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a letter to m

My dearest M,

You’ve been in our home for a little over a month now, but it feels like you’ve been in my hearts forever. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I loved you the moment you walked through our front door. I fell head over heels for your big brown eyes, your pudgy little arms, your toothy grin, and your sweet dance moves. You bring so much joy and sweetness to our family, my little one, and we are delightfully discovering who you are and how God made you.

Sweet girl, there’s so much I want you to know. There’s so much I want to say to you – words and truth that I want to take root deep down into your soul so that even if you have no memory of us in ten years, you know the truth of how precious you are down to your bones. I want you to know that you are lovely, and worthy of being loved. You were created by the King of Kings, and He adores you, my child. He knows every single hair on that beautiful head of yours [even the inexplicably long ones right underneath each ear], and He has seen every tear that you’ve cried.

Oh, sweet one. My sweet little girl who at the age of 18 months already knew how to wipe away her own tears. You may have felt scared and alone, but my love, you weren’t. Not for one moment has He left you. In your scariest moments, He was there.

I don’t know all of your story, kiddo. In fact, there are things you’ve been through and seen that I may never know.

This is something I do know.

Your case worker shared what they know of your story, and many aspects of it broke my heart. There was one detail however, that made me gasp. As our family neared the end of our home study process, I couldn’t get you off my mind. I was constantly thinking about you and praying short prayers for you throughout my day. There were two particular nights however, that I couldn’t sleep for the life of me. Those two nights I laid in bed and talked to God about you for a while, then quietly walked up to what would be your bedroom, and prayed some more. I prayed for your protection and safety, I prayed for trustworthy people in your life, I prayed for comfort and peace. There were moments when I didn’t even have the words to pray, I just cried, and I know the Holy Spirit was interceding on your behalf. I earnestly and desperately prayed for you in those wee hours.

I chalked those nights up to foster care being heavy on my mind, and while I’ve continued praying for you, didn’t think too much more about it. Then your case worker informed us that during those two nights you were experiencing the things that would ultimately bring you into foster care. I can only imagine how alone and scared you felt, but I so vehemently want you to know that you weren’t alone. He sees you. He saw you in those moments, my dear.

He saw you, and I know our great God wrapped His arms around you, protected you, and made sure authorities found you. His heart broke for your fear, and He woke me up to pray for you. He woke me up in the middle of the night to give me the great privilege of being your Mommy before I even met you. I didn’t know what you were going through, I didn’t even know your name at the time. I just knew that my heart was hurting for you, and I did the one thing [the most powerful thing] I could do – I asked my God to take care of you. I asked Him to let you feel His arms around you until I could hold you. I asked Him to wipe away your tears until I could gently wipe them from your cheek. I asked Him to gently comfort you and give you peace until the day that I could hold you against my chest and sing of His love for you.

My sweet girl, He loves you. He loves you madly, and He is moving heaven and earth to take care of you. I pray you find your worth in His love. I pray you can see that He has a plan for you. I don’t know yet what that plan is, but I know that He will take your story and transform it from a story of heartbreak to a story of redemption.

Every single day that we wake up with you in our home is a day for us to rejoice, and our hearts almost burst with how precious you are to us. You are dearly loved, little girl. By us, by our family, by our church family, and by the Creator of the universe. I love you, my sweet. I love you so much.

Love,

Mama

the wait

Little M has been with us for almost a month now, and the details of our days before we met her are already fading in my memory! I wanted to write about our wait – the time between when we were licensed and when Little M came to us – before I forget the details altogether.

Shawn and I excitedly attended our licensure meeting on a Thursday morning [conveniently while the boys were in school]. The whole thing lasted about an hour, and we met with our placement coordinator, case manager, and a few other agency staff. Our case manager went over our daily, monthly, and quarterly paperwork expectations with us, and we assessed with our placement coordinator the age range and behavioral issues that we’d be willing to accept. She had us add her contact name and number into our cell phones, and told us that because we agreed to emergency placements she may call at any hour of the day or night.

24 hours after the licensure meeting we got a call.

Cohen woke me up Friday morning the way he usually does – by standing next to me and awkwardly staring at me until I notice him. It’s so weird but so sweet, which is really just an indication of his personality as a whole.

