This is where our hearts are

I thought it would be nice to explain some of the reasons why James and I decided to become foster parents. I know it’s not for everyone, and it’s confusing to many people. As we inch closer to having the first child in our home, I am reflecting on why we’re taking this step together.
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1 — I’ve always loved the idea of adopting. James has always been open to it and supporting the idea, too. We’ve been talking about adopting and having a mixed family since our dating days.
2 — We love the James 1:27 verse: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” This is an area where James and I want to serve together, and our hearts have become more and more united and passionate for orphans and children.
3 — India. We had always wanted to serve by going to an orphanage or children’s home. Me especially, I had my heart set on India. I’m not sure why I was so drawn to India, but since high school, I had always thought that would be an interesting country, a good place to visit and find out what’s going on outside my comfort zone. When we actually were able to visit India together a year ago, it was everything to me for a long time. I was so excited to go, so excited this dream was coming true. And when we were there playing with and getting to know 30 beautiful children at the children’s home, our hearts were truly changed.
4 — Once I saw it for myself, this great need, I just knew God was calling me to help. Now that we’ve met kiddos in need, now that we’ve seen positive change, we just can’t NOT do more. I am a sap now! I cry all the time over the hurt in this world that children endure. I don’t remember crying so much before — God is softening our hearts. We both feel like we haven’t done enough for this cause of helping the orphan. We haven’t truly made a difference yet.
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5 — So the next step was either to start moving toward adoption or incorporating more “helping orphan” activities into our lives. More helping children. More something. And we found fostering. We found Iowa Kidsnet. This entire thing really has gotten to be a big deal for us, because it will impact LOCAL kids. There are kids in our city that need help and we feel a burden for them. We know this is God working in our hearts because we know this desire to foster isn’t for everyone. More and more, this idea has been tested and true for us. We are very passionate about this particular way to help.
6 — When considering adoption, we are open to this. We are open to international adoption and domestic adoption. We are open to having biological children as well. What’s really become clear to me is that God has a story that is just beginning for us. We don’t need to know what the outcome will be right now. We don’t need to have a “family plan” for how many kids we’ll have or what that all will look like. God is going to shape this for us and put the pieces together.
7 — We will start with fostering because it became a logical first step for us. It’s not nearly as expensive to do foster care as it is to adopt internationally, for one thing. That’s not all of the reason, we also feel an increased burden for helping our neighbors and doing more locally. We looked into adopting from India but got detoured toward foster care. The pieces are falling together for foster care right now but not really for international adoption. It’s become more clear this is what we are to do now — stay home and help the children in our city.
8 — We are aware there will be heartache. We know this is going to be a difficult journey. I know I sound excited all of the time, it’s easy for me to talk about those feelings. But it’s also a scary step we are taking that’s being made real and true and what we have to do. God’s calling us to this and we know that no matter what pain we will face, this is our ministry. And God doesn’t call us to live “easy” lives. We will also find joy in this, because there is joy in serving and doing what God’s calling you to do. I love the sense of purpose, I crave it. It’s time to do something. We’re ready.
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Whistle while you wait

It’s been 8 weeks since we have turned in our foster care paperwork, and a friend with insider info told us our wait to be licensed may be longer than expected. Normally they say it will take 2 weeks – 2 months to have the paperwork processed, but sounds like ours will take a little longer. DHS has experienced recent employee turnover and is behind right now.

Guess what? I’m ok with this!

Originally I was hoping that we’d be licensed and have a kiddo in our home within the 1st month. There have certainly been ups and downs during this waiting period. I’ve been frustrated, anxious, excited, disappointed, hopeful… oh you could probably name it all. But something exciting about this is that I have really come to terms with the whens and hows, whatever they will be. I prayerfully gave this whole thing to God, and it’s working for me. No more stress and anxiousness. Whatever happens will be His plan. I’m really confident in this.

James doesn’t get as worked up about the timing as I do, which also helps. He’s mastered the skill of going with the flow, I think. And together we’ve simply been enjoying these last kid-less moments as a family of 2 and 2 (2 humans and 2 kitties).

