A soft place to land……

It’s amazing the heaviness that can weigh on your heart in the middle of a Heart Gallery photo shoot. As I’ve said before, these days are always hard. There is a conflict of emotions that bubbles to the surface of my being and vacillates back and forth between hope and despair as I look into the faces of children who have lost everything; children who are hoping, longing and waiting for a second chance at family.

A couple of weeks ago, as I stood in the middle of one of our shoots, I watched as a foster dad told a young boy that something was not going to go as planned. It sounded like he was not going to make it back to his summer program in time to go on a field trip or perhaps he didn’t want to go back to the program, but instead spend some time with his brother that was being photographed with him. At any rate, tears welled up in this boy’s eyes and he quickly turned his head to insure that no one saw them.

I saw them. And in a split second, my mind went to my own young son and what this picture would have looked like if he had heard the same news this boy had heard, if tears had welled up in his eyes. It was so clear to me- he would have run straightway into my arms and buried his head in my chest. He would have had the freedom to let the tears spill and let his sadness melt into a momma who loves him deeply. His pain, no matter how insignificant it might seem, is my pain, his hurt; my hurt.

And yet this boy, this child from whom everything has been taken, had no freedom to share his hurt, his sadness, his disappointment. He had to suck it up and get on with it. He had to take it upon himself to ‘man-up’ and tough it out. I’m sure this wasn’t the first time (and won’t be the last) that he was forced to bury his feelings and move on. My heart broke for him and my righteous indignation rose to the surface once again. We have got to do more. Waiting children need a voice, a light at the end of the dark tunnel, a compassionate unconditional-loving family who understands their heartaches. They need and deserve a soft place to land.

. #dreambigprayboldstandfirmpresson

Published in: on July 5, 2015 at 11:21 pm  Comments (1)  


The call came in about a year and a half ago, just as we had begun photo shoots for our statewide traveling Heart Gallery. Our goal was to expand our long running county gallery to a larger exhibit that showcased the beautiful faces of waiting kids from all over the state of Arkansas. Project Zero had gained permission from DCFS and within three weeks were blown away by the overwhelming response of professional photographers from every corner of our state: 98 in 45 cities to be exact. We had already done several photo shoots; days that were filled with both the excitement about the possible futures for waiting kids and the unspeakable loss that these kids had experienced.

But this call was different. This call was a life changer. This call dug down deep into the very core of my soul and ‘called me out’ on everything I believed as a foster or adoptive mom.

“Christie, I have a teenager who is incarcerated,’ the adoption specialist said. ‘Not sure what I need to do about him.”

“Have his parental rights been terminated?’ I inquired.  “Is he available for adoption and waiting for a forever family?”

“Yes.” the specialist said with a hint of discouragement.

“Then he deserves to be in our Heart Gallery. We owe him that. How can we make this happen?” I asked.

Okay. So we were going to a prison to photograph a hurting, troubled waiting teen. Oh my word. As if finding families for waiting teens is not hard enough, but now we’re going to add one who is in jail with multiple issues? How is all THAT going to look on an adoption summary? Those were some of the thoughts that raced through my mind as I contacted area ‘male’ photographers to see if anyone would be willing to photograph this teen.

But other thoughts raced through my mind as well. This boy, this young man, deserved to be fought for. He had entered foster care through no fault of his own and his problems, his issues, and his trauma, were brought on by someone else. He was hopeless; institutionalized with lost freedom. Loss. I was sure that was a word he knew all to well.

A photographer was found immediately and preparations were made for us to meet at the facility in a few days; the adoption specialist, the photograph and me. I realized he would have nothing to wear to insure that his photo looked like the others, so I asked the specialist for his sizes. I had no idea what style he was, so I bought preppy, and sporty and tailored and grunge!

I headed to the facility for the photo shoot with a sack filled with multiple items in multiple colors. I was determined but uncertain and a bit fearful. I prayed for him as I drove and reminded myself that he could be cold and closed off. He could refuse the photo, throw the clothes on the floor and cuss me out. I hoped for the best, but prepared myself for the worst.

The photographer was already there. The adoption specialist and I met on the parking lot and proceeded through security. As we entered the one little sitting room that was the only place suitable for a photo to be taken, there he was, a mellow relaxed young man sitting on the arm of the only piece of furniture in the room. He smiled as the specialist greeted him and introduced us. The photographer had his equipment all set up and had been engaging the teen in the process. I showed him the clothes and he excitedly chose a t-shirt and button-down shirt and was escorted out of the room to change.

The photos were taken and we were done. He came over to me and asked if I worked for DCFS. When I told him that I didn’t, that I was a foster mom and adoptive mom and worked with an organization that wanted to help find families for every waiting child, he reached his arms out, embraced me and thanked me for coming. He also said he actually like all of the clothes I brought- so I left them all! The officials would lock them up with his personal effects until he was released.

We all said our goodbyes and I walked to the parking lot.

As I drove home, I was overcome. I have to be honest, I confessed out loud to the Lord that I did not know one single person at that moment in time who would be willing to adopt him. Not one person. But I confessed another thing as well. God is able. He is the One to whom nothing is impossible. He is the One who sets the lonely (and confused and heartbroken and hopeless) in families.

After the editing was done, we added the photo of this young man to the traveling Heart Gallery and to our website (www.theprojectzero.org). Four weeks later, I was speaking at a statewide event and mentioned this story without any specifics, in the middle of my speech. When it came time for questions and answers, a young woman stood up in the back and said, “I just have to tell you something. The story you mentioned about the young man that is incarcerated…I’m his CASA. He has called me three times over the past few weeks to tell me about your visit, about his photograph being taken and about the clothes you brought. He was so excited!” What a small world and what an encouragement that was to me!

