Yes to sippy cups and stinky diapers.
Yes to interruptions and hours of rocking.
Yes to car seat struggles and bedtime tears.
Yes to sticky hands and food in hair.
Yes to higher cost of food and not fitting in the truck.
Yes to court hearings, worker meetings, and awkward parent meetings.
Yes to doctor appointments, WIC appointments, and not being able to use a sitter.
We said yes to foster care.
Yes to chubby hands clasped tightly around mine.
Yes to first shy kisses and tentative hugs.
Yes to beautiful smiles and gorgeous eyes.
Yes to another daughter or another son.
Yes to laughter and giggles and someone who adores you.
Yes to extra love and extra snuggles.
Yes to praying another soul – another family – towards the kingdom of God.
Yes to someone to dance with.
Yes to tight neck-hugs.
Yes to showing this wonderful world to another innocent soul.
Yes to God’s way of bringing us more fully into His likeness.
We said yes to foster care.
NOTE: Foster care is not glamorous. It does not mean we are special or extraordinary. But, by the grace of God we have been given this opportunity to share His lavish love, and His lavish gifts. I struggle at times with giving of myself. I am basically selfish. God has been using this avenue to break me and teach me. Like Jason Johnson says: “We don’t strut into their stories with a cape on our back; we crawl in with a cross on our back.” – Jason Johnson Blog
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:25-26
In my last Journey of Faith post, I told you how I overcame discouragement and loneliness. And how we found out that my husband would lose his job in a few weeks…
It was early January, cold and snowy. We were living in an old, drafty farmhouse that was hard to heat. (we had moved from the trailer house into a farmhouse in the country, in October) We put a blanket over the staircase, moved the kids’ beds downstairs, and heated only the living room and kitchen. Propane was costing us 450.00 every 4-5 weeks to heat our house – it was eating up our small budget too fast. I remember at one point wondering how we were going to survive the winter without begging for money!
But I learned once again that God never fails His children! He is always faithful to supply our needs. We trusted Him, Cliff worked hard, I tried to be as thrifty as I could, and we always had food to eat. One time a man came to church – just a visitor – and after church he took Cliff out to his vehicle and gave us bags and boxes of food. Produce, mostly, and some dried beans. All from his garden! He said he had ‘way too much garden veggies, and wanted to bless someone with it! As far as I know, he never came back to church – I am certain he was an angel. We ate squash, potatoes, carrots, beans, and many other good vegetables for weeks. Sometimes there would be an envelope in our mailbox with a little cash in it. I wish I knew who felt prompted by God to give – we never asked for money or talked about our finances. I would like to thank those dear saints for being sensitive to the Holy Spirit in their lives!
Well, back to the lay-off… When we heard that we’d be out of a job in a couple weeks, we honestly were stumped. What does a person do who gets laid off in the middle of winter with literally no savings, no college degree, no nothing?!
God answered our prayers in a powerful, amazing way!
My sister and her husband used to work on a ranch near Cheyenne, WY, and we used to visit them there. Through them, we learned to know a young man who ran cattle on a couple ranches in WY. Well, when we were considering what to do for a job, Cliff remembered that young man, and decided to call him up.
When Cliff asked him if he had any job openings, the man answered: “Yes, I just leased a new ranch this month and need a another guy to help run it. You can start next week.”
We were blown away! God had lined up the perfect job for us at the exact time we needed it. I tell you, friends, God does things like this all the time. We aren’t special or anything. But I have trained myself to see God’s hand in everything. You can do that too. Write it down. Or tell someone. Don’t say: “Well that was pretty neat!” and forget about it. Notice when God works a miracle for you. Praise Him! Thank Him!
“…for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Matt. 6:8S
So on Monday morning, Cliff packed a sleeping bag and a suitcase and drove up to Wyoming to start his new job. I stayed in CO and started packing. I packed up all our belongings as best I could between caring for three little ones. (the kids were 1, 3 and 5) On Saturday, Cliff came home and we loaded most of our belongings into our trusty pink horse-trailer and headed north.
On Monday, I took the kids and drove down with the truck and trailer for the final load. My sister came along to help, since she was visiting for awhile. She helped me clean the house and pack up the remaining things.
Ranch life was good. Cliff enjoyed the work, the salary was better than we had ever enjoyed before, (that’s not saying much, but while you won’t get rich on a ranch, at least you have a house!) and we all loved the wide open spaces of Wyoming!
