Stricklin #ForeverFamilyFriday

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I ventured down this path toward foster care by myself at first… My husband and I had been married for a few years by that point and had three young boys. And it wasn’t that he was unwilling to talk about it. He actually thought it was a great idea. For later. At some unspecified time in our distant future.  But i was certain that now was the right time.
In early 2014, God radically gripped my heart as I read His Word and had prompted a surrender that was unprecedented in my life. I’d been a church girl my whole life, daughter of a pastor and now wife to one. I knew all the spiritual things to do and say and had a plate full of leadership roles and responsibilities alongside my husband. But in that little window of time, God totally remodeled my thinking and revealed more of His heart, and as a result, I began to sense his calling toward the orphans in foster care. Over time, conviction grew, and I longed to open my home and welcome kids into it. But instead…. I was forced to wait.
 
I knew my husband loved Jesus. I was confident in His ability to hear and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. So whyyyyyy didn’t he feel the calling and urgency I did? I tried to be patient. I volunteered in other ways. But I felt compelled to act, and I just knew God Himself had stirred up this desire. 
 
There were baby steps a long the way, glimmers of hope on the long road of waiting. After at least a year of talking about it, we agreed to begin our foster parent training with The Call the Summer of 2015. And though BJ and I were “reading the same book” as Jason Johnson puts it, we were apparently nowhere close to being on the same page. For two separate weekends we sat through our Pride Training, and as I brushed away a continuous stream of tears, burdened by this weight and fully persuaded that God was in it, BJ was visibly unconvinced.
 
So we walked out of training that last day and halted the process. I was so disappointed – more unwelcome waiting. BUT I was sure God knew where to find us if or when He needed us. And if he had no need to use us in this area, then who was I to elbow my way in? 
 
A year and a half later, the Lord unexpectedly prompted BJ to resurface the conversation. My “yes” was still on the table, and God had, in His timing, brought BJ to a point of action.  In ways that only He could, He whispered (shouted!) confirmations to our hearts as we soon opened our home to foster. Three days after we were cleared, we got our first call, for a tiny pink newborn bundle, who we nervously and eagerly welcomed into our home. And then as if we were trying to make up for lost time, we shocked even our own selves by saying “yes” to her toddler sister joining us 6 weeks later. 
 
By God’s grace, despite the obvious challenges of going from three to five kids almost overnight, we were instantly “all in.” And I remember clearly the unmistakable thrill of knowing that God was delivering on the promise and prayer he’d put in my heart those years before. And as God’s mysterious ways go, those two little girls never left our home! Nineteen months later, in December 2018, we had the privilege of officially adopting them into our forever family!
 
And then it hit me. Had we opened our home back when I wanted to, my girls would not have even been born yet! What I saw as delay, was actually divine. What I saw as a set-back, became nothing less than supernatural.  I could not understand the waiting. I fought it. I hated it! But God used even my husband’s resistance to perfectly align us with His ultimate plan for our family!  
 
So be encouraged! If you’re currently on hold like I was, keep praying & asking, refuse to be embittered, serve where you can, and of course…. WALK FOR THE WAITING! 
 
 
(Watch the link to hear a snippet of my husband’s side of the story.)

 

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Radke #foreverFamilyFriday

Yes, adults can be adopted

You can imagine that many of the youth that Immerse works with have given up on the notion of having a family. For some of them, it may have been in their early teen years, or around their 9th or 10th placement in foster care, or when their adoptive family reversed their adoption, that these youth gave up on the possibility of being in a family. They may have given up on the notion of belonging or being wanted, or having someone in their corner they can trust.

It’s been incredible to witness a different story unfold over the past couple of years.

Wade and Gina Radke began mentoring a young man named Jay. Jay came to Immerse homeless right around his 18th birthday. There’s a lot details about Jay that I’ll leave for him to tell a different time, but he’s had a hard life. Over a couple of years, Wade and Gina walked with Jay. They spent time with him, challenged him, encouraged him, loved him, and stuck with him through some big ups and downs. And then recently, Wade and Gina decided to ask Jay if he’d like to be adopted into their family.

The Radke Family added a new member just a few months ago:

The courtroom was a celebration of hope, love, family and belonging. God’s work to bring this family together was beautiful to behold.


I hope the message gets out – young people ages 18, 19, 20, 21 (and up) can still be adopted. Many are still looking for families. Many still want to be wanted. Many are still waiting – waiting for people like you and I to walk with them in whatever way they need, even if it means a forever family.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if kids aging out of foster care in Arkansas, if homeless youth in our area, had families pursuing them? Not all of these youth want to be adopted, but they all need someone they can trust in their corner.

