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Foster Life

Why Have We Allowed This To Happen?

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Visit days are hard days. Our foster is the one who has to travel, even though our foster is not the one who chose to move away. To visit a parent that, honestly, they do not really know. Nap time will be missed. Our evening will be filled with a fussy baby. Our night will be disrupted with a restless, scared baby. Because visits trigger trauma. I don’t have an answer for any of this. I don’t know how DHS can better do the work to reunify while protecting the child from further trauma. There are certainly things that can be done better. Much better. But the truth of the matter is that this whole thing is messy and there are no simple answers.

Here’s what I do know. We are all part of this problem and we are all going to pay for this problem. All. Of. Us. Christians who are too comfortable and preoccupied to stand in the gap for a child. Extended families who didn’t step in for the safety of a child sooner. Society, because we have said you are only worth what you contribute. Because the large percentage of these kids will age out and fill our prisons and homeless shelters and welfare system and repeat the cycle. Churches who were too busy growing numbers and sitting safely inside their walls rather than penetrating their communities with the gospel to reach the parents of the children who are taken away. All of this could have been prevented. If we had done what Jesus commanded. But we didn’t. We preferred our walls and our pews and our programs. Because people are too messy and broken for us to mess with. We would rather sit in condemnation and criticism of these parents for not having their lives more together like ours. Never considering that maybe they never had anyone teach them anything or any better. Because they come from a broken mess themselves and are so broken that it all seems normal. And the drugs are the escape from the mess of their life. And we will be held just as accountable for their actions because we did not give them the hope of the gospel. We did not get into our communities with recovery and life skills and mentoring and truth wrapped in hope and love and grace. No, we would rather sit in our Sunday spot and feel safe and secure and self-righteous. Yet, our Savior says, “if you have loved the least of these you have loved me.” We are filled with sin and we will stand before His throne one day and answer. How do we not see that our souls were once just as lost and unloved and broken and ugly as the lives of these parents in which we stand is such condemnation? Yes, there are parents who choose the drugs and the sex and the broken life over their child. But, can we please just get off our pedestals and ask why? Why would they make that choice because the choice is an indicator of the condition of the heart and we are people who should know, all of life is a heart issue and we know the One who gives a new heart and a new hope and a new home. Have we ever considered how hard it is for the ones who really do want to get their life together to get their life together? They cannot afford a car or rent, but they have no where to live other than the hell hole they are in and they can’t even afford an outfit for a job interview and if they could get some undependable friend to give them a ride to the job interview and an employer actually took a chance on them, they would get fired in a week anyway, because they had no way to get there. And if someone did take a chance to hire them, it would be a minimum wage job and they don’t know how to budget their money to make ends meet.

This child who I just dropped off at daycare only to be picked up by a DHS stranger and driven far longer in a car seat than what this child should have to ride to sit two hours at a fast food restaurant with a mom she barely knows. One day, this child will know. The foster teenagers who age out. They all know. They know they are not wanted. Because we’ve based our value of them on the choices of their parents. Our lack of action has said to them, “We do not want you because of who you came from.” How dare us. Because we have a heavenly Father who declares, “I will call she who is unloved, beloved.” Yet, we have not loved them with His love.  These children are hard. They are hard because they have been traumatized and forgotten and neglected. They are hard because they have gone hungry and they haven’t had water in months, or ever, for a bath. Then they go to school with kids who are clean and cute. Who can get the grades and the academic accolades but they know when they go home, they don’t have food and their mom will be strung out and forget a dad, who knows what guy will be there tonight. So grades are the least of their concern, survival is. Yes, they are angry and hard and exhausting. Because they are hurting. Their hearts are broken. And they don’t just need our stuff. Yes, donate your clothes and your things to help a child. Many days, that’s how a foster parent makes it. But can I lovingly say, they need our hearts more. They need someone to look at them and say, I want you. The greatest pain a human heart knows is that of being unwanted. And we are sending thousands of broken hearts into the world with that reality. The reality of being unwanted. Not merely disliked by some classmates, like our kids might experience. Literally unwanted, by parents and entire communities-these children know and we have confirmed it to them. They are unwanted. At the very least, not worth the effort. These children need to know that their parent moved heaven and earth to get it together. And that we held them up and helped them along because they cannot not do it on their own.