Three short months after we moved to Wyoming, our faith was tested in a very different and difficult manner. Our youngest child, Andy, was playing near the irrigation canal and drowned. It was by far the most trying circumstance we had to face. But as always, God brought us through that, too. I am thankful for the grace of God that is give in every situation. I did struggle quite a bit with guilt over Andy’s death. Then I had to learn to graciously respond to people’s ignorant but well-meaning comments. Each part of the trial forced me to lean on God more, and dig deeper in His Word and His wisdom.
If you want to read the story of Andy, you can find it here. Andy
That was ten years ago. We have been living in Wyoming and working on ranches and we still like Wyoming! It is our favorite state, despite the brutal winters and mosquito-laden summers. We lived on that first ranch (the X-Bar) for 4.5 years, then moved to a ranch north of Cheyenne for 5 years, and currently we are on a ranch in the mountains west of Laramie.
Our children are blessed to grow up in this wonderful ranching community, learning to rope and ride and care for animals. Cliff still enjoys ranching, he also owns a small leather business on the side where he makes saddles, chaps, and other gear for working cowboys.
After our son died, I started reading about foster care, and slowly my heart was drawn to the amazing work of being a safe place for kids who are removed from their homes. After 5 years of my reading and dreaming, we were licensed as a foster home, and received our first placement in May, 2015. Foster care was never Cliff’s dream, but he supported my dream. After 7 kids coming through our home, I can say the honeymoon period is over, haha! but I still have an incredible burden for these kids and this work. Even when it is the hardest, I am reminded how precious each child is to our God, how much He cares about them.
Our life looks so much different than I ever thought it would, but God’s plans are always best. So many things He said “No” to, and that was best. Then He said “Yes” to many wonderful things that I could never have dreamed of! I am learning to take each experience from His hand of love, and be thankful.
If this series has blessed or encouraged you in any way, I would love if you leave a comment and tell me why! Thank you to all who have replied to my stories and encouraged me to write it.
Last week we had a bit of snow, again. It covered the mud and made it pretty for a day or so. We have had some type of snow/sleet/rain mix periodically over the past two weeks. Great stuff for a ranch! Moisture at this time of year should make the grass (hay) grow pretty good.
My parents were here for a little over a week in April. My sister Jane and her family (5 kids) came up for a couple days too. That was fun! Our kids played in the mud, fished in the creek, and just ran around like cousins like to do!
Family hotdog roast.
While my parents were here, we received a call about a little girl who needed a place to stay. We had said “no more foster kiddos”, but when there’s a need, the DFS tends to call anyways! Ha!
Well, hearing her story turned our hearts to mush, (every story does!) and we said ‘yes’.
I bought a smoker/grill combo last summer. I am finally trying my hand at smoking, recently. The first attempt was tasty, but not soft enough for pulled pork. Yesterday I loaded my smoker in the morning and by evening it was done. The ribs were less tender than I wished, but the pork butt was pretty great! The elk roast is surprisingly tender too, although the outer crust is pretty hard. I may try wrapping in bacon next time. I can say I am hooked on smoking! Delicious! I miss southern bbq sometimes, so now I can finally make my own!
smoked, pulled pork
Smoked elk roast. Check out that smoke ring!
The month of May promises to be full to the brim with fun events. Brandings, recital for my musical kids, church meetings, visiting with old friends, a wedding, and more brandings! 😀 Not to mention; gardening time is here! Chicks! Flowers! Woohoo! 😀 I have started working on my raised beds, and plan to finish them and plant them this month.
That’s what we’ve been up to; what about you? Anything special going on?
For the past several years, I have been writing little encouragements for Christian moms, and sharing them on my personal social media. I have had some requests from my friends to put them all in one place for them to access and share.
So, in honor of World Book Day, I am releasing my brand-new book on Amazon this week! You can buy the print version for 6.99 right here:
If you prefer the ebook version, you can buy that as well. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free! If not, you can buy the Kindle version for 0.99 this week only! Next week the price will go up a bit. This is launch week special!
You can buy the Kindle version here:
There are 31 short devotionals, each with a corresponding Bible verse to meditate on during the day. This little book is written specifically to moms with small children – in the thick of mothering.
I know how difficult it can be to care for babies and toddlers, how never-ending it can seem! The sleepless nights, the crunchy floors, the squabbling amongst siblings. There’s never enough ‘mom’ to reach around, and by the time you get to eat your food is cold.
It’s no joke! But then, the rewards are great, too. The wet kisses, the endless supply of dandelions, the first “Mama”! The moments when they are sleeping so peacefully and you just know you have the most beautiful, precious child in the whole wide world!
I have cared for 8 babies over the years, 5 of my own and 3 foster babies. These meditations came from my own musings, as I face various battles in my mind; battles against Self and sin. I find that there is layer after layer of selfishness, laziness, and pride in my heart.
