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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Forever Family Friday

Luck had nothing to do with it… God formed the Lozada family!

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It was 2014 and our family of 5 seemed to be “enough”. Having 3 children and bustling through life, we were not looking to expand our family. However, when Isaac’s availability was brought to our attention, it was all we could do to fight for him.

We spent several hours a week at our local athletic club where Isaac also had a membership. My first interaction with Isaac, he introduced himself with, “You know I am up for adoption.” Tears rolled down my cheeks and luckily he couldn’t see them from my large sunglasses. In my mind I thought we could never adopt a teen as our oldest was 9 at the time. Tucking that piece of information in my heart, I moved on. Isaac became popular among the regular members and we found ourselves engaging in his world. At one point I remember him running to several of us during a class, squealing with excitement that he was going to be adopted. A few short weeks later, Jason and I learned that his adoption failed. It was heart-breaking to watch Isaac return to the club knowing his hopes had been shattered. It was then that God spoke to both of us by providing assurance that we had the ability to love Isaac and accept him in our family.

Christie Erwin with Project Zero was the first person I contacted not having a clue what to do. We began the paper-trail and training through The Call and DHS. Six months later, Isaac was having his first visit one Friday evening. The following Tuesday was his first over-night visit. He has never left our home since then. We were called “mom” and “dad” days after his move-in. After fulfilling the required 6 month stay, Isaac became a Lozada on January 26, 2015 spending 1001 days in foster care. {While this time might seem frustrating and rigorous to you current waiting families, KEEP FIGHTING. Don’t stop the process and be patient with the people that are working behind the scenes for you. Not to say don’t be assertive, because it does take a strong desire and willingness to push forward. Hiccups can cause our spirit to feel defeated while emotions are running high.}

Before his initial visit with us, we met with the director of the boys’ home that Isaac was living in. This man’s first priority was to protect Isaac and he wanted to make sure we were not going to run after hearing troublesome news of Isaac’s previous and current behavior. I remember walking away from that meeting feeling worry, some panic, heart-ache, and hope. You honestly wonder if this child will do the same things once he moves in and will this be a mistake for all involved. After Jason and I worked through those emotions, confirmation still stood to move forward. Only God can provide that peace and affirmation in a situation like this.

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Adoption for us is trying to provide a child with a stable environment, a place to call home, a family that allows mistakes and doesn’t give up, and hoping the resources we give him will help the healing process. There are challenges with anything we do in life……parenting, marriage, work issues. Adoption comes with challenges too as one is trying to mesh a child within their current living situation. Siblings might deal with jealousy, parents require extra communication to see eye-to-eye, or a momma might have to give more hugs than she thinks she is capable. It’s not necessarily dreamy but it is doable. And the only way to make it doable for us is with God’s guidance. There have been times where we wonder ‘what have we done’ and ‘will we survive’?! You will because God promises we have inherited his greatness with the same power that raised Christ from the dead. He gives us the spirit of wisdom and the heart to persevere (Ephesians 1).

Loving Isaac steadily grows each day. While it wasn’t God’s desire for him to be removed from his biological mother, it was His plan for us to be Isaac’s forever family.

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Forever Family Friday

The Blankenship Family

“As parents we take on so many roles: story-teller, boo-boo kisser, listener, friend, disciplinarian, teacher, student, transporter, nurse, and one I have found myself in a lot lately – being their voice. I have been their voice to advocate for their needs, and to help others understand where they are coming from or why they might be behaving the way they are. I’ve been their voice to help them express how they are feeling when they just couldn’t do it anymore. I’ve been the voice to answer their questions – even the really tough questions that broke my heart. I’ve been the voice to tell their story – because it’s a God-sized story that should be told. I’ve been their voice because they don’t have a voice of their own yet. Sometimes it’s a fun job, sometimes it’s not. But it always involves me looking beyond myself to what is best for the little people God blessed me with.

