Monday, October 7, 2013

Goodbye My Daughter

October is Foster Family month here in BC. For twenty three years BC has celebrated the many families who have opened up their homes to children in need. As a foster parent myself for the past seven years, I have often heard remarks like “I could never do what you do,” or “You must be a super-parent!” The comments are flattering none-the less, but could not be further from the truth; I am definitely not a super parent. Sometimes, when kids come into our home, it is HARD work. Often you are dealing with attachment issues, grief and loss, special needs, and a bureaucratic system. Sometimes you are given an hour’s notice before a child is suddenly dropped off at your doorstep, with nothing more than the clothes on her back. We have a motto in our house though, “when you are with us, you’re family.” Because somehow, through the struggle, through the grieving, through the midnight wake-ups and the unknown certainty of their future or yours, a love begins to grow. It doesn’t grow because I am super. It doesn’t grow because I was placed with a perfect child filled with perfect tendencies. No. It grows because that small being in front of you is a child, and more importantly, a child of God. It is a child who at that very moment does not have an earthly mother or father who can care for them, and needs someone to step in for that small moment in time and love them when they need it most. It isn’t always an easy love, but it is an attainable love. A love that God has shown us so clearly, and teaches us to show to others, regardless of how hard or difficult it may prove to be. Because fostering is not for the amazing super-parents, it is for the fighters, the passionate, and the believers!

Some days though are harder than others. Tomorrow I will say goodbye to my four year old child whom I have called ‘daughter’ for more than two years. A child, who has known no other family, will leave, without any guarantee of seeing us or her ever again. I cannot explain the emotions a parent has when they can no longer protect their child. No longer know if they are safe and sound; happy. And though there are many unknowns, though there is heartache and confusion, all these things must be waded through in order to give that tiny child a family when no other family was there. So this month, I leave this letter for my daughter, the one who will soon reside only in my heart, and the one who makes ‘impossible’ worth it.

Good Bye My Daughter

Sweet child of mine, you arrived in one swift swoop, taking us all by surprise. Though our house was full, our hearts were not, and you quickly became my daughter. Through many tears and also laughter, I too became your mom. I cared for you. I fed you. I worried about how you did in school, or whether you ate your vegetables. Your late night terrors made my heart break for you, yet your resilience made me proud. Your laughter with your brothers and sisters let me know that everything was going to be alright. Soon, there was no longer a day I remembered you as anything but my daughter. I was no longer a mother of four; I was a mother of five. But tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow you go home to your mother; your family. I know you’re excited, I know she is too. But I can’t help but wonder, will someone make sure you brush your teeth each night? Will someone tell you to eat your vegetables even when you don’t want to? Will someone know who your favorite stuffy is, and that you like your housecoat tied just right? Will someone snuggle you late at night when you wake up screaming, confused by everything that is going on? Will someone throw you a birthday party with your favorite character Dora, and will they know you like chocolate cake more than vanilla? Will someone know you love to dance and that puzzles are really your thing? I wonder how your first day of kindergarten will be, or the very first time you like a boy. I wonder in school what your favorite subject will be, and if you will go to university or not. Will you fall in love and get married? Will you have a baby and start your own family? Will you think of me as I do you? Tomorrow, though my home will have but four children, my heart will always have five. Tomorrow, my daughter, I will hug you once last time; kiss you one last time, and see your sweet smile one last time, but know this, sweet daughter, I will ALWAYS love you!   - Mom

Though fostering comes with heartache and struggle, we are not super. We feel the pain. We struggle through it all, but we know, that despite everything, the good and the bad, for that brief moment in time a child, had a family. Anything is worth fighting for that

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Large Families: The Reality!

On hundred years ago families looked a lot different than they do today. There was usually a mom and a dad, and typically several children. Having 5 kids was on the smaller size. In today’s western society, however, the typical family generally consists of 4: two parents and two children. Sometimes you see more, sometimes you see less, but this “size 4” family size seems to be the most widely accepted by the rest of the public.

The question I have, is why? Why does everyone seem to think small families are the only acceptable form of families, and that large families are somehow detrimental to all individuals involved, leaving everyone destined to live a life of doom and regret?

