So Hans Solo came to live with us two weeks ago today.
When they brought him over, I was overloaded with a TON of appointments to schedule and things to do. And SCHOOL. Completely forgot a 9-year-old goes to school! To say I was in complete shock would be a major understatement. They were listing off all of this stuff and I wasn’t even writing anything down. At the end, I had to have them repeat everything so I could remember what to do.
I was overwhelmed.
When they brought in his clothing & other things, I realized quickly that a shopping trip was going to be necessary. He had a few shirts, a few athletic shorts, two pairs of shoes, some socks, underwear, and that was pretty much it. No jeans, no dress clothes for church, no toys. When we asked him what he liked to do, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know.” We asked him about legos, remote control cars, GI Joes, Star Wars, and on and on, but he just kept saying he had never played with any of that stuff. Finally, we found out the one (and just about only) thing he liked to do was throw the football. And let me tell you, that boy can throw a football really good for his age!
So that night, we went through our bedtime routine of reading a book, saying our prayers, and getting tucked into bed. And as we walked out of his room and shut the door, we heard him cry out, “Goodnight! I love you!”
First night in our house, and he was telling us, “I love you.” Of course, we opened the door back up and told him we loved him, too. But it was not what I was expecting in that moment. Here is the little boy who’s world has just been completely turned upside down. I can’t imagine what I would be like if that happened to me. I’m almost sure I wouldn’t immediately tell a couple of brand new people in my life that I love them. We’ve heard stories of kids who refuse to even unpack their bags for several months because they are convinced they are going back home. Not Hans Solo.
As the shock of the situation wore off, the next day proved to be very challenging for me. Trying to schedule a doctors appointment, dentist appointment, therapy, psych evaluation, psychiatrist appointment, visitations (there were going to be three a week now), figure out summer plans at YMCA, & figure out school enrollment was enough to almost send me overboard. AND I was working at the church while I was trying to do all of this with both Hans Solo and the Jedi there with me. I was on a true rollercoaster. One moment I would take a deep breath and think, “Ok, this is going to be fine. I can handle it.” And the next, I would be on the phone with my mom crying my eyes out because I didn’t know how I was going to get everything done AND continue to work AND have our house on the market AND this AND that. Finally, I got to a point where I had to contact the caseworker and my Bair worker and say, “OK. I work full time. This is waaaaayyy too much for me to have to do and continue working full time. There is no way I can take off work to go to THREE visits a week, take off for therapy, take off at 3:00 to go get Hans Solo from school every day… and I can’t afford to quit (or lose) my job. PLEASE HELP!”
I am definitely thankful that I can contact these people and they care enough to try to do everything possible to make the situation easier. Before I knew it, we were down to just one visit a week (after work), therapy was scheduled for the evenings, and they had everything set up for daycare for him once he’s out of school.
Because of God’s strength, I made it through that Friday. And as we tucked Hans Solo in to bed that night, we told him that the next night, he could choose what we were going to pray for–whether it was school, or his friends, or his sisters, or his family–whatever he wanted. We started to walk out of the room, and he asked, “Are y’all my mom and dad?”
I wasn’t expecting, “I love you” the night before, but I definitely wasn’t expecting this question on night #2! I just simply said, “Hans Solo, we are your foster parents. So while you are living with us, we get to be like your mom and dad. Does that sound ok to you?” And he shouted, “YES!”
I honestly do not know if we are prepared to raise a 9-year-old. Let alone a 9-year-old that has been through some of the things this boy has been through. But I know that God has called us. And we will follow Him to the ends of the earth!
Like I said yesterday, the Jedi has been in our home for almost 6 months now. Back in the middle of April, things kinda got a little interesting for a while with his case. There was a PC (permanency conference) in the middle of April, and it was during that conference that I thought I was going to pass out. Bio mom brought up the fact that bio dad’s mom (Jedi’s grandma) from California could just take the Jedi. It was all kind of confusing and shocking and so I wasn’t even sure what to do or say. But it felt like my whole world was crashing. The lady in charge of the conference was talking about having to do a home study on her, and get all the information, and blah blah blah… and I just kept thinking, “WHY don’t I have a say in all of this? He has been on OUR home for 5 months, we have been the ones raising him, WE have been the ones loving him!”
The thought of losing him was a possibility now. It felt real. I went through so many emotions, especially for that first week after the PC. I literally cried every single day for a week. But I kept clinging on to God’s promises and standing on His Word.
I woke up one morning and I was crying out to God in the bathroom. I said, “Please, Lord. Don’t let my suffering go to waste! Don’t allow this child to be taken from us!” And He whispered back, “This child is not yours. He is Mine. Let me fight this battle.”
