trust and the new year

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

This year may not have been the worst year on record, but heartbreaks, failures, disappointments, and even a gazillion good sort of things left my heart in a million little pieces. Tonight, I’d kind of hoped for Easy A and champagne sipping with my husband, but instead the bubbly sits lonely on my desk while I surf Netflix for something to watch. While I’m thankful for the quiet, I’m left alone with my thoughts and dreams, wishing I had not chosen to wear non-waterproof mascara today.

I hoped that we’d end this year more fiscally ahead, on our way to a slightly larger home that fits our foster-care dreams, with excitement over the future. Instead, we’re ending this year with a job change – and while it happens to be what we’re called to do, it is absolutely what we don’t want to do – along with some financial consequences, and I’m facing fears deep from my soul that I never expected to surface again.

I thought that we’d end this year as a complete and legal family of 7, but instead I sat in my bed last night listening to a baby who’s still not quite mine sleeping in the next room and a newer, more fragile family member giggling (boys are the worst when it comes to giggling) and exchanging ‘that’s right, brothuh!’s with my teenager downstairs over a video game. Building this new relationship has been the most beautiful kind of agony for our whole family. It’s been an awful long time since I’ve been on my knees with such desperation than the way I’ve been for this new partial-addition.

I thought that I’d end this year in a more peaceful, more surrendered position. In spite of all my protestations to the opposite, I find myself still trying to clench my fists tight around the things I want and hope and pray for, the things I’m just not quite willing to let go, the things that I’m trying to fill myself up with that just won’t satisfy. I tell myself yet again to let go. Open hands, Suzanne, open hands. Because surely if I say it enough times, then I’ll follow through, right?

DeathtoStock_Creative Community1Trust. That’s my word for 2015. I know it as sure as I know my own name. Honestly though, I feel a little weird picking it. To everyone else, I doubt my life looks like it’s in that much upheaval. We’ve been through far harder and far worse things, at least at first glance. These are the tricky bits: sometimes it’s the smallest of things that bring the world hurtling down around you. Sometimes it’s the most benign changes that reveal how controlling you really are. Sometimes it’s the beautiful things that bring the most pain.

Trust.

I lay my heart out before the God of mercy. I open my hands before the Father of Lights. I surrender to the One who calls me out into the deep, even when it’s the smallest of steps that makes me falter. He who has promised is faithful. I say it with my mouth; I believe it in my head. I want to think that I know it in my heart, but my actions would suggest otherwise. This year? I want to live like it’s true.

[image: death to the stock photo]

foster care to adoption

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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We are at the end stages of our foster care journey with Sweet M. The inefficiency of the child welfare system will never cease to amaze me. For this case, the most clear-cut case they could ever hope or ask for, it will still be 18 months from placement to permanency. That is too long. They’ve had permanent custody of Sweet M since July. There is no reason that adoption shouldn’t have occurred early this fall. Except. Inefficiency.

In our county, after permanent custody has been awarded to the state, the case is supposed to move from the foster care unit to the adoption unit. This necessitates a change in workers. They have 30 days from permanent custody to have the initial matching meeting. A matching meeting involves the adoption caseworker, along with a supervisor, and perhaps a committee of sorts. I’m not exactly sure of all the players since potential parents are never invited to these meetings. At that meeting, if there are multiple applicants to adopt a particular child, they will sift and choose the best candidates. They may not choose a final candidate at that first meeting. However, in Sweet M’s case, there were no other applicants. Just us. They didn’t advertise her (as is supposedly legally required) because there is no reason. No other family would beat us in a matching meeting because we are already her family and there are no other extenuating circumstances (siblings, etc.) that would jeopardize that, if that makes sense.

We were matched within 30 days. We met the adoption worker not long after that. She didn’t officially even have the case, but she started to take over monthly home visits and such. She didn’t have the case file yet, but she began to fill out all the reports she was required to complete. One of those was a large family assessment, since we have more than four kids. She came to interview all of the children separately to find out how they felt about our family, about Sweet M, about the adoption, etc. Apparently your children’s feelings and thoughts don’t matter unless they have at least three siblings. I’m, frankly, super confused by this requirement.

