So shortly after my last blog post our computer decided to die on us. Literally the week after our 1 year warranty expired on it. Awesome. I had been trying to convince hubby forever to buy a mac, well because they are just awesome and we have terrible luck with pc's. I thought this was finally my chance to convince him to switch! Alas it didn't work, and being the genius he is he fixed it about a month ago. Because he's the bomb. Seriously peeps I have such an awesome hubby :)
SO where then have I been the last month? Why did I wait so long to begin my blogging exploits again? So many reasons. First, where do I start?! In the months I was gone so much happened. In that time we found out we are being blessed with another baby, that the said baby is a GIRL (Carters can reproduce a female offspring!!) and the biggest of all was we got our first foster care placement, an amazing 15 year old I'll call Smiley (because she has the best smile ever, the one that lights up the room). That leads me to my second reason I have not began blogging again. I needed the time to work through what has happened in the last month. But now I want to share with you the journey we've been on. So grab some kleenex, a cup of tea or joe, and get ready, cause it's a long one. And the best place to start is the beginning :)
On June 5th we received a phone call from Children's Division about Smiley. Hubby and I were somewhat cautious because she was only a foster placement, and we decided before we started doing this we only wanted children who were available for adoption since that was our main goal. But something about her story prompted both of us to agree to meet with her and her worker. SO we agreed for them to come over later to meet and then make our decision from there. We prayed the whole morning and we both were feeling like the Lord was asking us to trust Him, and before even meeting her we knew we were to open our home to her. From the moment we met her we were in love (I'm crying now just thinking of it). She's a beautiful girl, and we expected her to be shy but she shocked us with her openness to talk with us. The meeting went much better than we expected, and we agreed to her coming to us that week. She came on the 7th, a Wednesday afternoon when she was done with summer school. The first few weeks were an interesting time. It was an adjustment for all! What in the world do we do with a teenager?! And not just a teenager, but an african american girl that has never lived with a white family? And a white family that thinks their black! She got a kick out of us, as Keith and I are kinda goofy and deal with things with humor. At first she didn't open up, but once she did it was like the Lord opened the flood gates. Her and I became especially close, and I would be very open and honest about why we started fostering and I believe that prompted her to open up more. Lets just say, this sweet girl has gone through more than anyone should ever have to go through. My heart would break as she would tell me stories, and I would sit and cry and hold her as she did so. It's amazing the capacity of love the Lord can give you for a child that is not your own. We truly see no difference between her and our biological children. After she was with us about 2 months the topic of adoption came up. The court was in the process of terminating parental rights, and we made it known we would like to be considered for her adoptive placement. We began to talk with her about the possibility. And she was very excited and very vocal about how she wanted us to adopt her! It was amazing. Something hubby and I dreamed about since we began courting was coming to pass. It was so cool! And she just fit. It was like she was always meant to be with us, the boys adored her, Keith and I adored her, our friends and family adored her. She turned 16 in September and we had a huge sweet 16 with her. It was so amazing to see how God was using our family and our network of friends to redeem and restore this precious child. But the enemy hates redemption and restoration. He comes to steal, kill and destroy. And this is where the story becomes difficult to process.
