So it's that time of year when a huge manilla envelope comes in the mail and I spend hours filling out paperwork...documenting all the foster parent training we've done, paperwork for our doctor to fill out on my husband and I, medical exams for our children, paperwork on how to schedule ourselves to go get fingerprinted, criminal history check forms, background check forms for our children (yes, you read that right), forms for a water safety plan, child care plans, compatibility inventories, questionnaires, resource parent role acknowledgement, adult and pediatric CPR, 1st Aid, and blood born pathogens training (on top of the 15 required hours), copies of current pet vaccinations, water bill, drivers licenses, auto insurance and registration, and...I'm sure I left something out. It's exhausting. And today I decided to start on this pile right after a meeting that left me feeling kinda hopeless. So my joy tank was struggling. Let me back up...
I know the last time I wrote, we were in the process of moving our baby girl in with her biological father, after 2+ years with our family. It was impossible. We spent the entire summer trying to process and prepare for the impossible. And on August 6th, it came. Then after a hearing on August 9th, the judge ordered that our baby girl be moved back in with us immediately. It was unexpected. It was nothing short of miraculous. I can't share all the details surrounding her case and her situation and her story. But a rescue took place. And she came home. She was only gone for 72 hours...but those 72 hours were so dark and desperate. And so...after a heartbreaking summer of transitioning her and 3 days as a family of 5 in a state despair I'll never be able to describe...we've had her back for 2 1/2 months. I've relished in every second. I've sang and skipped and danced my days away. We got to take her with us to Disney World and It. Was. Everything.
Now our next hearing is 3 weeks away...and I can feel the anxiety creeping in, my chest is tight, and my hope is hard to hold on to. She can't go through that again. I can't. We can't. Hearings represent so much unknown and serve as a reminder of what this life is really like. You can pretend all you want...singing and skipping along...but reality hits hard and it knocks me off my mountain face first. No one knows what will happen. I wish I had even an inkling of an idea...something to hold on to. But I got nothing. We have a good case worker...but she's never seen anything like this. So she's got nothing to give me.
So starting on this pile of paperwork while working through my worst fears, maybe wasn't the best idea. But I started thinking. What we're going through right now...this isn't the first time. And we didn't sign up for this ministry to self destruct (just my current emotional state). We made it out of the first valley and gave God the glory and understood 100% why we were sent down that road. The blessing blew our minds and filled our hearts and changed everything. We came out of that valley with the sun on our faces and the healing was quick and easy. The agonizing journey was all but forgotten. We're still in this valley...and I know that either way, God has a plan He's working and He's so good. I can trust Him. But I can't fathom...can not fathom...going through this again...reliving this chapter in another season. This kind of heartache sucks the life out of you...ages you...scars you. So do I want to fill out all this paperwork? Do I want to find myself in this space again? Does foster care ever look like inviting a child into your home for 6 months or less while you lovingly pour into their parents so that you can send that child you undoubtedly fall in love with back into a home where they'll be safe and loved and you can forever keep in touch? Because after 8 years in the ministry...I'm beginning to think it doesn't. And please don't misunderstand...whether or not our baby girl of 873 days ends up with our last name...she is worth every bit of my so called self destruction. Her place in our family for whatever amount of time isn't something I would ever change...even if our suffering goes back to that place we were in August. Because I've been her mom for these 873 days...wholly, her MOM. Take off the foster. And my suffering serves a purpose in her life greater than I'll know this side of heaven. And she's worth it. Just like any child is worth the best love their parents can give them. I'm just looking forward and...you know...being human. Do we WANT to willingly lay ourselves on the alter and go through this again? As I labor through the most unfun paperwork in the universe...these are my thoughts. But I know we're called in this...I know I feel greater purpose living my life on mission in this way. I know it's right. I'm just feeling beaten down, kind of crawling my way to this next hearing, and questioning it all. How does any God fearing, child loving, heart giving foster parent do this over and over? I just don't know. Today. Maybe I'll know tomorrow...or after the hearing. This is probably so all over the place and confusing. I'm trying real hard to be okay. If I could just talk myself into being thankful for these last 11 weeks and nothing else...climb back up my mountain and fill up on those feelings of redemption and rescue I had on August 9th. I'm so full of fear...that's all it is...everything it is. I don't want to go back. There's nothing warm and happy and safe in the alternate ending...nothing my finite mind can see. And I need your prayers, friends. The hearing is on November 15th, 3 weeks away. I'm thankful for you and your strength and faithfulness through prayer. God supplies the peace I need through your petition, I know this. When I'm not strong enough...I know so many others are. So many. Also...I didn't mean "self destruct"...that sounds so selfish and...yuck. But I'm not going to edit, because...sometimes realness is a little "yuck". Just know I didn't mean it. Kind of:)
In His love,
Psalm 50:15- call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.
