May the Name of the LORD be Praised

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My husband and I were gifted the chance to get away this weekend. We desperately needed to reconnect as both of our schedules have been so full this summer, it is hard to get time to just talk to each other!

As we enjoyed our time together, I realized, again, just how blessed I truly am. Here’s why:

1. My husband still wants to spend time with me after almost 15 years. Truly, it is simply amazing to me that we are still together. As I watch marriages–Christian and non-Christian–crumble all around me, I am in awe that our marriage has lasted. I’ll be honest with you–there have been a few times throughout our marriage that I just wanted to call it quits. His sin, my sin, life in general just make marriage seem like an insurmountable task sometimes, which is evident by the number of divorced couples I know. And a large number of couples I know who are still married simply don’t want to be alone with one another. To find someone who will stick with me and who wants to go away for the weekend with me is truly a blessing from God.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken–Eccl. 4:9-12.

2. I have people I can trust with my children.  I know a lot of people who struggle to be able to go out on a date, let alone away for the weekend, because there are no safe places for them to send their children. I was blessed this weekend to have options of where to send my kids. I have friends and family who love them and will make sure that they are well cared-for. I have people in my life who will not only feed them and keep them safe, but who will also make sure they have a wonderful time while Mom and Dad are away. For these people, I am truly thankful.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another–Prov. 27:17.

3. We have the opportunity to “get away.” As we were walking around our downtown, we came across a woman who was simply trying to get some sleep on a park bench. A security guard was standing near her, keeping his eye on her while he called the police. She wasn’t causing any trouble. She just wanted a place to sleep. I, on the other hand, had a beautiful hotel bed to rest my head on, and I have a very comfortable bed to come home to. Although my husband and I live on a tight budget, we always get to have at least one vacation a year with our kids. We go out to eat. We occasionally have the chance to see a movie. These are things that we are so used to that we completely forget that there are places all around the world where the idea of “getting away” is a completely foreign idea. My best friend and some of our church family are on their way home from an orphanage in South Africa as I type this. I am sure that these children are very unfamiliar with a vacation! It’s humbling to see how blessed we actually are here.

4. I have a home and family to come home to. After struggling with infertility for over five years, I know how blessed I am to be a mom. I also know how blessed I am to be able to offer a safe place to sleep for children who need to be placed in foster care because they don’t have that same luxury. Each time we open our door to one of these in need, I realize anew that not everyone is going to bed feeling safe tonight. That is a luxury that I have taken for granted all my life.

Currently, I am studying Job, who was a very wealthy, blessed, godly man. He had ten children, unimaginable wealth, a happy marriage, good health, and the respect of everyone he knew. Still, the entire book of Job is about a man who suffered immensely at the hand of Satan. Yet, he continued to thank God for everything in his life.

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised–Job 1:20. 

In the midst of utter loss, Job “did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22).

It is easy to get caught up in the mundane routine of life and to forget the blessing that just getting up in the morning is. Yet when truly difficult times come, it is so easy to shake our fists at God and blame Him for the Curse. This weekend, I was reminded that I have a lot to be thankful for, and the mundane routine that I have the opportunity to return to is just as much a blessing to me as staying in a nice hotel and eating out in nice restaurants.

Thank You, Jesus, for this life!

What are you thankful for? We all have troubles in our lives. That is a part of the Curse.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world–Jn. 16:33.

We can find things to grumble about every day. But just as we all have troubles, we also all have blessings. And while we may not understand why some have so much and some so little, why some suffer with sickness and others enjoy great health, why fertility is easy for some and difficult for others, why “bad” people prosper and “good” people suffer, we know that God is good all the time. His way is perfect.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me–Phil. 2:14-18.

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As You Did It To One of the Least of These

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In the past month and a half, we have had seven different children come and go from our home. We have loved them, and we have had to say goodbye as they go on to a long-term placement. It has been extremely hard to watch these kids, and it has been extremely rewarding.

