Tuesday, July 8, 2014
We, not one of us, are privy to His purpose and will. We follow Him blindly in faith that He is working all things for our good.
He promises to lead us through the valley, not around it. This means He is with us when we are with Him.
It is with a heavy heart that we tell you that L is no longer living with us.
There has been much sadness, anger, and crying over this decision, and it did not come lightly. We came to our decision after much talking and counseling about what was best for L and what was best for us.
We will miss him.
There is a family for him somewhere.
Our prayers are that his time with us left an impression on him that will grow. What a family is like. What putting God first is like. What being vulnerable is like.
The night before he left, Mike, not knowing he was leaving the next day, spent quite some time with him, one on one, talking with him about some of his struggles. Mike told him that Christ is the one true way. He told L that he needed to work on his relationship with Christ, to seek Him out in all things and ask himself "Is what I am about to do going to honor Christ?"
We both held and prayed over him at the kitchen table that night, not knowing that it was the last time we would get the chance. We prayed that he would open his heart to Christ's leadership and that God would make Himself so visible to L that he could not help but seek him out.
Looking back, we have questioned our faith in this matter. We have asked "Were we following God's will in this or our own desire?" After a lot of tears and prayer we believe we were. Mike, and others in our support network, suggested that God's purpose in this may not have been for him to be a permanent part of our family. That, perhaps, God's will for L in our life had been fulfilled.
We may never know.
But Mike has never prayed as fervently for and over someone as he did for L at the kitchen table that last night.
Please pray for L. And for healing for all of us.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
L started summer workouts with the high school football team and has really enjoyed getting to meet some of his new classmates. Along the way he has made some new friends.
The big thing, no, the HUGE thing we did was all five of us flew out to Denver for Kerri's sister's wedding. Stephanie married Dave. On top of a mountain. At sunset. It was beautiful.
Mike got to walk the mother of the bride to her seat and Kerri sang (Surprise!!) during the seating of the family and while the wedding party came in.
We flew into Denver International on a Wednesday. Our first mission was lunch at Sam's #3 in Glendale. If you ever go to Denver, you MUST eat there. It is a sort of a deli/Mexican/breakfast food place that gives HUGE portions for a VERY reasonable price. We ate there three times during the week we were there. (Thanks for the tip Michael!)
As we were leaving lunch and on our way to the hotel, an accident happened near the restaurant about a minute before we got to that intersection and emergency responders closed the road. Our GPS didn't really know what to do next and so, what should have been a 15 minute ride, took about an hour as we rode all over the place.
Thursday we went to Roxborough Canyon State Park just south of Denver. As the pictures show, it is a beautiful spot and we had a nice time walking the 2+ mile loop through the canyon.
This rock outcropping is called the Washington rock. Can you tell why? (Hint: take out a quarter)
Friday we went to the Buffalo Bill Museum and Gravesite in Golden, Colo. (pretty cool, actually) and then we took the highest paved road in North America to the top of Mount Evans at 14,100 feet. Mike, Kerri and L hiked the remaining 100 feet to the summit.
And, of course, the obligatory selfie...
During the 28 mile ride to the top, the temperature dropped about 40° from 76° to 39°. Add to that a steady wind of about 20 mph and the "feels like" temperature was about 29°. Wow!!
On Saturday we went to Winter Springs, Colo. and rode an alpine slide as many times as we could during the four hours we were there.
If you don't know, an alpine slide is a concrete half-pipe running down the side of a mountain. You get on a cart with no helmet or seat belt and just a brake and see how fast you can go down the mountain.
The slide in Winter Springs is the longest in Colorado and is over 3000 feet long and drops 610 feet along the way. The top speed for the season so far when we were there was 37 mph. Yes, that's you, in a cart, with no safety equipment, hurtling down a hill at 30+ mph.
Accidents happen. And they did.
We are pleased to announce that Mike and Sean were the only members of the family that did NOT bust it while going down the slide! The bruise on Kerri's arm nicely complemented the color of her dress for the wedding on Monday night.
The following Tuesday we went with family to the Denver Zoo. We are sure it is a nice place to go but by this time we were about worn out from our adventures.
When we got home we found that one of our kitties, the oldest (Hannah - 11) had disappeared and was, presumably, killed by a coyote. So, we now have two new kittens, Biscuit and Pepper.
To round out the month, L got braces yesterday!
Pray for us. We need it!! :o)
Saturday, May 24, 2014
We call it that because today we "get him!"
