01 Jan WAITING FOR TWO (Part 2)
Last week you read about how the Lord altered Leah’s adoption dreams into an opportunity to love locally. Find out how God continued to weave together the lives of broken people into a beautiful masterpiece!
After adopting Judah in November of 2015 and knowing his brother would not be joining us, we responded to a need in March of 2016. A white newborn baby, I will call him Caleb, was born to a mom addicted to heroine. The baby had traces of heroine in his system and was needing a home. Like before, we told the workers involved that we would happily take this child, but if there was another family that was looking for a white, newborn baby boy we would happily take 2nd in line. There was no one in Collin County that wanted Caleb, so we joyfully visited him in the hospital until we could bring him home. Our children were overjoyed at having Caleb in our home. It’s incredibly easy to love a snuggly, newborn baby that is helpless without you. We all fell in love with him and didn’t expect that someday he would forever be an extension of our family.
Caleb’s birth mom had a rough past and it was very clear from a quick glance on county jail records and Facebook, that she was going to need to overcome many odds in order to get her son back. I knew, though, after the first few months of weekly visits, that she wasn’t going to give up. She wanted her son back and she was out to do it. During those visits, I would leave handwritten notes to mom, updating her on Caleb’s doctor appointments and progress. Then I established a gmail account to send pictures and notes by email to his birth mom. On Mothers Day, in May of 2016, Caleb and I went to meet his mom for a supervised visit. To be honest, I was pretty nervous. I just kept going back to “What do she and I have in common?” We both loved this child. This child that God entrusted to her from the beginning, yet I was caring for most of 24-hrs of the day. Caleb’s mom greeted me with flowers to wish me a “Happy Mothers Day,” and as we sat and talked for the next hour, many previous nerves and fears were erased. That first visit we started a relationship that depended on each of us putting aside our pride, relying on one another to raise this child, and humbly walking this journey of parenting – this gift of life.
From that day forward, I made every effort to encourage her in her positive progress, pray for her, and become her cheerleader. She wasn’t going to be able to do this alone, and this was only the beginning on her road to recovery. Caleb gradually began spending more time with his birth mom and towards the end was spending 24-48hrs in her care under supervision by trusted family and the amazing CASA worker assigned to the case. She had taken all the classes and steps to graduate from Collin County Courts’ drug program, had found safe housing that kept her accountable for her actions, and, alongside a very supportive uncle, had bought a safe vehicle for her and Caleb.
In October of 2016, with tears of sadness and joy, we gave Caleb permanently back to his mother. The beauty of God’s love is interlaced in every bit of this story. The Lord loved Caleb and his mom by taking them through a very tough time, but finally brought them back together. I had also been reminded that God’s love was greater than my own, and was set free from thinking and believing that I was the best mom for this child – that only I could care for him. In a different way, God was revealing to me AGAIN that I was not in control.
In the past year, since his removal, Caleb is still with his mom. She has started back in college classes, has a full-time job which she loves, and still includes us in text messages and picture updates. We happily provide respite for her when she calls us for help, and still remember both of them in our prayers at the dinner table. Our children don’t reflect back on his time with us or his removal in sadness. We have walked with them through this entire journey and have seen so much growth in their character and trust in the Lord.
The Sibling Group
After Caleb left our home in October, we prayed about taking a break from foster care, but we never had peace in knowing that there were children in need of a safe home. We made our regular phone call down to Galveston to learn that Judah’s mom and brother were still doing visits, although irregular, but that Mekhi was doing well in the foster home. Again, we told them of our interest and that we were here if anything changed.
The next month, we got a call from our agency about a sibling group of three, two of which (a 4 year-old boy and a 2 year-old boy) still needed a home. We weren’t open to taking both of them because a second 2 year-old and a grand total of 6 kids would be rough. However, we offered to take one if it would be helpful. Soon after that call they asked if we would take just the 4 yearr old boy. They had found homes for each child separately and would work to establish a home for all three in the future. I was thinking, “Sure, we have 4T hand-me-down clothes and a safe car seat. We should be set.”
