An Autumn Recap

Where did fall go? I feel like it was just here and now tomorrow is December 1st and the Christmas season is already in full swing. I have missed you guys so much! It’s completely inexcusable how long I’ve been absent and I can’t wait to catch up! So much has happened in the last few months and I can’t wait to get you all caught up on what’s been going on in my life. And I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. This is going to be a long one so you’ll probably want to grab your favorite beverage and a snack.

So the last in-depth post left us back in September right before my birthday. I made the decision to take a quick break from social media during my birthday weekend this year and a lot of you were wondering where I went. To be honest, I was dreading my birthday this year, but it ended up being one of the best birthday’s I’ve had in a long time. It was low-key but in the best way. Sam custom ordered unicorn cupcakes from Gigi’s for my birthday and then took me to Kendra Scott for some birthday shopping. Then we went to see Crazy Rich Asians at the Alamo Draft House–best place to see a movie–and it was so good! I loved it so much I put it on my Christmas wish list.The next day I got to meet Alicia Yoon at a local Ulta–she and her team have been on tour throughout America since she launched her line of skin care with Ulta–and I got to check that off my bucket list. And she told me I had beautiful skin!!!! OMG. I about died in the floor. That is such an incredible compliment coming from someone who’s skin is the MOST flawless, beautiful skin I’ve ever seen. Like glass skin perfection. It was unreal. And she was the most down to earth, sweet person. There’s a saying about never meeting your hero’s because you’ll be disappointed but that’s not true because meeting Alicia in person was more wonderful that I expected. It was the best!Sam and I rounded out my birthday weekend with a trip to the Dallas Zoo the next day. The weather was cool and overcast so we didn’t melt and I got to feed the giraffes–which is pretty much why I go to the zoo–several times because there were no crowds to fight. It was an unexpectedly happy and eventful birthday. I was relieved.Then the next few days Sam and I spent packing for our family trip to Gulf Shores, AL. I’m telling you, I checked a lot of things off my bucket list this year. I’ve always wanted to visit Alabama ever since Reese Witherspoon’s Sweet Home Alabama movie. And I fell in LOVE with Alabama! Honestly, I think I could live there. We were supposed to be spending a lot of time off shore fishing but then hurricane Michael came in. And though hurricane Michael missed Gulf Shores it still affected the water so we weren’t able to get out into the Gulf. But we still tried our hand at fishing in the few surrounding bays. We didn’t catch much but we did have a lot of fun! For a Texas girl it was odd to see all those big trees growing right up to the banks of salt water. I loved it though. It felt more like lake fishing in a way until a porpoise or stingray would surface next to the boat. We went down to the beach the last day we were there and I got to experience my first ever hurricane up close. We could see the edge of the hurricane swirling just off shore–it was eerie. I’ve never seen the ocean so angry either. The waves really did roar and thunder and beat against one another. It was fascinating and frightening. The last day I started to feel like I had a cold coming on. And I was really miserable on the drive home. We got home and went to the doctor for medication and was sick with a bad virus for two weeks. Then Sam got sick and overall it took about a month for the both of us to get over it. The week after we got back Sam’s parents came to visit for the weekend and after they went home they both got sick as well. We spent most of the month of October just trying to get over our illness.Meanwhile I had been brain storming whether or not I wanted to start a beauty YouTube. I have so many people text, snap, and insta-message me about skin care and makeup that I had decided to start a YouTube. I did my research on how to get started, what equipment I would need, etc and made my announcement on insta-stories. But then three days later as I was waiting for equipment to come in the mail and working on my book Lemon got attacked during an evening walk by a dog at a local park. Our Halloween plans were canceled. We took Lemon the very next morning(Halloween) to the vet and it was an ordeal. Lemon had to have surgery and then be in a cone for two weeks before she could get her stitches out. She also had to adhere to strict bed-rest which meant my constant supervision–unless I kept her in her kennel. I felt so heartless making her stay confined. And besides that, she was in a drunken stupor for several days after her surgery and she kept us up half the night crying the first night–very anti-Lemon behavior. We think it was the disorientation from the anesthesia. So I got pretty much nothing done for two weeks.Meanwhile, I tried filming my first video for my YouTube channel twice and both times the film was unusable. I had no idea how complicated trying to film would be. There were a lot of user errors and then some of the equipment I was using just wasn’t working–like my battery wouldn’t stay charged and my SD cards were too small. I got really overwhelmed. I was also trying to work on my manuscript as well which pretty much got pushed out of the picture. I thought I would sit down and film for an hour and be done but the very first time I filmed it took me six hours. Yes, six hours. That’s insane. YouTube is no joke people.As I was trying to figure out the YouTube stuff I realized I had let the October and November go almost completely by without posting any pictures of my fall decor or talk about the improvements we made to the loft. I also needed to start prepping for Christmas and our upcoming trip to Denver.