In the following post I would like to look at the joys of large families, and the reality of what it actually looks like. I in no way am trying to say that large families are better than small families, since God chooses each family one member at a time, but I would like to try and diminish some of the myths that go along with big families. I have interviewed 2 young ladies who grew up in a family of 10, a mother who raised 7 children, and myself, currently raising 5 children with the anticipation of more.

Why don’t we start and get some of the stereotypical things out of the way first, some of the “challenges” of raising large families. The one I struggle with the most, as do several mothers of large families that I know, would be laundry. Laundry is like that magical beast that cannot be beaten. No sooner have I conquered the giant mound, taunting me from the top of the stairs, does a new mound stand waiting for me, ready to strike. So long as I have young children still at home I am pretty sure I will continually loose the laundry battle.  Household chores can be another challenge, although not as bad as you might think. A supportive and helpful husband, paired with daily chores for each child, keep most things in check. Do I have a sparkling, catalogue ready house? No. Often there are days where I clean up the entire house 3 times over, and it still resembles the aftermath of a bomb, but at the end of the days everything is put away, bathrooms are kept clean, and kitchens are wiped and clear of clutter. Come to my house at 10pm at night and we will be ready to entertain :)  Another challenge for some families, although not all, is finances. With 5 kids and counting, food bills can get a bit high, clothing is grown out of quickly, extra-curricular sports add up, and a simple night at the movies with the entire family can cost upwards of $100. I would consider these 3 of our biggest challenges of such a large family and perhaps a few more tantrums than the average home, but overall these would be our biggies.

I have heard comments before, countless number of times, that raising large families somehow leaves the children at a disadvantage. I would like to argue that it instead simply changes our priorities. Can we go to Disneyland every single year? Or take our kids out to dinner every single week? Or buy them every single item their hearts desire? No, of course not. If that is what is important to you, then perhaps a large family would be considered detrimental.

With large families, you instead have to change your priorities to what is important. I somehow don’t think my children are going to grow up lacking in character or happiness because they didn’t get to go to Disneyland 15 times. We try and do family camping trips instead, often with family friends. As one of the young ladies I interviewed remarked,

“When we went on family vacations we would do stuff like go camping, we would never go on big trips out of the country or anything. But truthfully I have a lot of great memories from those trips so I don’t remember ever feeling like I was missing out.”

For us family restaurant visits are kept to once every one or two months and hand-me-downs are an essential. Our younger kids look forward to the hand-me-downs, eager to wear their big brother’s cool clothes, and restaurant visits become a special and treasured outing, not to be taken for granted. The mother to 7 children that I interviewed put it this way:

“We've had to make choices about what's important to us, and what we felt like we could afford to spend our time/money on, so maybe they've been less involved in team sports or music lessons than the typical North American kids, because those activities weren't a priority to us.  But, then again, I'd say that the kids who are constantly scheduled and chauffeured from activity to activity are missing out on just being home and playing with other kids.

We also make a priority of one-on-one time with each child. Some days that might mean a specific child gets to go to the store with mommy or daddy, or perhaps help Dad do a special task in the yard. Other days it might mean a fun trip to the ice-cream store. We also spend individual time each and every night praying with each child, reading books, and tucking them into bed. Bed-times are staggered most evenings, allowing important time with each child. Snuggles are done on levels, with a child snuggling on either side, and one child on top of your lap in the middle. No child in our home is ever left out and gets constant attention.  Another one of my family participant’s states:

 “My parents spent time with us by helping with our homework each night, always made sure that we had a good day, and sometimes mom or dad would take us out one at a time on bike rides for quality time. Mom and Dad also loved taking us on camping trips in the summer time; it was an awesome family bonding time.”

The most common comment I received from the ladies I interviewed, was how valuable large families were to them, and how they always had a best friend nearby. Family became more than just family to these kids, they became friends. Laughter is a guarantee every single day and support is always a question away.

"There's never a dull moment! Sometimes "family rate" means a great deal for us! It's never lonely or boring. Our kids learn great social skills, from getting to know (and get along with) all of their siblings, with all of their different personalities."