Fast forward months. She still didn’t have the whole case file. When a child moves toward adoption, the workers have to file with every single place she has ever been or received care. Every hospital, every doctor’s office, every therapist’s office, etc. This takes some time to gather. In our county, they will also make copies of the original birth certificate and social security card for our records. Once adoption occurs, the child is issued an amended birth certificate. Or as I like to call it, the paper of lies. This birth certificate lists the adoptive parents as the birth parents. The location is where the adoption takes place. The birth date, however, is still the same. So the farce is that we were, according to this piece of paper, there for the birth of our child. False. Also? We’re not the birth parents. In some states, if you have been adopted, you do not have the right to have a copy of your original birth certificate. In some states, you aren’t even allowed to get it as an adult. I have so many feelings about this state of affairs, and they are too numerous for this post. Suffice it to say, I am not a fan of this system, and I am eternally grateful that our county takes the time to make sure that the kids who leave their care have access to their original documents.

Once the case worker got the full case file, we had to take Sweet M for a psychological evaluation. Basically an attachment assessment at this age. Guess what? She’s securely attached to me. Surprise.

After that report made its way to the caseworker’s desk, she dropped off the whole file to us, and the next day we went in to sign the adoptive placement papers. This makes it all very official and yet still not official. It’s essentially the go-ahead to file in court for the adoption finalization. We have to sign a gazillion papers that say we’ve received all the information about Sweet M, that we know her special needs, that we’ve agreed on an adoption subsidy, that she will receive Ohio Medicaid until 18, etc. It takes awhile to make it through all the paperwork.

After we left the agency, we went straight to the attorney’s office for him to work on his part. Signed more papers there, made sure everything was correct for the amended birth certificate, and then we went back to our car with full hope that things would move along quickly.

It’s been two weeks now, and we still have no court date. All we’ve received is confirmation that in spite of all assurances to the contrary, the final report is still not done and still not filed with the court. There’s been quite a number of heavy sighs and more than a few angry tears in the past week or so at this house. It’s just so frustrating to count up the months and realize that by that time we finalize Sweet M’s adoption, she will have been with us 18 months. 18 months for the easiest case the agency could’ve asked for. 18 months of them knowing this was going to be the outcome, yet 18 months of them not preparing for it. Sometimes the system just astounds me. I’m not surprised by inefficiency in government usually, but then sometimes I am just taken aback by how truly terrible it is. It doesn’t truly matter since Sweet M’s placement was never at risk, and she’s been safe and secure with us the whole time. She certainly doesn’t know any of this has occurred. Still. If I were in charge……

So here we are. Still waiting. Yet still convinced this thing we’re doing is worth doing no matter the headache, frustration, and cost. It’s worth it all. She is worth it all.

photo credit: Julia Manzerova via photopin cc

endless hope, relentless joy

Saturday, December 6, 2014

November ended and December began with a hard clap of strife and stress for us here. Busyness and necessary truths collided with a force that I didn’t exactly anticipate. Foster care craziness, adoption delays, job changes, financial difficulties, and the endless amount of time I’ve been spending in my car hauling children from activity to activity has worn me thin.

The thin places are where God is meeting me these days. Not always in the way I want him to, but He’s there nevertheless. He’s having me deal with some hard stuff – fears I wasn’t completely in touch with, sins that I haven’t been completely willing to let go, health that is never completely up to my standards of excellence, a world that seems to have gone mad with oppression and greed, and children that will always show me where my weaknesses are.

And then there’s my friends. Maybe one of them is you? Friends who are dealing with far worse health than I, friends who just can’t seem to catch a break financially, friends who are unemployed, divorcing, hurting, grieving, walking through the hardest days of their lives….and isn’t this what Advent is all about? That desolate time of expectation before that vulnerable baby entered our world with an act of violent love to revolutionize this whole broken world. That’s the longing I feel tonight.

Hallelujah. I can still sing it.

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