Mommy!” he whispered. “Hmmm?” I sleepily replied. “I hope we get the call to be a foster family today! I’m just so ‘cited!

I wrapped him up in my arms and we prayed together that we would get a call that day, that God would be protecting his foster brother or sister, and that He’d be preparing us to love them well. The truth is, I was hoping just as much as he was that we’d get a call that day. We shuttled the kids off to school and almost as soon as we got home, our phone rang. We put the placement coordinator on speaker and listened intently while she told us about a 1-year old little girl, and gave us some details about why she was in foster care [that I’m not able to share here.] Armed with very little information, we told her we’d call right back and began praying.

It didn’t take us long to agree that we needed to say, “yes” to this placement, despite her being younger than we’d planned. After speaking again with our placement coordinator, we learned that they were hoping to place her that afternoon. While waiting for the call to find out the exact timing, Shawn and I started thinking through the things we needed to get. The list was long, and many of the things we needed would have to wait until we could physically see her and assess her size [diapers, shoes, socks, clothes, etc.], but we began rounding up the things we could get ready. A few hours later we learned that there was an error in her paperwork, so it would likely be another five days until she would be placed with us…if at all.

Nothing in foster care is ever set in stone [I’ve heard stories of people who were told they were being placed with a boy, but then a girl showed up], so we certainly understood why her placement arrangements had changed, but we were no less disappointed.

Once again, we found ourselves praying and waiting.

Three days later [two days earlier than expected], our placement coordinator called us again to tell us that the paperwork got worked out, and asking if we’d be available for her placement the next day around noon. Of course we were, and we once again began scrambling to get as many things in place as possible before she arrived.

Most of the parties involved were running late, so she didn’t end up with us until that afternoon. Those hours between when we thought she’d be there and when she actually arrived were downright torturous – for us and the boys! Every car door they heard elicited an excited, “Is she here?! Is she here?!” I acted calm and patient about the wait, but in my heart I was just as eager as they were.

Little M showed up in the caseworker’s arms, and our entire family just fell head over heels for her. We signed paperwork, listened to a scant few more details of her story and an hour later we were on our own as a family of five.

A family of five, it’s crazy to see that written out. A month later, and it still feels surreal and chaotic.

Surreal, chaotic, and more fantastic than either of us could have ever hoped for or prayed.

I’ve been writing and re-writing this post for a couple of weeks now, doing my best to convey the depths of my gratitude. There are few times in my life when I’ve been left wordless, unable to even write out how I’m feeling. This is one of those times.

What do you say when people leave anonymous boxes filled with clothes, books, bows, and pink toys on your doorstep? When you’re gifted with the cutest, sparkliest little girl clothes – both second-hand and brand new – by friends who knew how excited you’d be to dress a little girl after six years of dressing boys in jeans and button ups? How do you respond when a friend offers to donate proceeds of a scarf from her shop – and the scarf sells out in no time flat?

There aren’t sufficient words to describe how grateful we are for friends and family who have blessed us with car seats, toys, bedding, shoes, and gift cards. When we were first called about this placement being younger than we’d planned, I was concerned about how we’d be able to afford all the things this child would need.

Through you, God has provided tenfold.

It’s humbling to be in a position where all I have to give you in return is a tearful and genuine, “thank you.”

Thank you for taking the stress of all the “things” we needed to get off of our shoulders so we could focus on our little girl and her emotional needs. Thank you for texting me to ask how you could pray for her, and then actually praying. Thank you for crying tears of both joy and heartache with me. Thank you for the surprise amazon packages that just show up on our doorstep  – thank you for wanting to so sweetly bless our little girl even though you live far away. Thank you not getting annoyed at the copious amount of photos I send you. Thank you for asking how she’s doing, and also asking how the boys are doing. Thank you for offering to babysit. Thank you. 

Thank you for loving her so fiercely.

Thank you for loving our family so fiercely.

With open arms, a humble spirit, and an overwhelmingly grateful heart, I say to you – the very hands and feet of Jesus

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

Family Drawing

A few days ago, Jude excitedly showed me what he drew during his rest time:

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In his words, “This is Cohen, me, Daddy, Mommy, and my foster brothers or sisters. I put an “x’ on each of the boys, but since I don’t know what our foster brothers or sisters will be, I didn’t put anything there yet. And I know it looks like we’re wearing diapers, but that’s just our pants.”

