our next adventure: foster care

yesterday afternoon, baby asleep and coffee poured and sun through the window, i sorted through hours of conversation and thought and prayer and put these words together for our families. the short of it: jared and i are (slowly) beginning the process of becoming licensed foster care parents. the long of it, as we shared with our families yesterday, is here.

Dear Family,

Some of you know that we have been praying about and researching foster care. We attended an orientation through Arrow (a foster care agency) on Monday and, to make a long story short, we are officially pursuing licensing as a foster care family. 

We realize that this probably raises a lot of questions and we sincerely hope that you will ask them! We are learning so much already and would love to talk to all of you about the information we are gathering and excited to put into action soon. There is a huge need for foster families in general, and College Station is no exception. In fact, only 9 families are licensed through our agency in Brazos County and children are, consequently, often placed in group homes or taken out of the county for placement in a home.

Children are placed in foster care due to neglect or abuse, so the fact that they are then put through the additional trauma of being removed from their communities breaks our hearts. God’s call to care for the orphan has been knocking at our door for quite some time, and we are so glad that He has given us some clarity as to how we can help address the crisis. There are over 30,000 children in foster care in Texas alone, over 12,000 of whom are waiting to be adopted. We believe it is the correct response for our family to begin fostering one child at a time, whether that child becomes a part of our forever family or we are able to help restore him/her to a biological family.

As far as timeline and a bit of detail, we are currently working on our (monstrous) application and hope to do the training classes in a weekend intensive in January or February. After that, we will have home inspections and complete our “home study,” which is a several hour interview that will provide the agency and Child Protective Services a comprehensive understanding of our family. If a child we foster becomes adoptable and we want to move forward with adopting that child, the home study will be passed on to the judge to assist his decision.

Our hope is that we will have our first foster child by next summer, but our timeline is flexible. We are open to fostering any race or gender. We would like for Owen to remain the oldest child in our home, so his birthday will be our cut-off date for the age we are willing to foster. We are still praying about and discussing what level of therapeutic needs or disabilities we feel capable of handling. Will you pray about that with us?

Other specific prayers at this point are that:

– our application/training/interview process will go smoothly;
– God will open our eyes to the realities that we will encounter and give us the strength and humility to walk through them;
– He will continually remind us that He will be our grace in the need of the moment, whether that moment be a drug-addicted baby in our home, a terrified toddler, or a year with a child ending as he or she is taken back to a biological family member;
– Owen’s heart, even now, will be opened to “sharing” us and that we would be especially skilled in affirming his identity in our family and the way that Christ calls us to be like him and care for our fellow man, as well as how God adopted us when we were orphans;
– we will be faithful to Jared’s position at Grace and the students/families we are called to minister to there;
– we will be able to raise awareness, action and support for orphans and those caring for them in our church and local community.

We hope you will join in this process with us! Please, please, please ask us questions and share in our joy just like you all were so faithful to do when we were pregnant with Owen. We are extremely excited but we also realize that we are opening up our lives to hardship that would be much easier to ignore. Whenever we think about that, it’s our peace to remember that God could have said the same thing about us…but He didn’t. Instead, he told us, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” He’s so good, and He has set that goodness inside us through His Spirit. It is grace to walk with Him, even into an uncertain journey.

Thank you for loving us and supporting our (seemingly crazy) dreams. We are so thankful that we will be welcoming our children into a home that is loved by each of you. We know that will make an immeasurable impact on their lives.

Call us, text us, email us back. We want to do this together.

We’ve attached a Christian foster care guide that a family at Grace helped write. We found it extremely helpful in understanding God’s heart for the orphan, as well as how the foster care system works. If you have the opportunity, we hope you’ll take the time to look through it.

If you want to pass this on to anyone, feel free!