Then I had a dentist appointment to have my implant measured for its crown that went’ dreadfully. It put me out of commission for several days and had to be rescheduled. I went again a few days ago as of writing this and found out that the implant is good so we can proceed. It’s been an ordeal. All the dental work I’ve done this year has been ridiculous and really time-consuming in a way that I can’t really show on social media. I still have another appointment in December and let’s just say I’ll be so relieved when this is all over.We alternate holidays with our families and this year Sam’s family decided to forgo getting together for Christmas and to meet the first week of December in Denver. So that meant Sam and I would be alone for Thanksgiving and I needed to get a menu prepped for that as well. But as we rolled into the week of Thanksgiving we got last-minute tickets to see the Cowboys play on Thanksgiving day. There are people who plan and save their whole life to get to be at a Cowboys game on Thanksgiving day and I am so blessed to have gotten to do that. And if you saw the game or watched it from home you know it was an awesome game! The Cowboys played really well and they won! It was a spectacular Thanksgiving day. Another thing to check off my bucket list

And somewhere in the middle of all that I missed my one year blog anniversary! I have officially been blogging for one year and I’m so very proud of myself. I hope to have many years of blogging ahead of me!

As I type this Sam and I are getting ready to go out of town to Denver for our late Thanksgiving with family. I don’t remember a year that Sam and I traveled so much and I am grateful beyond measure. We have so much fun activities planned for our Denver trip I can’t wait to share them here when I get back. We will have very little time between this upcoming trip and Christmas in Nashville. I’m hoping for a white Christmas this year!

I hope you all had a yummy, satisfying, and thankful Thanksgiving. Thanks for hanging out here until the end of this post. Thanks for hanging in there and waiting for me to return. I appreciate your investment.

Maegan

The Dreaded Home Study: It’s Nothing to Dread

acs_0175We had a wonderful home study experience. It was intense and our interviewer did ask many probing questions. But it wasn’t scary. The interviewer was never inappropriate and he never made any ugly remarks.

Exactly why does everyone dread the home study and why does is have such a negative connotation? What exactly is so horrific that the word ‘home study’ is whispered in hushed tones like the name Voldemort?

I think the general population has the expectation that a home study is to have their private life and home broken into and swarmed like a SWAT team on a drug bust. Glass breaking, wood splintering they kick down the front door and crash through the windows with automatic rifles flashing, screaming for everyone to get down on the ground–GET DOWN ON THE GROUND AND PUT YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD–as they shoot the family dog.  This is what people imagine about a home study because it is the kind of experience that has been described to them. There is a lot of bad and untrue information about foster care–especially the home study. It has to be one of the top three that gets lied about and/or blown out of proportion within the topic of foster care. Please always consider the merit of the person who is regaling you with stories or information about foster care–that includes me.

Most people– including myself before we became certified–know absolutely nothing about foster care or what the certification process looks like. When you are ignorant about a subject then you are completely vulnerable to misinformation. That’s how rumors and nonfactual information root themselves in the populous. When you get educated on a topic you can spot misinformation a mile a way. If you want an education on foster care, seek out several foster care agencies and attend their orientations. While you’re there ask the people who have careers in foster care what a home study is like. Never rely on just mine or anyone else’s second hand information. Always go straight to a credible source for credible information.

What most people are unaware of is that months prior to the actual home study everything you’ve ever done wrong; your darkest secret; the past you’ve only shared with your spouse or close family; all of it has already been written down and divulged to your agency. Remember all that paperwork you have to fill out–yeah, all that stuff about your past is part of it. There is almost nothing that your home study interviewer asks you or talks to you about that you haven’t already answered in your paperwork packet questionnaire or written in your autobiography. You will have already submitted your budget, bank statement, taxes, medical records, FBI background checks, autobiographies, house rules, job history, marriages, children, rabbies vaccination records for your pets, baby sitters, and the four different people who you asked to be your references(who submitted their own stack of paperwork of questions all about you asking very personal, honest and harsh questions about your integrity, your social standings, your finances, your personality, etc), you’ve submitted pictures of every room in your house, pictures of yourself, and your pets, and children. They have background checks on your cleaning lady and yard person and your nanny and babysitter(nannies have to complete a certain amount of foster care training in order to remain your nanny). They’ve already requested a lot of personal information from you. They already know EVERYTHING. There is almost NOTHING that the government doesn’t know about you by the time you have that home study. You have willingly made your life an open book and your home study interviewer has already read your ENTIRE file before they ever come to your house.