But every time we invite one of them into our home, we are reminded of the evil that lurks in the shadows, just down the street from our own front door. These children come with baggage–even the babies. They come in need of baths, food, and love. They have no boundaries and wander around our home in awe of all of the toys that we have. Some have brought a few items of their own, and some don’t even have a diaper to spare.

In some ways, we are finding that emergency and respite care is a lot more difficult than if we decided to keep them long-term. These children are not given time to acclimate to our routine before they are whisked away. They attach to us quickly but don’t understand common courtesy and sharing. We love them, but they leave and forget us. Two of the children were with us for less than 24 hours. Did I even make a difference in their little lives?

One of our respite kids lives with some friends of ours. We saw how this little one responded to her environment and to her foster family when she first arrived–almost a year ago. She suffered from anxiety, over-stimulation, drugs, and a myriad of other problems. She refused to leave the confines of her foster mom’s lap. She was terrified of new people and hated going to daycare. But they have loved her well. They have given her all they possibly have to give. And now that little girl is an entirely different person. She has more confidence. She actually interacts with other people. She will leave her foster mom’s side to go and play. She did wonderfully while she stayed with us. Her meltdowns are fewer; her sleep patterns are better; and she actually plays in groups now.

What made the difference for her? She was loved well.

This weekend, we had the privilege to attend an adoption party for a little girl who has been in foster care for three years–pretty much since she was born. She has had the opportunity to live with the same family for most of those years, and they were finally able to make her legally theirs. They saw a baby in need of security and love, and they took a chance on her. They risked “getting attached” and decided to be the safe haven she needed–regardless of how long she would stay with them. And now, that little girl is so confident, loved, and wanted. She doesn’t even remember being taken into custody. She only knows that she is loved well.

What if these families had said that they would love to foster but were worried they would get attached? What if there were no safe homes for these kids to go to? Can you imagine that there is a chance that neither one of these beautiful children would be alive today? Or, if they were to live, do you think their existence would be a happy one?

Some of the reactions I have noticed as we do short-term care include people pulling their kids away from the foster children, hiding their purses, and sharing with me that they had nightmares that our foster children would give their kids lice. These kids did not ask for this life, but they don’t know anything different. They don’t know that it’s not okay to have bugs in your bed or that sleeping in a car is bad. They don’t know that their parents are making illegal choices in exchange for the health and well-being of their children. They don’t know that it’s bad to take things that don’t belong to them. How do you think they’ve been surviving?

Just like we nurture and develop babies into human beings who know boundaries and manners and healthy sleeping patterns, we need to help these children learn these things as well. No one has taught them, and no one will if more foster families don’t step up to risk “becoming attached.”

I am here to advocate for them. I am here to ask you, to plead with you, to start praying about becoming a foster family. Maybe you can only do it short-term like we have chosen for our family right now. That’s okay. The need is great for emergency homes, and foster families really appreciate respite help.

Maybe you can’t bring foster children into your home right now, but you can still advocate for them. Can you volunteer as a guardian ad litem? The need for volunteers to advocate for these kids in court is just as needed.

Or perhaps you can work as a mentor for at-risk youth. Maybe you can’t take them into your home, but do you have some time that you can devote to them? Children’s homes especially need people who are willing to take time with these kids. They need someone who cares.

Sometimes, I feel like I am just yelling at the wind. There are so many hurting kids, and the need seems so great at times. But seven kids came and went from my home this month, and I love them so much and need to know that they are being taken care of. I need you to let down your guard and open your home before it’s too late for them.

One less…one less…one less.

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, 36 I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’37 Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You?39 And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”–Matt. 25:31-46.

 

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Foster Care: When Your Family Can’t Meet the Need

It’s been a rough couple of weeks around here, which is why I haven’t had time to write a new post in a while. We have had a number of respites coming and going, and we are exhausted from the constant activity!

Unfortunately, we had one particular child who was just not a good fit for our family. This child needs the care of a family who only has one child or no children. Some kids are like that, and that’s okay. But in this home, where there are often five children vying for my attention, I just cannot possibly single out one child for several hours a day. I strive to have one-on-one with each child, but a high-needs child needs a lot more than that.

