha and Alexa.¬† They live¬†a few hours away from us, so we have been doing lots of traveling back and forth.¬† They¬†will be moving into our home permanently in the next month sometime, and we are…well…

we are over the moon with excitement!

We are terrified.

We are trusting and obeying one step at a time.

Thanks to God’s perfect timing, we are more ready than we have ever been.

Our girls are by far the best thing that has ever happened to us.¬† Despite some overwhelming emotions, they are excited to¬†be moving to a forever family they can rightfully, possessively call their OWN!¬† The four of us together are the happiest place in the world right now ūüôā¬† All my dreams are coming true…but as usual, not in the flowery, hazy way we imagine them but with simple, funny, gut wrenching reality that I wouldn’t change for the world!¬† It’s not perfect, but it’s good.¬† It’s not easy, but it’s right.¬†¬†God has been so good to us.¬†¬†Knowing our daughters are¬†stepping into a realm of light spread by the workers of the Heavenly Kingdom, I am filled with confidence.

“He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philllipians 1:6

AF

 

 

Mother’s Day 2014

Sunday was Mother’s Day.

I will try to keep this from getting too long and sappy, but I just had to share a bit about my day because it was so beautiful!

As you know, we are in the process of adopting our two daughters.¬† This means we are spending lots of time visiting them, getting to know each other bit by little bit in preparation for…THE BIG MOVE…planned tentatively for mid to late June ūüôā¬†¬†Thanks to a thoughtful adoption team, I got to spend Mother’s¬†Day with¬†my daughters and celebrate the holiday in the best way possible…simply being together!¬†¬†It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and most of the time was spent outside.

We went canoeing on the lake.

We played at the park for hours in the fresh air and sunshine.

We played hide and seek.

We ate tall, swirly ice cream cones.

We went for a walk.

We blew bubbles.

We sang songs.

We laughed.

We hugged.

We kissed skinned knees.

We gave piggy back rides.

And I got to hear “Mommy” for the very first time ūüôā

I came home with a tiny little bean sprout in a Styrofoam cup, and strict instructions to water it every day….OR IT WILL DIE!!

So I, who unfortunately has had a terrible record with house plants of any kind, will be trying my very best to keep that little bean sprout alive.¬† So far, so good ūüôā

I also got some little scraps of paper cut by little fingers that love scissors!

It was the first day we got to spend more than a few hours with the girls, so it felt like we made some huge progress in getting to know each other.¬† Kirby and I came home exhausted (it’s been a while since we ran around playing all day long)¬†but so SO happy ūüôā

I hope that in the years to come, instead of wondering how many cards I will get, if my husband will bring me breakfast in bed, or if anyone even CARES…I will remember what¬†it felt like to spend my very first ‘real’ Mother’s¬†Day with my family and¬†be delighted simply in their presence.

Thanks for taking the time to enjoy my day with me.

Happy Momma’s Day!