Wednesday, March 6, 2013

she loved him...

He's sleeping in my arms. 
His warm body snuggled up close. 
His heavy breathing is the only sound. 
I love my boy more than words can express. 
And the deeper I fall in love, the more I think about his birth mom.

Maybe it's because as he gets older and his personality really emerges I wonder - Does he get his dimple from her? Or his amazing sense of humor? Is she as outgoing as he is? Does her smile light up a room like his does? I find myself loving a woman I may never meet because I love the son she carried in her womb. The son she chose to give life to - she didn't have to, but she did and I love her for that. 

Maybe I think about her because I am grieving her loss - and his. It breaks my heart that he will someday know the broken parts of his story. My heart aches to think of the day he comprehends the details of his past. As a mom, I want to protect him from being hurt - protect him from the feelings and questions that will likely come. I long to find ways to speak of his birth mom with grace. To honor her even while speaking the truth about how he came to be a DeCarlo. 

Just recently I discovered that during the two and a half months Levi was with his birth mom she took him to the hospital - twice. I requested the records and though they say very little, they speak volumes. They speak of a young, concerned mother who took her newborn son to the E.R. because he was sick. She loved him. I can tell him without hesitation - "your momma loves you. She wanted you. She tried her very best to take care of you." I was overwhelmed by emotion when I realized how sweet the Lord was to give me this glimpse into his time with her and of her care for him. 
Thank you, Jesus! You are so good!

I may never know if his dimple comes from her. But I do know that she loved him. And for that, I love her even more. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

follow You into the homes of the broken....

I've been thinking a lot about the parents of our first foster placement. They were a young, unmarried couple. They looked a little rough, but they were not what we were told to expect. In all of our trainings we were told to be prepared for angry parents, absent parents, parents who were under the influence, or parents who were just kids themselves. We were encouraged to be kind and respectful. We were reminded of the opportunity we had to be Jesus to these parents. In theory it all sounded good, but I wasn't sure what it would look like in reality. 

Two days after picking our little guy up at the hospital, I walked into the visitation center - alone. I was shaking and clinging to the little one asleep on my shoulder, under a blanket to keep him out of the rain. My stomach was in knots. I worried that they would want me to give them their baby before a social worker was there to supervise. I worried that I wouldn't be strong enough to tell them no. I worried that they would be angry and hostile towards me. Instead, I was met by two grieving and broken parents. His mom approached me with tears in her eyes and said, "Is that him?" as she gently pulled the blanket back. The moment she saw his face she began to weep. My heart broke and I instantly felt love and compassion for her. We sat in the waiting area for 15 minutes before a social worker showed up. They stroked the baby's head as we talked - but never once did they ask to hold him. I appreciated their respect for the situation. They asked me how he was sleeping and eating. They cried as they told me how their children came into care. It was then that I knew that we were going to walk the journey of reunification with this family. 

When I came back two hours later to pick him up from the visit, his dad shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and thanked me. He hung his head as he apologized for not rinsing out the baby's bottle when he was done eating. At following visits they brought me clothes, diapers, and a toothbrush for their daughter. They came to the visits with toys and books in a backpack. They showed up early for every visit. And when the visit was done, they would walk me to my car and we'd stand in the parking lot chatting. I was not afraid of them. They were not angry. They did everything they had to to get their kids back. They were not what I expected.

Their children were in foster care a total of 11 months. But, they are home now. They have since had a third child. Three babies in under 4 years. And yet, they are doing it. They are parenting their children - and doing it well. 

Last week I ran into their mom at the store. We talked about the kids while my oldest played in the aisles with their oldest. Their newest little guy is just a year old - he is chronically sick with allergies. His mom shared with me how nervous she is every time she takes him to the doctor. She's afraid they'll be accused of wrongdoing again. She's afraid to take him to children's hospital because it was there that they were turned in for abuse  (which was never substantiated - and all charges were eventually dropped). But, she sets her fears aside and for the good of her baby, she takes him in again to get the treatment he needs. Her life is forever altered by their experience with social services. Her heart and mind are forever scarred by being accused of abusing her newborn baby. 

When I think about the forgotten in the foster care community its easy to forget about the biological parents. Certainly not every parent is like these parents - but every parent needs to know the unconditional love of Jesus. Every parent needs to be treated with kindness and respect. Here in Bakersfield, The Forgotten Initiative has been asked to recruit and train mentors for biological parents who have been reunified with their children. What an amazing opportunity to be light in the darkness. What an amazing way to live out the words of the song by Leeland -  "Follow You". 

