Happy Fall Y’all

I can’t believe it’s Fall!  Well at least in this part of North Carolina, it may be “Fall” on the calendar but it’s really SUMMER outside!  Can I just be done with mowing the yard?

Amy and I were talking and we haven’t really provided a basic update on our family in some time so we wanted to do so since school started, we’ve had a court date for the girls, and things with children’s ministry at church are really churning along!!

We still don’t have it all together

Since our last post we are still evaluating if we have it all together in the parenting game.  Two weeks ago, I was home to pick up the kids from the bus stop at the end of the road.  Z was getting picked up by the Department of Social Services to go to a visit with her bio mom.  Therefore, Jojo and Madeline were the only ones that were “supposed” to come off the bus.  Only when the bus arrived, Jojo just came off!  I said “where’s Madeline?”  He said “I don’t know.” We walk back home and Amy is packing Zutaeya in the car with her snacks and the DSS worker when she asks where Madeline is.  I literally just laugh out loud shrug my shoulders and go to call the school.  It turns out her whole class missed their buses because of a scheduling mix up with her teacher.  It sure was hilarious though.  And another feather in the cap of we still don’t have it all together….and that’s ok!

Foster Care Update – the girls

The girls, Z (5 almost 6) and L (~2.5), have been in our home since late March!  Adventuring as a family of 5 has been an adventure.  We have hit some great milestones with Z THRIVING in school!  Her teacher has said that she is a JOY to be around and more than that her teacher said “my favorite part of the day is seeing Z and your other two kids run to each other when they are waiting to get on the bus.  They hug and then start telling each other about their days”  Z’s teacher told me that at lunch one Friday and I choked back some serious dad tears!

Another huge praise is at the time of placement in our home Z and Madeline had a power struggle.  Who is dominant female in the house?  As Z has become more comfortable and learning to play “girly” play (something she did not ever do before), she and Madeline have become very close!!  We PRAYED so much about wanting a sister for Madeline and He answered!!

L is a typical almost 3 year old. She is INSANELY cute, LOVES everyone but does stuff that a toddler does and it’s so FRUSTRATING.  Before entering into the house the girls weren’t familiar with meal times and / or healthy food options.  This was particularly true of L.  After a long 6 months, L now chooses to each certain veggies freely!  We are so blessed!!!

Foster Care Update – The Case

The Faith As a multi-racial family, we receive questions all the time.

  • Some are inappropriate – Are they yours?  Where did you get them from (like children are a commodity that I swung by Kids – R – Us and picked up before dinner)?
  • Some are hilarious – Are they twins? – said when looking at pointing at Jojo and Z who are both 5 years old but obviously look NOTHING alike
  • Some are legit – So you’re doing Foster Care to Adopt right?  – The answer to that is … it Depends

See when we entered into our licensing classes, it was our intention to only Foster-to-Adopt.  But as Amy and I sought wisdom from God and prayed, we realized He was saying “the plan is mine.  Faith in my plan must be yours.”  So we changed our minds.

  • Are we Fostering to Adopt?  – Yes
  • Are we just Fostering? – Yes

The real answer is we are obeying God. He told us “Trust me” and we are.  So we are Fostering Z and L.  If we are part of the story that ultimately ends with them reunifying with their bio family then Praise God.  And if we are part of the story that ends with them adopted in our home then Praise God.  He will guide and reveal His plan and we will say Yes to the opportunities He directs us to!

The Frustration – With that faith and the unknown of Foster Care, there is a fair bit of frustration at times.  We find ourselves frustrated with communication with the birth family.  We find ourselves frustrated with trying to identify and receive services necessary to meet the girls needs.  And most recently we found ourselves frustrated with the legal system and the court review process.