That’s what Walk for the Waiting gives us an opportunity to do – we can be their voice. But not just the voice for our own kids but we can be the voice for all the kids in Arkansas who are waiting. We can shine a light on the orphan crisis happening in our state and bring a voice to the issue. Walks, rallies, protests are all successful because a large group of people come together to say one thing. They unite their voices behind one cause and dare others to do the same. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s not. But it’s not about us. It’s about looking beyond ourselves to the fatherless and the voiceless and telling the world that we refuse to let their story end like this. It’s about speaking up – loudly if necessary – for people who the world tends to ignore. It’s about leveraging what you have on behalf of someone who has nothing. And the one thing we all have that we can use today on behalf of waiting kids in Arkansas is our voice.” – Carrie Blankenship

God truly does set the lonely in families. Sometimes we are so weighed down by the sheer numbers of kids in foster care and those waiting to be adopted, that we forget the ‘one’. The Blankenship’s story is a story of hope, of redemption and restoration, of faith and unconditional love; it’s a beautiful story written by a heavenly Father to whom no detail is too small, no obstacle too big. God writes the best stories and we are honored to have the privilege to tell this one.

Watch their video by clicking the link below:

 

Why Jesus Walked

On this Good Friday, as we’ve shared stories about why Walkers are walking, I wanted to take a minute and consider why Jesus walked the earth. The Bible shares many reasons why Jesus came, but there’s one in particular we celebrate today – Jesus’ willing suffering and death.

Look at Jesus’ description of why he came in John 12 (NIV, emphasis added):

 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

These are hard words, but if you’re involved in fostering or adopting in some way, I bet Jesus’ words resonate with you.  In your care for the orphan, have you ever wondered why you signed up in the first place?  Has it ever gotten so difficult that you’ve prayed “Father, save me from this hour?”

I’ve prayed that – more than once.  But that’s when I’ve forgotten Who called me to this.

Look at Jesus. Do you hear the anguish and the resolve in his voice as he says, “it was for this very reason I came to this hour.”  He rejects giving up, knowing that his sacrificial death was God’s plan for redemption.

That’s our model.  The willing acceptance to follow Jesus into pain and suffering as God opens the door for rebirth and restoration.

I know many families that have “fallen to the ground” much like a kernel of wheat.  They’ve given everything they have in hopes of new life for the children they’ve welcomed into their homes and lives.  Some have scars to show for it.  Some have scars to come.  Some have seen new life.  Some are still waiting.

But Church, isn’t that who we are?  Isn’t that what we’re supposed to look like? Isn’t that part of what we’re to ponder on Good Friday – our own path to suffering, even death?

I Peter 2:19b-21 (ESV, emphasis added) says this:

But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Good Friday is a reminder of what Jesus did for us.  It’s also an invitation to follow in His steps in suffering, for to this we have been called.

For many of us that will be at the Walk, that call has to do with caring for the orphan in some way.

As we walk, and as we fall to the ground, may we be encouraged to remember that Jesus walked before us.

If you have a minute, will you reach out to someone that’s fostering or has adopted? Someone that’s mentoring?  Someone that provides respite to foster families? Someone that gives generously to provide for The CALL, Immerse Arkansas or Project Zero? Tell them how you’ve seen Jesus through their willing sacrifice.

As we walk, may we strive to follow in His steps.

Walking with you,

Eric

 

Praying for Orphans

Thanks so much for registering for the Walk!  So much of the work of The CALL, Immerse Arkansas and Project Zero is founded in prayer.  There are two meetings this week to take the needs of the orphan and the Walk collectively before God.  Would you conisder joining us at one or both of these times?

1) PrayNow – Tues. 6pm-8p (1911 N. Main St, NLR) – This was a very powerful time last year and I anticipate it will be great again on Tuesday – please join us!

2) CityWide Prayer – Thur. 7pm (Oasis Church, 7318 Windsong Dr., NLR) – Sponsored by the Nehemiah Network, this prayer/worship service will focus on praying for our city’s children, with a special time of prayer for the Walk.

Thanks again for walking and we hope to see you this week!

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