amo.says

my life in my words


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Love Me Tender

May I suggest a starting place as truth receivers? It is okay for someone else to struggle. Furthermore, it is okay to not fix it/solve it/answer it/discredit it. Another believer can experience tension, say something true that makes people uncomfortable, and God will not fall off His throne. It is not our responsibility to fix every mess. If someone steps onto the scary ledge of truth, it is enough to acknowledge her courage and make this promise: I am here with you as your friend, not your Savior. We are not good gods over one another; we are better humans beside each other. 

— Jen Hatmaker, For The Love

It’s taken me longer than I anticipated to write this #AMOdoption update. Mostly because every time I share the hard truth or even glimpses of the story behind it, I end up brokenhearted in tears, reliving it all over again. Still, I want to do my best to keep you engaged in the journey and answer some questions I’m sure you have. The first question I imagine you would have as I continue on this fostering journey is, “Why haven’t you posted about your Kiddo in so long?” And this is where the tender truth comes out. I haven’t posted about her in so long because she hasn’t been with me in so long. A little over a month ago, she was removed from my home by the State due to circumstances out of my control.

Anyone who has been near a foster parent knows that parenting kids from hard places is HARD. Even on the hard days, I felt honored to spend quality time with an incredible teen girl who has no idea of the amazing potential she has as a worthwhile human being. Still, this sweet, smart girl who finds it hard to believe that she’s worth loving was once again bombarded with an overarching fear of love because of the traumatic things she’s had to live through. Because of that, both her heart + mind would not allow her to live on a level where she could land in the middle of connection, community, and unconditional love. She did everything she could to push boundaries, to behave adversely, to battle daily so that I would give up on her, regret her, kick her out, but I refused to do that. So she let her trauma win the battle and forced others to remove her because she knew I never would. She found what she thought was her only way out and she blazed a trail out the door, unable to let herself stay in a safe and loving family. And while it’s easy to be angered by her actions, I only feel pain and sorrow that she felt this was her only option, and that she’ll lean on it to be her only option for a long time. I still don’t regret opening my heart & home to her. She is forever a part of my world and my world is better because she’s part of it.

It was HARD to see her go. It was HARD to be left hurt and hurting. It was HARD to sift through every emotion and answer questions I had no definite answer for. It was HARD to feel like a failure, while at the same time knowing I did the absolute best I could. It was even HARDER to come to the realization that I may not have been the best option for her—that I can’t provide her with what she needs. It was devastatingly HARD to watch a prayer be answered . . . but not be able to stay. There are so many circumstances at play in the midst of it and I can only hope and pray that I was able to give her a glimpse of hope, love, and care—of what could be some day.

It has taken me the past month to wade through the HARD moments—one step at time—and answer difficult questions. I’m grateful for the loving support of my close family of friends, church family, other foster parents, and my Community Group who have held me through the HARD and hurt. It is encouraging to know that they still see the best in both of us and are praying, loving, supporting a bright future ahead for each of us. With that in mind, things are still tender in my world so if you ask me all the questions, you may get none of the answers. What you need to know is that I forever love her and champion healing and hope in her life in any way I can. I will always protect her and her story, my story, our story.

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A note from a fellow foster parent in my Refresh Conference Community. It really is the little things that help you get through the big things. ❤

Still, there are some questions that have been asked of me along the way that I will gladly answer (as I have a few times now to people in person) below to close out this post. I hope they enlighten and inspire you as you continue on this journey with me:

Didn’t you realize what you were getting into, fostering an older kid? Yeah I did, and I wasn’t afraid of it. I’m still not. I also don’t regret saying YES to her. However, even knowing the things I know about fostering teens doesn’t make the loss any less painful. This didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but I don’t regret my decision to care for her. She is a beautiful, strong, smart, worthwhile Kiddo and no amount of her leaving makes me think less of her. Nor will it make me walk away from caring for older foster kids in the future.