I have to be honest with you, since that’s what I strive to do on this blog. Foster care is messy. These kids are broken. They have no boundaries. They have no control over their emotions. They act out. They break things (on accident or on purpose). When you’re dealing with a toddler, you can more easily forgive these things as most toddlers need constant watching.

But when they are five, six, seven years old, it’s easy to forget that they are like infants in many ways. They have never been taught that crying is not the only way to get attention or to have their needs met. They don’t understand what you mean when you tell them they can’t have something. Many of them don’t realize that they are constantly putting themselves in danger because they aren’t following basic rules (don’t run into the street; don’t put things into the light socket; don’t pull the dog’s tail).

Perhaps one of the scariest factors about foster children is that they don’t know not to talk to strangers or to walk off with them. How could they possibly know this when strangers came to their home and took them away from their biological family, only to place them in the home of some other strangers, who want to be Mom and Dad? Often, they are put into an emergency home until a long-term placement can be found. So once they begin feeling comfortable with the first set of strangers, they are taken to another home of strangers, who want to be Mom and Dad. Then, they eventually may be up for adoption, where they will meet more strangers, who also want to be Mom and Dad. They are told to go with strangers (their caseworkers) for visits with their family. And each time they meet a stranger, they wonder if they should call them Mom and Dad, too.

I battled with guilt over the past couple of weeks because we were struggling as a family with one particular placement. To say that we were over the whining and crying would be an understatement. But this child was hurting, so we did our best to love the child, despite the behavior. But at the end of the day, we just had to realize that our home was not the home for this child. And guess what I learned?

That’s okay!

You see, I’ve been wrestling with God because there are so many–so very many–children in need of a safe home and a loving family. We need a bigger house for our own family of five, and we are stretched to the limits when we have foster children here. But we want them all. We want to help every single one of them, and we can’t.

The only One who is capable of caring for these children is God. They are His, and He wants us to love them well and to know when He is telling us that we need to let a child go. That’s the hard part–saying goodbye. They cry when they leave, and so do we. But God is there with them, and He has a better plan for them than I could ever imagine!

We are only emergency and respite foster parents right now, so we expect the children to come and go from our home. They come here to be calmed and loved, and then they go to a long-term placement. Or they come here to give their foster family a break. They are ours for just a short while, and then they are gone, and we may never see them again.

Foster care is ugly. It comes from a place of brokenness and loss. It is a reminder of the deep-rooted sin that has taken over our world. And it’s a bunch of sinful people who are trying to help as well. It’s just a mess. But God has a plan, and He wants His people to be a part of the plan. He wants us to love the fatherless well.

If you are a foster parent, I want to tell you that it’s okay if every child that comes to your home is not a perfect fit. It’s okay if your family needs a break. It’s okay to say no to every placement. God wants you to keep on serving Him in love, and He will take care of the rest.

If you aren’t participating in some way in orphan care, why not? The child who wasn’t a good fit for our family may be just the one that God has for you. Each family is unique, and each child is unique, and God wants to fit the two together!

There are so many children hurting and in need. They need you to step up and take their hand. They aren’t a number. They have a name. And some day, Jesus may ask you why you didn’t help “John Smith” or “Jane Doe” when He asked you to. What will your answer be?

 

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Letting Go of Control

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The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps–Prov. 16:9.

I have two young children plus two foster children living at my house right now, yet my house feels strangely empty. We dropped our nine-year-old daughter off for her first week at sleep-away camp yesterday, and my mama heart beat anxiously as we pulled away.

She didn’t even want to say goodbye. In fact, I embarrassed her when I tried to pull her into a hug, and she slapped my hand away when I went to put an arm around her shoulder.

I am not the kind of mom who is constantly on top of her children. They are allowed to ride bikes and walk down to the neighbor’s house in our neighborhood as long as they stay together. Our street is a double cul-de-sac, so we don’t have a lot of traffic, and all of the neighbors know each other and watch out for one another. I am not afraid to take my kids to the park. My kids are allowed to spend the night with a very select group of friends. I drop them off at church on Wednesday nights and go back home to get some work done when I need to.