What WFTW means to The CALL

Every day, more than 2 dozen children and youth come into foster care through no fault of their own. Each one deserves a home, a family.

Arkansas needs more than 1,800 additional foster families for foster children and youth. More than 365 children and youth are waiting to be adopted. The CALL is reaching communities around the state, mobilizing the local Church and preparing Christian families to bring home waiting children and youth – whether for a season or forever.

 More than 1,800 Christian foster and adoptive families recruited by The CALL have changed the lives of over 11,000 children since 2007. With the help of Sponsored Walkers like you, kids like Vanessa are finding a family:


Vanessa’s Story

“If my parents hadn’t gotten involved with The CALL my story wouldn’t be what it is today. I am grateful for my life, and I am grateful for my parents teaching me about love and family.”


Children and youth like Vanessa are waiting for a home today, and we can all do something to help!

Whatever you can raise during Walk for the Waiting, you give the gift of family by expanding The CALL across Arkansas, mobilizing Arkansas’ 5,900 churches statewide and providing locally accessible training and support for foster and adoptive families in your community.

 

On behalf of all of us at The CALL, thanks for being a part of the Walk and helping us all make sure that every child in Arkansas has a family and a future.

Thank you,

Lauri Currier

Executive Director of The CALL

#ForeverFamilyFriday – Webb Family

This is a story about perfect timing, from a foster and now adoptive new dad’s perspective…

  On a Thursday night in February 2016, we were headed home after just picking up a 5 year old boy from his current foster home.  Becca had agreed to watch him for a weekend, his current foster mom was going out of town. At the time we had our now adopted son and two other foster kids in our home.  Becca by this time had around 8 years of parenting under her belt, but I was a fairly new dad. And any new, honest dad will tell you parenting can be a little overwhelming at first. But it was just for the weekend and Kenny seemed to fit right in.  

  Our youngest foster child at this time, “J” had been with us since July 2015, when she was just a few days old.  The rest of that year was spent in and out of Childrens’ Hospital, with a couple of extended stays in the NICU, dealing with J’s many health issues.  In spite of the challenges, we loved “J” as our own. And as we got ready to start the weekend with our house guest, she had really turned a corner and seemed like a normal healthy, happy baby.  We had a great weekend. Kenny and our oldest son Lamar got along great. Kenny, in spite of his special needs, just seemed happy all the time. At the end of the weekend we took Kenny back to his foster home.  We then learned this was Kenny’s 3rd foster placement, and he was about to be moved again. We talked and prayed. Kenny’s biggest need was stability, and a routine. As crazy as our home seemed at the time with three kids, we just felt Kenny’s next stop needed to be with us.  We were warned by those involved in Kenny’s case of his challenges. But the more we heard, the more it confirmed what we felt we were being led to do. Kenny was coming home.

  A few days later we got a call.  Unexpectedly, the decision had been made that “J” would be placed with an aunt & uncle to live.  We were surprised, shocked, devastated that we wouldn’t have “J” in our lives anymore. We were torn. We knew God was in control, but our desires and vision for the future was not this.  We were hurting. But we kept going, kept trusting Him.

  A short time later, another call.  Kenny had a younger sister. They had been split up with the thought that Lynn would be more likely to find a forever home by herself than in a sibling group with a special needs brother.  “Are you able, and would you consider having Kenny and Lynn in your home together,” we were asked.  This past December, right before Christmas, Kenny and Lynn became a part of our forever family.

  This story, our story, is a story of God’s perfect timing.  Becca and I, both married previously, both ending in divorce, crossed paths at just the right time.  We both desired a family, and through adoption, God gave us our son Lamar, and Kenny, and Lynn. We have had a few foster placements in our home, and we have loved them all unconditionally.  When each placement leaves, it hurts. But “C” and “C” and “J” and “V” came to us because it was just the right time for them to be in our home. And while we have cried every time they leave, it was all in perfect timing.  His timing!

 

 

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#ForeverFamilyFriday

Bo-Mackey from The CALL on Vimeo.

 

“When you sit & think about how his life could have been. It really shows you the impact the foster care could have on a kids life!” – Ashley 

“Is it hard? Yeah it’s hard! But it’s also rewarding!” – Jay

“You feel alive when your (fostering), like you’re doing what you’re suppose to be doing it! It doesn’t feel like a burden, it feels like a blessing!” – Ashley

After adopting Bo Mackey the family continued to foster & recently added a sweet baby sister through adoption to complete their forever family!

To a video telling more of their story click the link here!

