Thursday, April 9, 2015

Annie's Gotcha Glory Story: The Battle

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. - Ephesians 6:12
Annie at 9 months

People are curious. Me too. I can be a big ol' Miss Nosey Nose. We are happy to tell people up front, "And we just finalized our adoption..." We throw it out there because it always leads to good. I've given the phone number of Homes with Hope to a variety of people including: best friends, phlebotomists, store clerks, etc. etc. And we get this question the most: 

"Where did you adopt her from?" 

I'm quick to retort, "Houston, Texas" yep just right down the road! But not in a condemning way-- we just want to let people know there are kids right now that are waiting to be adopted - maybe even living on your street in a foster home. 

There was a precious 13 yr old girl that I've talked about before that we saw at one of the hearings and when the Judge asked, "Do you have any questions for me?" she replied, "I just don't know what is going to happen to me." She just wanted a forever home and it broke my heart. It was all I could do to not weep aloud. 

I take photos for something called the Heart Gallery and they are of children who have had their parental rights terminated that are waiting for adoption. I took photos for a sibling set of 5 beautiful children the other day in Katy. Just let that sink in. 

When our agency called us with the announcement that we had a baby girl, the next thing that was mentioned was: "Low legal risk." Meaning, most likely her parental rights would be terminated. 

Wait a minute though. We were only wanting to straight adopt- as in no fighting the battle of getting her bio parents rights terminated. No parent visitations. No hearings except for the final. No trips down to the Port Authority to meet with family members to discuss long term placement. NO other  plan of "relative adoption" -- JUST NONE OF THAT OKAY WE DON'T WANT TO DEAL WITH THAT. We were so scared. 

That was the reason we took a day to figure out. Could we fight this? Not in our own strength, but only with God and with all the prayers of our loved ones. 

And here's the number one excuse we had: our biological daughter. We didn't want to put her through a situation where we've heard the worst and we all know what I'm saying:

Dealing with the very real possibility of them taking her back. Reunification. 

Here's a sister from the Lord! Just kidding. See what I mean? 

I like the movie Interstellar. I think Christopher Nolan does powerful work. He makes references to parenting so often and in this particular film the main character is a father who has to make promises to his kids, but like all parents he only wants to make a promise that can be fulfilled. 

If you say you're gonna get your kid an ice cream. By ever dang golly you gotta get them an ice cream. 

Trust. Faith. Dependability. Unwavering. These are not the characteristics that go hand in hand with fostering to adopt. 

And honestly, I've already been through my share of grief, right? I mean who willingly will go into that? 

No. We don't know what God is allowing us for our "share of" anything. So that is not an excuse. 

And neither is wanting to shield our daughter from the woes of the process. Had we shielded her she wouldn't have Annie for a sister and would not have had to rely upon the Lord who is MIGHTY to save. 

Was our wanting to protect her a form of cowardice? I know that is a harsh word right there.
And so that's when we decided that we would Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego this whole deal. 

We got all up in that CPS furnace. 

If God saved us, if He allowed Annie to be ours forever- wonderful. 
If He had another plan, well then that was the plan for His daughter, His Annie, that is for His good which in turn is what we wanted for her more than wanting our own wills for her. 

Do I love my daughters more than their Abba Daddy does? Not possible.

17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[a] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”--- Daniel 3:17-18

How many details are too many to share? I have to consider that this is Annie's story and she doesn't have a verbal say in what I share and I must be mindful of that. I don't want the world (I get it - no one is really reading this!!) to know before she does all that went down. But then again, to God be the glory!

The biological mom was not compliant in the process. Not safe. She ultimately did not want to reunify.

 Annie was living with her bio grandparents until they realized they could not care for her due to their poor health and thus gave her into the care of CPS who then placed her with the loving foster home I mentioned. This was the fourth child that was going to be lost from this mom.

Had anyone told her that she was lovely? A daughter of the King of the Kings? We so pray for her to know this truth!!

During a month, I had 9 different meetings in and out of my home. I realized this would be the new normal and gave up doing my photography business. I just couldn't do that anymore.

Some of the meetings were from CPS, some from Child Advocates, and some from our agency. And some were to go to the courthouse, and some were to go to the visitations. God help us. The visitations.

Ever seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Specifically the heart ripping out scene? How many parents had NO idea that was coming up!! Well, that's exactly what the visitations are like.