Today L's DHR workers came from there county to our home to meet with us and our social worker, Sarah, and we signed all the paperwork finalizing our wishes to adopt him.
We signed the adoption placement paperwork.
This starts a 90-day period where we are visited by our worker and L's worker to make sure everything is going well. At the end of the 90-day period we can ask for consent to finalize the adoption.
This means that on August 22 we can ask for that consent.
After that we petition the court for a hearing to finalize the adoption. We hope to finish all this by the end of November for another early Christmas gift.
L is really excited as are we and Zach and Sean.
It's going to be a busy summer. Keep praying for us.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Waiting for the school year to finish has been tough on all of us but the good news is...
L is coming home to stay this Friday, May 16, 2014!!
We are all so excited.
Zach and Sean have really enjoyed their time getting to know L. He is older, bigger and stronger than they are so things can get rough pretty quick but they don't seem to slow down.
It has been really good for them to have a big brother. That's not something we had initially considered but it has turned into such a blessing.
We are very much looking forward to not having to take him back every Sunday. It has been a real bummer. As the time approached each Sunday afternoon, L got a little quieter and withdrawn.
He told us this week that it was okay - this was the last time and he could get through it!
It is going to be quite a change when the temporary nature of our relationship suddenly becomes permanent. Tolerance that the boys have for each other because they know there will be a break will most likely dissipate and bickering begin.
But, that's what a family does.
This summer L is going to work out with the football team and wants to play in the fall. Sean will start cross-country practice and training (this week) and will be continuing that throughout the summer. Zach will have band camp in July and has already started running regularly (he can run two miles non-stop - if he wants to) to get him in better shape for marching band in the fall. And on top of all that, all three will have activities with the church throughout the summer. It's going to be a very busy couple of months!
But, that's what family does.
If L makes the football team, we will have football games on Mondays and Fridays and Cross Country meets on Saturdays. Mike lamented that there won't be hardly any down time.
And Kerri pointed out, that's what family does.
That's what it comes down to. We are expanding our family. God made us that family and we will do everything we can to treasure every moment, to explore every opportunity, and participate in as many things we can to bond as one.
A family that plays together is a strong one. It won't be easy but something of value rarely is. God has guided us to this point and we know he will continue to do so.
Pray for all of us. We need it!
Monday, April 21, 2014
It's a long drive, and the two of them had a good amount of time to talk about many things.
On Friday night we were supposed to have a Sunday School class social and Easter egg hunt but, having rained for 24 hours, the yard was a pond and that was postponed. Instead, we cooked steaks to welcome L home.
Saturday we took him to see Captain America 2 (GREAT flick!!) and took him shopping for some clothes and for some items so he could finish a school project. Yes, on his first visit, he had homework to do.
That night, we had the long-awaited talk with him and told him we loved him. Mike told him we wanted him to be part of our family, our son and a brother to Zach and Sean. His response was "You're gonna make me cry..."
He said yes.
He told us that he feels a peace with us and at our home - now his home, too. We told him that God made us a family - even before we knew each other!
Easter Sunday was great. L got to meet a lot of our friends, and he went with Zach to youth Sunday school and met the Youth Pastor and Youth Intern. Mike talked to both of the youth leaders and asked them if they could identify a couple great 9th grade boys to take L under their wing and guide him through a new church.
After the church service we took him to meet Pastor Jay and a friend of ours, Tanya Birchfield, got to meet him and she took our Easter picture. Here is (almost) what it looked like:
The inevitable time came to take him back and, as we expected, things got a little sad.
We loaded up the van and set out as a family to take L back. Everything was pretty good until we got him there and we all had a hard time saying goodbye. We reassured him that it was just a week at a time and that we were expecting to pick him up for a weekend visit every weekend until school was out.
We've said this before but the hard part is the separation. We want him here and he wants to be here.
He told Mike Saturday, after we had bought him several things, that we should not have spent so much money on him (it really wasn't that much). Mike pointed out that's what parents are for, to make sure their child has what they need, no matter the cost. It is a concept he could not understand because it's something he has never experienced.
He talked about how he wasn't going to have room in his new bedroom for all his stereo equipment and other stuff. Mike pointed out that, until now, his room was his haven. He now has an entire house and family to spend time with and that he would not be spending that much time in his room anyway. He looked a bit perplexed at the idea.
Zach and Sean have really taken to him - he is a natural big brother. They are eating up his attention!
We, and L, have a long road ahead of us. Mike talked to him about the need for him to let go and let us BE his parents. That he needed to let himself be vulnerable and trust that we "had his back." He admitted that was going to take time. Mike told him there wasn't a time limit.