With joy,
Jared & Abby

so, there it is. the next season of our family’s journey, or at least part of it. we are in the boring paperwork phase right now, so we may not have many exciting updates for a while. however, i am very much looking forward to using joy woven deep as a vessel for sharing what we learn throughout the process, shedding light on the orphan crisis as well as the ever-changing specifics of foster care.

for now, we give thanks that He did not leave us as orphans and we look forward to reflecting that truth in our community. what a privilege and joy.
joy woven deep: Our Next Adventure: Foster Care

a new series: grace & truth

nap times and car rides and the 3 minutes in which i do my makeup have recently served as miniature mental blog planning sessions, fractions of moments claimed for praying and thinking through direction, vision, purpose. what has emerged so far is this: i love to write, i love to research, i love to be informed & inform, to be educated & educate. i love when knowledge cycles into wisdom into action into kingdom come. i’m a dreamer but intensely practical, a tentative pursuer of the gray who finds herself grasping for the black and white perhaps a little too often.

in that spirit, i’m starting another new series entitled grace & truth, which will seek to expose, inform, educate and motivate myself and readers of joy woven deep (all 9 of you) on topics that are under-discussed, always in light of God’s patience and kindness toward us as we attempt to navigate life in a broken world. some of these topics will be personal passions (orphan care, pregnancy and preparing for motherhood, engaging real food, using our finances and resources for good). others may be brought up by friends or family (or you, whoever you are!), news items or current debates. my goal will not be to lead everyone to hold the same conclusion about everything. my goal will be to engage some of the complexities of humanity with Scripture, God’s creation, Christ’s life and the Spirit’s leading in mind. some rules are hard and fast, some leave room for variance. this is a chance to explore the wild backyard of all the Truth set in stone, maybe even pitching a tent for a season.

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i’m really excited about this series. i hope any of you who read it feel invited to engage, suggest topics, discuss conclusions, etc. topics i plan to start exploring include how our culture discusses children, family and fertility, eating in a way that glorifies God with our bodies while embracing community and culture, and approaching educational decisions for our children someday. i hope you’ll join me.

[this idea was largely inspired by kristen howerton’s what i want you to know series. i’d encourage you to pop over to her site and read a few posts; they always get my mind and heart churning.]

cadence & acceptance.

it’s nearly fall in this college town, as the packed church halls and out-the-door restaurant lines testify. anticipation lingers, nearly palpable in the air, and i realize that this is the first august that jared and i have known together without class schedules and syllabi awaiting one or both us. yet still we feel, still we experience, the energy rising and excitement building, the hope mixed with fear and uncertainty and adventure spiraling up into the sky.

the carefree chaos of these summer months is coming to an end and for one whose life is still amidst great transition, i cannot say i’m disappointed. summer is a splendid thing, but its unstructured spirit has allowed very little in the way of growing roots, and frankly, i’m ready to be planted. the looming fall brings opportunity for just enough pattern and schedule, constant and rhythm to learn what it means to be us in this place, digging in, grabbing hands, finding home. i’m certain its here, somewhere among this wonderful church and these treasured souls and this flourishing university whose students are so full of promise and possibility i’m tempted to move into a dorm room just to dream alongside them.

i think of the weeks to come, of bible studies and mentorship, of baby showers and finding a place to love and reach and serve, of planning for my middle sister’s january wedding and preparing to move into our home. this fall will add a sizable volume of content to our life’s ever-growing collection of happenings and i’m so eager and ready and willing to learn what there is to be found amongst the events on the calendar and all else that can’t be categorized in such a way.

there is happiness within all my intentions and goals wrapped up in this semester, but i would be remiss to ignore the reality of their uncertainty. life so rarely goes according to human plan, yet i find that in the mixture of these truths, in the combination of gladness for cadence returning to life and acceptance that the unknown always emerges, there is peace and assurance, because He must be the one who guides and shepherds, protecting, allowing, aligning. man plans his ways, but Lord directs his steps, and the joy found in heeding His direction is abundant. He has led us many places i never would have planned to go, cancer at 22, a difficult pregnancy, a colicky baby, but the goodness found among those agonizing moments is the treasure in the field that my heart was breathless to find. He is faithful to both fill and pour out, sometimes quietly among appointments and plans, sometimes loudly amidst chaos and rapid, untold change.

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so let the plans be made, the calendar fill, the invitations extend. may i structure days and schedule weeks and celebrate the newness of a season unfolding, all the while clinging to His promises, His guidance, His joy.

the hope of a home.

last night, dear friends joined us in the dark of our home-to-be, flashlights and cell phones lighting the way as we celebrated its progress and prepared for the what, the who, the why that its walls will someday hold. music played and voices laughed and each took a pen to write love and purpose and meaning and yes, Jesus into the beams that will surround our family for years to come.