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Harris #ForeverFamilyFriday Story

I think God had been working on our story from the very beginning. Marc and I married in 2001, we had our first and only bio in 2002 and had been trying to conceive another child for several years. We often talked about adoption but didn’t know how to get started or how the process worked. We weren’t really proactive about looking into it. It was more of a casual conversation. We were in the starting process of fertility treatments when one Sunday we found out about The CALL,  They were showing a video at our church. When we saw the need was huge to take in foster kids we knew right away God was calling us to it. Naturally we had a plan, we would foster one at a time until we adopted one child but God had a different plan for our family. We took in a sibling set of two boys when we first opened and within a year we took another sibling set (brother and sister) to keep them from splitting up. We had Five children in our home within the first year of fostering.
Shortly after fostering, we soon understood what God was asking us to do. He wanted this to become a ministry , to reach out and help these families. Pour love into them, support them (within DCFS boundaries) and cheer them on as they got up and back on their feet to work to get their kids back.  We learned to build relationships that lasted , support systems to carry on even after the kids went home. Throughout our 8 year journey we’ve been able to foster over 15 kiddos, adopted 5 and continue to maintain relationships with the families we’ve been able to support. This journey has been such a blessing to me and my family. We are thankful God allowed us to be a part of it.
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Forever Family Friday

The Bailey Family

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Have you ever heard the line from a famous movie regarding an adoptive teenage boy that says…. “You are changing that boys life. No, he is changing mine.” I’m living proof that this is the very thing that can happen through adoption. Our story is different than most. It is one that started with a selfish mom of three girls with a husband that mention, on occasion, that he sure would like a boy around.

You see, two of our girls were already in college and  God had already opened the door for my 87 year old grandmother to move in with us 6 years ago. I quit working outside of home to raise my kids and care for my grandmother,  I worked with the youth at church, I was preparing to homeschool my only child I have left at home.

I was doing everything God had asked me to do and I was just fine with that but on November 27, 2015 I was sent a video of this teenage boy playing basketball and sharing a story of how he longed for a family that loved sports and just wished he could have someone to love him. The text read, “Y’ALL NEED HIM?!” and I quickly responded “NO!” I had that video sent to me by two other people that weekend and my responses to each one was “NO”.

Three days after I watched that video for the first time I sat on the back row at church alone and wept like I had never wept before. God was breaking my heart for this boy and He was telling me to quit being selfish and do what He was calling me to do once again.

Brad had been out of town during all of this, but was getting a play by play of every text, emotion and time I watched that darn video. When he came home Sunday night and I told him that I thought we were suppose to adopt this boy and he laughed at me and said that he knew that already. (I think I am the hard headed one in the marriage.) I was on the phone with the CALL the next day and seven months later we met that boy for the first time at the Disney Extravaganza event, put on by Project Zero. On July 8, 2016 we brought our son home for good.

He now has a family that will love him forever and that loves sports. He will never wonder where he will be tomorrow or a year from now. He will never have to worry that he will “age out” and have no one to share life with. He has a mom and a dad and 3 sisters with lots of family and friends. There are days that I still cry out to the Lord and ask Him if He made a mistake. Lets face it, adoption is HARD but it has made this selfish mess into something I never knew I could be. It had taught me patience that I question daily and forgiveness to someone I never met, grace that only God can give so abundantly and a love for this 16 year old boy that I could never imaging could be so great and powerful.

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I hear this voice calling “mom” that melts my heart and gives a new meaning to the significance of that name. I now look at him and think, what did I ever do to deserve to be his mom. Those are the moments that I am so thankful to our Savior that His plans are always better that ours. Through the life of our son, I am being molded into a different person. I am being changed!

To see more of the Bailey Family’s story watch the video below.

 

Forever Family Friday

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In the fall of 2013, the Lord began some serious stirring and unrest in my heart about what being a follower of Jesus truly looked like for me. My husband Dave has worked in churches forever and I found myself really struggling with what it meant to be married to someone in full time ministry. I am approximately the worst church wife in the history of America and I felt incredibly insecure and out of place in this elite club that seemed way too holy for me. Pastors’ wives are precious and lovely and enjoy chicken salad and Sandi Patty, don’t they? We watched Scandal and I liked to throw parties and lay out at our apartment pool. It seemed like a lot of pressure (some perceived, some sadly real) for a 26 year old free spirit who liked tattoos and Bruno Mars. I didn’t understand how my quirks and spunk and love for creating comfortable spaces would fit into the church world or even how God could use such a random skill set. He gently showed me that He’s so crazy about me, every single part. Nothing He created about me is throwaway (although some parts, AWHOLELOTTA parts need His refining) and all the gifts He’d entrusted to me are total reflections of His nature, capable of being used for His kingdom.