I’m telling you, the only thing that got me through the three weeks that followed the PC before I had contact with our caseworker was PRAYER. I woke up every morning and had to put on my armor and pick up my cross. I had to lean on Jesus EVERY SINGLE MOMENT so that I wouldn’t lose it completely.
Finally the beginning of May came and we were scheduled to meet with the caseworker on May 1st. My stomach was in knots because I was so afraid of what she would say. I kept circling the entire situation in prayer–praying for the judge of the case, praying for favor in the court, praying for favor in the SYSTEM (which I think is completely flawed, but that’s a story for later). Ultimately, I just really wanted my mind to be put at ease about the Jedi’s case so that I felt a little better about the likelihood of termination and us adopting him.
And so the time came for our meeting.
God works in very curious ways!
Our caseworker said, “Things are looking GREAT for the case! I really think rights will be terminated at the next court date!” I was ECSTATIC. I asked about the grandmother. Apparently she’s not in the picture anymore. I was ready to jump up and down shouting praises to God! And then came another bombshell…
“Also, I have something to tell you.” She said. I was nervous. What now?!
“The Jedi’s 9-year-old half brother, Hans Solo, needs a place to go. We would love for him to be with his brother because it would most likely help with his healing. He is having trouble in school and has some medical diagnosis’s, but his grandparents can’t deal with him anymore because they say they are too old. So think about it. Bair will be calling you to see if it’s something you are interested in doing.”
Nine. Year. Old. Never knew those three words could freak me out as bad as it did in that moment. Initially, as she said that to me, I said, “Oh no. We are not even licensed for that age. We are not comfortable taking in older kids. We have never raised our own and wouldn’t even know what to do with a nine year old.
But I guess God has different plans. I presented the idea to Ryan that evening, and we both started praying. And the more we prayed, the more we felt like God was moving us to take on this new challenge. It’s amazing to me how He will answer one prayer, but then present something totally new and challenging in the same moment!
Alright, enough for today! And for all of my prayer warriors, the Jedi’s case is still not over yet! Please pray for the judge every single day until his court date. God can move on his heart even today!!
The story of bringing the Jedi* home for the first time. *Name has been changed, obviously.
We literally had four days to prepare for a newborn in our house.
There were moments where I would get so overloaded with thinking about everything that it would make me sick. I would have to stop everything I was doing in that moment and just sit down to process what was happening.
But through the help of MANY family members (my mom, my mother-in-law, my grandma, my brothers, my sisters-in-law, etc.), we managed to get everything we needed and get our house ready for a newborn. And finally, it was time to bring him home.
It was definitely an adjustment for Ryan and I (as it always is with anyone who brings home a newborn), but this difference with this newborn is that we were constantly being reminded that he wasn’t ours, yet. I will never forget the first phone call I got from the caseworker to set up visitation with the Jedi’s biological parents. I cried & cried. Thankfully my mom was still there to let me cry on her shoulder. Gosh, this is bringing back tears as I am writing about it! I didn’t want to have to share this baby, but knew that it was going to be part of the whole process. It did get much easier after that first visitation, and I will explain later on how God has helped me to love the Jedi’s bio mom.
I can’t believe that the Jedi is now almost SIX MONTHS OLD. I’m really not sure where the time went. Wish I would’ve started this blog a whole lot earlier because there has been a lot of things happen in those six months that I probably don’t even remember. But the most important part is that God is definitely working in our behalf! We would love to be able to adopt him! And hopefully we will have that prayer answered by the end of May. I continually have to remember that God is in control of the situation.
There have been SOOOO many ups and downs. The ups are getting to watch the Jedi grow–learn to smile, laugh, sit up, and many other milestones. But the downs have been the waiting, the not-knowing, and the worry that we could possibly lose him. It’s a rough road. But God is bringing us down it for a reason that is so far beyond us. I promise, if it were up to me, I would not have chosen to be a foster parent. But it’s a good thing that this isn’t about me!
Next blog post I will share about our newest addition, and how it has completely changed everything! 😉
Today, I am going to start out with the verse from the Bible that I stand on when it comes to opening my home to children in foster care.
To put this verse in context, the Bible is talking about how one day Jesus will sit on the throne with everyone around and he will separate the sheep from the goats. He will separate those who know Him and those who don’t know Him.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ~Matthew 25:34-40
No matter what we are doing in life, we are ALL called to love & help the least of these. And for us, that means opening our home to the homeless. Opening our lives to the fatherless. Opening our HEARTS to children who need love.
