Life As We Know It

God’s Plans are Better

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For three and a half years we waited.  Impatient, stubborn, hopeful and defeated. Emotions were always high around court dates.  I am certain the court system has taken years off my life!  Why should a child have to live in limbo for years?  Why should a little girl have to worry that her biological brother would be returned to an unsafe situation?  I can vividly remember praying, “I don’t know what you’re trying to teach me God, but I promise to be more patient……Can we move on to another lesson?”  “God, please, show up in this court room.  Speak through our attorney, our child’s attorney.  Give this judge wisdom.”  On and on the prayers went, pleading with God.

Please don’t misunderstand our journey of fostering.  Our hope is always that a parent finds healing, that relationships are restored and most of all that God is glorified.  We have fostered over 40 children.  We have watched God’s plan unfold in ways we could not explain. We have seen reunifications, beautiful reunifications.  We’ve seen lives restored and families renewed.  Our intentions are not to adopt, until the case is devastating.  In this case, it started out this way.

My waiting is no comparison to what a parent goes through when their child is removed.  I would never compare it to that.  It is a different situation, however, when you are parenting a child that is a biological sibling to your child.  There is an immediate connection and the bond is easily formed.  This is our story with our youngest.  I was there the day he was born, hopeful that mom may get to parent him.  When DHS removed, I thought there may be a safety plan in place, but time and time again mom was not ready to parent him.  Some of the barriers were not her fault, others were.  I don’t doubt that she loves her children, most every parent loves their own flesh and blood.  I mourn for her.  I mourn the loss of her own childhood, and grieve the fact that she wasn’t ever given much of an opportunity, and when she was, it was too late.  Most of all, I mourn for my son.  As he grows, I know he will have lots of questions and I won’t always have the answers.

But, today I will choose joy.  I am joyful that he gets to grow up with his sister.  I am joyful that he calls me mom  and Clint dad.  I am hopeful that he will grow up to know Christ and to follow him.  I am thankful that he is connected and bonded to all of his siblings.  And, I am joyful that there will be no more worrying about his future.  His future is secure in Christ and his future is secure on earth.  Within the next couple of months, he will be a Lile, and for that, we are forever grateful.

 

 

 

A Decade of Hope

Her story is not simple.  In fact, it’s pretty complicated.  Ten years can hold alot.  Abandonment, abuse, neglect, trauma, and a life on the brink of death has turned into love, grace, healing and restoration.  God has had His hand on her life since she was breathed into existence.  My faith is so weak, I often question why He would allow the things she has suffered.  Abandoned at six weeks, with roach bites covering her tiny body, she was taken into custody, and nursed back to health.  She was loved, nurtured, and experienced quick healing with a foster mother who loved her as her own.  Ripped away from the only one that loved her like her own, at 22 months, she was given back to the very one who abandoned her.

Latebreaking news hit the media, the summer of 2011.  “Oklahoma City police said a malnourished girl was made to live in a closet with only a cup to urinate and defecate in.”  Complete horror!  According to the report, she weighed 19 pounds when she was admitted to the hospital.  She was 5 1/2 years old.  “Police said the girl didn’t look at them when they questioned her and when she did speak, officers could not understand her.”  Her body was covered in hair to regulate her body temperature.  She uttered no words.  Devastating!

This week, she turned 10.  She is beautiful!  She radiates kindness and warmth.  She is sensitive to others needs, forgiving of all mistakes, and makes friends everywhere she goes.  She is a homebody.  She loves to just be with her family.  She is inquisitive.  She tries her hardest and has overcome every obstacle that was put in front of her.  She is the perfect story of God’s healing power.

I remember her testing at a 12 month level, an 18 month level, etc.  I remember there being no specific diagnosis and consequently no specific treatment.  I vividly remember traveling to Children’s Hospital often for physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and visiting the dietician.  I remember our special diet.  We followed it strictly, in hopes that she did not get “refeeding syndrome”.  I remember sitting with a principal, while enrolling her in Kindergarten.  She uttered strange noises and drove a metal school bus on the floor.  She only lasted a little over an hour in Kindergarten each day, and I attended with her.  I remember potty-training and naps……vaguely.  All of these things are fleeting memories, because healing came so quickly.  I often attribute it to the love and care her first foster momma gave her for over 20 months.