(God whispered to me through my 1st grader's memory verse:)
Sunday, October 2, 2016
I won't pretend I've been in your shoes...but I want to tell you my story. And I'm hoping you can somehow relate. It happened 10 years ago, when I lost my baby....I went in for a prenatal appointment at 11 weeks and they couldn't find her heart beat (I've always felt in my heart we had a girl). So they did an ultra sound and she looked perfect, but only measured 8 1/2 weeks. She had passed away without my body realizing it. I delivered her unexpectedly at home while I was still praying for a miracle. It was the most devastating moment of my life. I know this isn't the same as what you're going through. I cried out to God for a rescue, a miracle, but I had no power to choose. I know there are so many reasons to consider aborting your baby, you might think you're too young, maybe you're still in school. Maybe you think you're too old. Maybe you had a one night hook up, maybe you conceived with your husband but just don't feel ready. Maybe you're living in a state of crisis and feel you have no other option. So many reasons. I was only 24...but wanted to be a mom with all my heart. And after a long period of grieving, we tried again, and kept trying, but it wasn't working. We went through testing and the doctors said we were both healthy and there was no reason they could find, diagnosis...unexplained infertility. It was frustrating, unfair, confusing. But now I know why...and I have 3 beautiful explanations. I became a mom at 27, after a young woman looked through a binder of couples and picked us. And I fell in love with her. Because when someone gives you the greatest gift, when they choose life and choose you and carry the baby you've been aching for, for years, and then deliver that baby into your arms...you fall in love. I won't go into all the reasons why she chose adoption, but some would say our son was "unwanted"...except he wasn't. He was so wanted, and pleaded for, and prayed for. Our two older children came home to us through the foster care system. They were once abused and neglected...born and uncared for. I've heard the argument that abortion is better than being born unwanted. That there are too many abused and neglected kids in the system and we can control those numbers because abortion is an option. But if you met my beautiful children, I can guarantee you would agree that no matter the circumstances they were born into, they deserve life. They're worthy. And here's the thing...there are SO many women like me, couples, families, just waiting for someone to pick them. Waiting to turn an inconvenient situation, a crisis, into their greatest blessing. Maybe you think you want to abort your baby early on...before people even notice. Maybe you're embarrassed or afraid you'll disappoint someone. Maybe you don't even want children. This list could go on forever. I don't know where you find yourself, what you're going through, or how badly you're hurting. But maybe you can look deep down in your heart, realize your carrying a life, a gift...whether to you or someone else, and make a choice beyond yourself. Make a choice you will never ever ever be ashamed of. You created a life...a miracle that so many women never get the chance to experience. You have a living baby growing inside of you. And however unplanned that baby may be, they're powerless and pure and worthy. And someone is praying right now...I can promise you. A woman, a couple, a family, is pleading with God to give them the gift you might not be ready for. And the journey may be so hard...but you won't regret it and you'll be stronger because of it. You may even change your mind and decide you are ready. Give yourself that chance. You deserve it...you are worthy. You are here for a reason, you're pregnant for a reason. God put a life inside you, just like He knit you in your mother's womb. You have a purpose so much greater than anything you're thinking about right now. I wish I could know you...hug you, pray with you, listen to your story, look you in the eye and tell you...you'll get through this. Please choose life, not just for your baby...but for yourself. Consider my story...and the stories of so many like me. Consider your own story...how do you want this chapter to end? Or begin? Once the baby is born, you'll see that face and hear that cry...and never ever ever regret letting your baby live. I promise. And I love you.