Please pray that this next month goes smoothly. And quickly. Try imagining having to take your own child and leave him with someone else during the week.
L is our son. He is our child. We want him at home. Pray that we will be able to be for him what he needs, and that he will feel God's love as these walls come down. L will have a really hard time being vulnerable - pray that we have patience. Pray for L that he can understand and accept our love for him - we are blowing his mind at the moment with our profession of love and care for him. He doesn't understand why we would want him - what a perfect opportunity to share God's grace and love! Thank you for praying for our family!
Sunday, April 13, 2014
We met him at Olive Garden where he was dropped off by his foster parent. She did not wait around for us to talk to her but that's okay.
After eating our fill of Italian fare, we drove around and he showed us the high school he attends (WOW!) and some of the local sites. Then we went to a local park to throw and kick a ball around and give L a chance to run around with Zach and Sean and for us to see them all play together.
Things could not have gone better. Again.
It was, incredibly, the most natural thing. L took the lead and set up what they were going to do and both Zach and Sean ate it up. All three of them really enjoyed themselves. Mike got hit in the shoulder by a swiftly-kicked soccer ball and Kerri learned she doesn't want to try a catch a football with her chest.
No broken bones or blood on anyone at the end so a success by all measures!
The park has a lake with a jogging path so we walked around for awhile, talked, joked, laughed and had a really good time. All around the lake there are benches and randomly placed hop-scotch and similar concrete pads to play on.
Mike re-created the scene in "Elf" where Buddy hops across the road in New York on a crosswalk. A random stranger even gave him applause for his effort.
L couldn't believe he would do that and Kerri explained that's how we roll. "You'll get used to it!"
We left and went for shakes at Chik-fil-A (yum!), hung out in the AC and just talked some more.
We have to say, this was the most natural family outing you can imagine, It's like we have been a family for a long time. L got a little sappy and Mike got right there with him and we all had "a moment", one of many to come.
Thank you Lord. Thank you that you have ordained this moment. That you have made us a family. That you did that even before we knew it. We know you did because your fingerprints are everywhere.
It was time to take L back to the park to catch his ride. As usual, everyone got a little quiet.
When we got to the park he saw his foster parent. We told all three boys to stay in the van while we went and talked to her.
Aha! A captive audience.
It was a pleasant conversation and it was important to us to have that chance to talk to her and let her get to know us. Mike came away feeling much better that L was going to be able to stay put until the end of the school year.
L had mentioned that he was a rebellious child and that he had needed someone to stick with him through his bad choices. He said his current foster parent had provided him that and he was grateful. Kerri was able to tell her that.
This coming weekend he is coming to Montgomery to spend the weekend with us. Yeah!!!
We plan to tell him Sunday that we want him to come live with us, join our family and to be our son and a brother to Zach and Sean.
Please keep the prayers coming. This is a most incredible experience.
Monday, April 7, 2014
The weather was perfect.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Our plans are a trip to the Zoo if weather permits or, if not, a trip to the McWane Center. Afterwards, we are going to take him to lunch at the Summit.
We also requested that we be allowed to get him Friday, April 18 (Good Friday) and have him spend Easter weekend with us. Our social worker says that so far nobody had voiced any reason that can't happen but it's not yet a definite, so keep that on your prayer list.
This is all so exciting and we can't wait for it to unfold.
Unfortunately some things have been said to L that have made him discouraged. We have dealt with this before in our first adoption but it does not make it any easier when the child you want to adopt tells you the terrible things people say to him about what his future holds if he is indeed adopted.
That an adult, or anyone for that matter, would be so self-absorbed as to try to discourage, delay or prevent what we are trying to do is unbelievable. We are walking with God and He has led us to this point so we have the faith and peace that He is with us. Satan does not want for families.
We have done everything we can do, for now, to reassure him. We have told him that we are praying for him and to be strong but there is only so much we are allowed to say to him at this point in the process. We can't say "Hold on, it won't be long" because it implies permanency and we are not yet allowed to talk with him about permanency. It really limits how encouraging we can be and how we have to tread lightly until we have discussed with DHR and then him about our desire for him to come live with us. We pray that he will be okay until he can come home.
We schedule phone calls twice per week (Mike texts with him daily) and tonight (Thursday, April 3) we get to FaceTime him. We are all very much looking forward to "seeing" him again. If you think about it, please stop and say a prayer for him and for us about 7:00 tonight.