I would like to say that over the course of the past 2 years, we have had a ton of inquiries about this young man and that a family had been chosen for him. Sadly, that is not the case. I don’t know of one inquiry that I have received and he is certainly not in a family. It’s heartbreaking on so many levels. But, that doesn’t change my commitment to him, my heart for him and my resolve to fight for him. And it doesn’t change the basic truth that his life is redeemable and more importantly his life is worth being redeemed. Would you pray for him today? Bold prayers. Prayers for restoration to come, for confusion to fade, for hope to rise and for the life-changing gift of a family to be given.

Published in: on April 3, 2015 at 11:55 am  Comments (5)  

I have a Sanballat.

The book of Nehemiah is a book filled with intrigue, with vision, with risk-taking and out-of-comfort-zone directions. Nehemiah himself threw caution to the wind, grabbed tightly to the coattails of the vision God had given him and pressed on with the intensity of a warrior going into battle. He was the cup-bearer to a king, yet he was broken by the trashed out, rubble-piled wall around Jerusalem. He saw what could be and what should be.

In the quietness of a moment in time, the Lord tapped Nehemiah on the shoulder and in no uncertain words, told him what to do. He must rebuild the wall. Nehemiah was a bold-pray-er, a God-believer, an innovator and a ‘never say die’ maniac. He knew his mission and he wasn’t going down without a fight or until the last brick was in place and the last door was hung.

But Nehemiah had detractors. He had people who were power-hungry, angry, scheming, intimidated and on edge. One of them was a governor named Sanballat. To say he was teed off at what Nehemiah was doing, would be an understatement. He was livid. He tried everything to keep Nehemiah from succeeding in rebuilding the wall. He laughed, mocked, threatened, contrived military plans, designed assassination attempts and tried to distract Nehemiah from his ONE objective and his only mission.

About 12 years ago, I got to know Nehemiah; not literally of course, but through his story and through a book called “Visioneering” by Andy Stanley that expounds on Nehemiah’s amazing journey. In a strange way, I relate to Nehemiah. Not to the wall building business, but construction of a different sort; family building. A vision was birthed in my heart and soul, manifested in a variety of ways, and culminated in my work to help find families for waiting kids.

Answering God’s call on your life is not only a game-changer, it’s a life changer. It is risky business. And there will be detractors, people who want the mission to be scrubbed, the status quo to reign and for you to be out of the picture. People just like Sanballat.

I have a Sanballat. And it is hard. I am frustrated. I am irritated. I am exhausted. I am ‘weary in well-doing’. But I am pressing on. Rebuilding the wall wasn’t Nehemiah’s idea, it was God’s. Zero isn’t my idea, it’s God’s. He is able. He is willing. And every Sanballat in the history of the world can’t touch the power and intention of the God of the universe.

The wall of Jerusalem was complete in an astounding 52 days, God was glorified, and Sanballat went home with his tail between his legs. God is in the business of doing the impossible. He is the winner. He is faithful. God continues to push me and to call me out to do four things: Dream Big, Pray Bold, Stand Firm and Press On. Like Nehemiah, I want to have the courage to fix my eyes on the vision and the vision-giver!

Published in: on March 13, 2015 at 1:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Seven years ago today…..

…Caroline Serenity Erwin legally and officially became our daughter. After 3 years and 4 months in our home, on February 12, 2008, she left the courthouse with a new name and we all left with a new life. To say that we are grateful that God has entrusted us with this beautiful, feisty, compassionate (now 11 year old girl), is an understatement. We are grateful for who she is (all of who she is) and who she will become. We are praying that God will use Serenity to change the world. Here’s what I wrote on the day her adoption was finalized:

____February 12, 2008: Well, today was the day! Today was the culmination of three years, four months and six days of waiting, wondering, praying and hoping. Today brought to an end a record-breaking birthing process that was filled with complications. But, as is the case with most birthing experiences, once the child arrives, you forget the complications! Although she was birthed in our hearts a long time ago, today marked the day that Caroline Serenity Erwin was officially “born.” Today brought an end to a mountain of frustrations and brought with it a calming voice that whispered to me “no one can ever take her away again!” As our daughter slid under the pews in the courtroom, I stood in awe of a heavenly Father who makes a way for His children, a Father for whom no detail is too small, no dream too big. Today, like the other four days on which my children were born, is a day I will never forget; a day that will define the rest of my life, a day I embrace with joy, peace and intense gratitude for a little girl that entered our lives for a moment, and gets to stay for a lifetime.”  Excerpt from “The Middle Mom”:

Serenity one-year-old 002

Serenity- February 2015

Serenity- February 2015

Published in: on February 12, 2015 at 10:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Adoption isn’t a win-win.

My good friend was sitting in front of me yesterday in church holding her precious little foster son. The bond between these two is apparent and palpable. You would never know she hadn’t given birth to this precious little guy. During the ‘meet and greet’ time she came over to update me on his case. She had gotten word this past week that his case was probably going to TPR (termination of parental rights) and that she was going to let the ‘powers that be’ know that she would like to adopt him if he becomes available. As much a she loves him and deeply desires to make him her son, she also gets it.