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Today I woke up, put on a little make up, fed my kiddos breakfast, and got my baby girl ready for speech therapy. I was feeling fragile and knew that my barely there composure was going to be hard to hold on to. Then I talked to her therapist about her schedule and upcoming changes and her hand went to her heart and she opened her mouth to say...I just don't know how...and I don't even know what she said after that. The flood gates opened and she and I got a lot closer today. But that was the beginning of the end. I spent the whole day trying to hide my tears from my kids. Any still second I had, my mind was there...imagining what that day will be like. The baby, my big kids, me, JT. Do we take her to meet her dad with all of her things? Do we say goodbye at home and let her visit supervisor take her? Should I pack all of her things? What if she comes back? This can't really be happening. I think maybe my God who doesn't make mistakes may have actually made one when He picked me to do this. Because I can't. I can't. I. Can't. How can anyone?! I can't "can't" because of my own selfishness...although I can feel my heart being scarred, and it's slow and the most excruciating pain I believe I've ever experienced. I can't because I feel like she can't. She's not going to know that she's not coming home. She's going to leave our house, her house. Or maybe we'll take her and she'll go from my arms to his. And she's going to think she's coming back. Just like she always does. She has no clue her whole world is changing. And by changing I mean CHANGING. Nothing...NOTHING in her new life is going to resemble her life with us. The life she's lived for 26 of her 27 months. Her family is just going to disappear and she won't know why or understand anything. She's going to feel so abandoned. I'm pleading with God to send angels to follow her everywhere. I feel like I'm drowning and my eyes are so swollen you might not recognize me. I don't really want to talk to anyone about it and I need people to joke with me and talk about other things and ask zero questions. I need to figure out how to get myself back into a state of denial, because I've spent a good part of the summer telling myself this isn't happening, and I've survived that way. We have 1 more week as a family of 6. I'm going to ask her dad if she can stay until next Saturday evening, instead of leaving on Friday. JT and the kids have school on Friday and we need that extra day with her. I think he'll say yes. We really need prayer...for our baby girl more than anything. But also for our kids and wisdom on how to comfort them and help them heal, and for me...to get my head above this water constantly crashing down. There is no joy here. I sobbed as I rocked her today, she saw me and looked so confused. She just stared at my crying face and pointed at my tears as they poured out. Then she fell asleep in JT's hat...like she's done the last three nights. I really don't know how to do this. I am not not NOT strong...I'm the very definition of weakness...and I know His power is made perfect in my weakness so I really need Him to rescue all of us. Whatever that looks like. I asked Him a long time ago to break my heart for what breaks His, I know He heard me and I did mean it but my God, this is impossible. And this isn't what I meant by that. If I could go back to June 6th, 2014, and ignore that phone call from DCS, and spare me and my family from this...I wouldn't. I have to keep reminding myself that. I'd do this all over again. We are exactly what she needed for the last 783 days. 783 days. I'm sorry for making you sad with me, no one wants to think about all this. There's enough heartache in the world without having to think about what we're going through over here at the Crook house. But thank you for your prayers. I know we're loved and our community and families are so strong...a huge blessing. I wish I could wrap this up with something spiritual and encouraging and optimistic...but I'm drawing a blank. So, I'll just say thanks, again:)
In His Love,
In His Love,
Monday, June 6, 2016
Our next court hearing is tomorrow. The day after our 2 year anniversary of being a family that includes a sweet and spicy 4th child. And the anxiety has settled into my chest like it always does. I would love to tell you that I'm foster mom of the year and still cheering for reunification with her father. I'm not. Because...2 years. She turned 2 on April 27th. Her whole life has been with us. I can't separate myself from her. If I could...I would be okay. I would focus on all the blessings and joys in my life. I would focus on my amazing husband and our healthy beautiful children and our whole huge family and our home and community and church and school and friends and rejoice in those things. I would find comfort in my faith and stability in my support system. But I can't. This isn't