 

In this season, God graciously invited me to meet with Him in Scripture with fresh eyes and His words took on new life for me. I realized that Jesus ACTUALLY meant what He said when He told us to love people like He did and to go to the places He went to. We totally think Jesus was safe and clean, don’t we? Like He would never be seen in super sketchy places with super sketchy people and it’s just simply not true. He’s in the business of healing and restoring and breaking chains and setting people free from complete devastation. He is SO unthreatened by people’s mess; how grossly arrogant of me to be. We are His literal representatives on earth and caring for orphans/widows/foreigners/outliers is just not optional for those who claim to love Him. Looking back, I can see now how He was carefully knitting together the threads of my heart in preparation. He had the most perfect plan for how my love of hospitality would ABSOLUTELY be a key component for the subsequent steps we were about to take. We were about to buy our first house and knew we would have empty bedrooms. Our simple prayer was “Lord, would You make this space a sanctuary that is safe, and that every person that enters it leaves knowing more of Your love for them than when they came?”

 

We said yes to exploring foster care not long after that. We were incredibly lucky that our church had so many resources on orphan care. We attended a CALL information meeting in January 2014 and got the foster care ball rolling! We worked our way through the infamous “red folder” and officially opened our home that September. Our first placement was an adorable 8 month old baby boy!  Although he was only with us for a few weeks, we were privileged to establish a relationship with his family that has lasted over 2 years. One of the coolest, best byproducts of foster care is getting a front row seat to watch life change happen in mothers and fathers. Entire families get new chances at life and it is the most tangible, wonderful, physical display of the Gospel. We welcomed another little boy, 15 month old CJ, in February of 2015. We watched his mom attend parenting classes and counseling and court and she busted it to get her boys back. CJ and his brother got to go home the week before Christmas and I just wept my way through it all. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for a family’s restoration, but devastated that the boy we’d devoted our entire lives to for the past year was now gone. The joy of foster care never comes without the sorrow and the dichotomy of the two is the strangest, most holy ground. God says He’s near to the broken hearted and He means it. During the time CJ was in our home, we experienced several things that made me evaluate if I had the strength to continue with this foster care journey. We experienced a miscarriage that June, a close friend lost her daughter at 32 weeks pregnant in September, and we had already said goodbye to a boy we treasured with all our hearts. It seemed like the babies in our world just kept leaving and my spirit was incredibly raw. I began to pray simply and quietly, “Lord, would You give me a baby I could keep?”

 

In March of 2016, our old caseworker called on a Friday and told us about a brand new baby boy born that day. We had kind of already decided to take some time and reevaluate how we were feeling, but she assured us he just needed a place for the weekend- he would be joining his sibling that Monday. Knowing it would just be for the weekend, we said we would take him and meet her Monday morning at the hospital to give him back. That Sunday night I was sitting in bed feeding this tiny, 2 day old baby and I began to weep. I had been fine all weekend and KNEW “it was just for 48 hours.” But the thought of giving him back the next day sent me into a tailspin. My heart was already his and Dave and I both loved him ferociously. Our caseworker called Monday morning and let us know the foster family that had his 15 month old sister could not take him at the time and asked if we could keep him for a few more weeks. I attempted to play it cool and say “Sure! Nooo problem!”, but inside we were freaking the freak out. We had never had a newborn before and OMG. What. I can barely remember those 2 months. But what a treasure- what a TREASURE from God! We would soon learn that his case was likely heading for adoption, but the courts were very interested in finding a family open to taking both children together. Initially, we were incredibly reluctant (and neck deep in newborn exhaustion) and I was super unsure about staying home with two very small children (full disclosure, I’m still unsure about it, but here we are). Ultimately, we knew we loved our boy and we trusted God would fill in all the nervous, exhausted, uncertain gaps. Our little girl moved in to our home that July like a whirlwind. We had never had a girl before and becoming parents to a daughter was new and exciting and such a delight. We were (slash, STILL ARE) so freaking tired, but oh my gosh, what utter joy. Even though our kids had never met each other before, they instantly bonded and became completely inseparable. What kindness from the Lord! I pray they always love each other this much. Slowly but surely we became a family and have never looked back.

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The child we lost was due in January 2016 and our adoption was finalized in January 2017. If everything had “gone according to plan” there’s no way we would have been in a position to take a newborn last March, and in turn, there’s no way we would have our kids today. I just will not ever, ever get over it. I cannot even think about all we would have missed! We are in an “in the trenches” season with our one-year-old and two-year-old (who is potty training YAY) and the days seem excruciating at times. But we never take for granted the total treasures that our children are to us. Our family would look SO DIFFERENT if not for The CALL and we will be forever grateful!

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