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

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Painted the bathroom and kitchen

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Enjoyed time with our house church

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Watched our kitties grow a little closer

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Got crafty with shower invites for a good friend

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Discovered new tasty gluten free recipes

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Took care of a sick kitty

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Celebrated fall with the foods of the season, cookouts and campfires, family and friends

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Spent time together

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Had a surprise birthday party with friends and more birthday celebrations with family

I don’t have a due date

Most mothers have an idea of when motherhood will begin for them. They usually have the baby growing right there in their belly. They can feel it kick. They have a due date. Someday this will be me, but right now, and how I will start motherhood is a little different. I don’t have a due date. I have expectation and anticipation, I have the hopes and dreams, but I don’t know roughly when it will all officially begin.

Any day now we could get our first call for a foster placement. It could be this week. It could be next month. We’re not licensed yet, but our paperwork is done. And it may be that we won’t say “yes” to a child for awhile – maybe it will take awhile to get a call for a child that will be the right fit.

So I am waiting and “expecting” to have a child soon. I’m nesting and preparing for the first child in our home. And it feels a little surreal because I don’t have the kicking in my stomach to remind me of the days ahead.

I’m sure adoptive and foster moms feel this way often. There’s this nagging notion that what I’m doing isn’t natural and this lie that plays out, trying to tell me that what I’m doing is not the way it should be. That what I’m doing is weird.

However, thanks to the redemption and love of Christ, there is an even bigger joy swelling in my heart and I’m able to forget about the lies and toss them aside (most days). I am able to rest on the comfort of His promises. It will be worth it. It will be something to laugh at later. I will be thankful for His perfect timing.

Something funny: most parents tell us to enjoy this time and to rest while we can. They are wise, they know. And in this situation, we truly don’t know how much time we will have to rest. So yes please, now is the time to take advantage of each moment. To be thankful for what we have right now.

I will learn to appreciate this newness, this flexibility I never embraced before. I think I’m on my way, almost there. So far.

He’s always been faithful

This weekend I was reminded of the blessings God has given myself and those around me. I went to a good friend’s wedding — Bobbie Quade, my beautiful college friend, is now Bobbie Goeken. She married the most amazing man for her, and the wedding was entirely focused on Christ. This was a worship-filled wedding! And the experience of the weekend reminded me of God’s faithfulness yet again.

Let me begin by saying this wedding was a wonderful reunion of people from different areas in my life — from college and the Bible camp I worked at one summer as a counselor. These years and experiences were so impacting and meaningful to me, and they all came together at this wedding, where I was able to see old friends and reconnect.

And sitting at the wedding, I was reminded again of the greatness of God and His amazing faithfulness.

The groom, Ryan, started off the wedding by playing the piano and singing this song: “He’s always been faithful” by Sara Groves >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lhtx417HwU  (you really need to hear this song if you haven’t yet — amazing!)

bobbieryanHis gorgeous bride, my beautiful friend, walked down the aisle as her groom sang and then sat at his side on the piano bench. They worshiped together, sang side by side and rededicated themselves to Christ at their wedding. My former pastors from college years married them, and it was a joy to see the enthusiasm all over their faces. Ryan sang with all of his heart to God, praising God for the blessings in his life — and we all watched this extremely joyful couple start their first steps as one. It was so clear that God had His hand all over this couple’s relationship. It was so pure, and honestly, I think everyone in the church was moved by this wedding.

 

During the wedding, two of my good college friends, Amber and Blair stood at the front as bridesmaids. They were beautiful and supportive. It was amazing — words just can’t describe this wedding and what it meant to me to see how my friends have grown, how we all have grown in Christ over the past several years since our college years together. Life is taking us to new places and on new, separate journeys, but I felt united still, seeing everyone together in Christ at that church.

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I was also able to spend quality time with my dear friend Jenna. We were roommates together during our senior years at Augustana College. It was a glorious, messy experience being roommates (we both loved clothes and shoes and didn’t love putting them away), and we had great times together.

This is Jenna posing with some salt at IHOP. We’re reliving a college memory where we used to play a game my family made up: Salt Wars :)

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There were others I was able to reconnect with at the wedding reception from my former church, friends from camp and college. I was just so reminded of God’s faithfulness in giving me such a strong community all through my life. I have been so blessed with family, friends, mentors and Christ-like influences everywhere in my life. He truly has always been faithful to me, and this song by Sara Groves really sums it up.