And that is why we chose foster care. Even though God had to do a great work in us first before we finally realized what His calling was! So now to continue with our journey into foster care.
So as I continued on my way home from that lunch date, I called Ryan. I don’t know if Ryan was quite ready for the phone call that followed… God had to do a little more work on him before he was convinced. But he agreed to go to some of the classes to see what foster care was all about.
The next month, in May of last year, we were signed up to do all the classes we needed through the Bair Foundation. As we sat through that first class and learned about the foster system, and behavior problems, and some of the things kids face in their homes, my heart broke. Ryan and I sat in the car for a while afterwards and he said, “Ok, it’s obvious to me now. This is exactly what we are supposed to do. Whatever we can do, even if it’s just for a few children in this world, we need to do it.”
Even though we were both ready to take it all on, I still don’t think we were prepared for the mound of paperwork that followed. No kidding, it was about 3 inches thick. It honestly seemed like it was never going to end. When we would get through with some of it, there would be more given to us. And not only was there paperwork, but there was inspections, and rearranging our entire home to be “kid friendly,” and background checks, and LONG interviews, and even our families and close friends had to fill out paperwork. It is (and continues to be) an extensive process. I’m not going to lie, there were definitely points where we wanted to throw in the towel when it seemed like they were just being nit-picky.
But we pressed on because we knew if we were out of God’s will, then we would never be happy.
They told us that it generally took around 2-3 months to be licensed. I thought, “WOW, that is so fast!” With everything we still had to do, the thought of possibly having a kid in our house in 2-3 months seemed unlikely. But I was beyond thrilled. But 3 months came and went. Because of reasons beyond out power, it was taking longer to get us licensed. Between personal/family issues and Bair Foundation problems, I honestly wondered at one point if there was any way for us to be licensed. I kept having to remind myself that if God wanted us to do this, that He would provide a way.
And He did.
On October 31, 2012 we were officially licensed foster parents. We started getting some calls about kids that could be a possibility. An 18-month-old, a little four year old, a sibling group… but nothing really ever felt right. And then on November 29th, as I was about to leave the church parking lot (where I work) I got a phone call. She said, “Donnell… we have a newborn. He is just a few days old. What do you think?”
I immediately stopped my car because my heart started racing out of my chest and my eyes started to fill with tears. It was at that moment I knew it was right. All of the struggles to get to where we were–all the talk about infertility, all the huge amounts of paperwork, all the tears shed in frustration–it was ALL worth it in the moment.
Everything that came next was a complete WHIRLWIND.
But I will share more about that later…
It’s honestly hard to know where to start.
So I am probably going to start at the beginning of our foster care journey.
I promise to not make each blog post a million miles long, because with me, that could easily happen. So buckle up and hang on!
When Ryan and I got married in 2008, we just assumed that we would be a normal family. Get married, have kids, grow old together, etc. We talked a few times about how we wanted to adopt someday. But we always thought it would be after we had our own biological children first. A couple of years after we were married, we decided it was time to try to have kids.
It didn’t work.
We went to doctors, specialists, and even had surgeries… all to no avail. I was so frustrated and didn’t understand how God would give me such a desire to be a mother, but then not allow us to have kids. I got angry. I got depressed. And finally, I had nothing left to do except turn it over to God, which is what I should have done in the first place.
In January of 2012, after we had exhausted most options as far as getting pregnant ourselves, I started to talk to God about what HIS plans were instead of constantly thinking about what MY plans were. I knew He wanted us to be parents, but I was slowly realizing that it was not going to be the traditional way for us. It was something much, MUCH bigger.
I researched adoption and realized that for us, it was not an option because it was sooooo expensive to privately adopt. And at the time, foster care was not even in my radar because I kept saying, “I could never do that, it would be too hard. There are just way too many variables. I wouldn’t be any good at it.” However, I knew there was a lady in my church who had fostered 5 little girls and was in the process of adopting the last one… and I kept feeling God push me to just call and talk to her.
So I called her.
Originally we were supposed to meet in February, but things got busy for both of us for a few months and it wasn’t until April that I finally met up with her.
She shared her stories. Some scary, some heartbreaking, and some that filled my eyes with tears. When I left that lunch date, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were called to be foster parents.
And I was scared out of my mind.
I immediately started praying for my children. I prayed, “God, I don’t know where they are. I don’t know if they even exist yet, but I pray for your protection over those kids now. Bring them into our home so that they can feel the love that a Mommy & Daddy should show them.” And I have continued those prayers through today.
Tomorrow I will post about what came after the initial decision to become foster parents!