I hope you are blessed by this little work of love, and may God encourages your heart through these pages.
It’s been a bit crazy around here the past few months.
That’s actually an understatement.
It’s been really, really hectic. Like; two brandings in one day and then a wedding to photograph and a church conference and 3 Dr. visits all in 10 days, kind of hectic. Whew. Which leaves home as more of a refueling station, and we pass like ships in the night, between running to events and tossing a load of laundry in the washer.
I dislike that kind of life. Now, I can do it ok, I know how, but I really prefer a quieter schedule. Puttering in my house and lighting a candle at mealtimes, and reading a book with my littles, or playing in the sandbox with them… that’s more my style! Ok, so that’s not completely realistic, either, but at least have some days at home, ya know?
12 days ago I drove to town and handed ‘my’ baby over to his father. I handed over all the boxes of things we’d collected for him in his 6 months with us, then I got in my suburban and drove away.
“I could never do that!”
I hear you. I do. I used to say that too.
I still don’t enjoy doing it. But if God calls you to step up, He will also lavish His grace and strength upon you. He will equip you for every job He has for you. This is why we need to be so very careful to stay in His will for our lives.
We had this last placement (foster child) for 6 months. He was like my own. The kids bonded so well. We are still adjusting to life without our baby, but we are also happy that he is with his biological family. He seems to be adjusting well. As well as can be imagined, considering everything.
Obviously, it’s frustrating to not be able to share more details, but for his safety and our legal obligations, we are not allowed to share much. Suffice it to ay that he is in a good place, and we are happy for him. In this case, foster care has worked exactly as it was designed to. And for that I am grateful!
Meanwhile, we are taking a break from fostering. I’m not sure how long. I’m not sure if we will ever open our home again, or if we are done. But we are taking it slowly and deciding things one case at a time. I did agree to do respite for 4 kiddos next week. Yikes! 😉
Oh, my heart will always, always be with the foster care system. So many kiddos sitting in social workers’ offices, so many crying babies who need a nurturing mama, so many hopeless teens whom no one wants. I pray God will call many people to this ministry, to care for ‘the least of these.’
Pulling a calf to the warm barn, with mama following.
February is a month of love. Valentine’s Day, candy, hearts, and roses. But on the ranch, February is much different. It means long nights of checking heifers, pulling calves, wading through thawing snow, and bottle-feeding bum calves.
It is also the middle of the long Wyoming winter – blizzards and high winds and ice. We have been having crazy high winds the past few days, 75+ mph. It blows over semi-trucks, and blows shingles off houses and blows over anything not weighed down. If the windmill blades aren’t locked down, they will blow right off!
We have been dealing with some sickness, (not too bad) and it got the baby. One day he was feeling so poorly, that I took him for a drive – just to lull him to sleep. I don’t remember ever doing that before – taking a baby for a drive to make it sleep. But by baby #7, you tend to relax on some things. 😉 Plus, with Cliff sleeping during the day, I couldn’t have him screaming in the house. Anyways, he did go to sleep, and I moseyed around the ranch, stopping to snap a few pictures from the window.
The snow has mostly melted, for the first time since Thanksgiving. We had giant snow piles along the lane for months. But I don’t relax too much, because March – May are normally our snowiest months! I expect several more big storms before we see real spring.
I am busy with our foster baby – he is a good baby, but still… babies require a lot of time. I almost forget how often they like to eat! 😀 He’s getting chubsy and smiley and oh! so fun. We are all falling in love with him.
Note: I can’t say much about him, due to confidentiality laws. But I’ll address the most asked questions — No, I can’t tell you why he is in foster care, No, we are not planning to adopt (we always work to reunify kids with their families), and No, we have no idea how long we will have him.
So that is why my blogging suffers, right now. I’m busy making bottles, changing diapers, and rocking a cute little boy.
Today it is really warm outside, and the first calm day for a long time. So the kids ran outside as soon as they finished morning chores – determined to not waste this lovely day! I was happy to see them go. The older ones promised to watch their littlest sister carefully – which made me glad. Teens are the coolest! (lots of tractors/trucks/horses/bulls make the ranch yard not terribly safe for a tiny human)
Yesterday we had a recertification meeting with the foster care co-ordinator. I was nervous, (which was unnecessary,) but as always, she was calm and helpful. I hear so many horror stories of caseworkers and foster care workers, but I guess we are just really blessed. Ours are the best! I mean sure, some are more strict than others, and some are naturally more cheerful, or whatever, but I haven’t had a bad experience with any, so far. Really kind and helpful.
Ok, I’m starting to ramble. I better go throw a load of laundry in the washer.
