Happy 2 Years to One Awesome Baby Boy!

Happy Birthday sweet baby boy! It seems like we just got finished celebrating your 1st birthday. You were brand new to us this time last year. We were all just getting to know each other.

Since you have began to heal and move past all of the trauma you have been through in the past, your smile and laughter have came out in a huge way. Jayla will never let us forget that she was the first one to make you laugh. It took quite awhile for your thick skin to soften because you were scared for so long. You have been through way too much in your short little life. Oh how it hurts to even think about how difficult the healing process has been for you these past 13 months.

Through it all, God has been good. He has helped us overcome so much. And, we are trusting Him to help us get through so much more. We know that God is the same God in the valley as He is on the mountaintop. Right now, you are in a valley that you aren’t even aware of yet. But, we are. We are all very aware.

We know that God will see us through. He has big plans for you. We just know it! We have trusted and stood on His promises since the beginning, and we will not stop now. When we don’t understand, He does. He sees everything we don’t. And, He can make a way even when we can’t see one.

I hope you loved your Curious George party. We all had a wonderful time celebrating you at your party – celebrating everything that you have overcome.

Stay strong in the days to come sweet boy! God will not leave any of us during the days ahead. He will fight this huge battle.

We are here for you. We always will be no matter what the days ahead may bring forth. We are praying for God’s perfect will. He will work all things out for His good and His glory. Don’t you worry about a thing baby boy. We love you big – now and forever.

Isaiah 43:19 – Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

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Happy 9th Birthday to a Unicorn Loving Girl!

Dear Sweet Girl,

Thank you so much for celebrating your 9th Birthday with us this year! We had so much fun celebrating as we were surrounded by unicorns. Your love for unicorns is one thing that you have made clear to all of us. It is definitely no secret.

I hope you loved all of your unicorn gifts! We had a blast picking all of them out. Shopping for you is always such a blessing. Your sisters got excited each time they found just the right gift for you.

James was super happy when he found a purple unicorn cupcake for your party. It tickled this mama when you asked to save it for school the next day because you were too stuffed after eating a huge plate of lasagna that Jaden made just for you. You have made it very clear to us that lasagna is the best food ever invented!

We love you more than you could ever imagine precious girl! You are going to go far in this life. I just know it!! We are trusting God to write your story.

Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 9

What is your favorite food? Lasagna

What do you hope you never have to eat again? Mayonnaise

What is your favorite thing to do? Play with Jaden

What is your favorite animal? Bunny

What makes you happy? Staying with you guys

What is the best memory from when you were 8? Going to Just Jump with Jaden

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 9? Go in a cave

What would you like to be when you grow up? A gymnastics coach

What is your favorite song? You Say

Where is your favorite place to eat? Olive Garden

What is your favorite book? Wonder

Where would you like to go on vacation? New York

What would you like the world to know? I want to be a Bradley.

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Happy 5th Birthday to a Special Girl

Dear Special One,

I am very sorry your birthday letter is so late. Having a birthday on one of the biggest holidays of the year presents its challenges – that’s for sure! I think it took all of us 2 months to recuperate from all of the holiday festivities.

But, you, dear one, deserve to be celebrated. You mean so much to all of us, and we are so grateful that the Lord allowed our paths to cross just 3 short years ago. You have been such a blessing to us these past 9 months. It has been amazing to be able to watch you learn, change, and grow. You are truly an answer to 3 years of prayers. Hopefully you will understand all of it one day.

You remind us so much of your little brother. Thank you for sharing him with us. Your laughs and smiles are identical. We are so happy that you are able to smile and laugh with him each day now. We are trusting God that you two will never have to be apart again.

Stay strong, sweet girl. You have so much life to live. I am thankful the Lord has given you a chance to shine! 💓

Ephesians 3:20 – Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us

Romans 15:13 – Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

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Firmly Placed

There are so many words that I want to type right now. There are so many different posts that I want to share. For example, I really need to write a Happy Birthday post for a sweet girl who turned 5 on Christmas day. But, there is also a post that I want to write with words smeared as hard as possible across the page. A post about the frustrations that we are all feeling due to this awful broken system. A system that I have mentioned over and over again these past three years.

But, I can’t. I can’t smear those words just yet. I’d like to type them all out in bright bold letters. However, that would require me to rip off the thick piece of duct tape plastered to my mouth. It has been placed there for the past three years due to the fact that foster parents have to sign on a dotted line printed on a piece of paper that states that our voices are stolen from us the moment we accept hurting, neglected, abused children into our homes.