Adoption is not a win-win. Someone loses. Someone walks away with empty arms and a child-sized hole in their heart. Even if the fault is their own, they leave the case with a finality and brokenness that is really hard for me to even imagine. My friend asked what I thought about a gift she was going to give her baby’s mother at court. Chills ran up and down my arms as she spoke and an all to familiar ache filled my thoughts.

“I bought her a blue elephant identical to the baby’s. I wrote her a note telling her that he has one too and I’m giving her some pictures of him.”

Perfect, just perfect.

I’ve thought a lot about birth parents over the course of the past 22 years. Being immersed in the foster care and adoption world, you can’t help but think, and pray, and hurt and really just groan for them. Sometimes when I look at my two children, who became my son and daughter through adoption, tears fill my eyes as I realize what they have lost, what their birth families have lost. And questions flood my mind…do their parents wonder about them, do they miss them, do they think about them every day? Those questions will likely never be answered, but rest assured my children will understand the value of their birth families, tempered with the truth wrapped in love and compassion and grace. Because no matter how horrific, how frustrating, how unfathomable a case is or how little we understand, agree with or even like birth families….in adoption there is loss. We need to first realize that, then respond in ways that build life and hope and joy into our children and the families that gave them life.


Published in: on January 12, 2015 at 8:52 pm  Comments (3)  

Unfulfilled dreams.

Unfulfilled dreams are something we all struggle with. I don’t think I would be going out on a limb to say that the dreams of kids waiting in foster care are non-existent or at the very least, in the tank. These kids may not even know how to dream or why to dream. They may not ever even entertain the idea of dreaming. Dreams that aren’t dreamed can’t come true. And maybe its easier that way.

This thought came through to me loud and clear during our December Christmas party for waiting kids at Fellowship Bible Church. Fellowship’s congregation provided amazing Christmas gifts for almost 100 kids and an over-the-top party that was a huge blessing. We had over eighty waiting kids and about 80 waiting families at the event and cannot wait to see how many kids actually met their forever families on this special day.

There were gorgeous decorations, a joyous authentic Santa Claus, delicious food and kids dressed in festive clothes. But one girl; one story stands out above all the rest. I never saw her, but Caryl. Caryl had coordinated the entire event and was ‘manning’ a station by the exit where the kids picked up their bags of gifts. She combed over her lists and helped find names as she moved through the neat piles of toys and clothing and bicycles. Two girls approached to ask about their gifts. Caryl recognized them because she and I have moved their pictures for years in our Heart Gallery exhibit. When she asked them what they wanted for Christmas and what they had put on their wishlists, one of the girls, a 14 year old,  said “I didn’t give them a list.”

Caryl knew that gifts had been purchased for this girl, but before she found the bag the girl continued “I just hope there’s an Easy-Bake Oven”.

“An Easy-Bake Oven?” Caryl said knowing there was no Easy-Bake oven in her bag, I mean, she was 14 after all.

“Yes, she replied. I’ve wished for one since I was 6 years old.”

Broken and determined, Caryl thought fast. She remembered that I had brought in a bunch of toys and clothes that I had purchased for two children that were last minute additions to our master list and that in that menagerie of stuff was an unwrapped Easy-Bake Oven. The ONLY Easy Bake Oven that either of us had added to any list (and we had LOTS of them) or purchased during the entire Christmas season. Without hesitation, Caryl turned and quietly placed the priceless oven into this girls’ bag. If we couldn’t do anything else that day or this Christmas season we could make an 8-year-old unfulfilled dream come true for this long-waiting teen.

My heart breaks for her, because I know her story and it is heartbreaking. She has waited and waited and waited. She has been through things most of us cannot even imagine. And yet her dream was so simple; an Easy Bake Oven. Wonder what she thought when she looked in the bag? Wonder what she would think if a more tangible and enduring dream came true; if she felt the love and nurture and support and encouragement and stability of a forever family?

Its a new year filled with new resolve to dream big, pray bold, stand firm and press on. Its time to persevere in the fight and never ever give up until every single waiting child is home.

Easy Bake Oven

Published in: on January 9, 2015 at 6:36 pm  Comments (1)  

Empty Arms….


Six years ago today, the single most difficult event in my foster care and adoptive journey happened. And my life, my family and my ministry would never be the same.

Excerpt- Chapter 18- “The Middle Mom – How to Grow Your Heart by Giving it Away”..