Two things stick out so vividly to me.  One are the memories of being tested in the public school.  Every time they showed me where she ranked or what age level she tested in, I felt the strong presence of God saying, “You have no idea what I am going to do with this child”.  So, I shook my head and smiled.  I didn’t ever worry about what she couldn’t do, not even once.  I knew, deep down, what she would become.  The second thing that sticks out so vividly, is the memory that I have of the brilliant psychologist in the city who did a broad spectrum of tests on her.  I remember so clearly, her saying, “It’s almost like her brain has been on pause, because of the severe malnutrition.  Most people’s IQs stay in the same general realm, the majority of their lives, but I believe we will see huge increases in hers”.

Hope.  Her life has consistently spoken the word, hope.  Over and over and over again, God’s promises have come true.  A decade of hope.  A miracle of God.

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Miss Understood

Misunderstood.  This word comes to mind alot lately. I could use it to describe myself daily, and I could use it to describe my three year old.  I am misunderstood frequently, lately.  I react to things quickly and become defensive more often than not. I can’t fully describe my feelings, because often I don’t understand them myself.  The same is true for my little one.  She’s so often misunderstood.   Oh, she is an excellent communicator.  She has no problem speaking her mind.  But her mind happens to be getting a little out of control lately.  For example, when she told her teacher today, “I’m going to tell my big sister on you and she’s going to beat you up”.  In her mind, it was not logical.  She knows this kind of stuff is not going to happen.  But, nothing is logical in her mind right now.  She’s not even sure of where she belongs.  Her latest request is that her big sisters go with her when she moves.  She cannot fathom why her “siblings” would not be going with her.  This structure that she’s viewed as her family for so long, is slowly disintegrating before her very eyes, and she is misunderstood.

The fits when I drop her at school are becoming unbearable.  The threats she makes at home are gut-wrenching.  Like, when my 9 year old says, at dinner, “I am going to miss you”, and she replies, “Well, I’m not going to miss anybody here, because I don’t like you guys.  Everyone is mean to me here”.   Or at bedtime, when she throws out “I’m going to tell my mom on you, because you made me go to bed”.  Really?  My mind is just as boggled as her.  I thought I was her mom…..

I remember a psychiatrist telling us that the greatest pain ever suffered is human separation.  I believe it’s true.  He told us that when a child knows that they are eventually leaving, they begin to self sabotage.  This, my friends, is the most painful thing to be a part of.  Even a three year old can do this.

This case has been in trial status for over a year now.  Things just kept popping up to postpone trial.  DHS has continually been requesting termination and the goal, for as long as I can remember, has been adoption.  When we went to trial, a year ago, mom was pregnant.  This delayed the whole case, but because we thought we would be adopting, there is no way we could turn down baby sister.  And so the heartache doubled……

She is precious.  You should see her.  Her eyes sparkle and her arms reach up.  She’s into everything!  Including her daddy.  When Clint gets home from work, she crawls as fast as possible to him.  When she reaches him she lays flat on the ground and hides her face.  She loves to play with him.  Peek-a-boo is her favorite game.  And she would snuggle all night, if we let her.  She has been so loved, her whole 11 months of existence.  She’s healthy and happy and knows no other family but ours.  And our family…..well, we can barely remember life before her.  We are so glad we said yes.

It seems like yesterday that things on this case began to change. We got a new worker and the case turned around.  We are not angry or upset.  We are not pointing fingers or trying to “win” this case.  We are broken and prayerful.  We are hopeful that this is where the girls belong.  Please pray with us that things have truly turned around on this case.  Pray that the girls are safe and loved.  And pray for the new baby that will enter their family, as their birth mother is due again next month.  We are grieving this loss that is so brutally taking it’s toll on our family.  This transition is seeming to last forever.  But, we are not doubting that this was God’s will for our family.  And we are relying on him to heal our brokenness.  We will never quit fighting for the orphans, until there are no orphans to fight for.

May God be with you on your journey, as He is with ours and may you be misunderstood as you live out His calling.

