The Courage to Say “Yes” – The Millers’ Story, Part One
Throughout our lives, how many times have we told God “no,” “I’m not ready,” or “not now?” Then, how many more times has He turned our adamant “no” into a hesitant, but willing “yes?” only to write a chapter of our story that is more beautiful than we ever could have imagined? Meet the Millers, a Wellroot family who took a bit of time to say “yes” to fostering. Now, their “yes” has turned into three adoptions doubled the size of their forever family. How did their journey begin? The Millers were always surrounded by foster care. Many of their close friends in the Conyers area fostered and adopted through Wellroot for years. Through it all, the Millers were always there to offer support, lend an ear or even provide a little comic relief for their fostering peers. “We made a lot of jokes about the size of our friends’ cars, grocery lists and how many children they had in their house,” Shauna laughed. Although they had the margin to support their fostering friends, Jason and Shauna were busy people, both working demanding full-time jobs and parenting three children of their own—David, Grace Ann and Emmalee—who were involved in sports, activities and extracurriculars. “Our friends were constantly convincing us to open our own home and foster,” Jason said. “But when we looked around at our life at the time, Shauna and I realized the timing just wasn’t right. We just weren’t all in yet.” It was a mission trip to India in 2016 that changed everything for Jason and Shauna. There, they spent almost a week serving widows and orphans. “We spent time playing, teaching, singing and dancing with beautiful children all over India,” Shauna said. “From that experience, we realized how much more love we had to give and how many children around the world and at home could benefit from us opening our hearts to pour out that love.” After returning from India, the Millers knew that it was time. Four children already close to the family had been recently removed from a different placement and needed care. Jason and Shauna worked quickly to complete the foster home application process and IMPACT training through Wellroot. After rushing through the certification steps, Jason and Shauna were prepared and excited to take over care of these four children who they already knew and loved. It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly. They were confident in their decision to finally say “yes.” But, as with the ever-changing nature of foster care, the placement fell through, leaving Jason and Shuana confused and uncertain. The journey wasn’t off to the start that they’d envisioned or prayed for. Was this even for them? Should they have actually said “yes?” Amidst this discouragement, Jason and Shauna realized they didn’t know what “type” of situation they were prepared to handle. Did they want to foster teens? Infants? Medically fragile children? Only boys? Girls? None of the above? It was hard, almost impossible, for Jason and Shauna to choose a preference. Still, their phones were ringing with placement possibilities. They had to make a decision. “We just prayed,” Shauna said. “We prayed so much for the right decision, placement and discretion. We prayed for God to use us in a way more perfect than we could dream for ourselves.” One Friday night, the Millers received a call about a two-year-old girl named Avery. It was time to say “yes.” The Millers immediately fell in love with Avery. (Shauna says it took no more than two minutes.) Although Avery returned to her biological home nine months later, the Millers had taken the first giant leap into their fostering journey. “All of the ‘I could never’ and ‘I cannot’s’ were gone,” Shauna said. “We were in love and immediately on-board for acting on behalf of the child’s welfare, no matter the cost for us.” After Avery’s placement, Jason and Shauna were asked to open their home for the respite care of two sisters—Zoe and Charlee. “It was the craziest week in Miller history,” Shauna definitively said. Since it was the week of Thanksgiving, the Millers were busier than ever. Shauna and the children were volunteering each evening for the school musical, and Jason was working long hours at the sheriff’s office. It wasn’t perfect timing, but it felt right. Jason and Shuana said “yes.” Three-year-old Zoe slept only a few hours each night because of intense night terrors, and even during the day, she constantly cried and threw tantrums. Her nearly uncontrollable behavior was a result of Zoe’s short, but intense lifetime of neglect. She was fragile and required constant, specific attention. The Millers were her fifth placement in just six months. Zoe’s baby sister Charlee was fragile, too, but more physically than emotionally. Charlee had been diagnosed with pneumonia just a few days before arriving at the Millers’ home. Although it was unknown at the time, Charlee had a chronic lung disease that would require frequent and intense care. The Millers were questioning their “yes,” but they persevered through the difficulties and continued to pour love and attention into the lives of Zoe and Charlee. As a respite care situation, Zoe and Charlee were to be with the Millers for only several weeks, leading up to a court date that would place the girls in care of their maternal grandmother. The court date arrived, but things didn’t go as planned. Zoe and Charlee’s grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer, and she was in no shape to care for the girls. Instead, it was decided that Zoe and Charlee would remain with the Millers. Their home became a lively, nonstop place of action. Zoe and Charlee required constant care and attention, because of their individual emotional and physical trauma, as well as medical needs. The Millers were living a new normal, living each day with a mission to establish stability in Zoe and Charlee’s lives. Between extended hospital visits, constant supervision, therapy appointments and forming a relationship with the girls’ biological family, all of the Millers, including siblings David, Grace Ann and Emmalee, stepped in to give the girls what they needed. “God was showing our kids an entirely new way to give and receive love,” Shauna said. David, Grace Ann and Emmalee all sacrificed time and space to give their “new” siblings the care that they needed. Even while they were growing up themselves, the three Miller children were also making sure their home was a loving, open and inviting place for Zoe and Charlee. “We dug in our heels to support the girls in every possible way,” David said. Slowly but surely, the girls were showing fewer signs of their complicated past. Zoe and Charlee made many positive behavioral and emotional improvements after several months of living with the Millers. The Millers’ story continues next week—stay tuned for Part Two!