Why didn’t you ask the social worker about ____________? You’re cute. While I’m disappointed that you might think I walked into this blindly and without asking important questions that would help me parent to the best of my ability, I’m happy to surprise you. I did. I asked a million and one questions. At every meeting, I brought up more and more questions. Even when the answers were guarded and shrouded in soft blankets, I pressed in. The truth is, not everyone in the foster system gives you the answers you want, when you want, how you want, and part of it is based in the fact that they legally can’t. The other part of it is that they don’t want to blow an opportunity for a hard-to-place child to be placed. Another part is that they are hopeful that the next placement will be the game changer.

Everything seemed to be going well. What did you do to her make her leave? I loved her—deeply, unconditionally, honestly. I offered connections, solutions, strategies toward healing and comfort. I let her ask big questions and make informed decisions. I tucked her in at night, held her when she cried, and massaged her feet when she was stressed out. I gave her second, third, fourth, fiftieth chances. I championed family times, friendship development, and taught her life skills. But it was just too much too soon and she chose to put herself back in the corner that she was all too familiar with . . . the one where she didn’t need someone else . . . the one where hope and love didn’t have control, but rather she had control.

Where is she at now? Will she come back to you? She is in a safe place, getting the care she needs. At this point, there are no guarantees as to whether or not she will be coming back. The truth is, I can’t give her what she needs to succeed right now. I can say that regardless of what happens going forward, I’m never going to stop caring about her, investing in her life where I can, and I’m certainly going to continue opening my heart and home to kids in need.

Why didn’t you tell me/us what you were going through? It is HARD. Hard to face, hard to tell, hard to process everything that’s happened. I’m not even being overdramatic . . . just real. I’ve battled all the fear, doubt, shame, anxiety, despair, and confusion along the way and it’s left me pretty empty. So when I did finally start sharing bits of the story outside of those who are in my immediate tribe of trusted friends, people responded differently than I anticipated—with suggestions for how I could have done better; with offers for them to go talk to her and make her see what she’s done; with stories about how difficult it is to parent their own kids but that their kids always come around in the end. It just became too difficult to trust the story to fall on fertile soil and not get choked up in the thorns. I didn’t tell more people because it hurt too much at the time. I still have really tender moments even a month later. I am sure that you would have listened and you would have cared better than most. You still might, even knowing this much of the story. But I will give you fair warning, the words expressed by Jen Hatmaker in the quote at the beginning of this post is exactly where I’m at right now. The situation sucks and while I’m sure many people feel they have all the answers, all I really need is a hug.

What can I do to help? When everything went sideways, I got this question almost daily from people in my close community. The majority of the time, I didn’t have an answer . . . for like, anything. Mostly because I was so lost in everything. I didn’t know what I needed because I didn’t know myself at the time. I got lost in the middle of the mess. I didn’t know where I was, what time or space was, or how to function under the weight of such a heavy emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual toll. Now that I’ve had time to come to grips and resurface, picking up bits and pieces of myself along the way, I’ve found a few ways you can help: Pray for me. Love me. Care about me. Hug me. Have coffee with me. Remind me that it’s okay to laugh, to feel, to enjoy things. Encourage me. Sit and listen without offering solutions. Remind me that God sees, hears, and knows me. Let me cry next to you or in your arms and remind me that it doesn’t make me weak—only human. Invite yourself into my world and invite me into yours.

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A note from another foster parent in my Refresh Conference Community. I’m grateful for all those who have fostered and have leaned in to remind me that this kind of thing does happen often and I’m not alone in it. It has been a comfort to read and hear healing reminders over coffee + lunch dates that this is not out of God’s hands or sight.

Thank you for walking through this with me . . . and for taking the time to read this novel. If you made it this far, treat yourself to an extra cup of coffee/tea today. You’ve earned it! Know that there is much more of this journey ahead and that I am honored to have you by my side.

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Just Like Fire

FPP

 

. . . 2 more days until I look at yet another possible apartment.

. . . 13 more days until I begin my three (3hr) Home Study Interviews

. . . 25 more days until I (tentatively) move to a new home.

. . . 48 more days until I leave for my family reunion in Austin, Texas.

. . . approximately 75 more days until foster care pre-placement activities begin.