But something about dropping my daughter off for five whole days without any way to communicate with her unless in an emergency set my mama heart beating wildly. I felt sick. Anxiety washed over me like a tidal wave, and I cried as we drove down the mountain.

The truth is that I have been battling with our decision to send her to camp for months now. I know the camp well because it is where I went from age nine all the way up through adulthood. It’s a wonderful camp, and I know the staff. The camp is only an hour and a half away from home, and my wonderful and responsible niece is in my daughter’s room. But still, I knew that I wasn’t going to be there, and that is the part that is hard for me.

Control. It’s what gives us moms a false sense of security. Whether it has to do with making sure our children only eat organic food or apply hand sanitizer after touching absolutely every germ-covered item they can find, we have a false sense of control. We may think we are protecting them from the harmful rays of the sun by lathering them up with sunblock (also organic) and layering them so that not one inch of skin is showing, yet we are living with a false sense of control. We fret over school choice and friend choice, but we are still living with a false sense of control. And we imagine all of the terrible, horrible, awful things that can happen to our child at a camp that has successfully been in operation for over fifty years.

As my husband and I prepared over the last few months to send our first-born to camp, I constantly found myself praying that God would help me to trust Him. It’s not about trusting my parenting abilities or my daughter’s ability to be on her own for a week or even the counselor and staff who are available around the clock in case she needs anything. It’s about trusting God.

That’s the real problem we are facing in today’s culture. Over and over, I am watching as children are growing up into adults who have absolutely no idea how to function in today’s world. We don’t want to “ruin” their childhood by preparing them to leave us. In fact, as I speak to college students in different situations, the common theme I am hearing is that their parents won’t let them. In fact, I just spoke to one girl whose parents wouldn’t let her drive. She is a sophomore in college!

While I am not at that level of parenting yet, I find myself struggling with my own issues of control. If I don’t send her off to camp now, then when? If I don’t release my hold on her just a little bit each time she has an opportunity to learn something new or stretch her “wings” a little bit, then how will she ever learn how to fly on her own? And if I can’t trust God with my children, then how can I teach them that He is worthy of their trust?

I miss her terribly. I am struggling with not knowing what she is doing right now. Did she remember to brush her teeth this morning? Did one of her friends hurt her feelings? Is she eating well? Is she having fun? Is she homesick?

Honestly, I have never had control over my children’s lives. From the moment of conception, I was not a part of their growth, nutrition, or prenatal care. Once a month, I was able to visit their birth mom, feel their baby kicks, and hope for the best. I had no control over what she put into her body, so I just had to pray that God would protect them and help them to grow as they should. And they have all turned into beautiful children–by the grace of God.

As we have begun the journey as foster parents, we have even less control over what happens to the children who become a part of our family for such a short time. We don’t have a say over where they attend school or whether or not they are vaccinated or even whether someone can post a picture of them on social media. They are ours, yet they aren’t. We love them and take care of them, but we have no control over them.

All over the news and social media are stories of parents who thought they were in control but are now mourning the loss of their child. They had the baby gates up and thought their child was in their crib, but an hour later, emergency personnel are fishing a toddler’s body out of the lake nearby. They thought they knew their teenager was happy and easy-going, yet they are now reeling from a suicide that occurred after their child suffered years of bullying at school. They did all they could to keep harmful chemicals away from their child and only fed their baby organic food, but cancer is still eating away at his body anyway.

I don’t say these things to scare you or to make you stop looking out for your child’s well-being! Organic, healthy food is a great option. Taking precautions to make sure your baby is safe is absolutely essential. And talking to your teens about what is happening in their lives is a must.

But we also need to realize when we can back off a little bit. We need to realize that our children are just ours for a short time. It is our responsibility to love them well and to teach them how to leave us. That’s our job. And we have to trust that they are in God’s hands.