 Of everyone I interviewed, they all said they would either have a large family all over again, or themselves grow up and have a large family as well. Clearly the benefits far outweigh the negatives, and as you can see a large family, while challenging, is still a family more than capable of all the same love and attention smaller families have too. I would like to leave you with some positive attributes to large families that I complied from several other blogs. Enjoy!

 Happy situations are more festive, more people to comfort you in times of need

 Children become better equipped to handle social situations after experiencing many different personalities from siblings

 There’s never a shortage of something funny to tell someone. Many people go through their day without a single funny thing that happens to them. I have at least a 25 percent chance of funny just by getting out of bed every day.

There is always someone to help me out. Even when the hubs is at work at night, I have at least one extra pair of arms to help clean up, chase, or even hold someone down when necessary.

Leftovers in my house are almost nonexistent.

In the middle of winter, little people climb into bed with me keep me warm.

My house never feels empty.

I always have an excuse to watch cartoons.

Even their normal squabbles and spats, when refereed by parents, teach them lessons of fairness, sharing, splitting differences, letting others off the hook, forgiving and forgetting. This fortifies their moral standards, their lifelong conscience. (Friction, though irksome and tedious at times, has its uses; it rounds off rough edges, forms a smooth, resilient surface.)

Since their parents take care of their needs but cannot satisfy their whims (through lack of money and time), children learn the difference between wants and needs. They learn to wait for what they want, or to work and earn it themselves. Thus they are spared the corruptive influence of instant gratification. They internalize the virtues of patience and honorable ambition. They grow to become self-reliant self-starters.

Through interactions with their siblings, children more deeply understand gender differences. From their sisters, boys understand and appreciate femininity; from their brothers, girls understand and appreciate what's common among males. All the children are thus better prepared for marriage.

One of the mysteries of a large family is the startling differences siblings display in temperaments and talents and interests. By dealing with these differences among their siblings, children learn to get along with anyone. Having to share a bedroom and bathroom and space at the table prepares the children superbly for marriage and for life.

Older children play with the youngest ones, and thus form a bond of affection with them. Younger children receive love and learning from several older people, not just their parents. So older children are pulled out of their egos, and younger ones are surrounded by love.

Each child journeys through life enjoying the support of his grown-up brothers and sisters. No matter what befalls them in life, your children will never be alone. Indeed, the finest gift parents can give their children, the gift lasting a lifetime, is their brothers and sisters.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The next adventure...

I have always had a particular unofficial agreement with God. In fact I have repeatedly thanked Him that He has never asked me to travel for His works. I have been happily serving him in my wonderful comfort zone of Canada and the US for as long as I can remember. In fact I joke about it to my husband all the time. We foster, adopt, run orphan ministries, all things I can do from the comfort of my own Country. It just so happens that I am not a fan of ethnic food, REALLY not a fan of bugs, kind of a germ phobic so DEFINITELY not a fan of public bathrooms…or strange bathroom set ups.  But above all else, I am TERRIFIED of flying. I even pondered adopting from a different country just so that I wouldn’t have to fly (some countries fly the children out to you). So there you have it, I have been comfy cozy with where God had me (I think that is the problem right there isn’t it!).

This past year I have started following an amazing blog The author is an adoptive mother and astounding advocate for adoptions; special needs adoptions to be exact. Many of her posts have to do with children in the Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Eastern Europe in general where special needs children remain in orphanages wasting away.  By the age of 4 or 5 they are transferred to mental institutions where they live out the rest of their lives, no touch, no stimulation, and definitely no love. Many of them have minor special needs yet so many of them deteriorate to almost nothing from lack of resources, food, and neglect.

Myself and a few friends recently started the process of opening a Christian adoption agency. While we plan on facilitating adoptions from anywhere, foster care and international special needs adoptions will be our focus, with significantly reduced fees making adoptions more accessible. My heart is to see the very children in these Eastern European countries come home to their forever families. I figured this would involve setting up connections in those countries and merely facilitating adoptions.