See the are certain periods of time that the case must be reviewed.  This is called a permanency planning or review hearing.  At this hearing, the court hears progress on the bio parents and their case plan.  The court also receives an update on the girls.  As foster parents, we are not given a voice in court but it’s a great place to learn about the case and the only place to get updates on the bio parents which in turn projects for us as foster parents HOW LONG the girls would be in our care.  Here’s what happened over the course of the past couple of months

  • August wk 1 – Case was scheduled for 2PM.  I arrived at court before 2PM.  The case was not heard and continued for 3 weeks later.  I left court after 4:30PM
  • Next Court Date – Case was schedule for 11AM.  I arrived around 10:30AM.  Case was NOT heard and continued AGAIN for 3 weeks.  I left court after 4:30PM. UGH!
  • Next Court Date (YESTERDAY) – Case was scheduled for 11AM.  I arrived around 10:30AM…just in case it was heard early.  Don’t worry it wasn’t!  The CASE was heard!!  Praise God!  I left court after 5:00pm!

And contrary to what you may think…it’s NOT like Law and Order.  It’s dry and quiet.  You really can’t even turn the page of a book without getting the stank eye from one of the baliffs!   Goodness.

Before this court date Amy and I were praying that the case would be heard and that we would have some idea into the future of when the next hearing would be.  Specifically we were praying that it would be AFTER the girls birthdays (December and January).  PRAISE GOD!  The Lord heard our prayer and the next hearing is in 6 months.

Does this give us any idea where we are going, reunification or adoption?  Nope.  But God’s plan was revealed for the next 6 months so we say Yes to Him and this opportunity and wait for the next revelation of His plan!  Thanks for being on this adventure together with us!

 

Praise Report

To be honest God has answered very specific prayers of ours over the last few days and we want to celebrate with you.

  • Amy – a potential mentor – Amy is enrolled in Bible Study Fellowship, a weekly Bible study meeting at a local church near our house.  Approximately 200 women attend each week and they are further divided in small groups.  After surveying the scene, Amy asked if we could jointly pray for an African-American older woman to reach out to her.  THE VERY NEXT WEEK, yesterday, GOD ANSWERED THAT SPECIFIC PRAYER!  The hit it off and are looking forward to connecting next week as well!!  PRAISE GOD
  • Court Case – Amy and I were praying since the last court continued date for court to be heard YESTERDAY and specifically for the next review to be AFTER the girls birthdays (Dec and Jan).  The girls have NEVER had a birthday and we wanted to make their day a BIG BIG DEAL!  And guess what GOD HEARD US!  AND ANSWERED! Next case review is in March!
  • Dates – Amy and I have been praying for some time to spend with just each other, weekly we were taxed at the end of the day and weren’t able to fully give ourselves over to each other.  We were getting lost in the phones and / or Netflix binge (currently Criminal Minds).  So we were praying for time during the week to have more time when we were fresh!  GOD ANSWERED.  Tuesday and Thursday the young ones are in preschool for a few hours so Amy and I have spent time working together on organizing Children’s Ministry stuff and this past Thursday we went to Chick-fil-A and visited with my grandparents!  GOD ANSWERED our PRAYER!!  Thank you for praying!

Prayer Requests

  • Homework – Homework with 3 kids (2 Kinders and 1 2nd grader) and 2 small ones around is NO JOKE!  Madeline’s homework is all in Spanish and now even I (Josh) don’t know some of the words (relying on Google Translate unfortunately).  Our SPECIFIC prayer request is an attitude shift of Jojo.  He is the type of dude who only likes what he likes to do (play, toys, food, and homework).  So he will breeze through some math but writing his name….UGH!  It took us 2 hours the other day and only 10 minutes of that was spent doing his homework, the rest was him pitching a fit.  Pray for patience and wisdom as we navigate helping him self adjust his attitude about homework.
  • Financial Support – Amy and I have been blessed and y’all have partnered with us for approximately $1000 per month!  Thank you!  We still need to raise an $500 / month in support to meet our overall goal of $1500 / month in support.  That’s only 50 additional families giving at $10 / month.  If God is moving in your heart to partner with us financially in ministry, please reach out to myself or Amy.  We would love to sit down grab coffee, talk on the phone, etc and share how you can be a part of what God is doing in our lives and in Winston!
  • Baptism – Our church is having a BONKERS BAPTISM PARTY the first weekend in November!  Its going to be full of food trucks, bounce houses, and of course LIFE CHANGE.  I’ve had some great conversations with people about their spiritual next steps.  Please be in prayer for myself and Amy as we talk to those in our lives about the GOOD NEWS and are BOLD in asking people to take the next step and GO PUBLIC with their faith!  We can’t wait to share with you how God uses your prayers!