I am writing this to myself as well. This is hard for me. I prayed so long and so hard to become a mom that it is hard for me to let them go. It is hard for me to not want to drive back up the mountain and bring my girl home. But what would that accomplish? For one thing, she would be incredibly embarrassed and upset with me. She might even resent me for awhile. She would miss out on the amazing opportunity to make new friends from other places. She would miss learning how to study God’s Word. She wouldn’t get a chance to enjoy sliding down the Super Slip-n-Slide or tubing down the river or hiking to the falls. And she wouldn’t have a chance to grow into herself a little bit more and gain just a little bit more confidence in going out and conquering the world for God. While might feel better having her home with me, I would really be doing more harm than good. She wants to be a traveling missionary nurse some day, so I have to start letting go of her now in order to encourage her to follow the path that God has planned for her future.

So while I stay home and fret over her this week, I am just “praying without ceasing” and trusting God. He’s got her in His hand, and nothing that happens to her is out of His control.

The Lord of hosts has sworn:
“As I have planned, so shall it be,
and as I have purposed, so shall it stand”–Is. 14:24.

P.S. Don’t laugh, but we are going up to see her tomorrow night for Fun Night, so it’s not like I’m even going five days! Baby steps, right?=)

 

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Happy Father’s Day

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When I was growing up, one thing I was always sure of was my dad. There was never, ever a moment in my life that I didn’t believe that my dad would be right there. We are a lot alike in temperament, which resulted in a lot of arguments between us, but I never once doubted that he really loved me. And he always, always had my back–even when I was being a brat. He worked at my school and was always a part of any sports events, choir performances, or band performances that we participated in. He fought me when I wanted to stray, and he was waiting with open arms when I returned. He cried over me, prayed over me, and waited for me to find my way. And he always loved me and cheered me on in my hopes and dreams. In fact, he’s still my number one fan!

As I’ve gotten older and become a parent myself, I have seen just how precious my dad truly is. I have seen other dads who abandon their children, who give up on them when they stray, who miss the big and little moments in their lives, and who just can’t even stand being around their kids. That has never once been my dad.

In fact, now that my dad’s a grandfather, I can see just what a unique individual he truly is. Many grandfathers can’t tolerate being around their grandchildren, or they are too tired to do much more than greet them when they stop by. But my dad? He sees potential and beauty in each of his grandkids, and his desire is to help each one of them grow into the best person they can be. So he takes them out on individual “Pops’ dates.” He takes them visiting with him or on tours with him or to the local ball game. He buys them donuts while talking to them about how they are doing. He listens to them, and he loves them so well. In fact, my kids fight over whose turn it is to go with him, and they carefully count down to see how many of the ten grandkids are left before it’s their turn to go again.

You can see how difficult it could be to find a man who could father as well as my dad does! But my husband is one of the unique ones as well. When I first met him, one of the reasons I fell in love with him was because I could see how well he loved his nephew. He was compassionate, gentle, and loving toward the only child in his world. He immediately volunteered with me at our church to help children who came in from the less-fortunate side of town, and he loved them with his big heart as well. He worked in the nursery with me, was full-force in the children’s ministry with me, and helped me babysit our friends’ kids. When his second nephew came, and then all of my nieces and nephews after that, he continued to love each of them as his own.

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When we were dating, my husband specifically told me of his desire to adopt. He wanted there to be one less child in need of a father. His heart for the fatherless was overwhelmed by the needs of so many. And so together we pursued adoption.

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute–Ps. 82:3

When the babies cried in the middle of the night, he would tell me to go back to sleep while he fed and changed them. As he saw it, I was with them all day, and he needed to help out when he was home. As they have grown, he continues to “relieve” me at the end of the day, taking over parenting duty despite coming off of a very hard, labor-intensive job. He takes them out on individual “Daddy dates” (or “Dudes Day Out,” as my son calls them). He lets them crawl in bed and snuggle with him in the morning. He plays games with them, attends their events, and makes a point to remember their favorite treats. And they adore him.

