On Monday, Myra turned 7. It doesn’t seem possible. Seems like just yesterday that we were moving into our house, and five days after that DHS dropped off a 3-month-old girl that we’ve had ever since.
It’s been a festive week in the Franklin house, as Myra got three special birthday meals. First she went to Golden Corral with Missy’s family when they visited for the weekend, then we checked her out of school on Monday for a Mazzio’s lunch, followed by her birthday dinner with my mom and her cousins at Ted’s.
Of course it’s also Halloween so we went to a church festival last night and got the kids loaded up on sugar.
Myra fits perfectly into our family. She’s a great bridge from Addison to the younger boys. She’s very nurturing and loving towards them, especially when Addie finds herself getting frustrated by them.
She loves to laugh and to smile, something she’s been doing since the day she came into our home.
I wanted to share something I wrote five years ago, when we officially adopted Myra. Most of you know that there is a huge need both in Oklahoma and nationwide for foster parents. If you’re in a position to do that, I hope you’ll consider it. Maybe our story will help.
Please feel free to reach out to me or Missy with any questions. A few of our friends have taken the leap with us and they have also been blessed. You’ll change a child’s life as well as your own. And if you’re not in a position to take a child, please consider donating to a place like Cookson Hills. They are hosting and helping as many kids as they can.
It’s often the most unexpected things in life that end up providing the biggest blessings.
That’s certainly the case in my life as it relates to foster care.
Foster care wasn’t even on my radar until a few years ago. I spent the first 25 years of my life terrified at the thought of having my own kids, much less taking care of someone else’s. Even after meeting and marrying a woman who grew up in a children’s home, I still never considered the possibility that I’d end up doing it.
Fast forward to yesterday, when I woke up and groggily sauntered into the living room. The first thing I heard was Myra saying “Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy.” I looked and she was hanging upside down from her grandma’s arms. When we made eye contact she burst out laughing. A couple hours later many of our closest friends and relatives came over for a party to celebrate the fact that we have officially adopted the precious sweetheart I now can’t live without.
How did we get here? Like I said, my wife grew up in a children’s home, where her parents modeled God’s love by having about 10 foster kids under their roof at any given time at Cookson Hills, a Christian ministry located just on our side of Arkansas border in a town called Kansas, Oklahoma. My church growing up had supported Cookson Hills, but I had never visited until I started dating Missy in college. It was definitely cool and touching to see kids who in most cases had zero advantages or hope outside of Cookson thrive in the loving environment there. The mass-produced food they ate didn’t taste good, their clothes were donated, and they had just one TV for the household of 12, but the support network there made all the difference in the world to those kids.
It took me five years to get around to marrying Missy, and another three for us to settle into our careers and move from Lawton to Oklahoma City, where we wanted to live permanently. When that happened and Missy brought up the idea of foster care again, my normal reaction would have been to say no. It doesn’t take a lot to stress me out, and we already had a kid. But something inside gave me a peace about it, and it felt like the right thing.
So we went through 10 miles of red tape to get approved, which took almost a year, and then we dove right in. Way, way over our heads. It was only a few days before Christmas 2012 when we got a call about three children who had been in an extremely traumatic situation and needed a place to stay for the holidays.
We said yes and took them in for about 3 weeks, but in no way were we prepared to provide them what they truly needed. We had no experience with kids older than Addison, who was not yet 4, and no time to prepare a house that needed to expand from three to six occupants. More important, we were not equipped to help them emotionally deal with the traumatic event that had shaken their lives, and since it was the holidays it was hard to find professional help.
Nevertheless, God is good. Our church had so many families willing and able to provide Christmas presents, food, clothes, diapers, etc. (The kids arrived with nothing more than the clothes on their backs). I know the kids could feel that we loved them and were trying the best that we could. And of course, Addie was a sweetheart who made fast friends with all of them.
It quickly became apparent that this would not be a good fit for our family long-term, and in mid-January 2013 they were placed with a relative. I believe we were the right family for those kids for that amount of time, even if it was an extremely stressful three weeks.
At the end of January, we got a call asking if we would be interested in taking a 3-month-old girl. This seemed like a much better situation for our family with one problem — we were set to move into a new house on Jan. 31. We asked if it was possible for the girl to be temporarily placed somewhere else for a few days. They asked if we could take her on Feb. 5. So we moved in and took Myra five days later.
All she ever did was smile. She only cried when she was extremely tired or extremely hungry. The rest of the time she just kept a huge smile on her face, with an occasional chuckle. Everyone who met her commented on her joyful demeanor.
We — especially Addie — fell in love with her from the first day. I tried to guard my heart a little, knowing that the state had a right to remove her from us any day. In fact, that’s the goal of foster care, to reunite the child with a parent or relative. But in this case (and in about 50% of all foster care cases), that wasn’t able to happen. Soon, we received the great news that we would be allowed to adopt her.
When she came to us, she had five names (one first name, two middle names and two last names). Four of them were spelled differently in different documents the state gave us. We decided to keep her first name, give her our last name, and for the middle name we combined the middle names of both of her grandmas. Myra Alisue Franklin. Although the adoption process took far longer than we would have liked, all Myra did was smile, and on March 25, 2014, it became official.
Two weeks after that, we loaded Myra on a plane to India to spend a couple weeks with her aunt, uncle and cousins, the first of many great adventures we will share with her as our beloved daughter.
I’ve tried my best to describe the huge blessing Myra has been. Even though we’ve had two children of our own since getting her, our family would have a huge hole if she weren’t a part of it. She brings so much already, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for her future.
I know foster care isn’t for everyone, but I would strongly encourage you to pray and think about whether it’s right for you. There are so many kids out there who have done absolutely nothing wrong, living in a state shelter and waiting for someone to take them in.
Our lives were forever changed by one of them.