“Morning by morning, I wake up to find the power and comfort of God’s hand in mine. Season by season I watch Him amazed, in awe of the mystery of His perfect ways. All I have need of His hand will provide. He’s always been faithful to me.”  – sung by Ryan at the wedding. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Beautiful song, beautiful wedding, beautiful friends, beautiful life.

An update on life as I know it

So it has been a long time since I’ve posted. I guess that happens when you’re taking Perspectives, then have no break before starting the foster parent training class: PS-MAPP. And then the whole licensing process to become a foster parent kind of takes awhile.

But I’m back and am hoping to write more frequently now.

Speaking of the foster care licensing process, I’m feeling really good about what we learned in class, what we’ve discussed and what I’ve heard from friends with experience in this area. It’s amazing how I’ve met previous social workers, current social workers, current foster parents of all varieties, and others like myself and James, new to the whole thing, even parenting (like James and I). Right now we’re just two people who have no clue what’s coming and I just keep saying, “Bring it on!” And I’m confident because it feels like this is exactly where God wants us.

A crazy tide of thoughts and emotions have hit me throughout this process, too.

We get so many questions. We’ve talked about it for so long (7 months). You start to think it could happen really soon and then you wait and wait. Well actually we haven’t waited that long yet. It’s been 2 weeks since the last bits of paperwork were turned in. I hear the paperwork is sitting on someone’s desk now, waiting to get approved. This process now could take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months.

2 weeks? Well, we are there! We could start getting calls for placements TODAY! But we didn’t yet. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me in the slightest. I mean, I just really want to know things like whens, wheres and hows. This is the beginning of some seriously frustrating “not knowing a thing” situations, I know. :)

And that’s ok with me, too. BECAUSE I know God is in control and He has perfect timing. He knows the first child we’ll have the privilege of welcoming into our home. He knows how long they’ll stay, and it will be just right, according to His plan. It doesn’t have to be my plan. Thank goodness it’s not. :)

I’m rambly but seriously, this stuff is difficult when you feel READY for the next big thing. We’re waiting to go through the process and open our arms to a child. We know there are local kids in need just waiting, too. I would love love love for the waiting to be over for us all.

Some days I’m completely content with my current life, but it is easy to get antsy and excited for the next step and to let that contentment slip away. It’s hard for me to not know when the next step will come, but at least I know what it is! I’ll think on that tonight. At least I know God has a perfect plan and it’s better than what I could dream up myself.

Thanks for listening. :)

Why don’t we go?

It’s “spring break” and Perspectives class took the night off yesterday. I still found myself buried in homework for the class, learning more things, chewing on others from past lessons, and thinking it’s time for another post about what I’ve been learning.
 
As you can imagine, a big theme for the class is about Jesus’ words in these verses:
 
Matthew 28:19
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
 
We’ve learned that “all nations” doesn’t mean just every country in the world, but every people group. (And side note… I’ve learned that India has hundreds of unreached people groups…. people that have never heard the gospel and have little if any way to go to a Christian church.)
 
Then yesterday I read more about William Carey, an English missionary who passionately went to India back in 1792. He faced opposition from his local church. They didn’t think the “heathen” should be “converted.” But he boldly went anyway to the unreached in India, and by himself at first!
 
When considering reasons why he was alone in the mission to India, he wrote: ”Some think little about it, others are unacquainted with the state of the world, and others love their wealth better than the souls of their fellow creatures.”
 
Today in 2013, we talk in our class about the obstacles missionaries face and reasons that people don’t “go” to “all nations,” like Jesus asked. And I find it very interesting that our reasons are not much different from those in Carey’s day. 
 
Another thing I think is holding us back is our security. We want to be safe. We like our comforts. And I agree that “some think little about it” (reaching the unreached, spreading the good news to people who have never heard it) because they are so distracted by other issues. These could be other good causes, like fighting for justice, freeing the slaves, helping orphans find families. It’s not all bad…. but the church today has gotten distracted and is forgetting Christ’s mission for us. He said “go” to “all nations”… he wants all the earth to have a chance to know Him. 
 
