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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Bee is Back

01/15/2014

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We spent most of our afternoon Monday at a hearing for baby Bee’s case. I expected it to be quick and straightforward but it was not. The magistrate was slow and careful; very impressive actually. His concern about Bee and what is best for her was very evident. The short story is that she can’t leave the state of Tennessee to go with her family until the ICPC paperwork is approved. (ICPC=Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) Her grandma in Wisconsin has had her homestudy done and the papers have been sent off. From my understanding the papers sit on someone’s desk until they’re signed and approved at the county level, regional level, state level and then are sent back to Tennessee. It commonly takes about 6 months. It’s been 2 months. In four months Bee will be turning one.

Bee was handed back to us on Monday after the hearing. She had a bit of a bumpy transition but now seems comfortable with us and our home again. She’s really a sweetheart and so easy to love. I’m happy to have her back. She is a joy.

Tuesday morning we got up before the sun to drop Bee off at daycare and then head to the courthouse again, this time with Ali, for a trial related to her baby sister Trust’s case. (Not her real name.) We brought Ali because her biological mom invited us to the trial and asked us to bring her since they haven’t seen each other in over two years. However, she didn’t show up. We did get to meet baby Trust and speak with her biological father, however not about our desire to have Trust with us. Those who are aware of our desire to have baby Trust with us so that the sisters can be together don’t really seem to care what we think or want (case workers, attorneys, etc.) The girls’ biological mom has more say than anyone else but if she doesn’t come to court that doesn’t help. I can’t give too much detail but suffice it to say, she’s staying with her dad’s friend—where she’s been since she was 2 weeks old—for now. There is a follow up trial in March and we’re planning to express our interest in legal custody through the court’s official process.

So…just one baby for now. I’m relieved to have only one baby but also disappointed that nothing really happened with Trust’s case on Tuesday. We didn’t even get to visit with Ali’s bio family as we had hoped. I did get a photo of the little girls together and it was a blessing to finally see Trust in person. I read this online yesterday and I’m clinging to it: “God is at work in your life right now. He is directing your steps. What you thought was a setback is going to turn out to be a setup.”

Bee is easy to love and I’m happy we can take care of her and meet her needs. We’ve formed a good relationship with her family so far and I know the Lord is using us and that Bee is right where she’s supposed to be for this season. I can hardly explain the ache and longing I feel for Trust, though. I have cared so deeply for her since I knew she existed and we all pray daily for her safety, for her needs to be met and for her to end up in the home where the Lord wants her to grow up. Her story is far from over.


Trust and Wait

09/18/2013

I want to write from the heart, to pour out and sort out all that’s swirling around in my mind, but blogging requires a balancing act between public life and private life that’s tricky to manage. Perhaps it’s especially tricky as a foster parent, because a child in state custody is never legally mine and their stories are not mine to share. I say all that because I have a lot of heavy stuff going on in my heart and my head and I don’t know what, if any of it, to share here. The complexity of that stuff makes writing a blog post about sewing a toddler purse or making a peanut butter pie seem terribly superficial.

Here are a few random bullet points from my brain swirl:

• On Thursday we started getting placement calls again out of the blue. I was under the impression we were on hold status because we hadn’t gotten any calls since…well, since May 3 when Buzz arrived. I had a discussion about that with the third placement worker and she said she would be glad to make a note on our file that we’re not available until the end of October, when Buzz’s 90-day home visit trial period is over. Placement workers are the sweetest people working for DCS and they have one of the most discouraging jobs. All three of the placements we were called about—4 kids in total—were under the age of 2. That’s extremely rare in our county. I’m sure they were able to find homes for them but it’s still heart breaking to say no. If it were November I would have said yes to any of them. I’m now officially hoping for a baby next time after mentally imagining saying yes to each of those placement calls.

• I called back the sweet placement worker on Friday morning to clarify that we would make an exception to the hold status for any previous foster kids or their biological family members.

• On Saturday morning Ali and I met Buzz and his mom for breakfast. It was the first time we had seen them since the beginning of August when they were reunited. It was also Buzz’s 3rd birthday. I’m so glad we could celebrate with them. I got the impression his mom has had to close their world in so tight that they really don’t see many family and friends. Both kids ask about each other a lot. Apparently Buzz asks to see pictures of “Mama and Ali”…it really means a lot to me that his mom told me that because I was afraid it was hurting her that he calls me Mama. He calls her Mommy, thankfully, so he has a different name for each of us. Buzz was quite nervous when we walked into the IHOP. I’m sure it stirred up a mess of emotions. We both assured him that he was going home with his mom and we were just visiting because Ali and I miss him. (Jason too but he’s traveling.) He was pretty quiet through breakfast. It looks and sounds like they’re doing great. I’m so proud of them both! We all got hugs when we said goodbye and tentatively made plans to get together again next month. I’m blessed to get to keep in touch with them. We’re certainly not required to but we both just want to keep in touch. I love that!