Friday, March 28, 2014
As we gathered around the kitchen table at the appointed time waiting for Kerri to join us, L called us before we could call him. Hmmm, I guess he was really looking forward to it.
It was a great conversation and the best part is that all three of them got to "meet" each other and engage with each other without having to wait until April 12. Zach and Sean both wanted to ask L a silly question. Sean asked if he liked unicorns ("Umm, I don't think they're real, are they?") and Zach asked if he liked cookies ("Oh yeah, I like all kinds of food!"). It was a real icebreaker between the three of them. It was also good for us to see how well they all got along.
Before we knew it, 30 minutes had gone by and we needed to say our goodbyes. This was the awkward and difficult part. L had a hard time as did we.
In the past few weeks Zach had expressed some concern that he (Zach) wouldn't like him (L). When it was all over Mike asked Zach what he thought and his response was "He's pretty cool..." And his smile added even more to that. Sean said pretty much the same thing.
It's heart-breaking to end a conversation and not tell him that we love him. All we want to do is hold and love on him but we can't for now. Some people might ask "How can you 'love' him when you just met?" My answer is simple, it's the love of God. The day we met Zach and Sean we fell in love with them. The same is true for L. We can't explain it beyond that.
We thank God for this journey and ask him to bless our endeavor to bring L home. Thank you for praying with us.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
We were both nervous and excited and sort of wondering how everything would go. When we got there we texted our social worker and told her we were outside and she said she, L and his social worker were waiting inside.
When we walked through the door, here was this boy that, at first glance, was everything we were looking for. Mike shook his hand and Kerri gave him a hug. The waitress told us our table was ready and we followed her.
On the way, L fell back to talk to Mike and said "I haven't been able to sleep since Friday, I've been so excited about this!" Mike said "Yeah, we're pretty excited too..."
We sat with Logan between us and our social workers across the table.
L is very conversational. Mike mentioned later that children in general and boys in particular don't usually engage in conversation with adults - especially those they don't know. L just chimed right in and we were off to the races.
The conversation was easy and we listened, laughed and learned a lot about him.
He said that several people have told him that he was too old, that nobody would want to adopt him and that he needed to accept that and figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life. HE'S FIFTEEN!!! With that, Mike put his arm around him and pulled him into a hug. L reciprocated and the two of them just sat there a minute in an embrace that could melt the Grinch's heart. It was a very emotional moment.
Our next visit with him will be Saturday, April 12 in Birmingham for an activity and lunch.
It's going to be difficult to wait that long but there aren't any other options. In the meantime we have told him we will call him twice a week and Mike is texting with him a LOT.
Mike told our social worker that it's frustrating because this is like dating.
You have someone that you really like and you want to impress them and get them to like you as well but you don't want to be a stalker or that creepy person that calls all the time for no reason. You don't want to be too clingy but you don't want to be too distant, too aloof. So you wait for the appropriate time to make another contact and just keep the ball rolling when what you want to do is pick it up and shoot a goal!
Now imagine if both sets of parents were watching every move and telling you to hold off and slow down. Our social workers are those parents and we agree with them but it doesn't make it any easier.
We hope that when Zach and Sean meet L for the first time on April 12 everything goes smoothly. The next visit will hopefully be be a spend-the-weekend visit sometime later in April.
Thank you for your prayers and encouragement, We are both very encouraged by what we have experienced thus far.
Please continue to pray for L, for us, for our family and our future together.
Monday, March 24, 2014
I wanted to let you both know that [his] worker met with him on Friday to tell him that an inquiry had been made and to see if he wanted to visit. She e-mailed me this morning to tell me that he was a bit in shock because he did not ever think he would have another opportunity to be adopted again. He also looked at the pictures and said that you have a nice house, and commented that he liked the idea of being the older brother. He is very excited about tomorrow, and has already called his worker this morning to express his excitement!
He didn't think he would have another opportunity to be adopted. It breaks my heart that a fifteen-year-old boy is in a situation he thinks is hopeless. Please pray for him, that he would see God in us, that we are HIS light shining on him, and that he finds joy by us showing him God's love.
Please pray for us as we meet him, that our nervous excitement is controlled, that we can remember all the things we need to ask and talk about, and that we are all, he and us, relaxed enough to enjoy ourselves as we meet for the first time.
We meet him tomorrow night for dinner.
Friday, March 21, 2014
Kerri and Mike will get to meet him next week when his social worker brings him to Montgomery. and we meet for dinner at a restaurant. Zach and Sean will not be there since the staff felt it would be best if we got to meet him first; it would be less chaotic and overwhelming.
