Stricklin #ForeverFamilyFriday

EIMG_3204.jpeg
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.)

 

Advertisements

Unsung Heroes

Saturday, April 28th is not only Walk for the Waiting… it’s also National Superhero Day!! We can’t think of a better way to honor the foster & adoptive families who are heroes to waiting kids than to invite everyone to wear a cape, mask or whatever says here to you & walk in honor of these everyday heroes.

One CALL foster mom wrote this…

“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strengths, but by the strength of his heart.”     Hercules

Have you ever started something assuming you knew what you would be doing and what you would get out of it, and then, to your surprise, you learned so much more, and took away more blessings than you ever could have imagined?  That is how I would describe my family’s journey as a foster family here in Northwest Arkansas. No one could have prepared me for what we would learn, the people we would meet, all the many services we would become aware of, and, most importantly, all the unseen heroes that we, unfortunately, had never given much thought to. You may not know it, but there are so many amazing men and women working with “at risk” families in our area. These men and women are the caseworkers working hand-in-hand with children and families through the Department of Human Services. Today, in Arkansas, there are 5,104 children in DHS custody, and every one of those children is assigned a caseworker that advocates and speaks on their behalf. Though often overlooked, no one can wear a superhero cape more deservedly than these men and women.

The first time I met our caseworker was the night we took our first kiddo. That night will always be one of my most endearing memories. I’m not sure what I expected, but the cute little blonde-headed boy with his honor roll ribbon pinned to his shirt wasn’t it. His little world had been completely shaken that day. He was scared, angry, and had no idea what was happening, where he was going, or what to expect. Thankfully, he had a great caseworker! She was there in that scary moment when he was taken from his family–she was a smiling face, and a warm hug. She reassured him that he was safe. She brought him to my home and walked alongside him, his siblings, his family, and our family for months and months until his case was complete and a safe resolve for his family was reached. That one case would keep a single caseworker busy, but this superhero had 15+ cases happening much like it at the same time.

When someone asks me who my heroes are, at the very top of my list are caseworkers. They fight on the frontlines for families. They are often hated, disrespected, and mistreated because, in their job, they have to do hard things daily.  They care deeply and are genuine. They believe in second chances and that people can change and rise up when they are given hope and support. They fight and advocate for the children who often have no voice. They start work early, leave work late and take frequent on-call hours at night and on the weekends. When a family needs them, someone is available.

I was curious what the best part of a caseworker’s job is, so I asked Benton County caseworkers Maria Taylor and Sarah Harper what they thought. Sarah said, “Getting to be part of helping families, working for reunification and seeing successful reunification.” Maria said, “Seeing a family reunified. Seeing parents successfully battle their demons, do HARD work and completely change their lives and become a better, happier, healthier family is THE BEST.” The kids they work with become their kids. They worry about them, they pray for them, they lose sleep thinking about their case and their families. These kids all have pieces of their heart and I’ve seen firsthand how hard they work to help these kids and families have healthy and happy lives. I’ve seen them rejoice when things turn out well and families are reunited, I’ve seen them be heartbroken when they don’t.

Maya Angelou said, “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” This perfectly describes every caseworker I have ever met. Even though it often seems impossible, like there is no way to get it all done and complete everything that needs to be completed, they work hard day in and day out to see it through. They give families hope! Casework isn’t just a job–it’s about helping restore the broken, holding hands with those fighting the fight of their life, and being the person whose lifting them up, encouraging them, and cheering them on. Casework isn’t just a job–it’s a life changing career calling. If you happen to know one, give them a big hug and say THANK YOU! They are truly unsung heroes in our society and here in Arkansas we are blessed with some of the best!

Stephanie Laney, CALL Foster Parent

Why Roberta Walks

This is why I walk:

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 2.48.22 PM
Bob and Ruth, with Roberta and her two sisters, Ellie and Elizabeth

This photo is the day I knew I had a forever family!  August 12, 1991 – I was ten years old; I didn’t know it then but my life just got better and just got a little harder in a way, too.  After six years in the foster care system in the state of Michigan, I was adopted and moved out of state to a totally new life.  My younger sister was adopted with me while my older sister chose to stay behind and aged out.

I walk for all the children in the state of Arkansas who don’t yet have a forever family photo to look at.  I walk because I know first hand how these kids view the world.  I walk to bring more awareness to these precious children in the foster care system.  I walk to tell my story and one day to have these children look at their forever family photo, like I get to everyday!

Written by:  Roberta Heft

Walking for Giovanni

Please see this critical post from Christie Erwin, Executive Director of Project Zero. This is WHY we do Walk for the Waiting, so kids like Gio will have a family:

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 11.05.20 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 11.04.45 AM

 

Why Jacquelyn Walks

Why am I walking?

I am walking for my future children. I am walking for your child’s college roommate or for your future daughter in law. I think so many times we forget that these kids are going to grow up and become adults. Most of them will go to college, start a career and someday have a family of their own. But some of them will live on the streets and become homeless.