If you have been honest and upfront on all your paperwork you have nothing to hide or be afraid of at your home study. A home study is another way for the state and your agency to get to know you and all the members of your family–to better assess everyone. It’s the same reason companies have phone and then in-person interviews with job applicants. The in-person meeting helps to complete the already extensive picture that has been painted for them. That’s one of the big reasons why they have home studies.

So, there is no reason, NO reason to be afraid of a home study. None. And if that’s the one thing keeping you from pursuing foster care or adoption through foster care you have no more excuses. If you have nothing to hide then there is nothing to fear. It’s just part of the process to ensure the safety of the already abused children coming into foster care.

This foster care thing isn’t about you. And if you stop and think about this whole process from the perspective of what is best for the child then this process will stop looking like a governmental SWAT raid and more like good people trying their best to ensure that they are taking the very very best initiative to protect children coming into foster care. Wouldn’t you do the same if the roles where reversed?

Maegan

 

 

FROM ORIENTATION TO LICENSING—THE COMPLETE STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO BECOMING A FOSTER PARENT

Johnson Family Visit

Extended family is hard to come by around here. Both side’s of our family live far away and have not been able to visit much since Baby E was placed with us. So it was a real treat to have Sam’s side of the family here for a visit two weeks ago. We were so so glad to see them! Sam’s brother and his wife were even able to be here and we had not seen them for almost two years! Having family visit with a baby is different–but in a good way. No one expects your house to be clean and no one expects you to entertain. And let’s be real–they all really came to see the baby anyway so no one is looking at my dirty floors that haven’t been mopped in several months. I’m into full disclosure around here.We had such a good time. It was nice to have eager helpers who were more than happy to bounce the baby, and feed the baby, and change the baby, and hold the baby. Everyone even pitched in to fold laundry–queue the Hallelujah Chorus! In the hustle and bustle of my two new jobs( parenting and foster care) I hadn’t realized I really needed a break or how much I really needed to see family. It was really great to sit around and chit-chat and just relax.

It was also nice to be able to step away from Baby E even just for a minute and goof off with Sean and Liana and just be normal adults. We made a quick Walmart run for–what else–diapers, and even though that’s a really simple thing we had a great time. Also, what is up with the new Lay’s potato chip bags. I mean, it’s brilliant marketing but it’s also kind creepy. We almost bought a bag of chips. Seriously.On Thursday we took Baby E on her very first Zoo trip! Sam has been DYING to take her to the Zoo ever since she arrived. She stayed in her stroller most of the time and slept but it was great to get outside and it was the perfect weather. It wasn’t too warm and there was a nice breeze but nothing too crazy. It was perfect! And we all had a really good timeI’m trying so hard to remember to take pictures when we are out doing fun things but it is so hard to remember sometimes! I’m dong better about taking pictures and now I’m trying to incorporate more video. This week I plan on getting my big mama camera out and start using it. I need a good camera strap–a cute one–so if anyone has a suggestion will ya leave it in the comments below? Thanks!

It is killing me not to be able to post full pictures of Baby E. We took so many good pictures with Papa Randy and MeMaw and Papa Baker(great grandparents), and then with Uncle Sean and Aunt Liana. I wish I could show them all! Maybe oneday  . . . I’m trying to share her as best I can while still complying. But it is SO HARD!!! There were so many good pictures y’all!On Friday night Sam and I got to go out on our first date since Baby E!!! We had the best time! We planned on dinner and a movie but it turned into a movie and fro-yo. It was a good trade off. We ended up seeing The Greatest Showman and it was so flippin’ good! We jammed out to the soundtrack all the way home–one of the few perks of technology–and I’m still loving the soundtrack weeks later. ‘This is Me’ is such a good anthem song, ya know? There was a shopping center near the theater and that’s where we took these photos. They are grainy and a little dark but I love these photos because they are so “us”. For once, I kept it simple and just wore a bold lip, a comfy shirt dress, and (gasp!) comfortable shoes. It was good to get away together for a few hours.It was a really great visit and Sam and I are so thankful for our family. We really are. Parenthood can be so demanding and with foster care added to the mix life can seem completely impossible. It was such a great relief to have family here because we got to forget about foster care for a few days and just be a family. Ya know? It was good just to be. We were sad to see them go! Johnson weekend visit was a super success and we look forward to seeing everyone soon.

