Foster Care: What I wish we would've done

About five years ago Steve and I became licensed foster parents. It was an exciting, joyful, difficult and humbling experience. We took on short term placements for almost two years. I will always be thankful for that time and wouldn't change the experience. But there are some things I would do differently if I could do it all over again.


1. I would pray for more direction before jumping ALL IN

I remember sitting in Panera one night when I clearly felt a leading that Steve and I should be foster parents. I wrestled with God and said ‘Well you’re going to have a talk with Steve because he is never going to say yes to this!’ Just a few weeks later I mentioned the idea to Steve while we were out on a date. Somehow without much convincing he said yes. I didn't even get to finish the whole speech I had prepared for that night. I was so excited that we were on the same page that I started the process the very next day.

Looking back I wish I would’ve taken more time to pray for God’s timing on how to move forward. For example, I wish we would’ve gone through the training with a Christian based organization like A Door of Hope or West Florida Foster Care instead of being licensed through Eckerd. It would’ve made a huge difference to meet other Christian families to encourage us on the journey! I also wish I would've prayed more about the timing of when to start, because I have no doubt that would’ve been different as well. We should've stepped back and taken the time to pray for more direction


2. I wouldn’t be afraid to fail at foster care

I remember when we finally made the decision that we wouldn’t renew our foster care license. We knew that the short term care we were doing was not what we had hoped for, but we also knew that we were not ready for the long term placement of a child in our home.
I was disappointment with our decision and I felt that way for months. I thought maybe we weren’t just ‘good enough’ people to continue with it. Perhaps if we had been more spiritual, listened better to God, or would be willing to make bigger sacrifices we would’ve continued to be foster parents. I felt that we had failed.

Looking back I wish I would’ve known God calls us to different things on different seasons, and I would’ve extended myself more grace. I went on to mentor a young girl in foster care which I really enjoyed. We stepped up to coordinate the foster care/adoption ministry in our church to encourage other families. There are seasons for different things and God doesn't all call us to do the exact same thing. I hope one day again that we will serve in a more tangible way as we did back then.



  
3. I wouldn’t have the false expectation that because God called us to do it, the journey would be easy.

I used to believe that when God calls us to do something He also makes the process easy and smooth. Now don’t get me wrong there are many when He has done just that… but there have also been times when He has not. And when things get hard I tend second guess decisions, wrestle with God about why he's not helping more, and wonder if after all we made the right decision in the first place.

As I’ve dived into the book of Exodus these past few months, I’ve learned that sometimes God clearly calls us to do something and the journey is still hard. I love, love the story of Moses: a man filled with insecurities and far from qualified for the job God calls him to do. He does EXACTLY what God asks of him, but the journey is still really hard along the way. Moses wrestles with God and asks him multiple times why He's not making things easier for him.

It has brought me so much encouragement to know this truth and know that God is at work even when things get hard. For us in foster care, we had a hard time getting licensed and the process took almost a year. Also there were many times when it was really hard to say goodbye to these little ones. Some were easy but some were much harder.




Last thoughts

I wanted to share these drawings from a five year old girl that stayed with us for two weeks. She came to our home late in the night one day with nothing but a Publix bag with a few of her belongings. Her story I will keep private but it was heartbreaking to hear.

The first day she came in she didn’t say a single word but she loved to draw. She drew countless pictures of sad faces with tears.





After a few days she did talk… a lot! The day before she left she made this picture which I’ve kept over the years. It was a picture of a happy face with no tears. I was so amazed that just two short weeks had made some impact on her. These pictures made me realize just the huge impact that you can have on someone else... even if it's just for a short period of time. 



Christmas, Grief and Advent Baskets



Two years after Andrew passed away we started a family tradition of organizing an Advent Basket for other families walking through grief during Christmas. I came across the idea in a blog- from a mom who had also lost her child and shared how helpful this basket had been for her. This is such an easy, practical and tangible way to encourage someone who's lost someone or is walking through a difficult time.

The basket contains 25 small gifts for each day of Christmas. Each gift is wrapped, numbered, and has a bible verse taped to it. 




This year we worked on two baskets- one for three boys who lost their mom to cancer, and another one for three kids whose mom will be in the hospital for an indefinite period of time. Working on these really reminded me to be thankful.


Even though it’s been many years and our Christmas seasons these days are filled with joy  I still remember walking through that first Christmas without Andrew. 

I remember sometimes waking up in the morning and forgetting for a few seconds of all that had happened... and then remembering that he was gone. And the weight of the loss coming back.

I also remember having perfectly normal conversations with people and then going home to cry for hours. 





I still remember feeling a knot in my stomach as Christmas Day approached hoping I could figure out a way to skip it altogether. I knew what was supposed to be a day of celebration would instead remind me of the empty space Andrew had left in and the pain we felt.


That Christmas we spent most of our free time with our dear friends David and Shelly Clark. I believe God placed them in our lives to encourage us during this season of grief and I will always be grateful for them.







It was that New Year’s Eve that I got pregnant with Jack. And that January Shelly and I would surprisingly find out we were both pregnant, and God would graciously bless us with two boys later that year. 

Part of me is glad to have walked through this pain so that we can all these years later have a glimpse of what is like to walk through grief. Grief can be so much heavier, last so much longer and linger into so many more Christmas seasons.