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Moving is for the Birds!!

I have to admit, I have not felt like blogging for some time now.  The things that have been weighing on my heart are trivial, in the big scheme of things.  But I am so thankful that we serve a God who cares, even about the trivial things.  My heart has been so heavy.  A few months ago, we decided to move and a couple of weeks ago we did!   We moved from our amazing community full of people who share our hearts. We left families that we love deeply, including some of our real family.  We struggled with the decision, but knew undoubtedly that this was what we were supposed to do.

Sometimes, change is good.  Often times, God moves us from comfort to challenge us.  Over the last several months, God has provided in ways that have confirmed He is real.  We knew if we left our community, I would be going back to work.  Three days before we decided to move, I was offered a job.  I was so excited about the position, but grieving the fact that my kids would have to leave the school that they were at, because we would no longer be able to afford it.  I grieved the fact that I would no longer be present at school parties or field trips.  I knew I would be missing out.  The morning we decided to make it official, I gathered school uniforms to donate back to our school.  When I arrived, the principal met me outside, and God intervened.  I’m happy to say that I will be working WITH my kids next year, and they will be staying at the same school.

I have been in awe of God’s provision.  He has been so good to us.  He has allowed us to see miracles, right in front of our eyes.  He has healed our family through much grief and brought us peace.  In every moment, through darkness and light, He has been ever present.  We will continue the calling God has placed on our lives.  God has allowed us to be involved in a church that fully supports our ministry.  We feel so blessed to continue to be a part of others fostering and adoption journeys.  We believe He will continue to further our ministry at home and with our church.

I am writing all this to let you know that God cares.  He is real and He is ever-present.  Things don’t always make sense, but following His calling on our lives is the only thing we will remain passionate about.  We long to be close to Him.

And, just for the record, moving is for the birds!!!  And, moving with eight young children, well……..we won’t go into that!  Thank you to all of our friends  who helped us and supported us through this life change.  God is near to us.  May He be near to you too!

If God is who He says He Is…..

We are three weeks in to our foster/adopt support group.  God is already doing big things. Sometimes I wonder why God called us to this lifestyle,  and this group has encouraged, refreshed, and reminded me.  If I really believe God is who He says He is, He will change this community.  He will restore hope, here, for the 47 foster children, in the third grade alone.  He will restore hope, here, for the investigator who grieves every time she sees a hopeless situation.  He will restore hope, here, for the Body of Christ when they begin to serve this community.

Today, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of women at our church.  I just shared our story and our vision.  I left encouraged.  Encouraged to continue on this journey of uplifting and equipping others.  Wednesday, i get to do the same with a different group of women.  Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with a lady, who has been hired by our community to recruit and train foster families.  Our county was awarded a grant to do this.  For years, we have worked, volunteered, and spoken outside of our community and never have we felt God’s hand in it like we do now.  The difference, I believe, is the call for Christians to stand up and fulfill God’s purpose for their lives.  The difference is having a church that will support us every step of the way.

We took a new placement two weeks ago.  Almost a month, to the day, that we took our last temporary placement.  It’s crazy how God keeps refreshing us and calling us back.  This one is a spitfire!  She’s spunky, bossy, cute and downright hilarious.  A little breath of fresh air, but still traumatized.  She’s been ripped apart from two siblings, whom she probably did a lot of caretaking for, even at the age of three.  She’s grieving but she’s hopeful.  She keeps asking, “Am I a baby here?”  She’s really trying to figure out where she fits in.  “Am I your momma now?”  She’s trying to figure out if this is forever.  And the occassional cussing, including some hardcore “F” bombs, shed some light on where she came from.

Some days I ask God why he didn’t make us content to just be normal.  Like, why don’t we just have 2 kids, live in a normal community, both have normal jobs, go to normal activities (with all of our family), and serve a normal God at a normal church?  Why didn’t He call us to just be ordinary, all the while believing in the same God, but just ordinary?  And I am quickly reminded, that deep in the pit of my soul, I wouldn’t be content.  I would be searching aimlessly, begging God to show me what my calling was.  Once again, today, a lady said to me, “I wouldn’t be able to do anything temporary with a child.  I’d fall too in love with them, and I just wouldn’t be able to do it.”  I just replied, “You’re right, it’s not easy, and it doesn’t get any easier.  We have loved and lost a lot and it never gets easier”.