When we decided to foster, he dove right into that as well. We are new to this adventure, but he was right there by my side for our first placements. He loved them, cried with them, prayed with them, read to them, played with them, and tucked them in at night. He showed them grace while setting firm boundaries. And he quickly became “Daddy” to them. It was extremely difficult for him when they had to leave, and he cried as he said goodbye. He loved them well.

As I see these two strong, wonderful dads that are part of my kids’ lives, I am humbled to realize that “more than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father” (National Center for Fathering). Twenty million! That means 20 million kids did not understand why anyone was celebrating fathers today. They don’t know what a father can (and should) do for their health and well-being. And those children do not understand the value of having and loving their heavenly Father. They have no example to follow.

I’ve posted this before, but I think it’s worth posting again–especially on Father’s Day:

 

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Fatherhood.org

The statistics prove that these children need a father! They need a man in their lives that will come alongside them, cheering for them from the sidelines as they stumble, get back up, and try again. They need someone who will still be there when they mess up and will love them despite their failures. They need someone who will gently lead them to God, who will pray for them when they have doubts and lose their way, and who will welcome them back with open arms.

How can I let Father’s Day go by without begging with you, pleading with you to see one less fatherless child in the world? Remember those statistics? Twenty million kids? That’s just in America! Those are the kids sitting next to your kid in school. They are the ones your kids play with on the playground. They are the ones you walk by on the street. They need you. They need a father.

There are over 130 million fatherless in the entire world. That number will never stop overwhelming me, so I will never stop pleading their cause. I will never stop asking you to do something!

Today is Father’s Day. I am beyond grateful for the wonderful fathers in my life, but my heart aches for those who don’t know where their father is tonight. Or perhaps they know where their father is because he’s the one abusing them when he should be loving them. Some don’t even know who their father is. And some wish that they didn’t know their father.

So what can you do? Be a father to the fatherless! Step up and add one more to your family. Love one more child. Foster. Adopt. Volunteer at the local boys’ home. Mentor the young men in your church. Pray for them. Love them. Fill that void and point them to the Father who loves them more than any earthly father ever could.

If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,
    or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail,
17 or have eaten my morsel alone,
    and the fatherless has not eaten of it
18 (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father,
    and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow),
19 if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing,
    or the needy without covering,
20 if his body has not blessed me,
    and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep,
21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
    because I saw my help in the gate,
22 then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder,
    and let my arm be broken from its socket.
23 For I was in terror of calamity from God,
    and I could not have faced his majesty–Job 31:16-23.

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What Can You Do to Help Them?

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Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world–Jms. 1:27.

She came skipping down the driveway at 1:30 in the morning, her hair an oily mess from the coconut oil treatment she had received at the Department of Social Services. Her sister was sound asleep in the caseworker’s arms and refused to wake up to greet me.

“What’s your name?” She asked sweetly, running through the front door and past my husband as though she had lived here all her life.

“Katie, and welcome to our home.”

She immediately began to rummage through the toys in the living room, as excited as though she had just entered Disney World. She could barely contain her eagerness to touch and see everything our home had to offer her.

The caseworker had us sign the contract that said we agreed to take the girls and attached a sticky note with their names and birthdays on it–no other information. And then she was gone, and we were thrown into the unknown waters of foster parenting.

When you decide to foster, you are required to take so many hours of training every two years. But they can’t really train you for what happens when two little girls enter your home and disrupt the family harmony.

When our children had gone to bed on Saturday night, they were part of a family of five. When they woke up, they found two additional sisters. Two very needy, clingy, whiny, demanding sisters. What rules would they have to follow? How strict should we be, considering their circumstances? What should we expect from our own children?

Within five minutes of arriving in our home, the oldest child was already calling me, “Mama,” despite the fact that I was trying to get her to call me Katie or even Mama Katie. But my husband was non-existent for the first couple of days. They were afraid to refer to him at all for the first day. Then they started to refer to him as “him”–“Where is ‘Him’? When is ‘Him’ coming home from work?”