. . . 80 more days of going in to work 2 extra hours at #TheOl9to5 so that I can get paid for all the time I’ll be missing at work while I’m in Texas, at VBS, and when ‘kiddo’ comes into my home for placement.

. . . 82 more days until our Vacation Bible School begins

To say that time flies is a giant understatement for me right now. Even as I sit here typing this, I realize I have about 20 things left to do before I go to bed tonight. Yet all I want to do is curl up on the bed and sleep until morning comes. I realize this is just the tip of the foster-parenting iceberg and I know I can make it through this whirlwind of a season with God on my side. Still, I feel like this entire succession of events flew in quick!

Last weekend I sent in almost every bit of my licensing paperwork—except for the emergency evacuation diagram & strategy, which will come when I move. It feels SO good to be out from underneath that monstrous tower of paperwork! The countless hours and brainpower have taken a toll on my sanity, but it was SO worth it to get to here. Furthermore, I can’t help but be grateful for those who have helped me get from point A to here. From amazing people who have written foster licensing recommendations for me; to my loving friends & family who are looking forward to welcoming ‘kiddo’ to the fold; to the countless people praying for me to find just the right home to move to, and more! I feel honored and relieved to have such an incredible supportive community of friends and family holding up my arms in the middle of the battles.

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Next up comes filling out financial paperwork, applying for grants and taking on contract work to cover the rest of my foster/adoption fees (about $5,000 left to go!). Also, packing this weekend and getting as many ‘ducks in a row’ as I can before the rubber REALLY meets the road!

All along the way, I keep repeating, “I’m coming for you, kiddo! We’ll be together soon!” to myself. I get these beautifully gut-wrenching pangs of hopeful anticipation and butterflies swirl around in my stomach. Simultaneously, stars fly over my head as though I’ve been knocked on the noggin’ with a giant frying pan of all the details still needing to be managed. I’m definitely leaning into grace, hope, and trust during this season and believing that the God who began this good work will be faithful to bring it to completion in His time. The other day, I had a daydream that I was sitting with kiddo at the dinner table, explaining to them how sorry I was that it took so long for me to get to them. In that scene, I remember saying, “I had so many things I had to let God fix in my life before I could bring you in, but I promise to make it up to you in the precious moments we have left together. My life isn’t just about me anymore—it’s about you and me, together . . . finding life, love, and wholeness.” Yeah, there were plenty of tears in that daydream! Come to think of it, the tears have been pouring from my eyes like a leaky faucet these days. Oh bless.

In closing, I want to say a great big THANK YOU to every single one of you who takes the time to read about this journey, commenting on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter posts, and giving me comforting hugs when I let the doubts get the best of me. I could not ask for a greater crowd to be in my Arena as I embrace this year of PROMISE!

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Don’t You Give Up On Me

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The agency that I’m adopting through (Bethany Christian Services) utilizes a database of ‘waiting children’ from a pool of ready-to-adopt kids in the area. Ever since I began this adoption journey, I stumbled upon that particular site and did a search for kids that fit the criteria for the needs I could meet. There was this one child on there that almost immediately caught my heart—yes, my heart, not just my eyes—and I began dreaming of the day that I could be a mother to such a kiddo. Every time I see that their profile is still active (meaning that they are still awaiting adoption), my heart both breaks and dances. It breaks because I wish I could be their mommy TODAY and that they could leave the never-ending foster care system they are in. It dances because that means they are still available for me to adopt! Then, after reading the same profile over-and-over-and-over for the one millionth time, I click the “Return to Results” button and find myself scrolling through the pictures and names of other kids who are equally as lovable and I ask myself, “Why can’t I just adopt ALL of you!?!”

Over time, that list of kids has grown, and my prayers for them have increased. “God, move people to action to bring these kids into their homes to give them a forever family. Lord, let these kids know that there is still viable hope for them to be welcomed as part of a forever family. Guide them. Guard them. Bless them. Be fully present in their lives. Lead them to a love that isn’t defined by the four walls they live in, or where they came from. Help them to see that their Heavenly Father thinks the world of them and isn’t giving up on them.” That is my prayer for them . . . and for my future child.