"Use my hands, use my feet to make Your kingdom come!"  
"On the cross Your blood was shed, so how could we not give it away so freely?" 
"I'll follow You into the homes of the broken, follow You into the world."
"I give all myself to You..." 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

impromptu photo session

The other day I realized every picture I have of Levi is on my phone and not the best quality - 
so, we headed outside for an impromptu photo shoot.
My camera is a simple point and shoot - but I still think these photos are precious. 
I love how they show the many faces of our little man! 

Oh, how I love this boy! Such a treasure! 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

two years ago....

Two years ago today our house was a little emptier. We had just lost our first foster placement - a sibling set. Our baby boy was just six weeks old when he came to us. A few short weeks later, his two year old sister joined our home. I thought I knew what I was doing. I had been a parent before - 3 times before actually. I really thought I knew what I was doing. 

Those first few weeks were overwhelming. Everything normal went out the window as we opened our home not only to these little ones, but also to social workers, their birth parents, and a whole host of medical appointments. I was not prepared for how emotionally drained I would feel - all day. I was not prepared to feel so "mama bear" about our little guy's doctor's visit that went so wrong. I was not prepared to feel so much love for their parents. I was not prepared to find myself praying for their reunification - when our hope was initially adopting. I was not prepared. 

And then, just seven short (I can say "short" now, but at the time the weeks felt very "long") weeks later, I packed up their stuff and they left. I wrote a little note to each of them and prayed over the boxes of stuff as I prepared to drive them to their new home. And I was happy and relieved and sad all at the same time. I was happy for them because they were going to a relative's. I was relieved because our house was quiet again. I was sad because I wish I had done it better. I wish I hadn't felt so weary and overwhelmed. I wish I had loved them harder. I was happy because we were able to walk through the reunification process with their parents and see a broken family restored. 

Two years ago today we took a trip - just us - to regroup and prepare for the next little one the Lord would bring to our home. Little did we know then that we would wait only 19 days before we would get to meet our next placement. We didn't know on February 5, 2011 that our son was being loved by an amazing foster family until he came to us. Our house was quiet, and we enjoyed it - but we were so ready to meet our son! 

And now we find ourselves a little too comfortable again. Levi has been with us for nearly 2 years now, He is a typical two year old boy. He's busy and loud and crazy. He's also funny and smart and a total love bug! We are all still totally smitten. And while I haven't forgotten the potential craziness that opening your heart and home to a foster child can bring, I want it. I want our home full of loud, busy, sweet, and broken babes who need to be loved fiercely by Jesus through me. 

Last night we went to the adoption support group hosted by our foster agency. I love being there with other foster/adoptive families who understand - sometimes without a word. I love that friends can say, "we're going on the open bed list" and the rest of the group cheers, knowing that another little one will be safe and loved. I love that another mama can share her real feelings of doubt and inadequacy and we all understand cause we've all been there too. I love this crazy world we're in. So, today I say, "bring on the craziness, Lord." Our house wasn't meant to be quiet. Our lives weren't meant to be comfortable. A few weeks ago our pastor said this from the pulpit (it continues to cross my mind and still strikes my heart today), "Tiredness and inconvenience are not longer excuses not to serve. When we demand that our lives and our service are "comfortable" and on our timeline, we miss the miracles of God." 

I don't want to miss His miracles. 
Bring on the craziness, Lord! 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 21st....lots to celebrate

Exactly two years ago today, a little boy was born. 
He weighed 6lbs 14oz. 

Little did we know on that day, that our son's life here on earth, had begun. 

I wish I had pictures of that day. I wish I had pictures of his first few months of life..
I don't. 
But I do have a few from his foster mom.

Exactly one year ago today, a little boy became part of our family - forever.
On his first birthday, Levi officially became a  DeCarlo!

On our way to the courthouse - Adoption Day! 

Celebrating Levi's First Birthday. 

Little did we know how much he would change our lives! 

It was an emotional time as we stood before the judge and he declared Levi as our son - with all the rights of inheritance as a natural born child. The spiritual significance was not lost on us, or anyone else in the room. We, who have trusted in Jesus as Savior, become co-heirs with Christ. Adopted into the family of God - with all the rights of sons and daughters. 

Today, we stood before our church family and dedicated our son to the Lord. 
He is a gift from God and we desire to raise him to know and serve Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! 

Three years in a row, October 21st has been a significant milestone in our lives, and in the life of one very special little boy.  

It sounds trite - it sounds like the thing everybody says, but truly....we can't imagine our lives with out Levi. He has brought laughs, and life, and a craziness we didn't know we were missing. 

His laugh is contagious.
He has the best sense of humor.
He is smart and sneaky.
He says, "I love you, mommy." (at the best and most random times)
He sings, and sings - his favorite song right now is "God's not Dead." 
He's crazy in love with his sisters and big brother.
He loves anything sports related, motorcycles, and school buses.
(Yep, he's all boy!)