My husband sought to connect with the girls and decided to give me a break by pushing me out the door on Tuesday night to get together with a friend. But knowing that the girls hadn’t connected with him yet made me miserable to leave and caused me to have an anxiety attack. The pressure to take care of everyone was overwhelming, and the stories the girls shared with me were heartbreaking.

My oldest daughter struggled to make them happy, which sent her into her own bit of panic. Her people-pleasing mentality overtook her, and she was losing precious toys left and right in an effort to be the best “big sister.” Once I sat her down and told her she was allowed to say no, she seemed to be able to breathe a little bit better. But the adjustment was hard the first few days.

As we began to set boundaries and to get back into a normal routine, the girls seemed to begin to fit in our family a little bit better each day. They started understanding that they had to clean up after themselves when they played (although that is a continuous learning experience for all the kids!). They started to learn that they have to eat the food that is put in front of them, including the vegetables and fruit, or they will be sent to bed. They are learning boundaries. And they have started to realize that my husband is safe and have started calling him “Daddy,” despite our efforts to get them to call him “Jamie.”

Bedtime is the most difficult time of day. They miss their dad. They want to know when they can call him. They want to talk about their family. The tears start to flow. But each night, the tears are fewer, and the nightmares don’t come as often.

We have had them for one week, and they will not be in our care much longer because we are a temporary foster home. They are going to be placed this week, probably, in a long-term foster home. They will leave us. One little girl already worries about not seeing us anymore. The other one is too little but is extremely attached to us. Our hearts will break, and tears will be shed. But this is what God has called us to at this time. We can’t do long-term care at this point.

As we have taken in and learned to love two strangers in such a small amount of time, we are overwhelmed by what they have seen in their short, little lives. God is a novelty to them, and Jesus is a complete stranger. How do you share the Gospel with a five-year-old when she has no idea who this Jesus is? She doesn’t even believe that she’s a sinner. How do you tell her that she is in need of a Savior when she doesn’t think she’s a bad girl? In fact, she told me that she wanted me to be her savior! Yikes!

Sadly, their story is not all that uncommon in an area of the country where there is a church on every corner! We are willing to send missionaries to the farthest corners of the world, but we are missing the innocent ones who live down the street from us. We now have churches hosting Vacation Bible Schools for a fee, leaving out those children who can’t afford to pay to hear the Bible. We feed children during the school year with free breakfasts and lunches, but we send them home for the summer to fend for themselves. Is it any wonder that the summer months are filled with horrific stories of accidents that are happening to these children? Of parents who are so overwhelmed, they do the unthinkable?

We the Church have started slacking off. We don’t want to inconvenience our own children, so we ignore the ones who need our help. This week alone, we have received two more calls to take in four more children, and we had to say no. We are at the maximum limit we are allowed by law. I heard of one family who has had six out of eight foster children lodge complaints against them, yet they are still allowed to take in children because there are too many kids and not enough homes.

What needs to be done to get the Church to start paying attention again? What do we need to say for the orphans in China who are aging out of the system because no one will take in an older child or because financial costs are too much? Who will save the orphans in Africa? What will happen to the children of America? Who will answer the call?

We have been foster parents for one week. And we’re just respite and emergency care at that. It’s a tough world to enter into, and the emotional and psychological parts of it threaten to overwhelm me and knock me off my feet. We may not even be able to do this for very long. But we have to try. And despite the darkness that surrounds these children, they are quick to love, desperate for hugs and kisses, eager to touch and interact and be a part of our family. Each child just needs to be loved.

The people who foster long-term are the true heroes. They are the ones putting all of their faith in God and stepping out on faith to have their entire worlds turned upside down. They are the ones investing months and years into these children. But they are exhausted because they feel so alone. They are beaten down because no one wants to come alongside them and help them carry the burden. People who were once their friends and babysitters will no longer take their children for an evening. One foster mom I have come to know and love told me that her own parents said they would watch their biological grandchildren but refuse to help with any foster children. They think someone else should carry that burden. And the more foster families I get to know, the more I am hearing this same sentiment.