The manuscript was complete, the editing was done, the printing and publishing quote was in, the graphic artist was chosen for the cover, and it seemed that everything was on go. However, exactly one month, three days and eight hours ago, things changed. Another story happened, another piece to the puzzle, another strand in the tapestry of my ministry, another chapter in my story, and it has to be told. Even now, as I sit with my hands on the keyboard, I’m not sure I have the strength to tell this story. I feel the knot in my throat; tears well up in my eyes and my heart beats faster as I anticipate actually seeing this chapter in print. Nevertheless, if I am going to do what I set out to do in the beginning of this book, that is to truly be transparent, to lay all my cards on the table, then I must conjure up everything that is within me–all of the truths the heavenly Father has taught me–in order to let my heart spill out onto this page. This is the story of a little girl I’ll call Baby B.
I will never, ever forget the day I got the call about B. Jeff and I were sitting in a parenting conference at our church. Serenity’s adoption was still not final, and we were fostering her one year old brother at the time. As I sat in the conference with my cell phone on silent, I looked down and saw that I had received a call from Serenity’s caseworker. “Interesting,” I thought, “on a Saturday.” I excused myself and went to the foyer to return her call.
“Everything is fine with Serenity’s case,” she said, “I just wondered if you knew of anyone, Christie, who would be willing to take a five-week-old baby girl?”
“Well, not me!” I thought. “Who do you think I am, the old woman that lives in the shoe?”
“I can’t think of anyone right now,” were the words that actually came out of my mouth, “but, I will make a couple of phone calls to see if anyone I know can take her, and I’ll call you right back.”
I made the phone calls, but had no success in finding a family for this baby. So, I did what I considered the next best thing, I asked Jeff if we could take her for the weekend. He looked at me as he often does when I come to him with one of my emotional schemes, but as usual he agreed that we would take her for the weekend. I would call the caseworker on Monday and she would find a permanent placement for this baby.
I immediately went into “baby mode.” I left the conference early, rushed home to get my infant car seat and headed to DHS. There, in the arms of the caseworker was the most beautiful newborn baby girl with curly hair and chubby cheeks and all dressed in lime green.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what happened next. On Sunday night Jeff looked at me and said seven words that would change my life:
“You want to try this, don’t you?”
As crazy as it sounded, taking on another baby with the chaos of a preschooler with ADHD, an incredibly active one year old and four other children going in four different directions, I found myself saying yes. I really believe it was my heart answering, not my mouth. I knew deep down in my soul that this was our daughter and she belonged in my arms; I just didn’t know for how long.