Maegan

Waiting

So, it’s been six days since we were placed on the vacancy list with our foster-care agency and we are still waiting on that phone call. Seriously. When we found out Thursday that we were officially on the vacancy list I freaked out a little and cried. I think it was just my being completely overwhelmed with the whole situation and also overjoyed at finally reaching a huge milestone after everything we have been through. It was a ‘nervous–cited’ cry. lol.

The next couple of days were the worst because every time the phone rang or pinged or chimed we both jumped like two feet. I’ve been constantly glued to my phone because I’m the contact person and I’ve been so worried I will miss that very important phone call. It’s important because if we don’t answer they immediately hangup and call the next family on the list. These kids need home like yesterday and they don’t have the luxury of waiting for you to call them back. After those first couple of days we have kind of gotten into a rhythm of keeping busy and waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. We are getting good practice at patience.

While we are waiting I thought I would kind of introduce our placement and answer some questions about what we do know about them. I shared our story here but I haven’t shared what we do know about our future placement.

These are some of the most frequent questions we get asked when people find out we are fostering to adopt:

How many children will you be fostering? 

One child at a time

What age will they be?

Newborn to Eighteen Months

Will you know the gender?

No.

Do you know what ethnicity the child will be?*

No.

*Sam and I honestly had no preferences about race or gender and that worked out great for us because specifying either of those in the state of Texas is not an option for infants.

Will the child have his clothes and toys from home?

No. Most children, if not all, come into foster care with nothing but the clothes they have on–and in our case that might be a diaper and nothing else. No clothes, toys, memorabilia, diapers, formula, wipes, bottles, pacifiers, blankets, car seats, bouncers, strollers, swaddles, nothing. none, zip, zero. They might have never had any of the things on this short list of items.

Will you know a lot about the child’s past, bio parents, family?

No. We will probably know very little about the child when they first come to us. A name, an estimated age, gender, race–that’s probably it since they will be so young and there’s nothing to add like what grade they are in, their favorite school subject, things like that. Bio parents information and the child’s past situation is not something by law we can know much about. And what we do know we cannot share with anyone because it’s against the law and violates the parent’s and child’s rights of privacy.

Will you be able to adopt your first placement?

There is no guarantee we will be able to adopt any placement we receive. It just depends on how everything plays out and that will take a while to figure out. It’s all in God’s hands.

How long will you have your first placement?

We don’t know. Maybe a couple of weeks? Maybe a few months or a year? Maybe forever! Each placement’s situation is unique and completely unpredictable. We will trust God and cherish each day we get to love and cuddle and spoil them.

Will they be adorable, perfect, squeezable, and basically the best baby ever?

YES! YES! YES! AND OF COURSE!!!!!! This we do know for sure!

I do want to touch on how the age and gender of placements is decided for each family because I think it’s pertinent. A lot of people think you get to choose the age/number/gender of children when you become licensed foster parents but this is an ignorant misconception–one that often sets people who desire to be foster parents up for disappointment. In almost every case you do not get to choose what age of child or gender of child you will be able to foster. There are actually several key factors and a complicated mathematical equation that determines those specifics. And those specifics are set in place by the State. Factors like available space in your home, number of licensed foster parents in the home, number of biological children in the home–their age and gender, foster parents working/not working or working from home, and what county a person lives in all play a role in what age and gender of children you will be eligible to foster.

For instance, because Sam and I live in a one bedroom town-home we can only legally foster children that can sleep in our bedroom. The state of Texas says that children who can sleep in our bedroom must be 3 and under. Because the foster and adoption process can take a year a to a year and half or longer to complete that means the child can be no more than eighteen months at the time of placement with us before they age out of our room. I stay at home full-time, we have no  biological children, and we also happen to live in a county that has an urgent need for EVERY age group. Because of these factors we happened to be good candidates to foster infants.

That’s the latest update and a little about our expected first placement. Please pray for us to have patience as we wait for that special phone call. We appreciate prayers so much!!

Maegan

Our Scandi Farmhouse Glam Christmas Home Tour 2017

We spent Christmas home this year just Sam, Lemon, and I and it was a nice change of pace. We really missed being with family on Christmas but with our foster licensing looming and everything so up in the air we decided to stay home. We made this decision earlier in the fall as we were going through the certification process because so much about the dates and timing where just so unknown. I tried my best to make the house extra festive this Christmas. The last thing I wanted was for us to wake up on Christmas morning without family or proper Christmas festiveness! I hope you enjoy my mini Christmas house tour!