My sweet boy. I love watching his heart growing for the rest of our family.

Just twelve short weeks after we began training and preparing for becoming a foster family, we will be licensed! Our licensing meeting is scheduled for Thursday, December 4th, which means we can begin getting placement calls immediately after! It’s unbelievable to me that we’re finished with all of our pre-service training and paperwork. We did SO much work in such a short amount of time [the amount of training and paperwork we squeezed into twelve weeks is the same that often takes six to twelve months to complete], so we’re trying to catch our breath before the whirlwind and paperwork of having a placement begins.

Knowing that we had just a couple of weeks to come up for air, Shawn and I chose to have a low key Thanksgiving at home this year. We were invited to join a sweet family who prepares and serves hundreds of tamales to the homeless in downtown Ft. Worth on Thanksgiving morning, and we excitedly joined! We woke the boys up super early and filled our car with non perishable, pre-packaged food to hand out, and blankets/scarves/jackets. We walked through the streets of Ft. Worth and handed our items out to people who were gathering near the gospel mission and who were sleeping on the streets. This was really the first time the boys were old enough to actively minister, and my heart swelled to see their courage and compassion. Truthfully, they did most of the work in asking if people would like food and handing it out. I just walked alongside my two little ministers and watched them growing before my eyes. What a wonderful way to celebrate Thanksgiving together!

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We skyped/face-timed with our extended families in Ohio and Indiana throughout the day, and I stayed busy prepping our delicious dinner! I served all of our favorite foods – turkey, stuffing, baked sweet potatoes, homemade rolls, roasted green beans, homemade apple pie, and a homemade cranberry/apple tart. Our sweet Cohen [the food lover of the family] thoroughly enjoyed all the food and let us know throughout the day how VERY thankful he is for the holiday of Thanksgiving!

And now, here we are. Just four short days before we’re licensed, feeling overwhelmingly nervous and excited. I can’t wait to share more of our journey with you, and can’t thank you enough for being a part of our story thus far!

Journeying

Well, friends. We’re still working away at getting licensed and doing our best to take our checklist(s) (last I counted, I was up to five checklists) one thing at a time. We passed our fire inspection last week and are on our way to passing our health inspection. The things that still need to be done before we can pass that include: adding mulch or other soft landing zone at the end our slide, address an open spot on the playset from which a child can fall, drill holes in the bottom of our tire swing so there isn’t any standing water, find a window baby gate thing to stop a child from breaking the glass and falling out of one of our second story bedroom windows, and a few others.

It’ll be a relief to have those inspections passed, that’s for sure! I’m hoping to finish our online training this week, read one of our required books, set up our fingerprinting appointments, set up our observation hours (we have to observe another foster family for 8 hrs), and a few other things.

We have our pre-service home visit from our agency on Friday (which requires…yep, another checklist), which kind of marks the beginning of the end for our licensure. Which makes my head swim, to be honest.

In the meantime, here are a few photos of what we’ve been working through!
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You’ll have to excuse the thousands of pictures I’m about to throw at ya, but since I haven’t blogged in a hundred weeks, it’s the least I can do. Jude started soccer a few weeks ago, about which Shawn and I were a little nervous. He desperately wanted to do karate instead, so I wasn’t sure how his lack of enthusiasm would translate during practices and games.

As it turns out, we had nothing about which to worry! Jude does an awesome job being engaged and involved and (with some reminding) paying attention to what’s going on. It’s cool to see him making huge strides and getting better with each practice and game, and I’m so proud of how he conducts himself on the team. He’s a hard worker and a team player, and that’s exactly what I was hoping he’d learn this soccer season. Plus, he sleeps a REALLY well after all that running!

We hope to put Cohen on a team next season, but for now he’s a wonderful encourager (or courager as he calls it) and snack guarder. During practices he likes to “go for a run” several times over, so he always sleeps well too. It’s a win/win/win/win!

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A look at the blog posts of yesteryear…

MONDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2009

google settles all of our arguments

How sad is that? Allow me to illustrate.