You go to a CPS location. Take your baby in there. Sign in- but not your full name because God help you if they (the bio parents and or family and or random guy they thought was the bio dad but was really just a criminal with no ties that they had has the bio dad-oops!) find out your names and then go to your house and well you choose your own adventure that ending!

You wait for the parties to show up- hopefully not in the parking lot with you- see above adventure choosing. Then bio grandparents show- it's okay they are nice enough I guess? I've never met them. Never. Oh they are taking Annie back there now. Without me.

John and I were together everytime. Yes. He is missing work for that. I dare you John's office to complain. I dare you. They never did- praise God for their allowances!

The visitation lasts for an hour. The CPS caseworker takes your child back with them. I always gave them a bag of diapers, a bottle, toys, stuff to keep her busy. The bio parties show up- you never know who will show. Then they go back there with your baby. And then you hear crying. You can't do anything.

The first time the security officer said, "They always cry. Always. They know what's going on."

Wow, that's helpful anecdotal information- thank you!

They have to have an officer in the waiting room. Think real life Maury Povich.

I have no cuticles left at the end. I just keep muttering worries to John, then to God, we pray. We bring the Kindle to maybe play Candy Crush- cha right- we just sit there reading posters about how you should feed your children!

Yep. All this is going down. This process happened 3-4 times? I don't know I really blocked out stuff. It was horrible. It was comparable to visiting my dad in the hospital in his last days.

But it was a chance for us to see who we were praying for.

And it gave me compassion. I was like, "JUST SAY NO. IS THAT SO HARD?" Hello, D.A.R.E. ring a bell??? WERE YOU NOT THERE IN HEALTH CLASS??!?!??!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!

But God showed me and John, we are no better. We are all sinners. And eventually the anger and fear turned to mercy and prayers.

Finally, bio mom had too many strikes and too many fails and stopped coming and the Judge - a no nonsense woman that I have major respect for- laid the hammer and ceased her from visiting.

Even the grandparents were heard arguing and sticking up for us, "the family that loves her baby!"

And this is where I want to talk about Child Advocacy. Do it. If you don't know how to help and you are not called to adopt- please consider being a Child Advocate. You are the voice of the child. You get to see what is going on and the Judge listens to you and hold you in very high regard.

We had the most precious, professional, and genuine Child Advocate and her Supervisor. I knew they cared for Annie without a doubt. They had her back. They took the time to know us. They took the time to try to know her bio background. They meant the world to me and to Annie. Thank you Lord for them!

We went to hearings where there were DNA tests, and all sorts of tests.

John and I just stood there holding hands as the Judge, the Ad Litum, the CPS attorney, the CPS caseworker, the Child Advocates, the sometimes there bio family, all approached the bench. Shaking. Not riding the rollercoaster. Along with our phenomenal Agency Case Manager who was with us AT EVERY meeting, hearing, phone call, period. Never left our side. Extremely professional and is family to us!

It was beyond my physical and mental strength so God took over. I was on auto-human.

It was surreal and scary and supernatural. But My God delivered.

There was the pop-up Great Aunt who came on the scene at the end. That was earth shattering- or it would have been if I had let it be.

Can I just stop and tell you who was my rock? John Nichols.

That was his baby. Annie was his girl. As soon as she came home, BOOM, done deal. There was no one, no entity, that would stop him. He never surrendered as I did to fear. He never backed down. He always knew. Even with the great aunt and then the familiar kin- i.e. friend out of nowhere who both backed out- he never gave up.

And we pray that we were being a good witness through it all. Talk about an opportunity to witness. You deal with tons of people. They were watching how we would respond. We prayed. We told them we just, "Trust in the Lord." We did, but it was beyond hard.

I know we made it through this with the prayers of our faithful friends and family. Thank you.

It was harrowing. But I know there are a lot worse stories. Ours was fairly cut and dry. And I know that you can do this too!

One of the hardest parts was the grace for her bio mom. I just couldn't fathom how she did not show up to the parental rights termination hearing. It was humbling to realize John and I (and all our family) were the only ones that stood in the gap for this precious, dear heart. Sobering.

It was like if only God could open my eyes to see His vast army on that battlefield like He did in one of the battles of the Old Testament- which king was that for? Greater is they who are with us...

Bottom line: we were at the front lines of God's battle. Thank God He has already overcome the world.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.- John 16:33
I just want to reiterate that I do not judge- or I try so hard not to- the bio mom. Again, she chose life. I do not know where she has been. And therefore I wrote this to her and gave it to our precious Child Advocate so she could deliver it to her.

A letter to the Birth Mom. 


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