Right now, I’m in the “Happy Butterflies Preparation” stage when the trials seem manageable—and even welcome—simply because it means I get to be a mom and see my dreams come true! Still, the odds are ever in my favor that that feeling will wear off the further down the rabbit hole I go. I’ve read so many stories of how parents have adopted teens and after an adjustment period, things seem to go well. Then, as they age and change, things escalate and they rebel and act out and take out their anger on their parents . . . so I guess they are pretty normal teens, eh? Still, parents find themselves at their wits ends, wondering if they made a mistake and looking for a way out. Look, I’m not telling you that so that we can judge them—we have no right—but rather so that you can remind me of this post when those moments come to my own home. When my child is running away, help me remember to run to God. When my child is swearing at me because I took their phone away or wouldn’t let them sleepover at their boyfriend/girlfriend’s house, help me remember to speak words of kindness, love, truth, and grace. When my child tells me that they’ll never call me mother, help me remember that even if they won’t call me one, God does.

I’m asking because I know I’ll forget in the moment. I’ll probably throw around some crap like, “Yeah, but I had no idea it would get this bad when I wrote that,” and then get back to eating my millionth macaron of solace. And in that moment, you can grab both sides of my head and remind me that even in shaky moments, my Father God is unshakable and I need to suck it up, face the music, and learn to hear the symphony on the other end of the tune-up. Don’t let me give up on this amazing opportunity to be a living gospel to a child who is worth every tear, every prayer, every smile, every moment of frustration and fear, every step it took to bring them home.

While I’m sure there will be bumps along the way, I’m definitely believing for & looking forward to the finer moments as well! You know, those moments when I celebrate silly things like passing grades, consistency in hygiene, bravery to go for tryouts/auditions, or the fact that we survived yet another first week back at school. In those moments, I’ll smile and think of all you wonderful folks who have supported me with love, care, and prayers along the way. I’ll be grateful that you didn’t give up on me, or my family, and that you chose to step in to be a living gospel to me along the way. Here’s to a PROMISING journey!

 

b2ropl4icaaqt-a


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Family Tree

Some life events create memories and dreams that just stick with you longer and stronger than others. Like when Pacey and Joey* broke up—because that meant that Pacey was “fair game.” 😉

 

Dear Joey: Sorry, I'm Not Sorry . . . The Boy Is MINE! ;)

Dear Joey: Sorry, I’m Not Sorry . . . The Boy Is MINE! 😉

 

Then there was also that one time that I volunteered at ROYAL FAMILY KIDS CAMP. Royal Family Kids Camp is the nation’s leading network of camps for abused, neglected and abandoned children. Spending that initial week with kids in the foster care system opened my eyes and heart up in a whole new way and put a burning passion in my heart to adopt. I know I’ve shared with you before about my desire to adopt, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to make a first move in that direction. After my big medical fiasco, I realized just how precious and fragile life is and how quickly it passes by. I’ve had many opportunities to think about the things I had taken for granted and hesitated pursuing because of fears and doubts. One of those many things I’ve hesitated on was adopting a child. After much consideration, thought, and prayer, I decided to sign up for and attend a meeting at Amara to start learning about the process of adoption in Washington State!

 

One small step for Amo, one giant leap into the next season of life! Feeling a lot of rainbows and a billion butterflies ♥

 

I want to reassure you that this was just an information meeting, designed to cover the basics of the adoption process, the history of the organization, the numbers/finances involved, etc. The bonus was that we got to hear from a parent who went through Amara with her husband to adopt a child—a beautiful little girl! The majority of the crowd consisted of couples and the questions they asked were more geared toward adopting infants and small children, so I decided to just take notes and save my questions until after the meeting. I was very pleased that the majority of my questions were answered in the meeting and the others I had were answered afterward. I left the meeting feeling empowered, encouraged, and excited for what my future (and my family’s future) will hold! Speaking of questions, I’ve shared this dream briefly on the blog, but there are still a lot of questions that others have asked when I’ve shared in-person, that I haven’t answered here. I want to go ahead and take time to do that, so here goes:

Q: Are you adopting?