If God is who He says He is, He will change this community.

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Oh Church, Rise Up!

“MOM!!!”  “MOM!!!”  “MOM??”  This is what I’ve heard, followed by the pitter patter of little feet, for the last eleven days.  She was supposed to stay “just through the weekend”.  Every time I turned around to reassure her, there were tears in her eyes.  She knows the pain of separation already, and it’s way too soon.  Today, she knew the pain again.  There are not enough foster homes.  The system is broken, but this is not the system’s problem.  The government stepped up to fix the broken family, but the government will never “fix” the issues unless the body of Christ comes alongside.  Only Christ can bring restoration.  He’s using His people in this generation, but there is so much more work to be done.

Several times, recently, people have asked me what the church can do to help foster and adoptive families.  I never thought I could blog on this issue, because I never wanted to sound like I was making suggestions as to what “my” family needed.  I can tell you, however, what I experience through my support system and friends.  I can also share about how welcoming our church, that we recently joined, has been.

Last Sunday we pulled up to church.  We were unloading our crew when we noticed that Houston was laying down in the back.  With tears rolling down his face, he said he was sick.  Here we are, standing in the parking lot, loaded down with diaper bags, babies, and kids, when all of a sudden a precious lady in our church comes along side me and helps me get everyone to class so that Clint could go home with Houston.  There was no shame and no guilt.  She was happy to do it.  She didn’t make me feel unequipped or incapable.  She didn’t say, “I don’t know how you do it” or “You’ve got too much on your plate”.  She just engaged with our family.  The best part about it……..when I got out of church, she had already delivered the babies out to Clint.  Seriously?  She will never know what that meant to us.  One simple act of kindness.  Oh church, rise up.

I had court on Thursday.  I was devastated again.  The baby I brought home from the hospital, and have been mom to for 28 months, will have to wait longer.  No decisions have been made, and I am weary.  We don’t go back to court until the end of June.  I have friends that remember my court dates.  I get texts that say, “Call me after court”, “I’m praying for you today”, and when I don’t call sometimes I get texts like, “I’m here when you’re ready to talk”.  I have a Bible study group that prays for my children.  I have a friend who often volunteers her time to watch kids for court and another who has picked up kids from school.    Clearly, there are different roles for everyone.

Trial for our girls has been postponed again.  This time it falls on the week that we had planned to take a vacation.  That can wait.  Sometimes, I’m tired of putting my life on hold.  Sometimes, I hate the choices that others have made.  And then I remember, one different path, one different experience could have landed me there.  I am never beyond brokenness.  I could be her.  I could be the mom who abandoned, abused, neglected.  It’s so important for me to remember this.  And she is never beyond redemption.  Never.

We are anxious to start our new community group.  We are anxious to show others, in our situation, the love of Christ.  And we are desperate to receive as well.  We are longing to be refreshed as we meet with, not only the ones called to foster or adopt, but those who will be cheerleaders, encouragers, providers, and prayer warriors.

Please pray for all the children in strange places tonight.  Pray that Jesus will quickly make the unfamiliar and scary, familiar and welcoming.  Praying for God to bring peace and comfort to the frightened little one that left our home today.

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“Learn”

Gripping the Sharpie between my fingers and holding my rock in the other hand, I wrote “Learn”.  Then I made my way up to the front of the room, with 2500 women in it, and dropped it in a sea of rocks.  This word has been swirling in my head ever since.  I just think God was simply saying to me “Learn from Me”, stop chasing the things of this world.

“Biblical truths will help you lead better in whatever your sphere of influence.  Have you picked up your Bible today?” – Christine Caine

This echoes in my heart and I want it to continue to resonate.  We cannot lead well without the truth of His word.  If we build a platform with no firm foundation, our attempts at changing this world are futile.  I want to be grounded in the knowledge of Jesus Christ so much that my platform is Him.  That my good works may bring glory to Him and Him alone.  Oh friends, He has given me a vision and a purpose.  He has set out a clear path.  But my vision and purpose and path mean nothing without Him.