I believe that our childhood plays a big part in who we are. A lot of the children in foster care learn at an early age that their survival is up to them. A lot of them have learned how to find and provide meals for themselves and their siblings before the age of 5. The older child is typically forced to raise the younger kids and they are often more mature than the majority of their peers. They are more than likely alone and by themselves most of the day, they may never step foot in a school until they enter foster care, they might not even know what church is and they will most likely be emotionally shut down because they know that no one will answer their cry. The word neglected is an understatement.

If you had a chance right now to shield them from this pain, would you? If you knew that your future daughter in law, son in law or grandchild was in foster care at this very moment, wouldn’t you want to do all you could to take them out of those tough situations and make sure they are raised in a safe and healthy environment?

Most of the children in foster care will want better for their own children and will strive to become super moms and super dads. Some of them will want to help others and may become Foster Parents, Doctors, Attorneys, Counselors, Case Workers, Teachers, Police Officers, or they may want to start a program that in some way might help foster children.

Before I started working at The CALL, I never gave foster care more than a passing glance. I had been considering changing my career but I didn’t know where the Lord wanted me next. I knew I wanted to do something that would make a difference, and the Lord brought me to The CALL.

My husband and I were considering 12291791_10205109540128530_8176117510998575058_obecoming foster parents for the last 6 months and I am happy to say that we are now on the journey to becoming foster parents! It was so easy for us to think “someone else will do it” or “I couldn’t really make a difference”.

But the facts are that if one person in every church in Arkansas would open their home, we would be meeting the need. That’s it! Sounds easy right? BUT there are many churches that do not have foster & adoption programs, or they might not recognize the local foster & adoption organizations in their community. They may not have a plan to help and encourage the current foster families in their congregation.

Walk for the Waiting is an outreach. We are going out into the community to find those churches, businesses and families that are ready to put the children’s needs before their own.

Wouldn’t it be incredible to be one of the only states that doesn’t have a problem with foster care?

Wouldn’t it be remarkable for the world to see that God is here in Arkansas and changing lives?

We are not asking you to become foster parents. We are asking you to care. We are asking you to see the need. We are asking you to walk.

“Our world froze…” – Why The Spann’s Walk

In January, 2013, Jeremy and I decided we were ready to expand our family through adoption. We attended an informational meeting held through the CALL (a Christian organization that teams with DCFS to get families open to foster or adopt). Nine long months later, after fingerprints, background checks, home visits, and intense interviews, we were opened to foster and adopt!

 
The next step came when we found the Project Zero website. Project Zero is an organization that connects open families with waiting children. On their website we found this picture:

The Spann Boys
The Spann Boys

Our world froze and we immediately looked at each other, saying this might be it. Our next step was to speak with the incredible people at Project Zero, who immediately put us into contact with their case manager. She asked if we would be able to meet them at the Disney Extravaganza the next weekend, where open families can meet kids who are ready for adoption in a very sensitive, fun way, where the kids and grown-ups get to meet and play.

We arranged to meet the boys there, but we had a hard time finding them since the event is so large. Then, our oldest son, Kenneth, literally ran into my husband on the bouncy house. When Jeremy saw them, he sent me a text saying, “I think we just found our boys!” The rest of the day was spent playing games and in the sand with them, and we knew we were a perfect match.

DCFS agreed with us a couple of weeks later, and they let us know we had been matched with the boys. Visits began, and they moved permanently into our home July 2014. Our adoption was finalized 3/18/15!
Thanks to The CALL and Project Zero, the past year and a half has been full of “firsts:” training wheels coming off, first day of pre-k,kindergarten, and first grade, first birthday parties and Christmases.

The Spann Family
The Spann Family
We are incredibly blessed to have found our forever family. Kenneth and Miles have made our family complete. We honor the CALL and Project Zero on Saturday, April 30th, 2016 at 9 a.m. at the Walk for the Waiting at War Memorial. Without these groups, we would not have these amazing eyes and bright smiles to fill our hearts every.single.day.
-Elizabeth, Jeremy, Kenneth & Miles

Bringing Adoption Education to School

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to my husband’s school about Walk for the Waiting.  Lighthouse Academy has Town Hall, a bimonthly gathering of students and faculty to announce and receive updates about what’s going on at school or in their community.  I was introduced as Mr. Cisar’s wife, and was welcomed with a round of applause (hubby does a great job at work and is well-liked by most of his students).

I began by telling them my story: how I was adopted when I was three days old, how I longed for closure on my identity as an adoptee, and how elated I was when I finally got to meet my birth parents.  I reminded them of how small the world is – I went to high school with my full blooded little brother and had no idea; my older brother that I grew up with went to high school with my older half-brother that I would meet almost a decade later.