I know how much it would hurt to rip that tape from my mouth. I can feel the pain just thinking about it. I know, out of anger, I will say all of the wrong things if it is removed too quickly. So, I will stay silent for awhile longer. How much longer? Only time will tell.

So much is at stake to have such a thick gag order in place, but it is reality. It is not only a reality for us but also for the innocent children who are trapped in a system that is spiraling out of control a little more each day. Their voices are silenced just as much as ours.

So why? Why do we continue to be entangled in a system that pulls us in every direction?

I will tell you why. We do it for the children. We don’t do it for the judges, the lawyers, the supervisors, or the social workers. We do it for the orphans. We do it because God has asked us to.

We do it because it has taught our biological children what life is truly about.

It has taught them how to hold hands and pray.

It has taught them how to get along with others despite their shortcomings. It has taught them compassion in the deepest ways. Compassion that tells them to cry with their sister because the fears of court are weighing heavy on all of them.

It has taught them that LOVE means everything.

But, most importantly, it has taught them to fully rely on God no matter what uncertainties may arise.

The past three years have been TOUGH, but they have seen miracles only God could work out for His good and His glory. They have learned to have faith and to believe in hope like they never have before (so have their mom and dad!)

So dear readers, that’s why we keep the duct tape firmly placed over our mouths while we continue to love on all of these children of ours. Yes, our days aren’t easy. Things often seem out of control more times than not, and hateful words and actions can spew out at times mostly due to a crooked, broken system. But, God is love. And, He continues to teach ALL of us so much as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. His rod and His staff, they comfort us!

Ephesians 3:20 – Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us

Romans 15:13 – Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

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An Open Letter to my Dad

Dear Dad,

I miss you. I miss you more than you know. My heart breaks for you. I can’t stand to see you in the condition you are in.

I love you, Dad. But, I can’t stand the denial you live in. I can’t stand the alcohol and other things keeping you from us. I’ve watched you suffer my whole life. I just want you to be set free.

Why not, Dad? Why wouldn’t you want to live a life where you don’t drown yourself in alcoholism and other strongholds? I just don’t understand. I don’t understand why you have chosen those things over your daughters and your grandchildren.

I don’t understand what we have done that is so wrong. Why do you choose your drinking buddies over us? Why does it seem like you hate us so badly? Why Dad? Have I said all of the wrong things? I’ve tried to keep my words intact as much as possible. It’s been so hard, Dad. It really has. I’ve wanted to say so much more. But, I love you too much to say all that I am thinking. The hurt inside makes me want to let it all out. And, I do when I’m alone and you aren’t in front of me. I say a lot more when you aren’t around.

You aren’t around much anymore. You haven’t been for years. I am so grateful that I get to see you two or three times a year. I wish you were here more often. You only live a few streets over.

So much has happened over the past 20 years. You keep saying you don’t have a problem, and it’s not that bad. But, actions speak louder than words. Like I told you recently, we really did miss you at Christmas this year. We always look forward to seeing you on Christmas. It’s one of our favorite times of the year because we know you always show up on Christmas.

But, let’s talk about the things you have missed besides this Christmas. Did you know that I have been in the hospital close to 10 weeks over the past 9 years? I waited for you to come and see me every single time. But, you never came. I waited for you to rub my swollen feet and tell me that everything was going to be okay, and that I was going to make it through. But, you never showed up, Dad. Some of those times, it wasn’t just me fighting for my life, but also your grandchildren. But, they are all okay now. And, I am going to be, too. The doctor has found medications that really help control this horrible disease that I live with and was most likely born with.

I wish I could talk to you about how badly I have felt over the past two years because this disease I have can take the life out of you. But, I am doing so much better now except in stressful situations. Like the one my kids and I encountered the other night when you wrecked, Dad.

We saw it all. I saw you lying on the pavement as you were pinned under your jeep. Dad, I was so scared. I was so scared that your addictions had finally taken you away from us. It was only by God’s grace that we pulled up behind your wreck. We were just on our way home, and we saw the most terrifying sight ever. I thought for sure you were going to be dead. But, Praise the Lord you weren’t. I am so thankful that I didn’t have to plan your funeral this weekend. I am so thankful I didn’t have to plan my husband’s or my children’s. If the timing had been off just a little, we might have had to swerve to miss you, Dad. I am glad you didn’t hurt anyone else’s family, too. But, I haven’t given up hope. I won’t ever. I love you too much.