I don’t want to continue to hold on to what was.  I want to welcome this new season in my life.  I desire to watch God move in my community.  I want to stop running back to what used to be and press forward to fulfill HIs purpose in me, in this town, with these people.

The “IF Gathering”, in Austin, TX was incredible last weekend.  I was so challenged and refreshed.  God reminded me that His timing is perfect and showed me that He intends for me to invest in relationships right where I’m at.  In the midst of the conference, twice, our group of women was split because of seating availability.  Both times, I was exactly where God put me for the sole reason of fulfilling His purpose.  And these two times reminded me, that for 2 1/2 years, He’s had me right where I was supposed to be.  We, however, have yet to find our place.  I continue to go back to what is comfortable.  I remember where we used to lead in ministry.  I recall times where God was working in our very home.

“Holding on to a season too long can hinder the next one from coming.” – Christine Caine

I could have wept when I left a local church tonight.  God knew exactly what He was doing when He called two of our friends, who are just as passionate about orphan care, to pastor a local church in our town.  After meeting with them tonight, His call is clear.  It’s time for us to jump in with both feet again.  It’s time to let our passion intersect with our calling and wake up to the call of the church.  I am elated to partner with them in ministry.  And I hear the devil  so clearly tonight, “Don’t you have enough on your plate already?”, “You’re just going to get burned out.”  The list goes on and on, but in the midst of this crazy life, I know that it’s worth it.  Nothing I do matters, unless it is for the call of Christ.

“Learn from Me”.  Lord teach me your ways.  And so I sit, and wait, for Him to throw me the next stone, in the middle of the ocean.  And when He throws it, I will jump.  In the meantime, I want to be quiet, in His presence.  I want to soak in His word.

Teach me Your ways, Lord, that I may walk in your truth; let me wholeheartedly revere your name.  Psalms 86:11

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Reflecting Back and Looking Forward

Every year seems to go faster than the last.  I guess that’s how it is, at least that’s what I’ve always heard people say.  “Enjoy them while they’re young, you’ll wake up one day, and they’ll be grown” or “Savor the memories, things can change in an instant”.  These are statements that I always seemed to brush off, in the past. But this year, I am going to remember them.  This year will be different.

This year, my word is “Focus”.  I want to “focus” on what really matters.  I want to “focus” on Christ.  2014 was full of heartache.  Inside I feel stuck in grief and loss.  Still mourning the loss of someone who loved us unconditionally and grieving someone else (who is still here physically) the same.  I never imagined my life without a Mom or my kids without a “nana” or a “grammy”.  I laid awake, a couple of nights ago, realizing that I didn’t take a single picture of Christmas and we didn’t read from the Bible on Christmas Day.  Who does that?  Probably not a Christian who wants to savor every moment of her kids’ lives.  I selfishly, thought that maybe I didn’t want to remember these celebrations anymore, because they are accompanied with so many reminders of loss.  And then, I was reminded that it’s my turn now.  It’s my turn to pass those traditions and memories on to my kids.  It’s time for me to choose what my kids experiences will be like and how they will remember our family Christmas.

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So this year will be different.  We will focus on the things that matter.  I will spend time with my mom, who doesn’t know my name, and I will be grateful for everything that she was and everything that she is.  I will talk to my kids often about their Nana and their Grammy and we will keep good memories alive.  I will guard my thoughts and my words towards the ones I love the most.  I commit to focus on what my children are telling me (even if I’m tired of hearing their voices).

Focus:  to cause (something, such as attention) to be directed at something specific.  Something specific……..like Jesus, my husband, my children and family.  Something specific……like eternity, and things that matter.  This year, I will try not to worry about losing a child.  I will do my best to put into perspective, what God gave up for me.  I will confidently follow Christ even if it means suffering and loss.  I will remind myself to “focus” and remember that deep suffering brings deeper joy.

This is my commitment to Christ.  This is my commitment to the world (the small part of it that I can touch).