Friends, God’s up to some cool stuff in our family, in our ministry and in the lives of everyone!  Thank you for praying.  Thank you for partnering and Thank you for being on this adventure together.  It’s a blessing to know and love and partner with you all!

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It’s always fun with Madeline and her friends!

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I’ve been eating lunch with Madeline each Friday since she was in Kindergarten.  Jojo was so excited for his very first Friday lunch date!

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My beautiful date at Chick-fil-A.  Thankful for gift cards!

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Madeline danced at the Spanish Fiesta this weekend.  It was of course a Colombian dance.  God has impressed that country on her little heart!

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Pull yourself together man!

A common conversation in our house begins with “What did you do with….” or “Where was the last place you saw….” or “Please stop…..”.  It’s the nature of the season of life we are in and I know the days are long but the years are short….

Can someone just Amen the fact that where we are at right now in this very season sometimes the days seem really really long!

And there are many days and times that I am literally telling myself to pull myself together, get a handle on these kids, this family, this life and move forward.  I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day and as he and his wife were lamenting about their crazy toddler this what I said:

“Sometimes I feel like parenting is taking a test that we don’t get the grade back until 25 years later.  And there are seasons that 95% of the time we feel like we flunked it.  No clue.  Guessed wrong.  Used the wrong formula, etc.  But then there are those times that make up the other 5% and we feel like we CRUSHED this test!  Had time to double check our answers.  Etc”

I get it.  I am in one of the 95% seasons or have been for a couple of weeks.  It’s just been a time where we look at ourselves and realize that without Jesus we don’t have it all together….like not at all.  And folks, we were missionaries….in another country, and now I am pastor!  I am supposed to have it all together!  But read below because these stories definitely illustrate that we don’t have it all together.

Story 1 – 5 kids at the beach

Amy and I were blessed with the opportunity to take our whole family to the beach.  It was a welcomed vacation from appointments and a hard push to get some children’s ministry things tied together.  Was it restful?  Well yes in one sense and no in another….we had 5 kids at the beach!

One day we were all in the Ocean about the middle of the week.  Amy was with L in the surf and I was sending all the kids on their Boogie Boards out a little bit further.  The waves were good…not too small but not too big either.  And for about an hour all was right with the world.  I would tow a kid out turn them around and send them flying back to Amy and L in the surf.

Every so often I would turn and look and get a count of all the kids.  1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Got it.  Some time passed and I was loving it.  Z, Madeline, Jojo, Elijah, Z, Madeline, Jojo, Elijah…. then Z, Madeline, Jojo, Z, Madeline Jojo….

UH-OH.  My rotation of 4 kids to Boogie Board was down to 3.  I looked over to Amy and L. NO Elijah there (insert mild panic and lump in my throat).  I quickly sent the kids on their last Boogie Board ride and started to make my way to shore.  I glanced up at the house and our tent….no Elijah there.  (Heartbeat quickened).  I start to talk to Amy about “have you seen Elijah”  Wasn’t he with you?  I thought he was with you?!

Eventually we look down the beach about 200 yards Elijah is out with a large family just Boogie Boarding with them, happy as he can be.  When we got him, they said “we saw him float down this way and he let us know where y’all were.  He was having fun and we were watching him.”  Ha!

Panic ended.  Hugs, kisses and some clearer instruction later, our beach vacay continued without a hitch.  But no we don’t have it all together!

Elementary School Open House

Elementary Open House was a HUGE deal to me growing up!  That’s when I got to see who my teacher was, go to my room, get the supply list and see who was in my class.  This year Amy and I had to go to 3 classrooms as Madeline enters 2nd grade and Jojo and Z enter Kindergarten.  So we were STOKED and the kids were too.