A: Yes! . . . but not today. I simply wanted to attend the meeting so that I would know what I’m getting myself into, what to expect, and whether it would even be possible for me to adopt. I am currently single and while I would LOVE to be in a dating (and eventually) marriage relationship, I don’t necessarily want to rely on a marital status to get the ball rolling. Adoption can take up to a year and a half to finalize and sometimes longer depending on the adoption criteria and the parents of the child up for adoption. IDEALLY, I’d like to start the adoption process once I’m engaged to the man I will marry, but if that doesn’t happen in the next couple of years, I don’t want that to stop me from pursuing the adoption. I do know that the man I marry must be someone who is okay with adopting our first child.

Q: Wait. Your FIRST child?

A: Yes. I want my first child to be adopted. Will my first for sure be adopted? Who knows. Everything in life is unpredictable and I very may well give birth to our first child, but again, IDEALLY I would want my first to be adopted. I want them to have the experience of being THE FIRST CHOICE after a long line of events where they may have felt “unwanted.”

Q: Do you have something against natural childbirth?

A: Yes and no. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the pain involved with carrying a child for 9 months only to have it rip through the nether-regions like a blazing torpedo. Nor am I a huge fan of goop, poop, and baby puke. That said, if I DO end up having a natural birth, I will go through all of that with the happiest, most content heart because it will be a life-giving process to a sweet child that my husband and I made. I will forever love that child, just as much as I would an adopted child, and it will know the beauty of love and family to no end. However, I do tend to lean more toward adoption as a personal option and would be perfectly fine with never giving birth to a child.

Q: What kind of child are you hoping to adopt?

A: A teenager. It’s no secret that I have an undying love for teens and helping them seize life to the fullest. I love their attitudes, inquisitive minds, ability to communicate more than younger children (if given the opportunity and right), and that they haven’t been completely “ruined” by the pressures of adulthood. I love that they are big kids! I most definitely love younger children as well, I just have an extra amount of love for those in their pre-teen/teen years. Then there is also the fact that in the foster care system, teenagers are less likely to be adopted because most are looking for younger children. That means that teens spend more time in the foster care system, sometimes bouncing around from foster home to foster home with an even more deconstructed sense of home, family, stability, and security. I want to rescue them from that and show them what it’s like to feel safe and wanted.

Q: Can you even adopt as a single parent?

A: That was actually one of my big questions last night. I know some agencies that I’ve looked into that don’t support single-parent adoption. However, Amara does. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll use their agency, but at least I know that it’s possible. The answer is YES, yes I can! That means that if I reach a point 2 years from now and I find myself still single, I will most likely go ahead and start the adoption process as a single parent. The cool thing is that the process is the same financially and structurally for adoptive parents, whether they are single or not. I wouldn’t be charged extra and there would be no extra hoops for me to jump through.

Q: What kind of adoption are you planning to go for?

A: I would like to pursue a “Foster-To-Adopt” plan. While I understand the beauty of simply being a full-time foster parent, I really do want a child of my own. I want to be a full-time mother to an incredible teenager who has endured the foster care system to come out on the other end knowing faith, family, hope, and love . . . permanently. I want to pursue open adoption because I think it’s important that a child who has been placed in foster care know where they came from and are able to stay connected to their birth parents, if they so choose.

Q: You do realize that you might not get to keep the kids that you foster or even try to adopt, right?

A: It’s a sad reality I’ve had to weigh-out a lot. It was reiterated last night at the meeting that there is ALWAYS a chance for heartbreak in the process and that there is ALWAYS a chance that at the last minute, the birth parents can change their minds and not release the child to you. I realize that I could go through the entire process of extensive home visits, training sessions, support group meetings, evaluations, etc. and still come out on the other end without a child to call my own. However, in the words of Julia Roberts, “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”

Q: What if the child you adopt is rebellious and comes with a lot of baggage?