The event that brought Baby B into foster care was horrific. Though by God’s grace she was not harmed, it was a violent act that could have been catastrophic. That truth made me hold her tighter and love her deeper. It also filled me with a deep resolve that no one would ever, ever be in a position to hurt her again.
Little did I know how tight my hold on this precious one would become, how deep my love would root and how intense my resolve would tunnel down into the very core of my being. Baby B was the perfect baby. She slept like a log. She was content. She spit up a lot, but hey, nobody’s perfect! She was a little “snuggle bunny” who was so easy going. We began to notice that she seemed a bit too easy going. She would sleep long hours at a time and never seemed to wake during the night, even with the high pitched screams of our one year old son. Jeff and I became very concerned about her hearing. We had her hearing tested; she failed. We had her hearing tested again; she failed again. We went to a specialist and had her hearing tested; she failed.
Bless her heart, she will probably be in therapy later in life for all the ways we tested her hearing ourselves: loud screams, sudden whistles, books dropped on the floor, her name broadcast at mega decibels from every part of the room. And yet, she wasn’t hearing us. Although I know many people thrive in and through their deafness, I couldn’t help but grieve as I thought about her life without sound. For some reason, it was her not hearing music and our voices that grieved me the most. Jeff began to pray that God would take care of whatever was causing the problem or just miraculously heal her as only He could do. When she was five months old, we returned to the specialist to have her tested again; she passed. God had done it; our girl could hear!
Next, B’s difficulty with swallowing almost required a feeding tube. And because of the months of not hearing, she was speech and language delayed. But other than that, she was growing and was way ahead of the curve in height and weight. She had her own fashion sense (okay, I had my own fashion sense for her.). She looked beautiful in lime, orange, and fuchsia–and even better in a combination of the three. And as with any girl that resides in the Erwin household, she never left home without a bow. Everywhere I went people talked about how gorgeous she was. Our family bonded with her quickly and deeply.
B’s case was complicated by the incident that brought her into care, by mental illness and by a history of family members that didn’t get along. We began a roller coaster ride that was all too familiar to us. A few weeks after she came into our home, it seemed as if she would be leaving us to go and live with a relative, but then the tracks turned downward, and that plan was scrapped. Paternity was established, and she began visits with her biological mother and father as well as with a couple of extended family members. The tension within the family was palpable, and the internal hostility infiltrated the whole case. As time marched on, it seemed as if there was no straightforward plan for the future of this baby.
Meanwhile, we loved every minute as B was growing and changing. We hung on every little sound that eked out of her mouth. I learned that styling her hair, which was so very different in texture from Serenity’s, was a breeze. We watched her learn to crawl, to pull up, and play patty-cake. We were there when she got her first tooth and then a mouthful of teeth. (She drooled constantly. Jeff said that wherever she crawled, she left a trail, like a slug.) We cheered as she took her first step, and we hosted her first birthday party where everything from her dress and bloomers to the two cakes were pink and green polka dots. We watched as her love for books bloomed, and our hearts overflowed as we observed the way she tenderly rocked her baby dolls. She loved her blankets, so we bought every ultra soft blanket we could find. She would pull them all into her crib at night and be lying on top of the blanket mountain in the morning. When she was tired, her blanket would go up to her face and her thumb would go into her mouth. She even adopted one of Serenity’s silk dresses as a pseudo-blankie. She’d grab any purse, bag, infant carrier, whatever, and throw it over her arm like it was a genuine Coach or Dooney and Bourke, and she was a princess!
We had the distinct pleasure of being her favorite audience as she learned to dance with the grace and humor that only a one-year-old can. We laughed our heads off as she and Serenity performed their musical theatre, complete with a boom box and High School Musical CD, for all of us as we sat in the living room. I was the recipient of her first kiss as she leaned into my cheek and smacked “MMMM-MA.” B and I were inseparable as we shopped, ran errands, picked up kids and moved the Heart Gallery together. Cara called her “pipsqueak.” When Chase and Caleb came home from college on the weekends, she would run into their arms with a huge smile. Connor loved her with an undying love. Serenity loved to mother her, almost as much as I did. The small group of newlyweds that Jeff and I lead on Sunday nights nurtured her, loved her and fed her every week. She would move from one set of arms to the next and always knew that the guys in the group were the softies who would feed her the most! They felt like they were her extended parents. B was well loved, and we were all well loved by her.
The decision was made by DHS and the courts to terminate parental rights. All of the parties in the case were on board in a passionate unified way that I had never seen at DHS. (Except the birth parents attorneys of course, who wanted her placed with a relative.) We made our way to court for the termination hearing, fifteen months after B came to live with us. Arguments were made, questions were asked, positions were taken, and the outcome, the very destiny of this child’s life, was left in the hands of one woman: the judge.
Although I haven’t said it up to this point, I’m sure you have read between the lines and know our position: This is our daughter and we want her to be our daughter forever.
It is very important to note that when reunification had been the goal, we were on that team. But, once the goal in B’s case was changed to adoption, our hearts and minds turned towards adoption as well. I had picked out her name months before (okay, maybe my heart had “turned” a little ahead of schedule). Cara and I had kept the name to ourselves for awhile before letting Daddy in on it– Emme Camryn. Granted the “C” name wouldn’t be first this time, but it would be there nonetheless. I looked on the Internet one night to see what Emme meant and it was defined as “whole, complete.” “It’s a sign,” I thought. Once B is added to the Erwin gang, our family will be whole and complete: Three girls and three boys– a modern day “Brady Bunch.” I rehearsed the names of our new family over and over in my mind: Chase Sullivan, Caleb Saeger, Cara Elizabeth, Connor Scott, Caroline Serenity and Emme Camryn. Wow! That had a ring to it.
No new court date was set; all we had to do was wait for the judge’s ruling. All we had to do was wait for the judge’s ruling. For five weeks we waited with bated breath.
It seemed like any time I ran into anyone involved in the case from DHS they would say, “I don’t think you have anything to worry about, I can’t imagine the judge deciding to do anything but terminate.”
On a Wednesday afternoon, I was loading B and Serenity in the car to head to the dentist’s office. My cell phone rang, and my life would never be the same. B’s attorney was on the other end of the line.
“Christie, the judge has decided to send B to the relative,” she managed to mutter. “I’m sorry.”
To say I was in shock would be an understatement of epic proportion. I fumbled with my purse and the diaper bag, clumsily got B out of her car seat, grabbed Serenity’s hand and nervously led them back into the house. “I’ve got to call Jeff,” I thought as I dialed his number.
“They are sending B to the relative,” I heard myself say, all the while wondering if I was really saying those words.
“I’ll be right there,” he said. And he was. Chase was home from college working at Jeff’s office. He, too, was at my side in a matter of minutes.
I paced. I cried. I held my baby daughter tight. I saw confusion in Serenity’s eyes.
“How am I going to do this?” I shouted. “How are we going to do this? I can’t call the kids at school and have them come home. Cara can’t drive with this on her mind,” I reasoned.
When I finally got the caseworker on the phone, she informed me that the relative wanted B immediately. The caseworker was devastated, as well, and wondered what I wanted to do. I told her that there was no way I could drive my daughter to a strange place with all of her worldly belongings and leave her. She would have to pick her up.
So, for the next three hours, I gathered her things. I washed her clothes and cried, I picked up her dolls, stuffed animals, and her little bike and cried: I held her blankets and “silkies” tight and cried: I organized her precious books, packed all of her clothes and cried. I sent Jeff to the store for extra diapers and an extra duffle bag and cried. I wrapped myself around this precious gift that God had entrusted to me and wept. I could not imagine my life without her.
The hour that followed is forever etched in my mind. Our family gathered for a prayer time. Jeff cried out to the Father amid silent sobs and sniffles. B didn’t have a clue what was happening, and I am sure wondered if her entire family had gone totally insane! She wandered from person to person as Daddy prayed. My parents came over and held us. My six-year-old nephew came to say goodbye. The caseworker arrived and the boys loaded the car. It was time.
And time stood still. I will never forget the utter hopelessness and helplessness I felt as Jeff and I made our way to the waiting car with our daughter. Our entire family was on the porch. I felt as if I was moving in slow motion. I put her in the car seat, buckled her in tight, and kissed her. My weeping was uncontrollable. My heart was shattered. B looked at us with a question mark as we told her how much we loved her and shut the door. The car drove away with my hopes and dreams inside.
There are no words to describe what these last weeks have been. We have lost something priceless. We have lost a daughter. At this point in time, there is nothing anyone can say or do to change that. We have experienced a death of another sort; on one hand there is a sense of finality and on the other, no closure.
It seems that with every store I enter, there is a reminder of the emptiness, of what I am missing: the baby food aisle, the toy section, everything at Baby Gap and even looking at the shopping carts makes me hyperventilate. Cara says I have made friends at all of my favorite stores, and I really can’t disagree with her. I tend to stand out with my babies, which leads to great conversations and opportunities to share my heart. I was in Target not long after B left when one of my store friends asked me where my baby was. I told her what had happened and with open arms she embraced me, told me she was so sorry, even called me “Boo” and said, “You just don’t look right without your baby”.
We have never had this kind of grief. “Yes, you have,” you may say. “It’s in the book!” The grief caused by the loss of a child, yes. But, not the grief caused by the loss of a child that we thought would be ours forever. We had known in all of the cases up to this point that the child would either be adopted by a forever family or be returned home to his/her biological family; but this time it was different.
I have seen snapshots of B in my mind at every turn: her face as she took our hands in hers while playing patty-cake and her tiny pursed mouth as she tried to say “roll it up”, her little round bottom grooving to the music, her thumb in her mouth as she put her head on my shoulder, her eyes peering over the baby bed watching Jeff’s morning routine and him kissing her as he left for work, her horrified look when she feared our Golden Retrievers would run into the house and eat her alive, her crinkled lips and turned up nose when she tried a new food, her chubby little hands reaching out for me, the excitement in her eyes when we picked her up from her Sunday school class, and the list goes on and on. At night as I move in the darkness towards my bed, I run my hand along her bed rail and imagine her little hands holding on, waiting for me to pick her up. I have literally had to catch my breath with grief. There have been times when I have paced around the house uncertain of what to do. I have written down Scriptures about hope and strewn them throughout the house. The loss is palpable. The future uncertain. Her destiny unsure.
Unsure by my measuring stick, but there is One to whom nothing is unsure. One to whom no future is uncertain. One to whom there is no coincidence, no happenstance, no “luck of the draw,” no karma or kismet, to whom nothing is a fluke. In the midst of it all, He has been here. He has wrapped His arms around me and held me tight. When I shouted aloud to Him, “I don’t trust this situation!” He whispered back, “But you can trust Me.” He has seen the ugliness of my despair and felt the literal aching of my arms just to hold my child. He has known my doubts and fears, tolerated my questions, witnessed my selfishness and disillusionment, felt my heartbreak, caught my tears and yet purposed in His heart to work out His plan in me, even when my purpose, my passion, my calling, and the course of my life seemed unclear. And for that I am eternally grateful.
Though this case is not over and, really, anything could happen, in spite of it all, I am eternally grateful for something else. I am grateful for a “weekend baby” who captured my heart and the hearts of my family; a baby that regardless of proximity, is our daughter forever, period. Nothing and no one can take that away from us. I pray that in her tiny heart she will always sense our love, feel our prayers, and be able to grasp how deep our commitment to her was and is. And one last thing I pray: that this is not really the end of this chapter, that there will be more of this story to tell, more supernatural events to recount, and in the end all of the glory will shine on the heavenly Father who is “able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of– infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” (Ephesians 3:20 The Way, The Living Bible)