I also believe we all have different purposes. We were created for different reasons and different missions. Not everyone is expected to go across the world to preach and teach. Not everyone has the skills or the means to do so. 
 
As a church body though, should we not be working more toward this mission?
 
As a Christian myself, when I hear over and over again in this Perspectives class, that Christ told us to “go” to “all nations,” it is harder for me to stay comfortably at home. At home where I have my pick of worship services that are available all over my city and those nearby. I could go to a Bible study or church service every day of the week if I wanted to! And there are still so many around the world who have never heard the good news, who still don’t have a translation of the Bible in their own language. These people might also be persecuted for becoming a Christian.
 
How spoiled I’ve been. Taking so much for granted. But at the very least, this class is helping me to be more thankful for what I’ve been given. 

 

Before a whale eats me

I’m learning a lot right now. A ton actually. Because I am in Perspectives, this awesome class about missions, God’s call for our lives and the Great Commission.

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So I thought I would start to share some of the recent lessons that have struck me in so many ways.

A big one for me has been Jonah’s story in the Old Testament. Jonah was called by God to share his faith, yet he selfishly ran from God instead. He didn’t want to go where God was calling him: Nineveh. He didn’t like the people there (they were a violent bunch) and was probably worried about his safety. And something I didn’t realize before… he also wanted to keep the good news he knew about God to himself.

I bet Jonah was worried about what would happen to him when he arrived. I bet he was thinking his own plan (running away) would be ok and would help him have a happier life. Well we know how that turned out, don’t we?

Anyway, BAM! I’m convicted here, because this has been me so many times. I’ve been the scared Jonah! I’ve selfishly hoarded my knowledge, ran away and did my own thing.

Thankfully being in this class, where you read a ton and listen to a different speaker every week, there has been plenty of opportunity for me to soak in this lesson and many others. I think I am making strides toward becoming more Christlike. I hope I am anyway. :) So I will try not to “hoard” my knowledge from you here on this blog either haha. :)

Marriage and The Music Man

This last weekend, I went on a day trip with my husband and some friends to Mason City, Iowa. It was a time of random sightseeing and fun. We used a clever book called Iowa Curiosities to guide our stopping spots. Along the way we saw a house in the shape of a pyramid, the last place where Buddy Holly and his band played before they died in a plane crash and the field where their plane crashed. Our final destination was at The Music Man Museum and the home of Meredith Willson, the composer and playwright of The Music Man

Let me begin by saying that I had just finished two solid weeks of a crammed schedule and this was my first day “off.” I also am an introvert and sometimes the thought of gathering up the energy for a full day of social activities can be a little daunting, especially when I’m already tired. Plus, I’m not a big fan of The Music Man! Gasp, I know! Dare I say it?! I just didn’t grow up with it, unlike the excited friends I went with to the museum.
 
So I originally didn’t even know if I would go. 
 
I ended up deciding I should go because my husband was about to switch schedules at work, and I didn’t want to miss his last free Saturday for awhile, being lame and staying at home by myself. Yes, I know I’m lame sometimes. :) AND, I thought it would be fun after all to get out and see some different things and people I haven’t spent much time with lately.
 
Guess what? It ended up being really really fun! I had a great time! 
 
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Plus, I learned a little lesson from Meredith Willson…
 
Our tour guide at the house where Meredith Willson grew up told us about the composer’s three marriages. She described his first wife, Betty, as a woman who “did nothing with her husband.” The two were married for 20 years, but according to our tour guide, didn’t have a very strong relationship because Betty insisted on staying at home and kept herself out of usual activities with Meredith. So Meredith divorced her. Then he married a “charming” woman who did everything with him. She was described by the tour guide as a wonderful woman who loved to be involved in Meredith’s activities. They did everything together. But after 18 years she died. So then Meredith went on to take a 3rd wife.
 
Anyway, when I was listening to the tour guide, it kind of hit me… I don’t want to be a Betty! I had totally almost skipped out on the trip, the fun and the activities with my husband. I had almost done what Betty did and stayed at home. It was a reminder to me that it’s important to spend time with my husband, even when he’s interested in some activities that I’m not necessarily very excited about.
 