I can now say in hindsight I can begin to see when she was starting to pull away. We just thought she was being a moody teenager. At the end of October we had a family support meeting (aka FST), and at that meeting she faced all her family and workers and made known to them she wanted us to adopt her. She even asked her parents to sign away rights and to not make it a battle for us. They agreed. Everyone was so excited with the progress they saw in Smiley, and the workers were thrilled and promised to expedite the process for us. The goal was to have her adopted in less than six months! YAY!! In the beginning of November they had her adoption staffing and choose us to adopt her. This was a Friday. The next day we discovered some things that had been going on without our knowledge that needed to be dealt with. When we confronted her, she freaked out and tried to runaway. We had to involve her case worker and things were really hard. We had no idea how to deal with it, and we knew it was normal for a "crisis" period to happen once adoption becomes a reality. This is where I give a shout out to all our AMAZING family, friends, and pastoral staff!! Seriously this last month would have been so much more difficult if it had not been for your prayers, support and love. You guys rock! (and I know most of you had no idea that this was going on. We needed time to process as a family before going public, so please accept my apology if I've been a bad friend and kinda fell off the face of the earth :) ) Anyways, the first issue was resolved quickly and we thought we were moving forward. We had a great week, there was breakthrough, and we were figuring out how to deal. Then it happened again. We confronted her about an issue she freaked out. This time packed up her room. Swore to leave on Monday. We tried so hard to talk to her. Prayed, and prayed and prayed. Monday came and we took her to her therapy session and she refused to leave with us. She was adamate she was not coming back to our house. Ever. She was done with us. This was the week of Thanksgiving. She was given the choice to go home with us or to go to the children's mental hospital, and she choose the latter. My heart was breaking. I really did not understand what was happening. It was almost surreal, and still is. We are approaching a month of her being gone and my heart still longs for her to come home. It just feels off. But I can't make her choose us. We visited her in the hospital everyday, and also scheduled other family and friends to go everyday to iniadate her with love. Eventually she began refusing to see us, refused our phone calls. The following Monday she still refused to come home, and they placed her in an emergency children's shelter. Again, refusing to see or talk to us. This past Thursday we were to have a counseling session for "closure". She didn't show up.
And that is where we are now. It has been such a range of emotion I never knew could happen. My heart has broke in a way I never thought possible. The Lord has been so gracious and kind to us in this storm. I understand so many things I would never have had we not gone through this. But I still wish it didn't end like this. I wish she was still here. At first I wept to the Lord and hubby that I would never do this again, that I was done. How do you recover from such devastation?!? But as time has moved on and the Lord has tended my wounds like the good Daddy He is, I have come to learn so much (and I promise not to talk about all of it now, I have already gone on WAAAAAAY to long!). First, the enemy is crafty. Of course he would love for this to destroy our calling in loving the least of these!! Teenagers are the least of these when it comes to foster care. NO ONE WANTS THEM!! I will say I understand it better now. They are hard. They are broken. Most of them have been in the system their entire lives!!! Smiley's first hotline on her was when she was 5 months old. Think about that! That makes for a pretty crappy life. These kids are broken, and they need love. They need families that are willing to do the hard things, even if it means your heart gets broken in the process. Yeah it's not fun. It's not easy. In fact the last month has sucked. BAD. But Jesus did something for us that sucked FAR worse, and we are called to imitate Him. Plain and simple. It's not a suggestion. Secondly, and my biggest, is that I cannot save anyone. I can't. I won't be able to when our bio children grow. They have free will, and STRONG ones at that. I never went into this consciously thinking I could save children. But the Lord has shown me that was my heart attitude, an idol if you will. I thought by sharing my story, what I went through, what Jesus has done for me, and them seeing how God can redeem a life would change their hearts and heal them. And it can be a tool the Lord uses for sure! But that in itself cannot save these kids. Only Jesus can. Only the Holy Spirit can convict them and bring them to repentance. Lastly, God is sovereign. I knew this before, but it has become real for me. You know how you know something in your head, but it's not real to you? That was God's sovereignty to me. My own life story kinda made me believe in God's sovereignty, I mean if He can save ME, that's pretty amazing right?! But this has really made me trust in the Lord in a way I would have never had before. She can run from us, run from our love, run from our rules, run from our standards, but she can't escape God's. Never. And the thing I cling to is that the seeds we planted in her time here will not die. I know her time here changed her. I know she will always remember our family and the love we have for her. We have made it clear to her she always has a place to come. Always. We love her and it's unconditional, just as the Lord loves us. Will you have to repent and follow the guidelines of the house? Yes. But we love her. And Jesus loves her more than we ever can or could. And my heart's cry is that one day she will stop the self destruction she is in, turns to Jesus and allows Him to love and heal her. And that is what I will pray until I no longer have breathe.