We love this little man more than words can express!

Happy Birthday, big guy. 
Happy One Year Forever Family Day, buddy!

May you always know the love of our Heavenly Father and walk with Him all the days of your life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

17 years!

It hardly seems possible -
Dominic and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary on Saturday.
17 years....


We were young, and naive. He had only been saved a few months. I had unrealistic expectations of marriage. We moved 800 miles away from everyone I knew. In the world's eyes, everything was against us.

But, God!

He has a way of carrying us when we are weak. Guiding us when we are lost. Holding us together when all is falling apart. And that is exactly what He has done and continues to do.

All glory to Him!

We were able to get away for 2 whole days. Two days, just us and the beautiful southern California weather. A much needed break from the "real" world.
A much needed time to just be together.
Alone. Uninterrupted. Un-rushed.
So good!

Dominic's mom and sister came to stay with the kids. Such a special time for them to stay up late, eat junk food, and hang out with family! I am so blessed they were here - we didn't even call to check on the kids. We knew they were just fine! Well-loved and spoiled! Just the way it should be.

When I think about where the Lord has taken us, where we've been and what we've been through - I am amazed. And, oh so blessed that He still uses us and has a plan for us. Its good. So, so good.

Happy Anniversary, hubby. I love you more today than 17 years ago!

To God be the gory, great things He has done!

Friday, September 21, 2012

it's been way too long

I am not even going to try to catch up from where I left off. It's been way too long. I will however share where we are now and what's happening with our family. 

I was reminded again yesterday just how faithful our God is  - and I can't stop rejoicing!

You see, we hosted an orphan from Taiwan over the summer. She was 7. She spoke no English and we speak no Mandarin. She walked into our hearts that Saturday at LAX and we haven't stopped thinking about her since. 

We did not have international adoption on our radar - not for our family. If we were going to adopt again, it would be through foster care, not internationally. So, when friends and family (and my social worker) all questioned "why" do they bring orphans to the US? 
Why are you hosting her? 
Are you going to adopt her? 
How will you send her back? 
And a whole host of other questions, I started doubting the wisdom in signing up to be a host family. 
Was it good for her? 
Was it a trick to get us to fall in love and adopt her? 
Why are we doing this? 
We did it because there was a need, and we wanted to meet that need. We did it because a precious little girl needed a place to stay for two weeks - and I figured we can do anything for two weeks, right? We did it because we wanted to be used to share the love and truth of Jesus with a little girl who needed to hear that she was loved - by Him and by us! 

I have to say, it was an amazing experience. I had the joy of watching my children love without words. It was precious to hear them laugh and play and "talk". Each of my children amazed me with their love and servant's hearts for our special visitor, Shih-wun.

Shih-wun was brave and funny and kind and loud. She was gentle with our guinea pigs. She shared her french fries and candy and oreos with my kids. She blew bubbles for Levi. She learned how to sing Jesus Loves Me in English. And she sang it over and over and over again. My heart swelled as I listened to all the kids singing with her in the van - first in Mandarin and then in English and then in Mandarin and then in English - over and over. 

As quickly as her arrival came, it was time to pack up and take her back to the airport. And then the reality sank in - for all of us. When she woke up the next morning, she would be back in the orphanage. All the questions came racing back - how can we send her back? 

We were asked by the agency if we were interested in pursuing adoption? Um....yes? no? We had no real clear answer from the Lord. So we prayed. 

Over the last months we have talked about and prayed for Shih-wun.We have asked ourselves and the Lord if we are supposed to adopt her. 
We have waited for Him to tell us to "go". 

And then....
I received an email from a lady named Donna. It said We are very excited to tell you that God has chosen to bless our family with precious Shih-wun." 


I am in awe of how the Lord has so beautifully orchestrated the details of her unfolding story. Donna and I were able to talk yesterday about how the Lord lead them to their daughter - miracle after miracle, I tell you. I am rejoicing - so full of praise - as I think about Shih-wun being a treasured daughter for this family whose heart is for the orphan. Their older daughter was adopted from Haiti and their son is from Guatemala. Donna said, "our family is truly a rainbow, a beautiful picture of what heaven will be like!" 

The Lord is writing her story. One page at a time. We are a small, two week chapter in her life. How thankful I am to have had the chance to tell a precious child that Jesus loves her. What a blessing to see her heart gladly accept the truths of the Bible - with true child-like faith. Truly, we received far more than we gave. 

And now, we get to be part of her journey home. My heart rejoices that this once-upon-a-time-orphan will know the love of a family and even more, the love of a Savior. He is so good and so faithful!!! 

To God be the glory, great things He has done!