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'The hardest joy you'll ever experience'

Jimmy and Celeste Dickinson have been parents for a long time and embracing the new season of life called empty nesting. But their definition of empty nesting looks different from what most would picture. Their biological children are 21 and 23 years old, leaving the Dickinsons with an ache to fill their dinner table once again.

"We’re like ‘why not?’ When you’re an empty nester, and you have a home that could fulfill a purpose, why not do it?" Celeste said. "If you have the opportunity to babysit your grandchildren, you would." 

The Dickinsons have had 18 foster placements come through their Midland, Texas, home and have learned the great waves of ups and downs that come with it. Currently, they have five placements ranging in ages from 1 to 4 years old. 

"The Bible tells us to take care of the orphans and the widows" Jimmy shared. "What you’re trying to do is give these kids the love they may have missed out on. We’ve been able to build connections with some of the parents the kids have reunited with or the other family members they’ve gone to."

The couple sees this foster journey as an opportunity to minister to the biological families as well. They seek to bridge the gap between foster care and reunification and give these children something to take with them when they go. Each child who has been reunited with their biological family leaves a special mark on Jimmy and Celeste’s hearts.

"It’s the hardest joy you’ll ever experience," Celeste said. "There are so many days when I want to throw my hands up and be done, and then there are other days where I feel like this is the greatest thing I’ve been blessed to do."

Their faith in God and dedication to prayer is one of the ways the Dickinsons stay grounded through their journey.

"All the kids that have come through our home, we’ve picked up something from them – something they said or did. I’ll see or hear something that reminds me of them, and I’ll go through a moment of sadness," Celeste said. "But then I turn to God and pray for them and pray for whatever family they’re with.”

Through all the pain, both Celeste and Jimmy say with great confidence they would do it over and over again. 

"I usually tell them it’s a mid-life crisis," Jimmy said with a smile. "I think [doing foster care] keeps us young, too."

In September 2018, Celeste received a call for a new placement and felt like she had to say yes immediately.

"I never take a placement without talking to Jimmy first, but something told me she needed us. Isn’t it amazing how God speaks to us?" she shared.

Celeste’s instincts were right: Raeleeann, 3, needed to be removed from her current home immediately and was able to find safety with the Dickinsons, and on March 3, the Dickinson home became Raeleeann's forever home as the Dickinsons finalized her adoption. 

"She just fits into our family, and we are happy to be able to give her the family and stability she needed," Celeste said. 

They currently have four foster placements. Transitioning from fostering to adoption "doesn’t change anything for us. We will continue to do this as long as God calls us to, and it’s up to him who is added to our forever family," Celeste added. 

May is National Foster Care Month. Learn more on how you can help vulnerable children in need of a safe and loving home. 

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