The day came and we loaded up all 5 kids (reminder: ages 7, 5, 5, 4. and 2) and went around the corner to meet the teachers.  The school has grown in attendance year over year so the hallways wouldn’t allow for hand locking, with our family size we take up the whole hallway.  Also our choo-choo train single file conga line didn’t work either.  We started to snake our way through the halls.

First classroom stop – Jojo – Success.  Things went really well.  Everyone played together and despite forgetting both phones in the car Amy and I were able to fill out appropriate paperwork for the teacher with the correct emergency contact numbers.

Next classroom – Z – Success.  Z was able to interact with the teacher and some students.  Remaining 4 kids caused little damage in that classroom.  And paperwork was more or less filled out.  Patience with everyone seems to be holding.

Third (and final) classroom – Madeline – Not success.  This is a 2nd grade classroom so there aren’t as many toys to entertain L or Elijah.  Elijah has to pee.  I let a frazzled Amy (already tired of doing paperwork) know I was taking him to the bathroom.  He successfully uses the bathroom and we are even able to stop and see one of his friends.  I said Elijah follow me back to Madeline’s classroom.  I turn into the classroom and see L eating Madeline’s teacher’s pencil.  I finger-sweep that out of her mouth and sit her down in a chair, asking her not to get up or touch anything.

Noticed above I said “I turn into the classroom.”  Elijah didn’t make that turn, only I didn’t know it.  I said Amy where is Elijah and it’s a repeat of the beach scene all over again.  I look briefly around the classroom (heart begins to race).  I pop my head out of the classroom and through the sea of students and parents I see one little boy with his head on a swivel with a teacher, tears streaming down his face.  Poor Elijah that’s twice in two weeks buddy.  He cinched his hand into mine and does not let go.

I pop my head back into the classroom, letting Amy know that Elijah was found and trying to answer the 100000 requests coming from all children who are not Elijah.  Nerves are shot and patience has left.  Out of the corner of my ear I hear snickering from an adult, and someone touches me on the shoulder.  “Is she yours?” she asks.  I look over and there is L in the seat I placed her in after eating the pencil only she is not wearing any bottoms, bare bottom for the classroom to see.  HORRIFIED.  She literally just took her pants off so someone would notice.  Panicked I looked around for the potential evidence of going to bathroom…fortunately nothing.  I immediately scoop her up and put on her pants and underwear in one simultaneous moment all while holding Elijah’s hand.  I sit her down on the floor at my feet.  Amy finishes up the paperwork, all of us bury our heads and we are outta there!

Pull yourself together man!  You are a PASTOR!  But we leave hanging out heads about the test.  The parenting test.  It’s obvious this day we aren’t doing so hot.  It was a moment that reflects what we feel is 95% of the time!

We share it with you all because it’s real life.  Our life is crazy, chaotic, and exciting and beautiful.  It is moments of frustration, moments of hilarious laughter, and moments of sweet cuddles.  It’s moments when Amy and I feel that we aren’t good enough or even good at all and moments we feel like we are doing a great job at this parenting thing.  And yes the days are long (and some days are longer than others) and the years really are short.

We also share our craziness because the ONLY way we get through any moment of any day is through the grace, mercy, patience and love of Jesus.  That’s what anchors our days and allows us CONFIDENCE to know that we will do our best but Jesus changes / shapes and molds hearts.  The reality is that ONLY Jesus can change the hearts of Madeline, Jojo, Z, Elijah, and L and we continue to rely on Him and His strength even when, especially when, we are pulling our hair out (what’s left of it for me) and screaming at ourselves to Pull it together man!

Our prayer for each of you is that in the moments that you don’t have it all together for you to acknowledge it and then lean into the comfort and confidence of Jesus.  Our prayer is that in everything we realize that we don’t have to have it all together but rather we have Faith in the One who does have it all together and works all things out to draw us closer to Him.  (even moments of 2 year olds eating teacher’s pencils).

Elijah last 1st day of preschool 😦

Boogie Boarding adventures at the beach!

Madeline being Madeline