Sunday, November 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Zeke!!!

Today is Zeke's birthday.  He officially becomes a teen today.  I don’t know how these things happen.  I mean I know he is 13.  I have seen him grow up but I still have very vivid memories of him as an infant, toddler, young child and growing up to where he is, as a young man.   He is now taller than me!   I have watched him grow and enjoyed him every moment.  So today I remember his life and am full of gratitude he is our son.

He has not always had it easy.  He was born to an HIV positive mother and waited for a family to come and pick him up, for eight days in the hospital.  I had a vivid dream from the Lord telling us to take him the day before he was offered to us.    So on a bright sunny December morning, my mother and I drove to the town he was born in, to pick him up.  
He was so sweet and chubby from the time he was born.  I cut the I.D. band off his little leg.  He had some health issues besides the HIV antibodies in his blood.  He had terrible reflux and breathing issues (from aspiration on formula and tracheal mylasia).   He has a syndrome that they have never been able to identify.  He also has Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy (low, floppy, muscle tone).  Even with all these things going on, he was the most cuddly, sweet, happy, baby.  
There was always a huge smile on his face.  His eyes just twinkled.    

As time went by he out grew his reflux and severe breathing issues.  Really the only issues he had was the HIV, asthma and CP.  He was meeting his milestone but just later than what was expected.  He was a quiet, happy, bubbly, toddler and against all odds, the HIV cleared from his blood at 18 months old.  No HIV, Glory to God!    
We all enjoyed Zeke so much.
At three years old, after receiving shots, he went into bone marrow failure and was hospitalized for weeks needing many transfusions.  He almost died…when he came home it was like he was gone… it was all erased…he was erased and everything changed with autism.

It was terrible.  He made no eye contact, his facial expressions flaccid.  He didn’t interact with anyone voluntarily anymore.  He no longer talked at all anymore, not a word.  He drooled a lot and had to wear a bib to catch it all.  He could not sleep anymore and wandered around at night.  We had to find creative, safe, ways, to contain him so he would not get hurt.  The whole house had to be baby proofed again, as he had no sense of danger.   He had to be supervised at all times.  He was sick constantly with tummy issues, allergies, colds and terrible exema.  I grieved terribly for our loss.  His loss.  He could not learn.  He now also acted like he could not hear and after testing was diagnosed with audio processing disorder as well.  It was overwhelming.

After a year of grieving, and not much headway at all in all his therapy sessions, I began to pray hard.  We always loved him for who he was no matter what but I saw his personality and knowledge disappear in a few days when he was sick, surly there was something that could be done to help him heal or improve.  As a parent we always want the best and most for each child.  For each child to reach their fullest potential.  I got on line and spent hours researching autism and alternative help.  Back then, what God led me to, was called the DAN protocol.  The Defeat Autism Now Protocol.  I started off with giving him cod liver oil and taking all milk and wheat out of his diet.  He improved dramatically.  The first thing we all noticed was he started to make a lot of eye contact.  He also started to talk again a little.  After a few weeks of me continuing to tweak his diet, his occupational therapist saw the dramatic difference as well and asked me to explain what I had learned and what I was doing.  She was so excited about it all she started filming all of his sessions to show the progression.  Over the period of a year, I kept a careful journal of foods I took out and added back in to see if I saw a difference.  Also adding supplements that had helped other children with autism and noting any change.  It is still an ongoing job but long story short, he potty trained in a few weeks, learned his letters, numbers and colors in a very short period of time and continued to learn at a steady slow pace.  We have never got back the child that was lost but Zeke is much improved and we are so grateful to God for bringing him back to where he is.  He is wonderful and we love him so much.

He is a very quiet young man but he seems happy and content in life.  His face is still very flaccid most of the time 
but he will smile if asked to for a picture and does smiles and laugh at things that he sees as funny on occasion.   

He speaks in sentences and is still progressing.   He functions at about a first grade level in his education  but still struggles with reading terribly.  He understands danger and safety around our home and farm.  He still has trouble sleeping but stays in bed, for the most part, till he falls asleep.  If he does get up he does not do anything destructive or get into things.  He knows all of the house rules.