Man was I ever wrong! A couple of weeks ago I woke up and immediately felt God telling me that I needed to go to Bulgaria. That was kind of strange as God had never asked anything like this of me before, and he knew our unofficial deal…didn’t He?  I immediately tried to pass the buck off on my husband and asked him if he might be interested in going. He of course was, as he loves to travel, yet as I asked him it felt wrong somehow. I had never experienced these feelings before. I had never had any sort of inkling towards travelling anywhere! I started to argue with God. “Come on now, really? Me? Are you SURE?”

But he kept coming back with the same answer that it was ME who was supposed to go to Bulgaria. Since then I have been a bit freaking out. I wake up in the mornings terrified and ready to call the entire thing off, then by the afternoon I am excited and researching hotels and country information etc. I have been on a major emotional roller coaster! Yet deep down, past all my irrational fears, I feel confidant and excited for what this trip will bring! I will be going down the first week of September with a small team from our agency where we will spend a week traveling around Bulgaria visiting the various orphanages filled with special needs children, forging relationships and having our Hearts broken for what already breaks God’s. I am hoping to come home changed and even more on fire to advocate for these precious and forgotten children that so desperately need a home! Until then I think some antacid might be in order J

If you are interested in seeing a video series of what life is like for these children please click here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Do you want a FREE IPAD2??

Hi everyone!! We are looking to build up our adoption fund since our Jamaican adoption is moving along and we need a good chunk of money coming up soon to send our dossier out. I have decided to do a giveaway! This is how it will work. Go to my blog and on the right hand-side you will see our chip-in. Donate a minimum of $20 and you will be entered into the giveaway. Come back and comment on this post that you have donated so that I can keep track of who donated (you do not need to say how much). This is the part that I am relying on your genoristy for...the giveaway unfortunately can only happen IF we receiv a minimum of 50 donors, which hopefully shouldn't be hard at all! You can keep track on the comments of this post of how many people have donated. The model I am giving away is:  

iPad 2 with Wi-Fi + 3G 16GB - White


So Please help us bring our little one home! Multiple entries are allowed, simply comment each time you make a donation. I will keep this open until April 30th at 11pm, and that night by midnight I will make the draw! We thank everyone who is able to help us out, and looking forward to bringing our next child home!! Rememer, we can't do this without you!!

Dan and Amanda!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Caffeinated God

Almost a year ago exactly, I wrote a blog post “Changing theWorld: One little step at a time.” It was all about taking small steps to accomplish something big in the name of God. When writing that post I had felt led to sign up for school to become a social worker, so that I might make changes in the lives of orphaned children. The article was about turning dreams into a tangible reality, and that very day I signed up for my first social work class. I had the expectation that I would chip away at it slowly and complete it sometime in the far future. I was excited, encouraged, but to be honest, I was a bit scared and a tiny bit doubtful. Part of me thought “How on earth am I going to do this? I have 5 kids, 3 with special needs, already run an orphan ministry and have a husband in school to become a firefighter!” I knew God was calling me to step-up, but I truly was a bit doubtful. At times, having 5 kids can be exhausting…truly exhausting. I trusted my Father though, and moved forward, unsure how exactly my future would unfold.

            Almost a year later, all I can say is God really DOES know what He is talking about. When He is the one in charge, the Holy Spirit steps in and amazing things are accomplished. My original though had been one course a semester, maybe even a year, depending on how I could handle it. Funny how I assumed it was me who would have to handle things (we all know who really handled it). Today, however, thanks to God’s amazing power, I am enrolled in school full-time, almost done my first year, have somehow maintained an A grade point average and am quickly on the way to finishing my degree in 3 more years. I often wonder how it all worked out so well. I am not a coffee drinker, have never even had a cup my entire life. Yet the way I have managed to somehow get through everything I have to get through is by staying awake long hours. I basically put my kids to bed at 7pm, and then spend from 7pm-midnight or later doing homework, folding laundry, working on ministry things and spending time with my hubby. By the time I go to bed it is about 12:30 or 1:00am in the morning, and then I wake up the next day at 6am. I should be exhausted. Prior experience has taught me that doing such ridiculous things would leave me unconscious and napping every day. Yet somehow, somehow I feel like I have all the caffeine in the world to get me through each day. I finally realized what that caffeine was. It was my God. My amazing, powerful, and all knowing God, who knew from the beginning that He would be the driving force behind what I do. After all, I am merely a tool for Him to use. God is my caffeine and the only reason I am able to do what I do.