Published in: on December 4, 2014 at 11:37 pm  Comments (2)  


Hopelessness is something that we have all felt at one time or another. Honestly, I cannot imagine the hopelessness that permeates the entire foster care experience for hurting kids. Unless we ourselves have lived it, there is no way to internalize the angst and fear and trauma that living life as a ‘foster child’ brings.

I received a message this morning that suddenly took me to a place of brokenness and tears. It was a message from an adoptive father about his child. It was a message of hope and redemption; of struggle and victory, of passion, compassion and power. It was a message of encouragement and a battle cry to continue the fight. It was a message of change. It was a message about hearing and obeying; about getting out of your comfort zone and getting your hands dirty on behalf of a vulnerable children who’s only hope may be ‘us’.

This message did something else…..it brought strength to my heart and resolve to my soul to keep fighting, to keep praying, to keep pushing and to never ever give up until we reach zero.

And so, today, will you pray with me for 12 year old Cody? Pray that God will allow someone to see his photo and be moved to action on his behalf. #shootinforzero #nomorewaiting #justtakesone


CodyW (1)

Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 8:26 pm  Comments (4)  


One powerful thing about the beautiful photographs that dot the panels of our heart gallery is that you cannot walk away from them and refuse to believe there are parent-less children in our own back yard. You cannot look into the faces of these kids without thinking about your own children and internalizing the deep hopelessness that comes with having the ‘world’ know you need a family.
The reality is even harder than that. We are in a battle. We a fighting for the very lives and futures of vulnerable kids with no voice. But the bottom line is that many of them choose not to be adopted; they have had enough of the ‘system parent’ and are ready to break free and try life on their own terms. I firmly believe that they cannot know the long term effects of that decision; to be alone without support, nurture or guidance. What can we expect when they have been bounced from place to place; from home to home with a simple phone call, when no one and nothing is permanent in their lives? How can we ask them to understand the importance of a family when they have never had a functioning family to call their own?

And I wonder what the fact that we have over 100,000 kids/youth waiting in foster care in the United States says to those kids/youth about the church, about God, about His power and provision.What is it going to take to wake up the body of Christ in a way that no one can explain; definitive, impenetrable, ruthless and undaunted; on a mission that won’t rest until every single child has a family?

We cannot look the other way. We cannot wait for someone else to do it. We cannot cross our fingers, cast a broad prayer and hope that things work out. We have got to put our hands to the good work, lay our hearts on the line, take a risk that will cost and think outside the box. The longer we put off our James 1:27 command, the longer a child has to wait. There is just no other way to say it.  A remnant can’t do this job; it’s going to take an army. I believe that the God of angel armies is calling, entreating His people to stand up, denounce selfishness, throw off procrastination and bury apathy. It’s time for all of us to ask boldly what our part is and then quickly obey. I know we will be blown away by the blessings that come as a result of our obedience and compassion!HGG_25

Published in: on June 13, 2014 at 10:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Little Girl Lost

Last week, in the middle of the chaos of our Disney Extravaganza preparations, Caryl and I took a little journey. We squeezed it into an already full day; a day that was awash with shopping, gathering, delivering and calling. I picked up some flowers and Caryl and I caravan-ed to a small cemetery; a place we’ve been together on several occasions. We were there to mark an anniversary that was anything but celebratory.