A: I say bring it on! I think it’s easy to forget that we ALL have baggage and no load is too heavy for love to bear. It would be the same as if I had a child of my own that grew through the teen years with baggage and a strong-willed sense of rebellion . . . I would love them through it—tough love included! I don’t actually see much of a difference between an adopted child and a personally birthed child. The only difference I see is that I didn’t actually go through child-bearing and labor to have the adopted child, and again, I’m okay with that. I can’t think of anything more worthwhile than giving a teenager a “second chance” at ‘family’ and ‘home,’ and I am MORE than willing to work through with slammed doors, late night runaways, and unwise choices to help them get to the point of knowing that they are worthwhile, loved, and wanted no matter what. One of my favorite things that was shared at the meeting last night was the speaker’s advice that, “Most likely, the child that you adopt will not look like the one you have pictured in your mind.” I think above all, that reminder coupled with an attitude of flexibility, and a dedication to love no matter what will help me (and my husband) conquer whatever situations come with the adoption process.

 

Whew! That’s a lot of Q & A . . . and I’m sure there are still more. In the meantime, feel free to ask me more questions, pose scenarios, and just talk things through with me. I mean, please realize that no matter what you say/ask, I’m not going to change my mind about wanting to adopt, but I most definitely welcome conversation about it! I realize this whole process is going to change my life in so many huge ways, but I figure, what big event doesn’t—especially when it comes to adding new people into your family. I just hope I will be able to add you to my network of emotional/mental support along the way. It takes a village, y’know! 😉

 

*Holla’ back, fellow DAWSON’S CREEK fans! 😉


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My Baby Pony

Starbucks can't even handle me and Tiffany!

Let this be a lesson to you all . . . being out in public does not censor me. While I was home, I got to hang out with a lot of great friends. One of them was Tiffany. We met up at Starbucks and talked about everything under the moon. While waiting for our drinks, I randomly belted out part of I’LL COVER YOU from RENT . . . twice! When a song gets stuck in my head, you never know when it’ll come out.

(fast forward to 4:14 and imagine me singing that in the middle of a busy coffee shop)

You know, sometimes you just gotta break out in song. Believe me, it’s a lot funner than breaking out in hives. Just saying.

One of the things I appreciate most about Tiffany is her love and care and concern for children. While we were hanging out, we were talking about foster children and adoption agencies and such because Tiffany used to help nanny for a woman who had foster children. Tiff and I have also spent quality time serving with an amazing organization called Royal Family Kids Camp, which is a special summer camp for children who are in the foster care system and come from situations of abuse and neglect. That camp really digs through you emotionally and spiritually, but spending quality time sharing life and love with those kids is an experience that won’t be easily forgotten!

I am actually a huge advocate for adoption. Both of my parents are aware that after I am married, one of their grandkids will be an adopted teenager. I want to adopt a teenager for two big reasons:

  1. In the foster care system, most teenagers are overlooked because parents would rather have babies
  2. I relate more to teenagers and feel I would be better as a parent to a teenager than a baby.

I know there is a lot that goes into taking care of children, no matter what age, but I also know that it’s doable and it’s worthwhile, if you are aware of what it will require of you. Since we had been talking about foster care and about how a good chunk of babies that are put up for adoption are put there by teen parents, I felt like I totally needed to share this video with Tiff. And now I’m sharing it with you.

I know it’s kind of sad, but also kind of funny. I almost wish that there was a program (and there might already be, I just haven’t searched it out) where teenage couples like the ones in that video can experience life with a newborn for 3 months or something just so they are fully aware of what they are asking for. I’m not saying that people should not have babies. I know that generations ago, teenagers were having babies just fine. But times have changed and the world around us has become more demanding and more complex. I just think that there needs to be a reality check among young couples today that a baby is not a toy, not equivalent to a puppy, and not something that you just have to say you had one.

Because we’re such incredibly serious people, Tiff and I finished up the evening singing the “My Baby Pony” song that Cruz made up in the cafe. I’m pretty sure everyone at Starbucks was wondering if someone might have slipped some booze into our coffee.