Somewhere in getting ready for Christmas day, school programs, shopping, etc it’s easy for me even to this day to lose perspective of what's important and easy to get caught up on things that are not. I am thankful for this Christmas even though it's been far for perfect, (particularly the awful flu-like sickness that hit our home this week). This week has been filled with cleaning up throw up, keeping fevers down, holding babies, and surviving this sickness. Which I wouldn't have been able to do without Steve's help and him taking time off work to help.  It's been really hard and easy for me to throw myself a big pity party (and believe me I have). But as I remember Andrew this Christmas, I'm reminded of the big picture. And there is so much to be thankful for. 

Wishing everyone a very wonderful Christmas!


Lillian at 18 months

Time is flying by and wanted to share on update on Lillian. I can't believe she's already 19 months! I still remember Jack being this little not too long ago, and now here he is as an 8 year old... its bitter sweet to watch the little years go by. They sure feel slow when you are in the midst of it.

Lillian is full of life but she also is completely exhausting. She is all smiles and hugs, and yet she loves to climb and explore anything she can find. She is snuggly and loves to be cuddled, but she's also bossy and loves to tell others what to do. She is such a mixture of joy and worry to me! I have found her with small batteries in her mouth, eating lego pieces, climbing on top of tables, and jumping on beds. Seriously, many days I have wondered how she has made it through and I know that its none other than God's pure grace. Because if it was up to me and my parenting skills I would've failed BIG time. I thought I would surely be more prepared after being through this a few times.




Her first year of life people often asked me if it felt 'different' having a girl after having two boys. And honestly it really didn't feel that different other than I got to dress her up in girly outfits. But now that she is almost 18 months her personality is starting to come out. I am amazed at her attraction to necklaces and bracelets, anything sparkly, princesses, and my makeup. It's incredibly to see how God wired boys and girls differently and it can be seen at such an early age. And I find it funny because I'm not really a 'shoe' person, nor do I have anything sparkly, nor are there any princess books or movies in our house. We really have mostly legos, boy toys, and all kinds of truck books. This is all something coming from her! So yes it does feel different now as I start to think about all that comes with raising a girl. It feels strange, exciting, and certainly overwhelming at times.

Boys I know. I've read the books and have the experience. Girls I know nothing about. I haven't read the books, don't have the experience, or have the faintest clue where to start. They feel so much more fragile and vulnerable to things boys are usually not prone to. They can be emotional, nurturers, and relationships with other people are important to them. These days when Palmer and Jack are upset or in trouble, Lillian runs to them to give them a hug and pat them in the back. She is a nurturer by nature. The boys were so different at her age!






I am crazy about her and still can't believe she's part of our family. I am also so worn out at the end of the day from holding her and trying to figure out what she is trying to tell me. She has quite the opinion on what she likes and doesn't like, and has a hard time telling me since she's not really talking yet. She has been evaluated for speech, and although she's a little behind she seems to be on track.





Lillian,

I am praying for great things for you. You are loved deeply by your family and by Jesus. I tell you that every night as you go to bed and I hope that you will always be firmly grounded in that truth.

You have brought so much joy to our family. I hope I will remember all the things about you at this age that love about you and yet drive me crazy.  Like how when you are tired you suck on your thumb and twirl my hair at the same time. Or how I find you talking to people on Christmas cards some days. And how you have a crazy attraction to my makeup bin and that is where you seem the happiest and most calm.

I often wonder about what the future holds for you and I'm scared of all that it may bring. But I am trusting that God has his hand over you, and that even in the disappointments and trials He will always protect you as He has to this day.

We love you Lillian Josie Briggs.





On Andrew's 9th Birthday


Every year on Andrew's birthday I've written a blog post about him. But this year is different... I don't really feel like writing or sharing much on how we're doing. It’s been a physically and emotionally exhausting week in our family for different reasons, and it would be much easier to curl up in my couch and not think about anything today.

However I know from experience if I don't take the time to remember him on this day, a great sadness takes over me. It is a subtle sadness and it lingers for days and weeks. I know how important it is to grieve and allow myself to be sad, especially on his birthday and the day he passed away. Because even though it’s been nine years I still think about Andrew every day.

Sometimes when I get caught up in the petty and temporary things, Andrew pops up in my mind as an ever present reminder of what’s really important. Of how blessed I am on this day to have health, a husband, and three healthy children. When I am tired and my kids are driving me crazy (and I want to throw up a white flag and quit on this whole mom thing) I remember the countless times I would’ve given anything to be a mom to Andrew. To be up in the middle of the night when he was sick, take care of him when he was clingy, or even deal with his temper tantrums and difficult days. Yes I longed for those hard days I didn’t get to have with him. And sometimes when I’m really struggling and my one year old refuses to sleep at night, I will silently mutter a ‘Thank you God that I get to stay up with her’ tonight.

Today we are going to take a walk on Bayshore as a family and then out to Outback. Bayshore was the very last walk Steve and I had before I went into labor with Andrew. And then that night we went out to Outback excited and in anticipation that Andrew would join us any moment! Both places remind of us Andrew and it will be nice to take the kids there today.

Thank you to those who have sent texts and notes today. It means a lot to us that he is remembered and loved even after all this time.