He has grown into such a wonderful young man.  He loves the Lord and knows right from wrong, according to Gods law.  He recently asked Tim to baptize him.  It was after swim season and the pool was very cold but it was his hearts desire.   

He works hard and tries to please us.  He has trouble remembering all he has to do every day, even to get dressed.  So we developed a daily chart of all that is required of him and it has worked very well to keep him on task.  He is very schedule and daily routine oriented, so the chart works well for him and is very helpful.   He does great!  He is helpful around the house and a very obedient, sweet, young man.

Zeke has been a joy to raise.  Even though he has had to go thru so much, even though he has had and still has hours of therapy, he always does his very best and tries very hard to learn.  He loves to make us short movies, (with his legos and wooden railway) that he narrates himself.  He also spends a lot of time doing stop animation like William does in his spare time. 

Today is a joyous and happy day for us all.  A celebration of our sons life and the miracles God has preformed on his behalf.  We remember and are thankful that God entrusted Tim and I to raise him. 

He is loved by all of us.  Thank you Aunt "S" for the beautiful cake you made to order for him and brought over.

Zeke you are an inspiration and an amazing young man to me.  God brought you to our home to bless us and you have blessed us so much.  May God be with you every day of your life, helping you to live for Him.  May God help you achieve your goals and dreams in life!  We love you forever!!!

Zephaniah 3:17  The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Dad, mom, Stephen, Antonio, William, Carolyn, Elizabeth, "B", "T" and little baby "K"! 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks To God

I love this time of year.  The summers here in the deep south are often hot, long and muggy.  Even though summer is fun and busy, fall is a welcome sight.  Every year, as fall comes around, the mornings greet me with crisp cold air and the smell of wet leaves, I am often overcome with memories of my childhood.  I grew up in Upstate New York, with all the mature, huge, hardwood trees of the north, fall is just stunning. My family would all rake leaves from all of the huge oaks and maple trees and play for hours in them.  I was small but it seemed like mountains of leaves.  The smell of wood burning stoves hung in the air as we played and worked outside, preparing our home and land for winter.  Dad put the heat cables on the roof and we put the storm window on for winter.  We all worked together stacking wood or putting up the last of the harvest from our garden.  The food my parents grew in the garden was canned and frozen to feed us through the rest of the year.  My mom made almost everything from scratch.  We bought our meat from a deli and our milk was delivered to our home and dropped off, twice a week, in a little metal cooler beside the front door.  My parents were happy together and worked hard as a team to do all that needed to be done.  They loved God and taught us about Him in all they did.  They spent a lot of quality time with us, their children.  It was a wonderful life.  Simple and wholesome but so full of rich goodness.  I could never have asked for anything more.  I knew when I grew up I wanted that kind of life for raising my own children someday.

I wish I had continued to fill the days and memories of my life in the same way my parents had started me off.  I went through many hard years living away from the Lord.  I am forever grateful for His patience with me, leading me back to Him.  Grateful for the life I have had since recommitting my life to Him some 20 years ago.  As I look back over my life, as I often do at this time of year, I see a lot of good and bad.  Most of the bad I brought on myself through bad life choices.  But I can always see how God lead me thru those times and used them for good to teach me and help me grow.  Most of the lessons I learned the hard way, were lessons I needed later on in life, in order to make better choices down the road. 

I have been married, painfully divorced and found love in marriage again.  I have birthed and adopted children and lost one.  I have loved with a mothers heart, many children thru foster care and many, God moved on to other places.  I have had material things in abundance and lost them all in one fell swoop.  I have faced serious health issues in not only my own health but in my husbands and children as well.  I have had seasons of joy that could not be measured and times where I cried till I thought I would never feel happiness again. 

In all the days of my life, looking back through it all, there is true Thanksgiving.  From the bottom of my all thanks to our Creator...for all things He has done for me.  No matter how we are feeling.  No matter what we are going thru.  Whatever the season we are in...  To know that our joy is in the Lord and He deserves all glory and praise.  To tell Him thank you...for every breath...every moment...every day.  As these are all gifts we do not deserve but are given because of His great love for us.  This is not always easy to do but to truly be content in all things is where we are supposed to strive to be. 