Sam and I had a lot of fun making those stockings! We plan to add more to them next year–sort of progressive Christmas stocking. The red gingham ribbon in the tree is deco-mesh from Hobby Lobby.

Stop it. y’all she is to precious in that little Christmas dress!

Tobacco basket: Hobby Lobby, wreath: Walmart, ‘Tis The Season pillow: Target, large Pom Pom garland: my personal DIY

We also found these dog pajamas at Walmart. I wish they would make more because they fit her so perfectly. I hope you all had a very Merry and Blessed Christmas! We are officially live in the system for our agency so now it’s just a waiting game for that first call. There is still a very good chance we will get a call before New Years for our first placement. To say my stomach has butterflies is an understatement.

I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and here’s to a blessed 2018!

Maegan

Nesting and a Merry Christmas

I have a lot on my heart lately. It’s the Christmas season, our official licensing appointment is happening tomorrow(WHOOHOO!!!), and of course in the middle of all of it we are busy preparing to bring a foster child into our hearts and home. My heart has felt so full at times it seemed it might burst.

Several weeks ago as we approached our home study and and now more so since we found out our home study was approved I have had the inexplicable urgent need to nest. Amid the tinsel and twinkling lights I have been fluffing and rearranging our little nest. I realize I’m not about to have a biological child but the maternal instincts are kicking in nonetheless. It’s so weird and wonderful and beautiful to have those maternal instincts fluttering about my heart and soul. I can’t begin to explain the happiness and joy at knowing we will soon have a placement–a placement we might not have for very long–but a child all the same. I’ve found myself wondering what our placements face will look like and excitement at getting to finally meet them after all this time. I keep telling myself and reminding myself, and repeating to myself over and over again that it’s important to be realistic about the attachments I form with this child–and I am–but the nesting feelings persist. I don’t know how my heart will be able to tell the difference as I introduce this child as “my child” every time we meet someone new. God’s just going to have to make a way for me.

I feel as if nothing is properly ready–though I am as prepared as my situation will allow me to be. Since I will not know the age or sex of our placement there are so many things that I cannot purchase yet. SO-MANY-THINGS. We are installing the final piece of “nursery” furniture in our bedroom this weekend–the shelves above the changing table–and I’m sure once that gets done I will feel somewhat better. I plan on giving the house a final thorough cleaning from top to bottom after we sign our licensing paperwork and put Christmas away. I usually leave it all out until after New Years but with a new baby on the horizon I thought it best not to be caught with Christmas pajama pants down. Ah-hem.

The strangest, most terrifying development as of late is the sudden fear that rips through  me when I think I’ve “left” or “forgotten” our placement. I find myself bolting upright in bed as I’m about to drift to sleep because I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the baby in the car. This seems to be happening more frequently and it’s not just while I’m falling asleep–it’s while I’m washing the dishes, or driving away from the gas station or running errands. All the sudden I’ll have this fear I’ve left my child at the house and driven away, or on top of my car as I leave the gas station, or in the cart at the grocery store. This is probably the weirdest of all the ‘feelings’ I’ve been having lately. We don’t even have a placement! How could I forget a child that is not here? It’s the weirdest, strangest, most bizarre sensation. Every time I think I’ve left my child somewhere I feel like a few months have been shaved off my life. My heart palpitates, I get short of breath, time stops–in short, it’s a horrifying feeling.

I have also spent a lot of time praying for our first placement–though not near as much as I should. When I find myself thinking about them I say a quick prayer that God is keeping them safe and I pray for their parent/parents. I pray that they would get the help they need to be the parents their children deserve them to be and that they would come to come to know the unshakable love of Jesus. The circumstances that surround the child in foster care and their parents is so very complicated and delicate. I don’t want to become callous or bitter as we walk this foster care road with our placement. I pray a lot that God will help me always see this situation from his perspective–with love, grace, and mercy–and to remain tender and kind. It’s been a bit of a challenge to know how to pray about this situation and I think if there is enough interest I will dedicate a full blog post to how I’ve approached this subject in prayer–rather clumsily I might add, but with fullest sincerity. I’ve been in such need of it myself that I’m eager to share my methods in the hope that someone else will share theirs with me! If anyone knows of a solid devotion for foster parents please, please, please, leave info about it in the comments. Foster care bible studies for parents have been hard to come by–I haven’t found a single one.

So yeah, a lot of feelings and things on my heart. I’m still reeling from the fact that TOMORROW we will be licensed foster parents. It’s so surreal and the most perfect Christmas present. the. most. perfect. gift. ever.