• I keep coming back to the word trust, over and over again. Trust. With all of the unknowns. WIth all of the maybes. With all of the secret hopes. With all of the dreams for the future. WIth all of the worries about situations and individuals way outside of my control. With all of the confusion and mess. TRUST. I started looking up Bible verses related to trust on Sunday afternoon. “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5. That verse has been popping up in my head for several weeks. And the follow up to trust is wait. Be patient. Wait. Trust.

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On the Precipice

03/24/2011

Have you ever been on the brink of something huge and felt simultaneously excited and inadequate? A couple weeks ago Jason and I made an important decision about our future. I feel without a doubt that it’s the direction God is leading us — it’s something that’s been in our hearts for a long time but lately has been stirred up to the point that we can’t ignore it. Immediately after the decision was vocalized and we were in unity about it, I started getting overwhelmed with fears about my shortcomings and worrying whether or not this is something we’d be able to pull off. As Christ-followers, we recognize this as a spiritual attack. Obedience with passion and excitement to move forward is met with resistance in the form of fears and concerns. I tossed and turned that night, wrestling with my thoughts.

The next morning, I cracked open my short daily devotional book, Jesus Calling. It is a 2 minute read of encouraging words from the prayer journal of missionary Sarah Young. What it said on March 11 is exactly what I needed to hear that morning to squelch the burning feelings of inadequacy that had plagued me the night before:

“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.” (based on 2 Cor 5:7 and Gal 5:25)

I’m sharing this hoping it will encourage someone else as much as it did me (not just to make you wonder what’s going on with us.) I can’t reveal what it is yet; for now we’re still holding it close as we figure out the next steps. (Hint: I’m not pregnant. I know some of you were thinking that.) If God has put you on a precipice with a view of what’s ahead, be strong and courageous! Though I may not be capable of what will be required of me, I know that He is with me and He will make me able.


God is good! And why I don’t get away with anything.

02/25/2010

I did something to my shoulder two days ago. Not sure what but it was definitely nerve related and hurt intensely. It probably happened from swinging my backpack into the trunk before work …

Anyhow, I was really wanting to not make a big thing of it, not draw attention to it, not tell anyone, not let it distract me … but yet, in all my attempts to do that, it was distracting me bad. Real bad. All day.

I made it until 8:00 pm without saying a word. Then I reached across the table for my Sprite at the Listening Room and winced at the take-my-breath-away pain. I succombed to temptation and I opened my mouth.

Me to Jason: “I really jacked up my shoulder. It’s killing me! I don’t want to make a big deal of it, though.”

I don’t know if it’s our 10+ years together or his super observant nature or his prophetic gifting (probably a combination of all 3), but he can see right through me.

J: “Ya know, there is a difference between saying you’re not making a big deal about something, still worrying and obsessing about it in your mind, and actually not making a big deal of it.”

I couldn’t help but smile. I knew I was pegged. He knows me better than I know myself.

J: “I’m not saying you’re doing that. I’m just saying —”

M: “I love you.”

J: “Don’t you mean, I hate you?” It’s hard being the messenger. Can you tell I usually react defensively?

M: “No, I love you because you don’t let me get away with anything.”

Driving home, I was praying about it. I decided if I was going to stop thinking and obsessing about it, I needed to fully give it over to God. I trust Him to take care of all of my needs big and small, including stabbing shoulder pain, but sometimes I need to confess that I’ve been letting it burden me and release it to Him. I think I prayed something like this:

God, forgive me for letting this become such a distraction for me. I’m handing it over to You. I trust You with it.

Instantly, the pain went away. Hallelujah! I have faith but even I was pretty surprised!

Then I made a wide right turn and stabbing pain took my breath away again.

Ok, I need a reminder. Something I say every time it hurts to refocus and remember that I handed this over to God. … How about “God is good!” Because He is good. Even when I have pain. He is still good!

So that’s what I did and have been doing for the past day and a half. The pangs of pain have been getting progressively less frequent. But when they hit, I proclaim “God is good!”  And whether the pain stops or not, that is what I will keep doing. It’s amazing what a difference it makes for me to say-try-attempt to not do something and to actually resolve to hand it over to my God who is able to do immeasurably more than I ask or imagine.

You don’t have to believe me if you don’t want to. You may be carrying secret burdens and letting your thoughts be consumed by your situation, even while holding it together on the outside. I just wanted to let you know there is another option.