Philippians 4:11-13  Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Thankful in all seasons of our life because we are strong in the Lord.

Even in the hardest times... when the world was being totally destroyed Noah was thankful for the ark.  Abraham thankful for a promised son in his old age.  David thankful for his slingshot and a stone, when up against a giant.  Joseph thankful for being sold into bondage, to later save his family in time of famine.  The list goes on and on.  We are thankful for all things because God is with us and the knowledge we are His, makes life's hard times bearable and good times so very sweet.

Lord God in heaven, I give thanks to you today because of who you are.  You alone deserve all glory honor and praise, in all seasons of our lives.  Thank you God for creating us and providing a way for salvation, thru your Son Jesus Christ.   Please help us to be strong, bold and faithful to share your Word to the lost.  Help us to daily fill needs in lives around us, being your hands and feet here on earth, till you come again.  Thank you for our family and friends.  For the provisions in our lives.  For being faithful to carry us thru the hard times and giving us joyous times of blessings as well.  You are Holy, True, Worthy and more precious than anything this world has to offer.  With all my heart, thank you God.

Psalm 100:1-5 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.  Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.  Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.  For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November Is National Adoption Awareness Month

November is National Adoption Awareness Month and over on Adeye blog, No Greater Joy Mom, she has invited any adoptive family to link up with her and declare that our lives are richer, lovelier and blessed by the Lord thru adoption.  Praise God!  I would have to agree with her 100%.

As a young adult, I had never thought on adoption much.  I know this sounds strange but I had only thought about adoption in terms of families that could not conceive children on their own, adopting babies from young mothers that had chosen to give up their children to adoption.   Back then, adoption was not talked about a lot.  I only knew a few people that had ever adopted or were adopted.  When I speak with people now days about adoption, most still don’t know much about the children in foster care waiting to be adopted, embryo adoption, or adoption of children from other countries.   It is talked about much more in the last few years than ever before.  Some in part because of celebrity’s adopting but I believe more people are knowledgeable about the plight of the orphan, especially in the churches across the nation, because of the many wonderful adoptive families that keep sharing and blogging about their lives and families, Orphan Sunday and National Adoption Awareness Month.  This is so encouraging and exciting.  To see the body of Christ rise up and support a child or see the wave of God calling families to adopt in churches or sign up for foster care just blesses my heart.  Anyone now days, can” google” the large amount of families on the internet fundraising to bring children home from other countries or to fund the cost to carry adopted embryos.  Glory to God.  I pray nightly that God would rise up a Christian army to adopt the orphans of the world.

Tim and I first talked about adoption while doing our training for foster care.  We knew it was a possibility that a child, that we had in our care,  would become available for adoption at some point.  We talked about what we would do.  Little did we know that within our second year of fostering that would happen.   Very soon after beginning foster care, we saw the overwhelming amount of children needing permanency.   So many children needing a Dad and Mom to love them,  a family to share God with them, love, support, direct, encourage and always be there for them.  There were just so many.  We knew we could not just help one or two.  There were just so many.  So we stayed in prayer about it always, to do the will of God and that He would bring to us, the children that were meant to be with us, as a part of our family.  To be honest, we never intended in the beginning, to have as many children as we do.  It is just the way God brought them into our lives.  Now we have learned, we just want to serve God however He wants in this area.  To never say we are done.  To never say we will never take a child with this or that.  We have learned that He calls us to the children He wants in our home.  Children that often stretch us and grow us, that we learn so much from and never knew we needed in our lives so much.  We have learned that God is faithful and He will always provide what we need, when we need it, for the family He has created here.

By our second year of doing foster care, we felt God had called us to children with special needs or that were medically fragile.  He called us to children that were harder to place because of their medical care or scary diagnosis.  Over the 9 ½ years of doing foster care, our first go around, we adopted five times and retired.  Our lives were full, blessed, busy, hard at times, and never boring.   I am humbled to the core that the Lord has entrusted Tim and I to raise these children.  We have seen daily miracles.  We have seen God provide in miraculous ways for us and always meet every need.  He has poured strength into us when we felt like we had no more to give.  Our lives have been nothing short of amazing because of adoption. 