I hope you had the most wonderful Christmas spent with Jesus and family in your hearts, and love, peace, and joy for the world.

Love, Maegan

Our Road to Foster Care

Lemon Scottie Foster Care Journey Maegan Johnson 7*This is a really long post, so grab a cup of coffee or tea and possibly a snack before you get started! 

Our story starts with a six month, black Scottie dog named Lemon and a miscarriage. I know, not the sun-shiniest of beginnings but I find that the stories really worth reading are the ones that begin in the darkness–because that’s where Jesus meets us.

Lemon Scottie Foster Care Journey Maegan Johnson 2

In the Spring of 2016 our precious dog Zeus passed away from a very aggressive form of lung cancer. He had been a part of our family for over nine years and he was practically like our child. The same day I found out Zeus had cancer my parents called me asking if I was interested in a cute puppy who needed a home. I was really drawn to this dog and her story so we said yes only to have Zeus pass before they ever met. I was less enthused when I found out she had lived the first six months of her life neglected and mistreated. I new she would have a lot of issues that we would have to work through and I wasn’t really up for helping someone else out with their issues when I had my own. Don’t get me wrong she was super cute(she still is) and she seemed to have a very sweet demeanor but that’s where the list of her positive attributes ended.

Zeus Schnauzer Foster Care Journey Maegan Johnson 1

Zeus Schnauzer Foster Care Journey Maegan Johnson 4

But, after a lot of prayer Sam and I decided we would bring her into our family despite the troubles she might have because we really did want another dog and felt she was the puppy for us. Within 24 hours of her being in our home it became very clear to us she had a lot of issues. I think the best description I could give of her would be, ‘adorable, unwanted, no good, shifty terrier’.

She didn’t even answer to her original name and ran away when you called her–that’s when we decided to rename her Lemon. She had zero communication skills. She had no inclination to bond with us–like none, zero, zip, nada. She had no sense of belonging and she would literally go home with anyone. Ironically, she was afraid of a lot things too. She was afraid to walk through doorways which made going in and out of the house to potty an ordeal. She was NOT potty trained. She never even made noise–not while playing, not crying in her kennel, not ever. This made us really sad because this was undeniable evidence she was really neglected. She was super sneaky and was excellent about going behind our backs to do things she knew not to do. And she was the most manipulative little thing ever. She would play Sam and I’s emotions against each other by denying the person who wanted her attention and giving it other person. I have never ever seen a dog do that before. It was so blatant and completely baffling. She hated her kennel and would run and hide every time we tried to get her to go into it. She wanted to play but she didn’t want to be held, or pet, or touched–she would tolerate physical touch. She really didn’t even have a personality–mostly she just exuded learned bad behavior. She was an adorable, unwanted, no good, shifty terrier. She really was.

Lemon Scottie Foster Care Journey Maegan Johnson 3

She did like to ride in the car though, and she would let you hold her if you were in the car. But then she would throw up so . . . yeah.

I was an emotional wreck and beyond frustrated with Lemon. I needed another puppy to love and snuggle this hot little mess. I would lament my puppy parenting woes to my friends only to receive looks of confusion or polite indifference. No one seemed to understand the behavioral issues we were experiencing or really get why I was so upset about it all the time. I also felt constantly guilty because I was having to correct or redirect her bad behavior and I couldn’t let her get away with anything. Any mom–or dad out there for that matter–who has that child that just-wont-give-up-pushing-that-boundary-line knows what I’m talking about. It was absolutely maddening and heartbreaking. I couldn’t let her get away with things the way I had Zeus when he was her age because if I gave an inch it would undo everything we were trying to teach her. Things like using the bathroom outside, not chewing on my couch, staying out of the trash, not jumping on every single person or dog we saw, etc–just simple house rules.

Lemon Scottie Foster Care Journey Maegan Johnson 5

After a while of trying to figure it out on our own and failing miserably, we enrolled her in a dog training course at Petsmart at the beginning of the summer. Immediately we began seeing improvements. She learned how to communicate with us and vice versa. And we learned what was fueling her bad behaviors; like where they were coming from(her trauma) and what was behind them(fear, mistrust, frustration). Within the first week her demeanor and communication skills improved drastically and she seemed much less resentful. Everything got better on all sides, but she still did not want to be held or to bond with us and this was really hard for me to accept.