about us and never really has been. I am fixated mentally and emotionally on her. Living her every day in a life that could be ripped away. She's powerless and she has no clue. NO CLUE. That her people, her routine, her home, her life, her safety and security and every single thing she knows, could disappear. She won't understand. And all of those thoughts make me physically ill. I can't separate myself from her, her well being...mentally, physically, emotionally...I can't wrap my mind around the pain she'll go through. I'm a mom. I've been her mom for 2 years. She's 100% a crooklin. Except she's not. She doesn't belong to us, but we belong to her. And today, I hate foster care and the whole system. I hate that children have to be victims of people who are supposed to treasure them. And I hate that 2 years later, they can be victimized again by a system that says what's best for her actually doesn't matter...what uninvested grown ups want is more important. I would never want anyone one else to get these 2 years with her...these years are ours. I wouldn't go back and ignore that phone call. But my God...my precious almighty God who loves me and loves her and is in control of all this...I can't do this. I don't know how. And I don't think I ever will. I need divine intervention...I need God Himself to tell me that she's going to be okay and loved and safe and happy and healthy and THIS IS RIGHT FOR HER.
I needed to get that off my chest. Sorry. I don't hate foster care...children need foster care. We live in a world where children are sometimes hurt by their parents. And we live in a world where those children need homes with loving families...I'm proud to be one of those families. I have no clue what will happen at this hearing tomorrow...but I do know my heart is preparing to lose her. Hearings never bring warm fuzzy emotions...this one just feels different due to details I can't really share with you. I've been feeling so helpless and scared and desperate...and trying to control it by reaching out to her dad again. I've always been dismissed and my heart has been so hurt and hardened that I haven't tried in months. But I've been putting my human feelings aside...and digging deep for supernatural mom feelings. My pride and disgust and anger have taken a back seat...because if there's even a chance of having a relationship with him, I HAVE to fight for it. A relationship with him = a relationship with her, so if she leaves us...we could still have a window to her life. At least in my state of desperation, that's how it works. But once again, the door's been shut and I can't force it open. Everything could be so different.
2 years ago today, I fell madly in love with someone else's child. I said yes...knowing that's exactly what would happen. Our entire family fell in love. And that love has been returned with complete trust and faith...because she knows we'll never leave her. She knows how loved she is, she knows and loves her world. Joy and happiness radiate from her beautiful brown eyes. She knows who will get her out of bed every morning, who will feed her, get her dressed and take her outside to play. She knows who will give her a treat when she goes on the potty, who will dance with her and color with her and let her steal daddy's chapstick. She knows who will give her a bath and sing her to sleep. She knows she has two brothers who will play "baby stampede" and hide from her and run with her and make her laugh so hard she can't breathe. She knows she has a big sister who will push her on the swing and take her upstairs to play in her big girl room when she's being fussy and nothing else is working. She knows she has grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who ADORE her. As far as she knows...these things will never change. Why would they? This is her life. And why tears stream down my face as I type this. I'm stuck here. Maybe the hearing will go so differently tomorrow and everything will be okay. Maybe all these fear filled thoughts are meaningless...and my intuition is off. I pray so. I know I've said this before...but I'm not strong, just willing to suffer. And I need your prayers for strength. I need your prayers for our 3 big kids and my husband, and more than anything...our baby girl needs your prayers. My prayers haven't been filled with unwavering faith that she'll be ours forever. I wish they were...I want so badly to feel it, know it, and believe it. I've been asking God to open hearts and minds and reveal His plan to me...but He hasn't yet. Please let me know if He lets you know:) And thank you...I know I'll have restored peace tomorrow because of all the people praying for her. I always do.