Six years have past since she and I shared what would be a life changing, ministry heightening experience. Six years ago, we sat at the bedside of a precious, almost 2 year old little girl as she lay dying as a result of a horrific act of physical abuse. We loved her, even though we’d never met before we walked into that hospital room; even though we had never seen her with her eyes open and never would, even though we had never heard one word come out of her sweet little mouth or seen her run and jump or smile. We loved her. And what we shared that day was almost too much to bear.

As we approached her grave, one that is now marked with a beautiful headstone purchased with donations from some special people, all of the memories came flooding back. This child needs to be remembered. This child needs to be honored and valued and held close. This child deserves for someone to stand up with great passion and say that what happened to her was a travesty. This child deserves justice and retribution. This child deserves to be known.

My heart aches for her and what she missed. My heart aches for us and what we missed by not getting to know her or what she would have become. My heart aches for all of the other children who are in the same circumstance she was in and who, if someone doesn’t intervene, will find that their only way out is HER way out. It is time for this world to wake up; to take responsibility for our children. It’s time for us to quit judging the why’s and how’s and put our hands to the good work on behalf of hurting kids. It’s time for open hearts and open homes. It’s time for selfishness to give way to a selflessness that only the Father can give. Lives are at stake. Futures hang in the balance.

I am better for having ‘known’ her. I am changed. I am challenged. May you always be with me little one and my your life and death be the impetus for my continued push for the right forever family for every single waiting child.


*Note-If you have read “The Middle Mom” you will recognize this story about Kee Kee (name changed). If not- here’s the chapter in its entirety:

Chapter 17-The Wrap Up


As I wind down my writing, I am reminded of that day fifteen years ago when my foster care journey began.  To say that my life has changed dramatically since then would be a classic understatement. I have a beautiful nine-month-old foster daughter sleeping in another room, a precocious four-year-old running around entertaining everyone, three teenagers who are a constant source of joy, blessing and encouragement, and a very supportive grown-man son away at college. There have been a million tears cried, thousands of diapers changed, hundreds and hundreds of bottles made, and I have been blessed to be a temporary mother, a middle mom, to over forty foster children. But, one thing hasn’t changed: God’s call. Sure, He has refined it, transformed it, overhauled it and pushed it to new levels beyond my wildest imagination, but the premise is the same: “It’s time for you, my child, to put some ACTION behind those empty pro-life words.”


I was in the final stages of writing this book when a disturbing thing happened. The Lord took me to a place I had never been before, a place that was so dark, so very painful and yet such a reminder of why I have swathed myself in this ministry. For the sake of privacy, I really cannot go into the “what, where, when, why and how” of this situation; but for the sake of a little girl I’ll call KeeKee, the story must be told. Through a supernatural circumstance, I found out about KeeKee: she’d been brought to a hospital in our area as a result of abuse. She wasn’t even two years old yet. She was comatose. She was brain dead. She was alone. My heart reacted like a mother’s. I asked the DHS worker if I could go and be with her (all the while wondering if I was really capable of going and being with her). The worker asked me with a surprised tone in her voice,

“Christie, is that what you want to do?”

“No.” I admitted, “it’s not what I want to do; it’s what I have to do.”

I told her I knew that Caryl, Donna, and Jan would be willing to help as well. A couple of hours after my conversation with the DHS worker, she and I met at the intensive care unit. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. There was Kee Kee; a beautiful, frail, angelic little girl. She was hooked up to every machine you could imagine with tubes coming out in every direction. I loved her from the minute I saw her. Although I would never see her with her eyes open, would never see her smile or hear her laugh, would never get the opportunity to have her skinny little arms wrap around my neck or her round little lips kiss my cheek. I loved her. I could not hold back; I immediately went to her side and began what would be a three-day ritual of rubbing her tiny face, holding her tiny hand in mine and telling her that everything was going to be all right. I felt my heart sink, I was nauseous; I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “How did this happen?” But, deep in my spirit, I knew that this was a divine appointment; it was no coincidence that I was at KeeKee’s bedside. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that unless God intervened in a miraculous way, she was going to die, because lying there, she looked as if she were sleeping: so peaceful, so contented as the rhythmic motion of the ventilator and the air puffs of the warming blanket masked what was really going on. Caryl and I went back later in the day and stayed and stayed and stayed. We couldn’t leave her. We tried to comfort each other, but nothing made sense. We just cried and prayed, cried and prayed. The next day, Jan joined us as we all spent the day at the hospital. The time came to do the neurological tests to determine whether or not there was any brain activity. Would we like to be with her while the test was done? Of course we would; we were her family now. The world stopped as the doctor unplugged the ventilator and hooked up the oxygen. Hovering around KeeKee’s bed were two doctors, two nurses, a social worker, and the organ donation team director along with Caryl and me. For ten eternal minutes, sixteen eyes gazed at the tiny abdomen. I felt myself saying under my breath, “Breathe, breathe” between silent prayers for God to work a miracle. For ten minutes the abdomen lay flat; the tiny body, limp and lifeless. I didn’t know if I could stand there, if I could hear what the doctor was going to say.

“There is no brain activity, I’m sorry,” he said. With those words a sense of resolve came over me. I would never be the same. I prayed that my ministry would never be the same.

Caryl touched my shoulder and said, “Let’s ask the doctor if we can hold her; I want to hold her; she needs someone to hold her”.