Zeus Schnauzer Foster Care Journey Maegan Johnson 3

Zeus Schnauzer Foster Care Journey Maegan Johnson 2

I was still so sad about Zeus and it didn’t help that he had been the snuggliest, cuddle-buddy ever. It was really hard for me not to compare them constantly and pick out all her flaws. He was the perfect dog and she was so broken. How could I ever feel love for another dog like I did Zeus? I prayed about prayed for months asking God why he had given me this dog and what I was supposed to do with our very one sided relationship. After a long while I made peace with the fact that she might not ever be a loving, snuggly dog. I also realized that our lack of bond could be coming from me wanting her to be someone she could never be and that I needed to accept her for who she was. That was so so hard.

Soon after this Sam and I would get pregnant and three months later at the beginning of October 2016 we miscarried with our first and only baby due to me having an outbreak of shingles. We had just celebrated our ninth anniversary and my thirtieth birthday. I don’t really think there is any way for me to adequately describe to you the heart-break, the devastation, the hopelessness that Sam and I both experienced. We had been waiting nine years for nothing it seemed. Sam and I have never officially received an infertility diagnosis but for some reason we have a hard time getting pregnant. We got pregnant on our own so there is really no explainable reason why it took so long for us to conceive the first time and why we have not conceived again. The loss of our child was equally baffling. It’s extremely rare for a twenty-nine year old, pregnant woman to have a shingles outbreak. There was just so much unexplained pain and heartache. After all that, I just didn’t expect much from anyone or anything anymore–the very least from Lemon.

But the Lord had other plans. A few weeks after our miscarriage I was standing at the kitchen table going through the mail when I felt this tiny wet nose bump the back of my leg. Truthfully, it startled me. Our trainer had informed us to be on the lookout for signs that Lemon was bonding with us, but I had let all hope of that go months before. Apparently, dogs bump each other with their noses or bump against one another with their shoulders to “check in”–like, “hey are we cool?” This is a behavior used in pack settings and denotes communication, hierarchy, and bonding. I looked down and there she was standing at my feet looking up at me expectantly. Her ears where down in submission and she wagged her tail just a little as if to encourage me. I slowly bent down to pet her and she kind of skittered to the side nervously, but she cautiously came right back to me and let me pet her. It was a beautiful moment and I could tell she was really happy to have my attention–and that got my attention.

Lemon Scottie Foster Care Journey Maegan Johnson 4

All the while with my heart still in a thousand little pieces over our miscarriage, that one check-in turned into a hundred check-ins. It was like peeling back new layers of an onion every week. All the sudden she had preferences, expressing maternal instincts by mothering and cleaning one toy in particular–a little brown moose–and expressing her opinions vocally while playing–like growling and grunting–and even talking to me to get my attention. She started climbing onto the couch between Sam and I in the evenings wanting to be with us. Then she started to get jealous of Sam and I when we would hug or kiss and she would get between us and lay down on both our feet. She started remembering our neighbors and showing favoritism to a select few people she really loved. (She’s in love the with young guy that works at her grooming salon). The first night she rolled over on her back and fell asleep between Sam and I on the couch was triumphant. She started using her paws and talking to me when she wanted my attention. Her vivacious, spunky, and sweet personality blossomed and split wide open every single day. By Christmas, almost nine months had passed and my parents were shocked by how much she had changed. She wasn’t even the same dog anymore.

Lemon Scottie Foster Care Journey Maegan Johnson 1

Sam and I knew that providing a loving, stable home with healthy boundaries was important for any pet or child, but I don’t think we realized how healing and transformative it could be–at least I didn’t. We didn’t do anything magical or ground breaking in the way of dog psychotherapy, we just loved her, emphasized communication, and set healthy boundaries. She became the dog she was always supposed to be–the dog hidden beneath all the trauma. And honestly, I felt so blessed to experience and be a part of Lemon’s healing. She is not the hero of my story to be sure, but it got me thinking that if it could be this rewarding(note I didn’t say easy) to adopt a neglected dog how amazing could it be to adopt a neglected child?

Fast forward to the spring of 2017. Even before we got pregnant the previous year we had been “talking” about fostering to adopt. It had always been something we were open to and willing to consider. Foster care was not how we wanted to grow a family–we wanted to grow our family like most people get to; biologically. But I had never ruled it out. For several months we considered setting aside having children forever for a while. And we prayerfully kicked around whether or not we wanted to commit to a different path for growing our family. Sam has always been open to adoption through foster care. Honestly, if we had the money and a house big enough Sam would probably just pull up to the Upbring office in a big school bus and cram as many children on it as possible. I love children too, but I wasn’t sure I could handle all the struggles that come along with fostering to adopt. But this new experience with Lemon beat across the rhythm of my heart like a harmony to my melody. I began to seek God about pursuing adoption through foster care.