Just some food for thought. I know the divorce rate is creep creep creeping up in America, and I really don’t want to add mine to the list. I know my husband isn’t a Meredith and wouldn’t be quick to divorce me either, but still. I want to cherish and guard our marriage, even enjoy it as much as possible. So sometimes I think I just need to get over myself, and I’m really glad I did last weekend. That trip was fun and it was nice to spend the extra time with my husband and friends. :)

I’m not good

I’ve been blessed with a fruitful year where God took James and I to India and back, took my mom and I to New York to help with Hurricane Sandy, and now He’s directing James and I on a journey to become foster parents. But I have to tell you that although these things appear to be “good” on the outside, it’s not me or us that are the “good” ones. 

There have been many times I’ve failed throughout these things. I’ve been afraid, not trusting in God’s direction. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been unreasonable. Headstrong. Prideful. 

So here’s the thing I’m trying to get at: God is the good one! I have to give Him the credit for everything that is good in my life, because I didn’t do it. And I definitely didn’t do it on my own! He’s the one that has these amazing plans and experiences in mind for us. Some of these things were a mere dream that I believe God put into my head a long time ago. There have been times I’ve doubted that anything would ever happen with these dreams. But He still graciously allowed these good things to happen in my life. And I truly believe that it is not me who deserves praise for doing any of the “good” things…. it is my Savior.

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” – James 1:17

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

Day of Hearts

I get excited about holidays. I get excited about dreams. Combine these two and you have me going crazy with excitement!

James and I have been very fortunate in that we have had very happy Valentine’s days, combining our dreams with the high spirits of the heart-filled day.

James’ favorite Valentine’s Day is when he got out of the Navy. His very last day in the Navy was on February 14, 2007. That day will go down in history as James’ favorite day. Maybe it doesn’t even compare to our wedding? Haha, I’m kidding… but he was so happy to be done with the Navy. Since leaving the Navy he’s had the freedom to search for his own dream career, his own dream life. The kind of life in the Navy, (which yes is honorable and wonderful in service to our country) confined him on a ship, and was not for him.

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James in Hong Kong with the Navy, so long ago!

Then there was maybe 3 or 4 years ago, (I’m not remembering…..) where James and I had a very intentional, romantic date toward the beginning of our relationship. We got dressed up, went out to a nice restaurant, he bought me roses and wrote really sweet words in a card I still have. It was perfect. It was during the days of his tiny apartment life phase. We went back to his little apartment after dinner and cuddled in the tiny living room with a max capacity of probably two people. Ah, memories!

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Where it was beginning :)

Two years ago I thought would be very hard to beat. That’s the year we were planning our wedding and honeymoon. On Valentine’s Day, we booked our resort in Jamaica and found our airline tickets! I was giddy the entire time. It was really fun to combine the dream with the holiday. Always dreamt of marrying a wonderful man. Always dreamt of going to Jamaica. And it was happening! Wow! I still remember how that felt… such an exciting time that was!

Last year was our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple and James surprised me with a kitty! I had no idea James wanted to even have a kitty in the house, but I had been wanting one. What a selfless gift that was! And a surprise! This kitty, named Monte, has been like “a child” to me and us. We love him and are so happy to have him roaming around. Lately he’s been chasing his tail all the time. He’s a hoot. :)

And now as we’re approaching this Valentine’s Day we’ve talked about what we could do to make this one special too. I know, it’s hard to beat the last ones! But we now have a grand plan!! Since India, James and I have growing hearts for children, especially orphans or ones in unfortunate circumstances. We’ve been praying for ways to make a difference in this area, and God has shown us how.

So this February we will go to our first information session with Iowa Kidsnet to start the process of becoming foster parents!! 

This is our first step in the process of becoming foster parents. It is the beginning of an exciting adventure, a new chapter in our lives. We are actually waiting to fully begin the 10-week class and full process this summer, but how fun to raise our hands now. We’ve told them we’re interested. And this Valentine’s Day we’ll start a new journey, with God leading us the entire way.

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