            Here’s the real kicker. I reread my post from that day a year ago, and realized I had divulged one of those dreams you often don’t reveal to people, or don’t think will ever come true, like becoming a president, or opening an orphanage, or something that seems so unfathomable you feel silly even saying it. My dream had been to one day open an adoption agency, free of charge, to make adoptions more accessible. Well…as usual….me with my little faith, thought it nothing more than a pipe dream. But GOD knew it was a reality, He was planting a seed because He knew it would come to fruition one day SOON! Today, only 12 months later after having a tiny little dream which I thought would never amount to anything, I am actually in the process of opening up an adoption agency with a great bunch of people! It is an adoption agency with significantly reduced fees to make adoptions accessible to so many more people so that so many more children can find their forever home. All this because I took a step of faith, unsure of where it would lead me. Why am I telling you all of this? I am certainly not trying to say “look at everything I have done,” on the contrary; it is hard and extremely awkward for me to say these types of things. I instead say them to you to encourage you! For so many of you out there who have a dream, a dream you think might come true some day in the future, or maybe not at all, or have desired doing something but don’t think you can, or have the energy or time…I just want to say YOU can’t, but GOD CAN! God will give you unthinkable strength, unimaginable energy, and HE can be your caffeine! He can give you the passion and driving force to move mountains, if you only let Him. I hope this encourages you to take a step of faith and do something scary, uncomfortable, and unimaginable, and wait to be amazed by what follows!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

New adoption agency on the horizon.....

Do you ever get so excited about something that you can't even sleep? I use to feel this way right before Christmas. Once I had kids I would still feel this way, excited to see my kids faces. Now, I can't wait to wake up because I am truly LOVING what I am doing!
A few months ago the only Christian adoption agency in our province closed down. It was such a sad day, as there was such a huge need for a Christian agency, and now there are only two remaining Christian agencies in all of Canada. Myself, along with some great members of our adoption support group, decided the need was too huge to ignore. After careful prayer and consideration, we have decided to open a Christian adoption agency!
It seems crazy I know, but somehow, amidst the craziness of it all, I have such a complete sense of calm. I know why too. It is because we are following the Lord and HE is the one in control. Whenever he is in control, you know things are going to be ok, and there is nothing to worry about! When people hear what we are doing they look at us like we are crazy. I am not sure why? All of the craziest events in the bible always turned out so well :) Then again, I'm sure people thought Mary was crazy when she said she..the virgin...was having a baby. I'm sure people thought Moses was crazy for wanting to take on the Pharoah, and people HAD to have thought Noah was crazy for wanting to build the arc. But God carried each of them through their journey's, and I am so incredibly EAGER to see where our journey leads.
This won't be your typical agency. We want to see change. We want to see children brought to their forever families. We want to see an increase in special needs adoptions. We want to see an increase in foster care adoptions, and we want to no longer see finances as a hurdle. If you would like to see how our agency is going to be different check it out here.
It will take a while before we are ready to open. We will be spending the next year preparing, setting up connections, and getting ready for a local, international and domestic adoption agency! If you live in the area please check out our page Home for Every Child Family Services and check out some of our upcoming fundraisers!
Thanks for everyone's continued support and we look forward to see many more children brought home to their forever families!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Starfish Story


The Starfish StoryOriginal Story by: Loren Eisley

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed
a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

Approaching the boy, he asked, "What are you doing?"

The youth replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die."

"Son," the man said, "don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can't make a difference!"

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish,
and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the
man, he said
"I made a difference for that one"

     I just wanted to share this story because I find it so inspiring. Time and time again I have heard people say "you can't save them all" or "what can I do?" This story reminds me that even if we can't save them all, we can change the life of someone, one by one. To the person whose life is being changed, it is HUGE! God says he knows every single hair on our head, every grain of sand, so doesn't He also care about every single soul? Step by step we can make a difference through our Faith in the Lord!

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Matthew 25.40