We had an ongoing debate as to how the brand of “I can’t believe it’s not butter” is referred in England. Why would we debate something so ridiculous, you ask? In our weird, convoluted way I think we’re flirting. Or maybe we’re just bored. I haven’t decided yet.

My vote was that the English version was called, “Butter – or is it?” Twenty minutes of google searching later, we found this:

Shawn: 1
Jen: 0

Now, there’s something that you need to know about my husband. He sees the world in cartoon characters. I would say with 70% of the people we meet, he will later tell me, “That person looks like such and such cartoon character,” and it’s usually a Muppet. Early in our relationship, when I showed up to class wearing a turtleneck sweater and my black rimmed glassed, he told me I looked like a Sexy Velma.

I’m still unsure if that was a compliment or not.

Several months ago, Shawn called Bug “Dopey.” You would think that after knowing Shawn for almost eight years now, I would know that his cartoon character to actual person analogies are pretty accurate, but I still disputed the fact that our son looks like Dopey. We googled a picture of Dopey, and well…you be the judge:



Shawn: 2
Jen: 0
One night, Shawn and I started debating whether Frisch’s Big Boy is referred to primarily as Frisch’s or Big Boy. This may or may not have been spurred on by the fact that my hair was doing a weird flip that Shawn said looked like Big Boy’s hair.
I told Shawn he was crazy, and that Big Boy is the name of the mascot,Frisch’s is the name of the restaurant. Shawn asserts that the biggest sign in front of the restaurant says “Big Boy,” on it – so it is therefore referred to as Big Boy. I assert that’s ridiculous. You don’t just refer to McDonald’s as The Golden Arches because that’s their sign. Nobody says, “Let’s go to The Golden Arches,” without everyone else replying, “Dude, it’s called McDonald’s.”

A few google searches later, we found out that apparently referring to the restaurant as “Frisch’s” is a peculiarity specific to the Cincinnati area. Kind of like beating the Steelers a few weeks ago, but whatever. We won’t go there.

Shawn: 3

Jen: 0
Just this morning, as I was putting food on Bug’s highchair tray for him to eat, I told him that he was getting a smorgasborg of food. Except that I was in random-baby-talk mode, which means I said something like, “J.Bug, look at you! You’re getting a smorgasborg of food! That’s right, kiddo – Smorg. Ess. Borg.”

Shawn looked at me like I was all cute and amusing, and said, “What’d you call it?” I answered, “A smorgesborg. Why?”

Honey,” he said (very patronizingly, I might add), “It’s smorgasbord…with a D.” We argued for a minute, with me making the point that I happen to be the reader of the family and am really the familial authority on how things are pronounced.

And then Shawn brought up the fact that until I was in late high school, I thought hors devours was pronounced, “oars day vores.” In my house, we just called ’em snacks, so I had only read the word, and never heard it pronounced.
Since there’s really no way to reply to that fact with dignity, I just said, “We’ll see.” I can’t lie. Hitting up google to settle this debate was one of the first things I did. Let’s just say

Shawn: 4

Jen: 0

Oh google. At once both a good and reliable friend and myprovingshawnwrong nemesis.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2009

boo for the flu

Good News: I’ve lost five pounds in two days.

Bad News: It’s because I feel like someone’s taking a Roto Rooter to my gut and having a field day.

Good News: Shawn was able to work from home today so that I’m not puking up my guts AND trying to take care of Bug.

Bad News: Poor guy (both guys, actually) will most likely get this, too. We’re trying to be super careful and me and Lysol are bffs right now, but you just can’t be this close to a sicky and not get it, too.

Good News: Tamiflu is amazing. I’ve never had the stuff before, and I’m already feeling so much better after only having been taking it it for less than 24 hours.

Bad News: The stuff cost us $50. Plus a $25 copay for the doctor’s visit. If Jude and Bug get this, we’ll be out $225 for sickness. Getting sick is just not in our budget – but whatcha gonna do?

Ironically – I refused to get a flu shot last week because we didn’t have the $25 in our budget, even though Shawn kept telling me I needed it. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but $25 is less than $75.

Shawn: 5
Jen: 0

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