This is when I introduced Walk for the Waiting.  I started by showing them the promo video since it summarizes the event so well.  I invited all 300 of them to join us.  I told them about volunteer opportunities, and ways to get involved with their friends.  I encouraged the cheerleading squad to get registered as a team and compete with other school cheerleading squads to see who can raise the most money.

More important than the fundraising though… I brought adoption education into their school.  For some of them, it may have been the first time they’ve heard about foster care or adoption.  For others, they may have been reminded just how staggering the crisis is.  My goal was to encourage these kids to make a difference by joining us on April 30th for Walk for the Waiting.  I want them to engage on social media, posting videos of their friends shouting “NO MORE WAITING!” and wearing Walk for the Waiting t-shirts.

After Town Hall was adjourned, I heard a little feedback from a couple audience members.

Mr. K, Director of Teacher Learning, approached me and shook my hand.  He said he felt the Holy Spirit move while I was talking and that he wanted to see Walk for the Waiting grow and spread.  Mr. K is also a youth pastor at a church in central Arkansas.  He looked me in the eyes and said his church would be participating and doing whatever they could.  I was truly touched.  Did my words seriously bring in the Holy Spirit?  Praise God for being on my lips and moving throughout the room!

Later, a younger girl, maybe 10 years old, came up to me with a big grin on her face.  She thanked me for coming and talking, and said she really enjoyed my adoption story.  She went on to explain that she was at Walk for the Waiting last year and loved it, but had no idea what it was about.  I asked her what she thought about it now that she knows what it stands for and why it exists, and her face lit up.  “Oh yeah!  I want to take a lot of brochures and tell my Sunday school class!”

That little girl is why I want to talk to schools about adoption.  Real, long-term community change starts by educating adolescents and inspiring them to want better for their peers.  I wish I had more time to tell them about what they’re missing in their history and sex-ed classes, like the orphan train and knowing about adoption if ever faced with an unplanned pregnancy (to offer another option instead of abortion).  One of my main messages was to understand the importance of practicing sensitivity and empathy when they meet a classmate that has a different kind of family than they do.

After students started filtering outside and the hallway started to clear, I noticed Danny talking to a student of his named Phil*.  “This is the kid that calls me dad,” Danny joked.  I love seeing the teacher-student relationships my husband has made.  He is truly great at what he does.  Phil looked at me with a boyish grin and said, “Mrs. Cisar, I’ve been wanting to ask you this a long time.  Will you go to prom with me?”  I hadn’t even noticed the group of students that had gravitated over to witness this proposal.  I laughed and replied, “That’s so sweet of you!  Unfortunately, you’re just a little bit too late.  Mr. Cisar already asked me.”

Between experiencing the Holy Spirit, teaching someone about adoption and foster care for the first time, and being asked to prom – my first school talk was something I’ll always remember!  Several other students told me their eyes were really opened and that they wanted to tell friends and family about it.  It fired me up to talk to more schools and introduce adoption to our education system, for the sake of our future generation.

Teaching young people about a cause they can be passionate about and really make a difference for is setting a healthy foundation for them to build on as they go to college and become contributing members of society.

Change begins at home.  Movements begin with passion and unity.  Lighthouse Academy showed me that it’s possible.  We can do this!

Until no more are waiting,

Robyn Cisar

*some names have been changed or omitted to protect the subject’s identity
(This article was original posted on the blog: Robyn, Reunited)

Katrina walks for Brady & Noah

One of the best things about Walk for the Waiting is getting to see and hear the many stories of what God is doing in foster care and adoption here in Arkansas.  I’m exited to share who Katrina walks for:

Katrina and family with Judge Hon. King

 

I walk for a little boy named Brady that is as tough as nails but has a heart that is more tender than he’s willing to let anyone know.  I also walk for a boy named Noah that finds joy in the simplest things and will instantly put a smile on about anyone’s face. 

I walk for the victims so they will have opportunities to become overcomers.  I walk for those that don’t believe in love anymore so they will have a chance to experience unconditional love.  I walk for those that know only the chains of abuse, neglect, addition, and poverty and that their legacy will be changed for their future generations.  I walk for those that don’t believe themselves worthy so that they  would see themselves as priceless.  I walk for redeemed and restored lives.   I walk because I am adopted.  Adopted by a Heavenly Father that extended His grace, paid the price, and gave me a new name. 

I walk because I’m CALLED.

As I tucked my son, Brady, in bed tonight, I asked him what he would tell people if they asked him why they should adopt.  He said, “so kids would know not everyone hates them.  So they would know someone loves them.  That a family loves them.”

I walk because of LOVE.

Thank you so much for sharing this, Katrina. And to Brady’s point – I wonder how many children are going to bed tonight believing that everyone hates them – likely many. May we do our part to change that.

You can sponsor Katrina here as she walks to end the wait! If you’d like to share why you’re walking, please send an email to eric@walkforthewaiting.org.

Please resister to become a Sponsored Walker today or donate at www.walkforthewaiting.org!

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

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