The doctors were so gentle with us, so compassionate. They told us they had hoped that someone would hold her. In a few minutes the nurses made all of the arrangements; a rocking chair was brought in, the tubes and machines were adjusted, and KeeKee was placed in Caryl’s arms. I will never forget that moment: the sight of Caryl cradling this beautiful innocent child, the sound of Caryl’s weeping as she laid her body over KeeKee’s, enfolding this little one in her arms, all the while rocking and promising her that we were there and we loved her. I remember thinking that KeeKee looked like an orphan from another country, one that you would see on television, but as my mind snapped back to reality, I realized that we were right here in our own city, living out this nightmare! And then, it was my turn. Lord knows, I have rocked a lot of babies. This time was not like any of the others. The depth of grief and despair was beyond my comprehension. The sense of loss was almost unbearable. The needlessness of the moment, the tragedy, and the heartbreak of what this tiny little girl had been through in her short life all flooded my thoughts. Then the resolve came to the surface again. I whispered to Kee Kee, “Your death will not be in vain, little one. I don’t know what God wants to do with this, but your death will not be in vain.” I sang to her and held her close. I wanted her to know we were there.

Jan, Caryl, and I made our way to our favorite children’s clothing store. We all love to shop. We all love baby clothes. We love to tell each other about great deals and about beautiful new lines of clothing that will look great on our girls. But on this day, shopping was not a welcome activity, and shopping for a dress for KeeKee was anything but joyful. It was devastating, but KeeKee deserved the best. We prayed as we entered the store that we would find the perfect outfit for her, and we did: a beautiful white sundress with pink smocking and angel sleeves, ruffled socks and panties and a pink bow. Jan found a beautiful cross bracelet that completed KeeKee’s “going home” outfit.

The day KeeKee died, I wrote these words about my feelings, “One part of me wants to shout this from the rooftops, for all of the world to hear–the truth about the injustice and how we as a society let her down, but the other part of me wants to keep this so close to my heart; an intimate part of my being, so close that I never, ever forget the face of a little girl who endured months of the worst that life had to offer, but ended up in the arms of the One that will never let her down.”

The organ donation team was so empathetic. The director knew that we had only known KeeKee for two or three days, and yet somehow she seemed to understand our deep love for her. She asked if we would each like a copy of KeeKee’s hand prints. We were expecting the ink pressed hands that the hospital makes for you when your baby is born. We were in for a surprise. What we got were clay-embossed handprints framed out in beautiful wood frames. The details of the hand prints made us cry: the tiny fingers, the distinct lines and wrinkles, and the imprint of the Band-Aid on her right thumb. My heart broke as I held the frame close, and yet there was something so comforting about having it, about getting to keep it forever.

Several days later, Jeff joined Jan, Caryl and me at the funeral home before KeeKee’s service. Once again, I was struck by how perfect, how beautiful, how at peace KeeKee looked, and I almost thought I saw her breathe. The outfit was perfect, perfect for a little princess joining the heavenly choir of angels; a little princess that may not have been on this earth long, but made a lasting impact on a group of mothers that were honored to call her “daughter” for a short while. A week later, I wrote: “Today I asked the Lord to keep KeeKee’s memory in front of me, not in a morbid way, but in an inspiring way that keeps me motivated, always fighting, always changing, always moving and always advocating for children like her.”

Tomorrow I will make my way to KeeKee’s grave, in honor of her second birthday. I pray that God will use her life to once again transform my life and deepen the roots of my ministry.

In closing, I have to ask some profound questions that, when answered with a look at the Father’s blueprint, could rock our nation and change the course of history for thousands of children who are invisible to most of humanity. Nevertheless, these children deserve the best that life has to offer, the best that comes as a result of God’s grace flowing through the hands of those of us to whom much has been given. How many children like KeeKee would have loving families if Christians really acted like Jesus? How many birth parents would see the love of God in Christian foster parents who love their children as their own? How would our government react if the foster care system was flooded with all of the foster parents it needed because the church stood up and was counted? What would happen if there were no children waiting to be adopted because God’s people decided to bridge the gap? How many children would find forever families and ultimately be ushered into God’s forever family? What an incredible testimony that would be.

I have to thank the Lord for allowing me the privilege of being a foster mom and adoptive mom. I have to thank my family and friends (you know who you are!) for joining me on this journey; for their love, support, encouragement and shoulders to cry on. I have to thank my precious children, Chase, Caleb, Cara, Connor and Serenity for not only supporting me, but for taking on this ministry as their own and passionately ensuring that we continue our pursuit to allow God to use us in the lives of children in our state. And I have to thank Jeff, my one-of-a-kind husband, who has been my rock, my advisor, my therapist, my fortress, my protector, my comedian, and my incredible partner in this ministry and in life!

I am looking forward to the continuation of this journey. My life has been richly blessed because I have seen the miraculous. The naivety that I once owned has long gone away. This world is sinful, this world wants to destroy, this world wants failure and complacency, but we as Christians have overcome all of those things! We have the distinct honor of bringing freedom, restoration, success and genuine love and dignity to children who richly deserve to experience life the way the Maker intended. I heard a quote recently at a meeting regarding foster care, a quote of unknown origin: “If not you, who? If not now, when?” There may be no one else. There may be no other time. Is this your time to embrace God’s purpose and plan for your life as it relates to the orphans in your community? Won’t you join me and make a difference in the life of a child? They are counting on us. The “who” is you. And the time is now.

May 2014 3 040

Published in: on June 3, 2014 at 9:54 am  Comments (7)  

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