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i think of our kitchen that will speak hunger fulfilled, our dining room that will tell of truth and conversation and hearts encouraged, our bedrooms that will proclaim safety, belonging, home. i’m stirred as i see the words “adoption,” “security,” “children of God” scripted throughout the room across from the one jared and i will share, dreaming of the babies that may someday fill it, perhaps some with our DNA and some without it. this house holds promise and hope within its walls in all the ways symbolic and now all the ways literal. i’m awestruck, as i often seem to be, at what grace He must have to allow us lives of such feeling and fullness, impact and intimacy. isn’t He good?

this house is the outward symbol of inward dreams that jared and i cultivate day in, day out, breath in, breath out. believers discipled and children loved and souls equipped and the forgotten nurtured. babies nourished and victims restored and spirits empowered. bible studies in the living room and stockings above the fireplace and pallet gardens in the side yard. whatever He has for us, be it all, none, some of the above, we trust and we thank and we cannot wait to see. it is grace to know that He will fulfill, even when we are unsure what the fulfillment is or brings or does. He who promised is faithful. 

whatever else abides within these walls, may His Spirit flourish within them, may His peace be spoken inside them. may this home hold goodness, kindness, mercy, joy and love for all who enter. may the sacred and common collide inside as they do in the deepest human moments, and may His name be glorified above all other names. 

covenant pulse.

how does one approach the ever so common yet extraordinarily miraculous combining and cycling and circling and celebrating? a son turns one and a sister turns wife and the corners of my lips turn up as i revel in the sacredness of this end of summer season. 

the wedding day was warm and hinted of rain and the clouds collided when covenant was made, thunder clapping as the two became one. the bride radiated and the groom beamed and the room held dignity and joy and holiness and humanity all inside. worship, gospel, vow, communion, kiss; a promise begun, sealed and unquenchable. time stood still yet raced ahead and the celebration was excitement and laughter and energy and glee, unraveled wild and free. marriage is that which is so delicate yet daring, pivotal yet personal and the wedding of two so full of life and love were a vibrant reflection of this. friends and family milled and marveled and the evening spoke welcome and relationship and truth far into the night, the souls, the memory. 

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it seems there are moments that burrow themselves more deeply into the nest of time, determined to be engraved into its very essence and not forgotten. burrowed and engraved, captured and sealed, every word was weighty and every nuance profound. it is joy and grace to be a part of such meaning and my heart stands still yet again as i remember the beauty of the entering bride and waiting groom, struck by the reality that this will happen again in the kingdom to come. all sense of home, all radiance and essence and depth of this earthly reflection stir my heart toward the union sealed yet fulfilling. He is all the words i’m trying to find to describe and, it seems a dream, we are His now and His to be forever. this was the covenant pulse beating as two humans united and it still resonates loudly in my ears, ushering in the magnificence of our union with He Who Came. 

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
-revelation 19:7-9-

what knowledge to hold and wonder to anticipate. the people of God are remembrance and hope intertwined and the God of the people is kindness and tenderness as He weaves metaphor and symbol and reflection of His goodness before our eyes. when the words escape and our hearts overwhelm we think on the truth and we look forward with gladness, for He has come and He is coming again. thank you, jeff and olivia, for mirroring the truth, our hearts rejoice and anticipate along with yours.

 

mini-post: ode to the one-year-old

little O is one year old today. my heart and mind can barely believe it, but, nevertheless, it’s true. today was simple, a few presents to open, a trip to see the home we’re building and a little dinner out. his true celebration with friends and family will be on sunday, but i just had to mark the moment a bit today. i’m working on a broader post that tries to do just a touch of justice to the past year that i hope to publish later in the week. Image

Owen Everette Perry
August 2, 2012
7:31pm

owen darling, your entrance into the world was sudden, abrupt, beautiful, emotional, thrilling, captivating. i’ll never forget the sound of you, the sound of myself as i murmured “hi, baby” in the moments before they could lay you on my chest. you spent your earliest moments snuggled inside your daddy’s scrub top, and the doctors and nurses were so touched by that choice that they asked us if they could take pictures of the sweetness. the moments following are simultaneously hazy and lucid in my mind, i remember the harshness of healing, the flood of hormones and instinct, but most of all i remember the wonder of you. your tiny mews, the way you slept “kangaroo style” on my chest, the grasp of your wondrous fist around my finger. my heart was stolen in every way and nothing, nothing has changed in these 365 days since.