Lemon Scottie Foster Care Journey Maegan Johnson 6

I studied the topic of adoption and orphans in the Bible for months. I also spent (unsuccessful) hours looking for books or devotionals to read from a Christian perspective on foster care (but that’s a whole other blog post). Along the way I began to see the gospel story in a new light. Adoption IS the story of Bible–it’s the story of Christianity. I had always known that adoption is the story of the Gospel, but I didn’t really understand until Lemon came into our life. I’ll save the semantics for another post, but it dawned on me that what I was feeling–the pride, the humility, the joy, the awe, the love, the passion, the devotion for Lemon was what God feels for me as His child. Like Lemon, I too am broken, and traumatized, and to some a lost cause, but God sees me as worth the trouble. His love says; YES, I CHOOSE YOU and I don’t care how bad your trauma is or how far down the road I have to walk to get to you–I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU. That is the story of the Gospel. Isn’t that beautiful? I found myself thinking on Lemon and I’s relationship about how every time she cast us off and blatantly misbehaved I was more and more motivated to prove to her that I had chosen her and I wasn’t going to give up.

All the while, in my anguish and tears over losing my own child, I became grief-stricken at the thought of never getting to be a mother and raise my own children. As I began to examine God’s design for humanity and God’s sacrifice of His own biological Son for me–a gentile, an orphan–a weighty question was laid before me; did I want to be a parent or did I just want to birth my own baby? That was a scary question. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to birth my own child, or mourning the loss of my baby–that’s very healthy, and natural, and God designed. But, if I really wanted to be a “mom” and a “parent” did that hinge on me birthing a child from my own body? According to the Gospel of Christ it doesn’t. This was more than a revelation to me; it was permission to hope and dream.

John 1:12-13 says, ” 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ” NASB

Roman’s 8:15 says, “15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”.” NASB

If adoption is good enough for God–if he sees me as his legitimate child through adoption–then shouldn’t it good enough for me too?

As this new revelation grew wild in my heart, Mother’s Day 2017 rolled around and our very good friends, Ash and Patty Wright were featured on an Austin news station celebrating Patty’s first Mother’s Day with their son. Ash and Patty had been fostering for almost two years and were coming up on their one year adoption anniversary with their six year old son, Nathan. They were so excited and I new that it meant so so much to Patty and Ash to reach this milestone with their own child. As I watched the news piece on my iPhone I was brought to my knees. It was the joy in Patty’s eyes and the love and fulfillment in her and Ash’s expressions; Nathan’s joy, laughter, and appreciation for these two strangers who chose him and asked him to be their son and where now his forever mom and dad that moved me to sobbing tears. Sitting in a stall at Sonic I cried buckets of beautiful, redemptive tears. My broken, childless heart melted into a puddle of joy. I looked at them and saw a family. I didn’t see foster-care; I didn’t see trauma; I didn’t see an ugly disaster–I saw love, I saw redemption, I saw hope.

I am so blessed that when I looked at Sam that day and said I wanted to commit to fostering to adopt he totally embraced the idea 110%. I think he was patiently waiting for me. The very next day we called the Upbring office to find out how one even gets started fostering to adopt.(Follow this link for a Step by Step Licensing Guide) I actually wanted to call that Sunday on Mother’s Day but they were closed. lol. We attended Upbring’s orientation a few weeks later and I remember sitting, thinking to myself, “What are you doing here? Have you lost your mind?” But in my spirit I felt this steadfast peace that we were doing the right thing. Sam and I got in the car afterwards and we just looked at each other and smiled. Sam started the car and said, “Well, this logically seems like one of the riskiest and craziest things we have ever done, but it feels right.” I couldn’t have agreed more. It did feel crazy, but it just felt perfectly right. So September 2017 we began our three-month journey to obtain our foster care certification. As I write this post, we are one home study approval and one licensing appointment away from our foster to adopt certification! We are hopefully expecting our first placement by the New Year and we cannot be more excited!!!!

I don’t understand God’s plan most of the time. Why does he allow the ones we love to die? And why has he left us childless after so many years? I do know that if Lemon had never come into our life I’m not sure I would have ever had the confidence, courage, or conviction to pursue foster care. I don’t understand why we lost our baby and I don’t expect I ever will, but if my baby left to lay in the arms of Jesus so that I would outstretch my arms and my heart to an unloved, unwanted, neglected child–even if it’s only for a moment–I believe it wasn’t all for nothing. I believe there is still hope. Love is what will make me a mother. And I believe that love is what makes a family.

Maegan