But, what I witnessed next broke my heart worse than seeing your face lying on that pavement. I saw you handcuffed and carried off to jail. I knew it would happen one day, but I didn’t ever want it to. I wanted to see you better before now, Dad.

You have taught me so much in life. You have taught me some great life lessons.

Lesson 1. To hate alcohol and drugs with everything inside of me
Lesson 2. To work hard for everything I have, but use the money I make to help others in a positive manner and not throw it down the drain by buying the world’s drink
Lesson 3: To love other’s unconditionally no matter how they treat me or act towards me because God loves me despite MY OWN weaknesses and sinful habits and so do so many other people
Lesson 4: To never give up hope on those who are addicted because the Lord has worked a miracle in my life, and He can in yours, too, if you let him
Lesson 5: To allow my children to walk through hard times and not hide things from them because those times make them stronger, make them love and pray harder, and will hopefully make them walk away from temptations that will destroy their lives and their families’ lives (I pray if anyone ever offers my children a drop of alcohol or drugs, they will always see your vehicle on its side and see you being taken to jail.)

They hurt, too. You know? Jacob has prayed for you almost as long as he has been alive. He has been praying for you since he could first speak your name. He prayed the Lord would wake you up the day before you wrecked. Did it, Dad? Did that wreck do anything for you?

From what you told me on the way home from jail, it hasn’t helped you yet. It didn’t help you want to be different, Dad. All I’ve heard are excuses. It’s easy to blame others for our actions. I have done it in the past, too. But, it doesn’t do any of us a bit of good, Dad. The excuses don’t make me feel any better. I’ve heard you blame others and use excuses since I was just a small kid, Daddy. I don’t want to hear them anymore. I really don’t. It hurts too much. You always leave me asking myself why.

Why? Why can’t you just say you are wrong? Why can’t you just say you are sorry? Why couldn’t you say thank you when I stayed to help you at your accident? Do you even remember that I was there? Do you even remember that I care about you, and I love you? Do you?

Because I do. I love you so much. You have always told me that you aren’t going to change for anyone. But, do you know what? I don’t want you to change for me or my kids. I want you to change for you! I want you to change for the Lord! I want you to stop killing yourself every single day! We all do.

Jayla, my 6 year old daughter, she just had this conversation with me today:

He’s been drinking beer and not eating. That’s what’s wrong, Mommy. He needs to eat and not drink that beer, Mommy. The Lord tries to talk to him, Mommy, but he says no, Mommy. It makes the Lord sad, Mommy. Has he really been saved, Mommy? Is he going to Heaven, Mommy? If he’s really been saved then it never breaks, Mommy! Even if he does bad stuff, he will still go to Heaven if he is saved. You know that, Mommy!

Please, Dad. Are you saved? Are you on your way to Heaven? Only you know the answer. But, we are begging you to please stop! Please stop breaking our hearts. Please stop before it is eternally too late. If we can’t spend our lives with you here, we at least want to spend eternity with you in Heaven.

I love you, Dad. We all do and no matter what, we always will. And, we will never give up on you. We will never give up hope. We are here for you. We will never stop praying. There is no way that I could ever count the number of days that I have prayed for you.

Love Always,
Your Second Daughter

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The Reality of Foster Care

Disclaimer before you read:

I have wore many hats during my adult life. I began college in 1998. While attending college and after graduating, I was a teacher in daycares, public schools, a private school, and in many different church programs including an addiction program. After teaching for 6 years, I became a developmental specialist through an early intervention program. In recent years, I have taken hours of foster care training. I am now a foster parent and have been for nearly 3 years. I know a lot of foster parents. I am an adoptive mom and also know a lot of adoptive mothers. I was a NICU mom with two babies born two years apart who were in the NICU due to complications out of my control. Each night, I would listen to the babies in the rooms next to mine scream from withdrawals. It sounded like the worst horror movie that you could ever listen to. The examples listed below are from real life experiences, but I will never disclose which experiences they came from. There are many more horrific stories that are too graphic to share. But, I want nothing more than to protect all of the children I have met in every situation that I have been in. Thanks for understanding!

⭐Foster care is unfortunately needed in this country. It is unfortunate that children are removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect in order to save their lives. The tragedies that these children suffer from are unfortunate.