Those who visit here regularly know that Tim and I made the choice last year to reopen for foster care and see if God wanted us to raise more children.  Even though we are both pushing 50, I had a very deep desire to raise more children I could not shake.  Even though many of our children will be spending all their lives with us, our retirement years were looking a little boring.  :)  I would get on my favorite internet adoption sites or read my favorite blogs (mostly large adoptive families) and would see the need was still so big.   Tim and I sought Gods face on this very important decision for over a year before reopening.  Glory to God it has blessed us mightily once again.   I will not lie…taking in children that have been through so much is not always easy.  But neither was Jesus choice to carry the cross and be crucified for us.  Sacrifice is not easy.  Adoption is not always easy.  BUT…it is totally worth it.  If Jesus gave His whole life for us and we are to give our whole life to Him.  He can do with it what HE wishes and some of what we are called to do might not be all easy… but the rewards are huge.  To witness a child blossom into a relaxed and happy child.  To see them put weight on and have a warm bed to sleep in.  To watch them overcome bad habits and behaviors and replace them with good.  To see them learn to give and receive love.  To see them give their lives to the Lord!  There is no greater joy.  No greater blessing in all the world to me, than to see these children heal, progress, be a part of our family and live for the Lord. 

Yes, I will always advocate for the orphan.  I will always talk peoples ear off about adoption and how great our God is!  We are blessed beyond measure and our cup over flows, just as the Lord has promised!

I ask you to please take this month and pray fervently to the Lord what your roll should be in providing for the orphans of this world.  You may very well be surprised at what He calls you to do!  It might be to adopt!  It might be to help fund someone else’s adoption!  It might be to donate a meal, clothing or help to an adoptive family!  It might be to choose an orphan from the many adoption websites and pray for them daily, till there forever family finds them and brings them home!  You will never regret the time and money spent in service to our God.

Just a few sites to get you started.  ;)
Adopt US Kids

Psalms 10:17  Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear,
18  To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
That the man of the earth may oppress no more.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Mixed Emotions of Foster care and Adoption

When we retired from foster care, in 2006, I was through.  I was exhausted.  Tim and I could not stay in it any longer.  We could not bring ourselves to go through, the years it took to navigate, even one more case from beginning to end.  At that time, we had just finished our last adoptions and tried to close.  I say tried to, as we kept telling DFCS we were closed and they kept calling anyways. 

We had worked with the system, in foster care and adoption, for almost 10 years and were beyond burnt out.  Our county had some very bad people at the top making all of the major decisions concerning children's lives, it was an emotional roller-coaster.  Tim and I both said we would NEVER go back.  Never go back to...the cases that seemed to go on forever, bringing more and more emotional harm to a child.  To the outrageous decisions of those in authority.  To the children sent back home, time and time again, just to see the same children enter into foster care, over and over again.  Every time they came back into care, they were even more lost and damaged.  Don't get me wrong.  There was so much good we saw as well.  There were several good cases with great outcomes and we did enjoy the children but over all, we could not go thru one more case or bare hearing the other foster parents share of theirs.  It was all just to hard to hear and know about anymore.

There is no good way to handle abuse and neglect of a child.  We live in such a wicked, sinful, fallen world.  The system that was created to work and protect children does not always function properly.  The workers are so over worked and under funded.  The children so broken.  The families...their stories so horrible.  I can not grasp substance abuse and addiction, as by the grace of God, I have never had to live with it in my life.  All I can say is, it must be horrible.  DFCS does not just take in children for no reason.  These children are from the hardest of places.  The most deplorable of circumstances, in which intervention had to take place.  The parents of these children, have a mountain of obstacles to overcome, to get their children back.  When the system works...when the parents grab the help given and overcome addiction, learn to parent and maintain a stable environment, it is a happy and wonderful thing to see.  But...  Foster care is messy and when a parent can not or does not want to change or receive the help offered...a case finely comes to is a sad thing.  Sad for the children to never be with the parents God placed them with.  I feel sad for the biological parents.  I think of my children that we have adopted.  I think of their parents often.  I know they made poor choices.  I know most of them were terribly addicted to something that had a grip they could not over come.  I think of them and pray for them.  For salvation.  I think of them on my children's birthdays, mothers day, fathers day, and all the holidays.  I had met most of the biological parents of my adopted children and once in a while I will see their parents in my children...a laugh...a glance, a smile. 