I hope your day is pleasant and you find a bit of nature to relax in.
It has been easy for me as a foster parent to focus on the negativity and the stigma that surrounds foster care. The ignorant or ugly questions, the bad advice (well-meaning or otherwise), the lowered eyebrows and the insensitive remarks. The constant probing, unanswerable questions.
It’s hard to get past that. It’s hard to overlook that. It’s easy to focus on that. Easy to feel that pressure and allow yourself to be stuck in that sad little corner.
But I have found that I can change my focus, and thereby change my outlook. It’s true – the first and most frequent remarks and comments I get, are ignorant at best and hurtful most times. There are many times when the foster family gets overlooked, in favor of the ‘normal’ families. But the fact is, there have been many prayers on our behalf, many kind and encouraging words, several gifts of love, and a couple true-blue friends who invest in my journey as a foster mom. They are there with a listening ear and willing hands.
I can either focus on the unpleasant people, or I can focus on the kind and wonderful friends. The choice is simple. It would be foolish to worry what people think about foster care. The thing is, if God called us to walk this road, then it doesn’t matter who understands. Every person on earth could misunderstand and disapprove, and it would not matter one whit. God is our guide and our Judge, He sees the intent of our hearts, and His alone is the only good opinion I seek.
So I am counting my blessings.
1. A friend who babysat for me with only 12 hours notice, then offered all the baby gear she owned for my foster baby.
2. A friend who faithfully prays for our family and each foster child that we care for. She blesses each child and shows the most devoted love.
3. Sisters who are ready with a listening ear when I am exhausted or excited. They never remind me in the hard times, how excited I was at the beginning! 😉 The sister who is local is always good for baby-snuggling when I am tired and needing a break. She also brings chips.;)
4. Faraway family and friends who send gifts and prayers and love my way.
5. Social media (Instagram!) friends who share their stories and thereby encourage me daily. Their courage, devotion, and faithful love for these little ones bless me tremendously. To hear the struggles, triumphs, and funny stories – these gals get me!
My heart overflows with the blessings God has given me. I snuggle the current tiny one, and breathe in his sweet baby scent, and thank God for allowing me this great blessing of caring for ‘one of the least of these’.
Yep. Kinda crept up on us for awhile. I had been drawn to it for a long time. We did not have a blinding revelation from heaven, nice tho that would have been, haha! We just have a heart for these kids. These temporary orphans. We have a strong family who loves – we have love to share. These kids need love and stability, while their family gets help. We are trying to provide that kind of care, it’s that simple.
Some things you should know:
1. We are not trying to adopt. That is the most frequent question I run into. We are not against it – no, we love the idea of adoption and should that door ever open, no telling what might happen. But as for now? We are just giving our family to this child. We are not trying to gain a child, grow our family, or get anything out of this. We are not ‘in it for the money’. (what money? cough, cough) Which brings us to #2…
2. We do not make money on these kids. Despite what you may have heard, you really must be able to prove that you can support your own family, before you are licensed as foster parents. Yes, you get a monthly stipend for their clothes, food, gas, etc. But most, if not all, of that will be spent on the child. Of course there are people who abuse the system, but I haven’t met them yet.
3. We cannot talk about the child’s case. We are not being rude or secretive. We are unable to share details about the child, the parents, why they are in care, details of health, etc. We can tell you their name, but that’s about it. Please make it easier for us by not asking why they are in foster care. We can’t answer.
4. We do not know how long the child will be with us. It could be days or weeks. It may be months or years. The plan is to get the parents to a place where they can take up parenting again. That varies widely, depending on the offense, their amount of support, etc. Even if we have an idea, I am told the plan can change frequently. All I can say in response to this frequent inquiry is: “Wait and see!”
5. We have to get permission to travel out-of-state, so please have patience if we can’t make it to as many gatherings as before. And while we are on the subject, there is many appointments, meetings, and obligations to change our schedule. We are not trying to ignore you – we may just be crazy busy!
6. We (and you!) are not allowed to share pictures and info about the foster child online. Please respect us in this. Imagine it were your child in someone else’s home, and how you would want their info shared.
7. We do not get to pick. OK, we can choose what age range we want, what level of medical disability we are comfortable with, etc. But it’s not like going into a baby factory and picking out your choice. We get licensed for a certain number of kids, determined by house and family size, etc. Then we wait till there is a child in care who fits our age range. We can say no – but we can’t request a certain child on a certain day. Bonus: And we have no idea when we will be getting a child. Trying to predict when we get called with a placement is like trying to predict where lightening will strike.
I hope this has answered a few of your questions about foster care.
What did I miss? Share in the comments!