It is unfortunate that a child, as she peeped through the crack in the bathroom door, witnessed her parents snort white powder up their noses. It is unfortunate that a child hid as his father abused his mother many times because he was so messed up on drugs and was angry. It is unfortunate that a child witnessed her father choke her mother and then watched as he pushed her down a flight of stairs.

It is unfortunate that a child watched her mother shoot “something” in her father with a needle and then saw her father shoot “the same something” in her mother with the same needle while she was pregnant. It is unfortunate that the child watched as those same parents flopped around and acted all crazy after they were finished using those needles. It is unfortunate that the child continues to worry as her mother suffers from hepatitis because of those needles. It is tragic that the same child watched as her mother nearly died from drug overdoses and had to be brought back to life as another needle was being stabbed into her body.

It is unfortunate that any child stood by as her father took soap and a t-shirt from the store for her mommy. It is unfortunate that the same child steals because that’s all she has ever known.

It is unfortunate that a child continues to fight fear at night because he was allowed to watch horror movies at a very young age. It is unfortunate that a fort is built for protection because he sees people from the movies as he attempts to fall to sleep. It is unfortunate that the same child is on powerful prescription medications just to numb the psychological behaviors that were bred from the abuse and neglect he endured in his biological home. It is unfortunate that no foster home is educated enough to help him so he doesn’t live with a family.

It is unfortunate that a 6 year old asks to sleep with a curtain locked around her bed because she sees and hears the evil people from the movies she watched with her parents. And, those same people say mean things to her when she’s really quiet. And, when she closes her eyes, all she sees is a dead naked woman lying in the bathtub with blood all over her body.

It is unfortunate that any child was kept up all night for 7 years of her life because her parents were intoxicated to the point of screaming and yelling at each other all night long while having fist fights with the neighbors. It is unfortunate that the same child wonders what happened to the baby she felt moving in her mommy’s stomach.

It is unfortunate that nothing happened when a child flipped on the light switch because the bills hadn’t been paid due to every last dollar going to support her parents’ habits.

It is unfortunate that a child didn’t know when his next meal was coming, so food hoarding is an issue in his life so much so that he eats until he vomits.

It is unfortunate that any child’s dad rinsed the lice out of her hair, but she didn’t bathe any other time.

It is unfortunate that a child through tear filled eyes watched her mommy get arrested and wasn’t able to give her a hug because she had on handcuffs. And, the child stood frozen from confusion.

It is unfortunate that a child had to walk everywhere she went sometimes even barefoot in the freezing rain because her parents have their licenses suspended.

It is unfortunate that a child suffers from reactive attachment disorder and what seems like oppositional defiant disorder because the only human contact that she has ever felt has been hurtful. It is unfortunate that PTSD is even a medical diagnosis for a child.

It is unfortunate that a child self soothes in very inappropriate ways just to cope from all the abuse and neglect he has endured in his short little life.

It is unfortunate that any child sees monsters all around her because her parents called the dead into her home and told her they were hovering over her body.

It is a shame that every single day babies withdrawl from multiple types of drugs and alcohol and suffer from lifelong effects because their moms are addicts.

It’s a tragedy that one mom was not only addicted during her 5th pregnancy but most likely her 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th pregnancies. It is unfortunate that the 5th baby had withdrawls for four long months after his birth and nearly died because of it. It is unfortunate at 3 years old his adoptive parents struggle to keep him healthy because he nearly chokes every day as he violently coughs.

Yes! All of these situations are unfortunate. But, the graveness doesn’t stop at the abuse and neglect. It continues as the child is thrown into an unfortunate system. A system that expects foster parents and the children to act like nothing ever happened to them. It is unfortunate that foster parents are expected to hide their feelings and not let any of the above mentioned things bother them. It is unfortunate that foster parents don’t have a voice. It is unfortunate that most always the children are silenced.

It is unfortunate that the kids are silenced so much that they get moved 4 times before ending up where they should have been in the first place because the system hid things about their past. It is unfortunate that those in charge don’t always admit how the system’s standards damages these children even more, or maybe they do. Maybe just maybe the ones who have to work in the system can’t do a thing about it. Maybe a broken system has made them silent and numb and construed their views to believe something that’s not true. This system will chew you up, swallow you, and vomit you back up again all the while expecting you to put your game face on. Maybe that’s why so many foster parents and social workers quit.

But, there is hope. God is bigger than any broken system.

These children should not live in fear of being put out on the streets because we lack foster homes in America. There aren’t enough people stepping up to help these hurting children who have been tainted by the ones who were supposed to love and protect them the most. There are siblings separated because foster homes are so full they can only take one or two more kids at a time.