When this boy, we will call him Billy, walked in our home I thought, “There is NO WAY that boy is a 4T.” Billy and his siblings all had the same mom, in her early 20s, but each had different dads. Billy came into our home like a freight train. I’m not joking. He was 80 lbs, still wore diapers, still took a bottle before bedtime, and socially was at a 2 year-old level. The trainings from our agency didn’t and couldn’t prepare me for this child. Each day he was in our home I went to bed completely and emotionally exhausted. I was quickly seeing the effects on my kids and, along with them, was battling to love this child. I distinctly remember our oldest child, Lyla, crying and commenting on how she can’t love him if she doesn’t even like him. Our son, Luke, was taking a personal hit because Billy seemed to target him for pushing, hitting, shoving, and stealing toys. Rusty and I were often having hard heart-to-heart conversations with our biological children. We saw their struggles, could relate to them, and worked them out together in prayer. In what seemed like the trenches, the Lord grew and strengthened our family during the time that Billy was in our home. It had always been easy to love the babies that had come into our lives, but we were learning and living out sacrificial love. The love which Jesus calls us to do. By my kitchen sink I remember sobbing while reading God’s gentle reminder from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 stating, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
Just after a week of being in our home I found out that his 6 year-old sister, we will call Valerie, was struggling in her foster home without her siblings to care for. She was crying all day at school, crying when she got home, and would refuse to eat or play. She was genuinely worried that her siblings weren’t in a safe place and she (and likely her birth mom) had put herself in the primary caretaker role. I shared the situation with Rusty and we agreed to ask CPS if she could come into our home. It was a risk, but one that we were willing to take. They placed Valerie in our home and she instantly clicked with us. We got her enrolled in school, had Thanksgiving break, and just after being in school for one week she was moved to her birth father’s home in McKinney. She hated to leave Billy, but she adjusted quickly to her new home and is currently still with her father. We had been told her stay with us would be short-lived, but we didn’t think it would just be three weeks.
When she left, I felt the need to reach out to Judah’s birth mom by email. I had created a new account to send pics after we adopted Judah, and I let her know that we were aware of her situation. In my heart I was thinking, “I would want my kids to be together if possible.” After our relationship began to develop, I let her know that we would love to take Mekhi so that the brothers could be together. We were willing to keep an “open” relationship if she would allow him in our home. Her first response was defensive, but 12 hours later she wrote back stating that she had changed her mind and that she would love for the boys to be together FOREVER. We were shocked, but she confirmed her intentions as we emailed the next steps to be taken. We continued to pursue the situation in Galveston, but knew it wasn’t going to be easy since he was in his foster home for over a year now.
Back at home, Billy was slowly improving and adjusting as he spent Christmas with our family and was showered with gifts from the community and family. We were encouraged when he began to talk about the stories he was hearing from church and in our home during bible story time. When he came in our home he knew nothing of the Bible, Jesus, or even the name of God. Neither he, nor his sister, had heard of or celebrated Thanksgiving. It was evident that their lives had been in turmoil for awhile and that even in their beds, they weren’t able to seek rest or refuge. Both Billy and our children were learning to love one another and God was bringing healing to this child’s wounds. Right after Christmas, we received a call asking to take Billy’s 2 year old brother, likely for the long haul. Something I have failed to mention until this point is that currently in the state of Texas you cannot be a licensed foster home with more than 6 kids. This number includes all children in the home. So at this moment in our foster journey we had 5 kiddos in our home and were being asked to take a sixth. If we filled this sixth spot with Billy’s brother, it was unlikely that we would ever get Judah’s brother. It was a spot we had never hoped to be in. We never intended or wanted to send a child away from our home, only to continue care in another foster home. The decision was hard, but we chose to pursue our efforts in bringing Mekhi into our home. Billy and his brother were placed in another foster home with each other and are currently still together, on track to be adopted by a family that will allow all the siblings frequent visits and a future together.
Bringing Home Mekhi
We now had a laser focus on bringing Mekhi in our home and hoped it would be seamless since we had the biological brother and now had the birth mom on our side. Well, nothing is that simple in foster care, and I’m here to say we are more patient for it. The foster home Mekhi had been with for over a year now had standing in court. They were hopeful in adopting Mekhi if mom ever “flaked out,” and although we had frequent contact with CPS in Galveston, the foster family claimed that they never knew of our intentions. To make the story short, CPS dropped the ball on both sides of it. I have a lot of respect for the people that serve the children in care. It is a thankless job, you are underpaid, overworked, and there aren’t many people who love to see you come to their door. We were upset that the foster family in Galveston was led to believe that adoption was even possible, yet we empathized with them because we would also feel very hurt and scared if we were in their same situation. Fourteen months is a long time for a foster family to have a child in their home and to grow attached. In response, the foster family in Galveston had hired an attorney and was ready to battle us in court over Mekhi.