We can't TELL YOU how excited we are about this!
The plan proposed by the staff is for us to meet him for dinner with our social worker and his social worker. The next step is to schedule a visit on a Saturday in April somewhere in Birmingham. The next visit would be for him to spend the weekend with us.
He does not yet know anyone has inquired about him and his social worker is going to meet him over the weekend to tell him about us and show him a scrapbook we made that shows us, our kitties and our home.
There is so much to think about. So much to plan. So much to do.
Please keep praying!
Thursday, March 20, 2014
For Mike, he just really needed to get a sense of if it was going to be days or weeks.
Well, basically, in order for a visit to occur, all the DHR people involved in the case need to meet and officially sign-off on whether or not we are a match. While we have been approved to be adoptive parents, we still needed to matched to the boy we asked about before we could schedule a visit and more.
That meeting occurs twice a month, in the first and third weeks. Based on where we are in the calendar and what was needed to have the meeting, it was not possible for it to happen the first week of April. So, it appeared our case would be "staffed" during the third week of April.
This is actually a good thing because, assuming we all like each other and we want him to join our family, we have to consider what to do about him finishing the school year where he lives now. This puts the whole thing so close to the end of the year that he would probably stay put until summer.
Yesterday (Wednesday) I got a call from our social worker and she told me that the county where he lives is not required to stick to that schedule and they would having the staffing meeting today (Thursday)!
What this means is that this afternoon we will know, for sure, whether or not we are officially considered a match and we can then set up our first visit.
What this also means is that, assuming we all like each other, it will be emotionally difficult to have this child that you desperately want at home with you unable to be there because of school. It is still MUCH more to his benefit to finish the year where he is.
We have talked as a family about how this process would occur and it would mean Friday trips to the county where he lives to pick him up and Sunday trips to take him back. But we covet whatever the Lord allows for us. Kerri mentioned this might also help him make the break with his foster family and friends before being uprooted yet again.
Please continue to pray for us.
We are a mixed-bag of emotions and we need peace and guidance on how to proceed in a manner that is best for EVERYONE. Sean says he is looking forward to it. Zach says "Sure, whatever." Kerri says "Wow!" and Mike says "How much is this gonna cost??" :o)
Our faith is in the Lord and we know He will provide for our every need.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
We submitted our home study to the state office in August 2013. At the same time, there was some turnover and turmoil and our file was lost. Our file was lost three times.
Finally, in January, it was assigned to a caseworker and we received our approval on February 24. It means that we are able to locate and adopt a child again.
Sometime during December or January, we both started looking at Heart Gallery just to look. Each month they feature a child and the child that month was an older boy, age 15. Kerri showed his profile to Mike and he dismissed it out of hand because we were looking for a little brother for Sean, not an older brother for Zach. This was a big, fundamental difference,
A few days later Mike took a look at the profile Kerri had shown him and it really connected. After a few days he told Kerri that he could just not get him off his mind and that, maybe, this is the child we are supposed to adopt, despite what common sense, in-depth planning and sage advice said to do. Maybe, just maybe, our God is bigger than all that and an older child is what God wants us to have.
So, before being approved, we notified our social worker that there was this child we were interested in looking at for a possible adoption. Until we were approved we were not allowed to know anything more in detail about him than what we saw on Heart Gallery.
After our approval, we received a case summary and it was rough, pretty much a worst case scenario. We spent time reading and discussing its contents and whether or not we could proceed. Mike kept asking how we could have gotten it so wrong, that everything in Mike said this was the child but everything they were reading about him said NO!
Kerri guessed right and it turns out, we were sent the wrong summary (Praise God!) and when we met with our social worker on March 4 we were given the correct summary.
When we read the correct case summary there was nothing that jumped out and said it couldn't work. We asked more than a few questions and asked that his case summary be updated with the answers.
While we have not yet received the updated case summary we have gotten the answers and it continues to look good. The next step is to set up a time to visit with him and see how Zach and Sean get along.
The big concern is that he was put into foster care and later successfully adopted and then that family broke apart and he was made to go back to foster care and look for another family. So, he not only lost his birth family but he also lost what was supposed to be his forever family. This is a situation that is NEVER supposed to happen but, in this case, did. He lost everything he had not just once, but twice.
Please pray with us for clarity and discernment. Neither of us feel there is anything we can't work with but we know, for a variety of reasons, it will not be an easy path we take. That said, our God is bigger than any of these problems and we fully rely on Him to guide us, and protect us, and provide for our every need.