I feel like 2015 will be pretty life changing for us.  We are praying in three more Liles and believing God has a plan for their futures.  For our son, it’s been a life long journey and we are believing that the journey will end this year!  For our two youngest daughters, our trial has been postponed again.  But we believe that there is an end in sight.  Please plead, on our children’s behalf, that they will find permanancy this year.  And for our future, we will continue to do what we are called to do, no matter how crazy that looks!

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Father to the Fatherless……

“You’re not serious, are you?”, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA………”  I’m not sure which text gave me the impression that Clint was committed to take our three year old’s sibling, but I knew the answer.  You see, if it’s not “NO!”, the answer is always yes!  At least, this is what I’ve been going with for the last several years.

As I stood in the courtroom, Monday, I was in a bit of a state of shock.  We were at a termination trial for our three year old.  We were hoping for an end to all the madness, a beginning to the process of adoption.  Instead, we found out mom was delivering another baby on Monday.  Oh, we had heard she was pregnant, but she had not been honest with the court.  We had no idea just how pregnant she was!  And so our trial was postponed.  More visits, more time, and more uncertainty for our child.

Who in the world would put up with my craziness?  Only the man who is equally as crazy!!  I started laying it on pretty thick when I found out how quickly the baby was coming.  A few texts here and there, and a few kids telling dad about wanting a new baby.

This daddy tirelessly works day in and day out.  There is always extra work at home!  He goes to practices three nights a week for their sports, multiple games every weekend, and continues to stay engaged with every child.  He’s really the man that I fall more in love with every day.  He’s exactly the man that God had in store for me, and for that I am so grateful.  We have faced so much heartache together, and so much joy.  There is no one else, I’d rather do life with!

So, because I have yet to say much about my husband, he is my right hand man.  He keeps us going and sets things straight.  He is my voice of wisdom and reason.  He loves his family unconditionally.  He has the gift of discernment and righteous anger. His passion for orphans continues and he is fully committed to the mission God has given us.

I choose joy today as I count my blessings, and I’m counting Clint first!

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This Is Not What I Signed Up For….

“That’s kind of what you signed up for….isn’t it?” This was a quote, I came to know well, from a coworker of mine. Everytime I mentioned anything crazy or out of the ordinary about my kids, he would come back with this question. Even though he was just being funny, it always stuck with me. This IS what I signed up for, and I am glad I did!
There are a few things in life, however, that I did not sign up for. I did not sign up to lose loved ones, watch them suffer with life threatening illnesses, or to lose a child that’s only known one family…..ours. I didn’t sign up to wonder about a child’s well-being, only to find out she was slowly dying. Or to watch my own mother suffer so deeply, alone, because she no longer recognizes her own family.
Sometimes, often most times, we don’t get to sign up. God calls us to something extraordinary, and we jump in with both feet because we know this is where He wants us. And God calls us to something extraordinary again, and we might not see it that way, so we dig our heels in deep and beg Him to rescue us. Occassionally He does, but most of the time we are right where He wants us to be. It’s ugly and it’s painful, and we NEVER imagined that this is what our life would look like……..but it does.
And some days, in the midst of heartache, we see just a glimpse of His presence. Like yesterday, when I watched my mom’s best friend (of one million years), ask her to dance. I held my breath as I watched her take both of her hands and lead her, thinking I might explode at any minute. She was helping her to gain strength, and for a moment, I think they knew each other again.
And today, as we watched my almost two year old lose his balloon. His weeping made me weep, I felt his pain. So did my kids. In fact, two of my older ones suggested we buy balloons and send them up to Nana. “Momma, we could tie a note to them, and say ‘Wish you were down here with us’.” They planned her next birthday party, and asked how many days we would have to wait.
I find myself asking God, “What are you trying to teach me?” I make promises like, “Whatever it is, I’ll do it.” And then sometimes, I think He’s saying, “This is it. I am here. You are right where I’ve called you to be.” And sometimes, I don’t want to be right here. I want to cash in and call it quits. I want to play it safe and not take any risks.
But I love my people too much. You see, even if my mom doesn’t know me anymore, I still know her. I recognize her and I love her. And even if I lose the baby that I’ve loved since the day he was born, my pain will be worth it, because he is worth it. God has already written her story. He has already written his story. And even though this was not what I signed up for, He has written mine too.

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