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the past year has been a whirlwind of joy, pain, confusion, growth, laughter, exhaustion and hope. you’ve stretched and deepened my heart, strengthened and broadened my belief, deepened and widened my resolve. i can’t wait to share more about you in a post to come, but for now i’ll just say that i love you, little sunshine, and the greatest urgency of my heart is that you would know the One who loves you even more greatly than i. i cannot wait to teach you more about Him, and to learn more about Him from you. we’re in this together, my dear, you are my pride and joy.

mama

 

on my nightstand [#1]

in an effort both to blog more consistently and to stay realistic about the amount of original content i can actually produce, i’m going to try my hand at a blog series or two. the first is this – on my nightstand – in which i’ll share a few of the books i’m reading these days. once i finish them, i’ll post a little review and share the next set of books i’m starting.

here are the books that are on my nightstand:

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Boundaries: Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
“Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not.”
At least three people have encouraged me to read this book. I’m pretty sure that says something about me, so I’m going to finally crack the cover and find out what that “something” might be.

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Last Child in the Woods: Richard Louv
“Nature-deficit disorder is not a medical condition; it is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. This alienation damages children and shapes adults, families, and communities. There are solutions, though, and they’re right in our own backyards. Last child in the Woods is the first book to bring together cutting-edge research showing that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development—physical, emotional, and spiritual. ”
I was encouraged to pick this book up after reading Al Mohler’s post about it.

the secret keepr

The Secret Keeper: Kate Morton
“From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Distant Hours, The Forgotten Garden, and The House at Riverton, a spellbinding new novel filled with mystery, thievery, murder, and enduring love.”
Morton’s The House at Riverton is one of my favorite novels, so I’m very much looking forward to getting lost inside the pages of this one as well.

This series was inspired by similar posts from Jen HatmakerKristen Howerton and Al Mohler.

keep the rhythm.

the quest for more and better and why comes alongside ten grasping fingers and ten curled toes. the doctor calls out height and weight and the undercurrent that this being is ever so much more than a tiny body could contain engulfs each one present. a soul determined to seek, find and seek again. from the second a life enters the world it sets out to search and discover, adamant that the well never run dry and perhaps faith like a child is the confidence that it never will.

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seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened unto you. 

what i stand to learn from the little life i spend my days watching over is a chest of treasure never fully unearthed and the few jewels i’m aware and blessed enough to grasp are precious and weighty as gold.

he lives for each moment yet anticipates the next.
he learns by repetition and relentlessly pursues mastery of new concepts.

the simplest tasks bring the sweetest thrills.
the greatest sorrows are undone by the remembrance of the deepest joys.

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of all the truths Owen’s life has already taught me, none has struck me so deeply as his innate understanding of and desire for rhythm, for a beat by which to march. not two hours this side of reality and his whole being cried out to be sustained, to initiate a pattern of filling and emptying, filling and emptying that will go on until his final moment on earth. not six months old and he swayed to the drums of Bob Marley playing in our Dallas neighborhood Starbucks. not one year yet celebrated and he hands me books with words that flow like poetry, his head bobbing to the well-known pattern.

rhythm. the craving burrowed deep, near inextricable from the human soul yet years gone by and plans left behind and moments inexplicable tempt me away from the Keeper of the Rhythm and it’s ironic at best that i seek a new beat when His is the one breathed into me. i think back to Owen and am amazed (better, aghast) as i realize that he already knows this battle of the inner man. he already knows the thread of common grace humming a life-giving song through his core and he already knows the warring impulse to stray from the melody. he knows peace and he knows turmoil, he knows the joy of discovery and he knows the pains of an earthly body. and somehow, even now, he knows what is to choose obedience that breeds life and disobedience that breeds despair. photo 4

my dreams for Owen aren’t all that different than my dreams for myself.

may your penchant for mastery of new concepts never die and may you repeat, repeat, repeat the the Truths set in stone as you navigate the expanse for exploration. the rhythm will guide you toward what is good and set a song in your heart that spills forth from your mouth the sweetest of harmonies.  keep the rhythm, little one, and above all know the Keeper. 

expanse for exploration.

i’m starting to think that there might be more to life than feeling like i have it all under control.