I struggled with who I was when we retired in 2006.  We had been foster parents for almost a decade and I had not lead a very "normal" life in a long time.  By 2010 I seriously could not shake the desire to have more children.  I have always struggled with what my husband calls "babyitis".  Off and on over the years I would have these very strong maternal emotions kick in.  Usually, if I would pray and suppress them for a while, they would diminish and go away for a season.  I began to pray fervently about adoption again.  By 2012 I was asking Tim to please join me in prayer about it.  To ask God if we were supposed to just care for the children we adopted and had most of those children will spend the rest of their lives in our care.  Or were we supposed to forgo the retirement type years, adopt, and raise another child or children.  Tim is very analytical.  He is a guy so was looking at budget, housing space, longevity of our lives.  I am a jump in kind of girl and we will figure it all out as we go along.  I trust God.  I have went thru many hard things in my life, to have this complete trust in Him.  He has proved Himself time and time again to be faithful.  So I believe with all my heart if God calls us to raise a child, He will not only provide but have a plan for that child's life.  What we decided was to do foster care again.  We prayed that God would bring to us the children that would fit well into our home and that He wanted to be with us.  If any of these children had termination of parental rights happen, while in our care...we would know we were to adopt them.

"B" and his brother "T" have been in our home since February.  Sadly, their case has come to that point.  The point that the state has no other choice but to terminate the rights of their parents.  At some point I plan to write a post sharing "in very general terms" their whole story from beginning to end.  So people going into foster care can see how some cases progress and what happens at times.  For now, I can not do that.  I can not even share their sweet faces in an open forum.  But I can say, that court for them was last week and the judge ruled for DFCS to start the paper work for termination.  From what I understand, that will take a month to do and then it will be passed to the DFCS lawyer and will take about another three months to be processed, filed and to get an adoption date.  Truly, I have learned it will all happen when it happens and not to count on any certain time frame.  I have also learned anything can happen and sometimes does, so to hang on loosely and trust God in His plan for us all.  Adoption is not adoption until the day we sign papers.  

We as a family, of course have such mixed emotions.  At this point it would be hard to imagine life without them here in our home.  We LOVE these two little boys.  They are very bonded to and love us.  They call Tim and I, mom and dad and even though they have had some very intense behaviors, they have come so far and try to please us.  Even when my heart does not want to root for the parent to get them these cases...I pray for them and do.  I pray for them to succeed, even though I know it would cause me pain if they go, because I am a parent and fall short at times.  I would never want anyone praying for me to fail at this very important job of raising children.  How could I hope their biological mom fails.  Sadly and with huge repercussions she has.  Repercussions that will forever change all of our lives.  She had chance after chance.  She had complete support and help, in every possible area offered to to her, from as many  sources that could be found to help her...for free... But time is now up, with not one thing on her case plan ever even started.  Not one.  She is still addicted to drugs and will not except the helping hand offered her.  We recently found out she is also with child again.  What mixed emotions I have.  I could just cry for joy that the boys will have stability and a life with us.  We love them.  I also feel like crying for the deep sorrow in my heart for their mom.  A family is about to die.  Their family.  These last few visits they will all have together.  They will not see her again till 18 and then only if they wish to see her.

The boys came back from a visit.  I was getting "B" ready for supper.  I put him in his high chair and I  noticed he had his tiny hand clenched tight.  I unfolded his little hand and in it was a tiny little candy heart.  One of those made from pressed sugar.  He must have had it in his hand just like that over an hour.  It was melting apart and sticky from his moist little hand.   He didn't want to let it go so I could put a spoon in his hand to eat.  These were my thoughts...Did mom just give them candy and he was saving this one?  Did she press this little heart in his hand and tell him to remember she loved him?  Just tears and tears as I washed it from his hand.  Foster care and adoption is so very sad at times...

Revelation 21:4  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.