These children need you. They need a safe place to come home to at night. They need someone to kiss their boo-boos, praise their accomplishments, and, yes, make them eat broccoli. If you are a Christian and you are not participating in orphan care in someone way, then you need to spend some time with God and find out what God would have you to do. Even if you can’t take in children yourself, you can come alongside these families who are adopting or fostering and help to lighten the load. The friend I previously mentioned goes to a large church in town that has a large orphan ministry, yet she and her husband haven’t been able to get a sitter in 18 months, since they began fostering. It just doesn’t make sense to us, so that’s why we went through the training and home inspections. We want to be able to give them a break.

So what are you going to do? The time for action is now–before it’s too late for these children. There are over 130 million orphans in the world, and that includes over 500,000 children who are in foster care in the United States. Summer is here, and God is calling the Church to action.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few–Matt. 9:37.

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Grumble, Grumble, Grumble

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We just came back from a week at the beach. We spent several lovely days splashing in the waves, building castles in the sand, and enjoying time with our cousins. But, sadly, we had to return early when our middle child caught the stomach bug. It wasn’t what we had planned, but he was better the day after we returned, and we were able to have a couple easy days at home before Daddy had to return to work.

Once we started settling back into our routine the very next day, the whining began. “We never do anything fun! What do you have planned for us today? We’re so bored! You have to take us somewhere!”

Oh, how quickly our children forget the wonderful memories we create for them! I have often said that they start moaning that they are bored just minutes after we leave a fun adventure! It seems that they are never happy with what we do!

But the truth is that Mama is right there with them. I admit that coming home from vacation was a real let-down. We only get to have one family vacation this year (and that’s more than most people can say!), and it was disappointing to have to return so soon. Getting back into routine wasn’t much fun either. There were errands to run, appointments to keep, and chores to do. While I found myself fussing at the kids for their own whining, I realized that I was doing the same thing to my heavenly Father! “Why won’t the kids stop whining? Why does everyone else get to go on so many vacations while we’re stuck at home for the rest of the summer? Why aren’t there any friends to hang out with?” And the list goes on and on. Sometimes I wonder if God gets tired of listening to me!

I have been reading Connilyn Cossette’s Out of Egypt trilogy, and I have been meditating on the plight of the Israelites. As I have looked deeper at the lives of God’s chosen people, I have felt like a kindred spirit–always whining and complaining!

 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Ex. 14:10-12).

The Israelites had been praying for a way out of Egypt for 400 years! And now that they have their chance, they begin complaining at the first obstacle in their way. I can be like that, too. I pray for a vacation, but then I complain when the vacation isn’t exotic or ends sooner than planned. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

But God is patient with us, isn’t He? He rescues us again and again–just as He rescued the Israelites again from Pharaoh’s army. And they rejoiced in His provision in the very next chapter of Exodus, singing and dancing to the glory of the Lord.

But the Israelites weren’t done complaining! After wandering for a little while in the desert, they started to grumble again.

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (Ex. 16:1-3).

But, like I said, God is patient toward us. He is always faithful. So what did God do to these grumbling Israelites, who longed to go back to a life of slavery instead of following Him? He rained down bread from heaven!

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions (Ex. 16:4).

God has promised to “supply all [our] needs” (Phil. 4:19), yet we still doubt His goodness and love! And He is still patient toward us!

Eventually, the Israelites even begin to complain that God is raining down bread that tastes like honey (Num. 11). They complain that they are thirsty (Ex. 17). They complain about Moses’ leadership (Num. 14). They even complain about the Promised Land (Num. 14). Grumble, grumble, grumble.

The truth is, when we grumble, we are sinning. We are taking our eyes off the One Who graciously gives us all things! We lose our testimony because we wallow in what we want and how we are discontent instead of pointing others to the One Who will provide for us.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain (Phil. 2:14-16).

It’s easy to grumble. Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Kids whine and demand and disobey. Being a stay-at-home mom can be lonely. Depression can easily set in. That’s when we need a reality check. We need to realign our focus and fix our eyes back on Jesus. It’s hard to complain when we recount all the ways we have been blessed.

 

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