Don’t get me wrong, as foster parents, we want to throw in the towel many times – sometimes daily. We long for a normal, stress free life, and so do the kids! It is a challege listening to the awful, unfortunate abuse and neglect these children have been through. It’s just as difficult to watch their biological parents make poor choices day after day. God doesn’t want a family divided. That’s not His initial plan, but sometimes He has to step in when life threatening choices from first families are made. Yes, it’s tragic but also a reality.

A reality that hurts the children the most. And then, it’s a punch in the gut when court dates roll around and everyone is so eager for something good to happen for these innocent kids only to hear so many lies being spoken to down play the abuse and neglect handed to them. These children are handled like a number in our courts. Changes need to be made! Some how… some way…

Hearing all of the unfortunate issues of abuse and neglect and a broken system might just make you think that foster care couldn’t ever be for you. But, have you asked God? Is God calling you to step up and help? Christians, God calls born again believers to help the orphan. Don’t be afraid to do what these children need. I understand how frightening it is! I live it every single second of every single day.

Will every child who enters your home be the right fit? No! Will some of them have to move? Yes! Will you carry that guilt with you every day? Trust me, you will question your decision. But, God removes that guilt. His all knowing power gets foster parents walking with Him through the trauma that is brought into their homes. Being a foster parent will bring anxiety, hurt, trauma, and guilt. You will feel like you’ve messed up time and time again because trauma breeds trauma.

This foster parenting stuff is one of the most difficult things that hopefully you and I will ever do! Parenting kids who have been traumatized their whole lives is not an easy task! But the ONE who has called you to the journey will hold your hand every step of the way. He is ABLE and the kids that enter your home are so worth it.

So, don’t worry about making mistakes and failing miserably because you will. The enemy will always whisper that you aren’t good enough and that you are not cut out for the job of helping kids from hard places, but God’s bigger voice says to dust yourself off and walk in His ways. These children need you!

Their parents also need our love and prayers. Sometimes that’s all we can offer them, but prayer is enough. Prayer is powerful. God wants them to walk in His obedience. We have to show them Christ’s love. He died for them as well as for you and me. He is a chain breaker!

Not every family will be reunited. Not every family can be due to the severity of the situation. He places orphans in families. Families He has chosen. But, God can heal broken families in His timing!

God will protect you and His children. His ways, even if we don’t always understand them, are perfect. Even if we think a decision made from a broken system is not the right one, God knows why. We have to leave all of those details in His hands. He fights the battles of His children! While we wait for much needed changes in our foster care system, we just have to trust Him!

So, if you feel led, take the next step! If God has asked you to, just do it! Sign up to be a foster parent. Take the classes. Don’t wait. There’s too much at stake. Even if you are afraid, these children need you, but most importantly, they need Christ. They are our future.

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Happy Birthday to A Precious 7 Year Old Girl!

Dear Sweet Girl,

You are already seven! I can’t believe time has went by so quickly. You had just turned 4 when we first met almost three years ago! You stole our hearts from that first day.

Your mischievous little grin won us over immediately. You had a sparkle in your eyes and were so full of life. We would have brought you home with us that very minute if God had asked us to.

But, He asked us to wait. As you know, a lot of things had to fall in place before you joined our family this past June. Many prayers were spoken during the wait. Prayers for your safety and for God’s perfect plan. We never gave up hope. We knew He would do what was best for you and for us in His perfect timing.

We might not understand why you endured the things you did your first 6 years. However, God knows why. He has a great purpose for your life. We just have to trust that His plans and timing are perfect. Waiting for you made our reunion so much sweeter. He’s still working out all of the final details. And, we know He is able! He has done so much already.

Thanks for celebrating your birthday with us yesterday! We had a great day celebrating. It all started with red velvet cinnamon buns from some sweet friends. They were so good, and you loved them!

You picked the perfect place for your party later in the afternoon! You waited all day long for pancakes and sausage. You can’t ever go wrong at Cracker Barrel!

Your eyes lit up when it came time to open your presents. I hope you liked your Little Mermaid gifts. You told me that she is your favorite. Maybe we can go and meet her one day in person. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful adventure?

I know the Lord has so many adventures waiting for us to explore. I can’t wait to see what all He has in store. We are so excited for what your future holds. Stay strong in the Lord and trust Him! He will show you so many great and mighty things. We love you so much baby girl!

Romans 15:13 – Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

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