recently, most days have been characterized by a few ends still loose and threads slightly unraveled and leaks slowly dripping yet the world does not end nor stall nor perhaps even slow and i’m still breathing and moving and maybe just a touch more free.

unfortunately, in general, it turns out that i rarely give any of this a chance to occur. i spend time, exert energy and direct attention toward grabbing the control panel, punching buttons and making connections and managing outcomes and i wonder sometimes what i’m missing in the gray as i strive for the white and the black. i’m closer now to engaging the depths of the less than assured than i’ve ever been and i laugh while typing this because i get so nervous when i read posts and articles that say things like that.

i’m serious about doctrine. i’m serious about righteousness and goodness and gospel at all times for all people and, therefore, i’m amazed to learn that in the backyard of all the Truth set in stone there is a vast expanse for exploration and, despite my trepidation, wild grace abounds as i seek to understand the landscape.

Ireland

i’ve been long obsessed with doing things right and keeping the peace and seeing all people pleased. my heart is itching for the world beyond those confining borders and as it yearns for depth and reason, i rack my brain for those i know who dwell in that sacred space and haven’t worked through the hard things, held the tough positions, thought the challenging notions and none come to mind. my cry is not original or unique, and i sense it resonating throughout the peers of my generation. i want to join them as they dream and breathe and navigate and our Fountain and Source is He Who grants us wisdom, Who gives us mercy, Who keeps our paths straight. in the marriage of belief and action are sweetness and joy and i can sense His spirit spurring me on toward good deeds and i rejoice. what better place could there be than standing upon His truth and promises as He gives us the ability to sort through the rest? He takes my hand and guides me on and i trust that He will bring me to positions and persons and possibilities that make His name greater. may that be the foundation for my dreams and endeavors and conclusions, always.

[an epilogue, if you will:

i hope this can be a space in which we learn and grow and dream and encourage conversation, recognizing the broad place in which He sets our feet as we cling to the Truth and wrestle with its implications, realizing that some are non-negotiable, and others have room for disagreement that need not breed dissension. interestingly, an overwhelming number of these issues nearly force a conversation about how Christians engage the world in a way that speaks Christ’s love clearly, unashamedly, boldly and gently.

let us not shrink back as those with no ground on which to stand. let us be a generation that both thinks and applies, believes and acts, promises and does. He will supply the effort and the empathy, the resolve and the rest. let us both ask and answer with confidence in the grace of His approachable throne.]

….

currently pondering:

Examining Adoption Ethics
(via Jen Hatmaker)

Get Ready for All Those Babies
(via The Baptist Standard)

White privilege, and what we’re supposed to do about it & What I want you to know about being a black middle-class suburban mom
(via Rage Against the Minivan)

hope in the midst.

the little one awakens at 4:45am and the coffee can’t flow fast enough and the daylight can’t break through quickly enough. i can feel the shaky ground beneath and sense the roaring clouds above and my muscles tense as the clouds crash. collide. pour our their contents and could it be that i am jealous that they have found a way to empty themselves upon being filled to the brim?

there were seasons that made more sense to me. the words to say fell like rain and trickled out like a brook and (could this have been?) i knew what my heart was hoping to say before my mouth said itbut five years of filled to overflowing in all the ways good and some of the ways bad put my mind, heart, soul into overload and i think my mouth is still searching for the words three years past in relevance. i’m trying to catch up. i’m trying to empty myself yet remain full,  keep up yet be content lagging behind. is it possible?

“just give yourself grace,” she said.

i pondered not long enough to conjure up a prettier answer and the truth spilled forth,

that’s the hardest part.”

transition. it’s where we are right now. somewhere between the season gone and the one to come and i’m painting pictures of Egypt and stalling for just a few more seconds and looking into the eyes around me for a rope to grasp. i’m barreling ahead yet analyzing the implications of the moments gone by until my mind is panting and my heart wilts beneath the pressure of what could have been, what should have been, and what i can do to make it be so.

what was that Jesus said about rest? healing? making things right?

i’m in the already but not yet, aren’t we all, and He tells me that as I anticipate what I do not see, He’ll provide the strength to wait for it with patience.  there’s the waiting to be fulfilled in this shadow of reality and the waiting to be fulfilled beyond and He’s the one who breathes life into both and grants the peace between.

He brings hope in the midst.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has put eternity into my heart.
He will complete all that He has begun.
He who promised is faithful.
He is good.