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March 11

03/11/2014

One evening Jason and I had a tearful conversation over dinner that ended with him saying, “Make the call. Find out what we need to do to become foster parents.” I had been feeling a strong pull in the direction of foster care and potentially adoption for a while but I was praying that if God wanted us to go down that twisted, scary road that He would bring Jason on board quickly. I wanted to be completely unified in our decision and God answered my prayer—bringing Jason to equal passion to parent kids who are not ours by birth, kids who are living their worst nightmares, kids who have troubling pasts and bad behaviors.

Within hours of making that decision together, I started feeling completely inadequate for the role of foster motherhood. I tossed and turned all night, wrestling with my fears and insecurities. The next morning, on March 11, I read this passage in Jesus Calling and it changed my life forever:

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Walk by faith, not by sight.
As you take steps of faith, depending on Me,
I will show you how much I can do for you.
If you live your life too safely,
you will never know the thrill of seeing Me work through you.
When I gave you My spirit,
I empowered you to live beyond your natural ability and strength.
Thats why it is wrong to measure your energy level
against the challenges ahead of you.
The issue is not your strength but Mine, which is limitless.
By walking close to Me, you can accomplish My purposes in My strength.

Here we are on March 11, 2014. In the past three years since I read that passage I’ve been mama to four kids, each with a painful past and a broken heart. Three of those babies have gone on to live with their biological families. We had the great privilege of adopting one of them, our precious Alianna Mae. Today we’re going to court, pursuing a temporary custody placement of her biological baby sister who is six and a half months old. I’ve nicknamed her Trust here to maintain her confidentiality and to remind myself that I need only trust God with this situation. He is worthy of my trust. He moved a mountain for Alianna to be put into our custody 2.5 years ago and if He wants to put Trust into our custody today, He can do it. These last 6 months have been emotionally taxing as we moved from concern about her safety to concern about her long-term placement and connections with her biological family. She’s been in a safe and loving place (as far as we know) since she was two weeks old but we feel strongly that if there is any way to preserve her connection to her biological siblings—especially since she’s already separated from her biological parents—it should be pursued. And that is why we’ve been fighting for her since before she was born. Not because we deserve her or because she deserves us—we have no right to her. We love her because she is our daughter’s sister. We care deeply about her biological mother because she’s our daughter’s biological mother. If she’s lost, someday we’re going to have to answer our daughter when she asks, “Where is my little sister? Why didn’t you fight for her the way you fought for me?”

So we fight. We fight for what we believe is best for her. This afternoon we anticipate the magistrate will make the decision: will she stay where she is now or move into our home with her sister Alianna.

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Phone Photo Friday

03/07/2014

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Most of my Phone Photo Friday pictures are from my Instagram feed. Follow me @mahlbrandt if you’d like!


Where is her Real Mommy?

03/06/2014

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Where is her real mommy?

I knew questions like this would come but it still caught me off guard. The three year old girl didn’t ask me directly; it was a question for her mom who was telling me later—and perhaps also asking. We’re loose acquaintances so she doesn’t know our story. That mom had suggested to her daughter that she ask Alianna. I told her Ali wouldn’t know how to answer that question. I left it at that. I could have said so much more and I’ve been mulling over what I should have or could have said for hours now.

The question bothers me partly because of the word real. Anyone who knows about adoption etiquette knows that’s a buzz word. I’m her real mom. Her biological mom is her real mom. Neither of us is fake or pretend. We’ve both very real and we’ve both very mom. Alianna is my real daughter and we’re a real family. It also bothers me a bit that this mother and daughter discussed the possible reasons for Ali’s adoption… “Maybe her real mom was sick.” The answer to this question is too complicated for a three year old and too personal for a loose acquaintance.

I’m pretty gracious with adoption questions and I don’t expect everyone to have the right words to use. However, the reason this poorly-worded, intrusive question made me sick to my stomach was the thought of a three year old peer asking it to my two year old daughter. Ali is confident and out-going but she would have no idea how to answer this question in 2.5 year old terms. I hate to think that it would give her a moment of panic… Is my mom not real? Is she not my real mom? Is she lost?

The three year old girl must be observing that often families match skin and hair colors. (Or has someone pointed it out to her?) We were in a fairly diverse setting but apparently transracial families and adoptive families are not common in her circles. I asked Ali later if she’s noticed that we don’t look alike—that she has brown skin and black curly hair and mommy has lighter skin—I stopped myself there because the look she was giving me said, No kidding. Why would or should we look alike?  I might as well have been asking if she’s noticed the sky is blue and the grass is green. Then I realized that adoptive and transracial families are very common in our lives. It’s probably never crossed her might that we “should” look alike. There is nothing unusual about her family from her perspective at this point in her life.

Since I’ve been over-analyzing this conversation, I’ve come up with a response for this three year old girl in preschool terms. Here it goes:

I am Ali’s real mommy. She had a different mommy before me. She grew in her first mommy’s tummy. Her birth mommy loved Ali very much but she wasn’t able to take care of her so some helpers found Ali new parents—us. We adopted Ali into our family and we’ve been her parents ever since.

If she wants to know why her birth mom couldn’t take care of her: She was dealing with some really big grown-up problems and she needed to learn how to take better care of herself.

If she wants to know who the helpers were: They’re social workers who work for agencies—Child Protective Services and the Department of Childrens Services—that watch out for kids to make sure that they’re safe and their needs are met.

If she wants to know what adoption is: It’s when a judge decrees that we’re a real, official family—real parents and a real child—forever and ever.

If she wants to know where her birth mom is now: I don’t know for sure. She still lives in Nashville but we don’t see her very often.

(Picture at the top is Alianna with her birth mommy—her other real mommy. Blurred for her privacy.)


Called to Fight

03/04/2014

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My parents named me Martina Louise. My first name means “warlike” and my middle name means “renowned warrior.” Most people who know me wouldn’t think of me as a fighter. My husband might disagree… But here we are and this is our life. We had to fight for our daughter Alianna. Her placement with us through foster care was simple but her custody and subsequent adoption were far from easy. We fought for her like we’ve never fought for anything else before.

Two and a half years later we find ourselves in a bizarre but not-so-different situation fighting for her half-sister. I can’t and won’t say much about the case in this public platform because it’s sensitive legally and we want to be respectful to all of the other parties involved. In short: if she cannot be with either of her biological parents—which is and has been the case since shortly after her birth—we believe (and DCS policy supports) that the next best option for a child is to be with siblings whenever possible. I believe that we are supposed to advocate for her and her best interests. I will fight for her and I won’t stop fighting for her.

As much as I want to keep quiet about this case, I also want to solicite the prayers of our friends. Please pray with us that whatever is best for baby Trust* would be done and soon—she’s already 6 months old! (We’ve been trying to get her placed with us since before she was born.) We have court next Tuesday March 11 at 1 pm, which involves a progress report trial for her biological parents and our petition for temporary custody.

*Not her real name (Thank God!) but my nickname for her since before she was born to remind me that her future is in His hands

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Two and a half year old Photographer

03/03/2014

My iphone requires a passcode or my fingerprint to unlock, however the camera can be accessed in lock mode. Alianna has figured this out and loves to swipe my phone and start snapping pictures. Here are some of her captures in the past few months.

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