This past February we drove down to Galveston to state our case in hopes the judge would move Mekhi into our home. The first 30 minutes of the hearing involved our feisty attorney, and sister-in-law, making a statement that we should “have standing” in the case. The judge wasn’t going to just allow us to be a part of this case because we showed up. We had to have evidence, which came from the family law, that we had the right to be a part of this case. Fortunately, the judge granted us standing and over the next 3.5 hrs we heard from several parties involved. In summation, there were six attorneys (all caseworkers and state reps for Mekhi), the foster family from Galveston, the birth parents (present, although an hour late) that I had never seen in-person or met, court officials, and Rusty and me. About 50% of the workers representing Mekhi were on our side, the other 50% on the side of the family from Galveston. We genuinely did not know how the verdict would fall, but in the end the judge asked both foster families to agree to 3-4 supervised playdates halfway between Dallas and Galveston over the next couple of months. I felt a little defeated, but thankful that we weren’t cut out of the case completely. During the car ride home we were pretty amped-up and exhausted all at the same time. Our intentions had turned into action, while our prayers of unification for the boys felt very much within reach; yet we had to prepare for the reality that it could still take a long time.
A few days later on February 6, after the weekend had passed and we began another Monday, I received a phone call from our attorney. I wept as she told me that the foster family from Galveston no longer wanted to proceed with the case and that they wanted Mekhi and Judah to be together forever. Talk about a glorious and monumental day. I couldn’t believe it. The anxiety, emotional struggles, tears of frustration, middle of the night wake up calls from the Lord to pray – all the yearning of having this child in our home was about to become a reality. It is not lost on me that our joy was possible due to a very difficult sacrificial decision on the part of the other foster family – a family that loved Mekhi very well and had done nothing wrong. Exactly one week later, Mekhi was transported by CPS and dropped off at our home. At 21 months old, he came into our home very much confused, angry, and sad. To top it off, he had contracted a stomach bug 24-hrs before coming into our home and was battling fever and diarrhea in his new surroundings without any familiar faces from his past.
In the days to come it was surreal to see the brothers together. Neither had the words to express their feelings for one another but their actions communicated that they somehow knew they belonged together. I feel that parenting them is very much like parenting twins. They are pretty much inseparable – they love and fight like biological brothers and share some of the sweetest laughs while taking a bath, jamming out to music at our frequent in-home dance parties and swinging on their bellies in the backyard.
On November 18, Mekhi officially became our son. There is no comparable feeling when you adopt a child from the foster system and realize that “it’s finalized.” There is relief like that of a huge burden being lifted. Oxygen is more easily inhaled and you feel a sense of freedom to love and parent this child as your own.
Even as we approached adoption, the Lord was working on our story. While we were seeking wisdom through prayer on opening up our home again to more children, God answered our prayers in an unexpected way by giving us our 4th biological child. Did your jaw just drop? Probably not as much as mine as I read that very positive pregnancy test. We are so grateful for the privilege to carry another child and are excited for the new baby’s arrival in April of 2018.
Now 3.5 years from the start of our foster journey, we would confidently tell you that we have forever been changed by our experience. Some parts were easy, but the majority was not. A lot of people comment about how much we have blessed these children, but we feel the complete opposite. We feel like they have blessed us. They forced us to face the unknown, to love sacrificially, to continually fight for our marriage and our family, to grow deeper with the Lord, to live each day as it’s the last, to appreciate our comfortable and stable upbringing, to disciple our children through some very mature struggles, to sacrifice our time for the needs of others, and ultimately to find our constant joy in the Lord.
The most common question that we hear is “How do you give them back? I could never do that.” We were there, friends. We said the same thing. Yet God held our hands and showed us that we couldn’t do it alone and that we were never asked to. As believers we have the Holy Spirit as our guide, and the Heavenly Father as our comfort. With that, we had what we needed before our journey ever began. We have a hope that this world is not our comfort, nor can it ever come from a child coming into our home. A hope that assures us that our biggest earthly struggle is nothing in comparison to the love that Christ has for us. A huge thing I learned from foster care is that no child is mine. They all belong to the Lord. And just like that of a life that may be cut short, whether in miscarriage or a young death, we have just a season to love them, hold them, and disciple them for that moment in time.
It’s not easy to give a child back, and there are many heartbreaking stories of loss in the foster system, but I want you to hear more than those stories. If you don’t take a chance on the risk of accepting and loving these children, who will? My husband and I strongly believe that it is the church’s responsibility to take children from these broken homes and give them hope. Even if its momentary, hope, love, and stability is the desire from all of these children. Don’t let fears control your actions if you are feeling called to serve these foster kids. Take one step of faith at a time. We accomplished our dream of adopting a sibling group, but we could not have orchestrated it any more beautiful than what the Lord has done.
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:3