We have made our own children matter more. Ensuring our own have every opportunity in the world. Yet, we have created a world for our children where they will now have to coexist with a population of broken, messy, angry, shut-down souls. That will become citizens who think they have no worth and who see no worth in the ones who didn’t see them as worthy. Adults who repeat the cycles their parents modeled for them, because no one showed them any different. People who fill our prisons and our streets. And our kids will be standing in the same spot of condemnation as us, wondering why those people don’t have it together like them. Because that’s what we’ve taught them.  But my child and your child do not have more worth and value than these children simply because they were fortunate enough to have parents who could provide for them. We all stand in equal worth before the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

As Christians, we are a people that base our entire belief system on the truth that God is Creator of this world. But His perfect world was destroyed by sin. So He sent His son to rescue us. Do we realize that means this child, too? I wrestle with the why. Why does He allow this to happen to these children? Yet, God has reframed that question more accurately for me: Why have WE allowed this to happen to these children? Because God has told us this is a broken world-that is the reason for the need of our entire faith. And in this broken world filled with broken hearts and minds and lives, there are broken parents who make broken choices. But, the gospel says, I make all things new. The gospel says, I set you free from your broken bondage. Not, “I will make your life look as good as mine”-this is not some social ladder garbage. These parents and these kids are not our projects and they do not need our pity. They need us loving them they way Christ has loved us. Otherwise, we are all frauds. Because Jesus says, “If you do not love, you do not know me.” The gospel is about the heart because when the heart is made new, the soul is set free from sin.  And every one of us would be any one of these parents had we known the reality of their stories and circumstances and not been rescued by our Savior and not had homes filled with hope and love.

This broken world means parents are going to make broken choices. And Jesus made it clear that we are to enter the brokenness. He has called us to be what they cannot be and choose not to be for their kids. And we are called to help them learn to be what they do not know how to be for their kids. God did make a way for all of this whole mess not to happen: Us. And this is all only going to get worse. Until churches and Christians begin to step into their communities to reach parents, meeting them where they are and patiently walking with them to Jesus. Until churches and Christians decide that all children, even the unwanted ones, are worthy and worth it. Until churches and Christians decide to get their hands messy and be the feet of Jesus by stepping outside the comfort of their good lives and church pews.

I realize, I really do, that not everyone actually can foster. Although, I think more can than what are willing. But just start somewhere. Start by becoming a certified volunteer that can tutor or mentor a teen foster child. Start by becoming a respite foster parent. Start by becoming a CASA advocate.  Start by launching a foster family ministry in your church. Start by taking a meal to a foster family. Start by asking Jesus to open your eyes so that your heart is broken and moved to action. We will answer to God as to why these children do not believe they have a Heavenly Father who loves them, because they saw no evidence of Him through us.

 

Follower of Christ, Ministry

Wrestling With God

 

I wrote this five years ago. And I could rewrite this exact same reminder to myself and say, yes sister, it did get harder because this season is one of even more surrender and silence.

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A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that I’m beginning to personally understand what those whom I read about in God’s Word experience. Not at all to say that I’m some kind of a spiritual giant. No one is or ever was, really. It truthfully comes down to simple surrender or staying stuck. I’d like to stay stuck, much of the time. Surrender is painful. Painfully painful. But it’s the only way for His transformation to take place in my heart and life. After all, the very purpose for my existence is to Love Him and Live Him. So I choose to allow His work in my life. And as I do, I come to know Him the way that they did. That’s not always as glorious as it sounds. But I’m beginning to see that their stories are recorded, not for us to idolize them but to identify with them. God graciously gives us glimpses into His relationship with them for us to see the work He wants to do in our own lives.

This has been the most painful year of surrender I’ve ever experienced. And I’ve had some tough ones. Years where I’ve had to offer forgiveness that was unearned nor deserved. Years where I’ve had to move from victim to personal responsibility. Years where I’ve had to walk away from everything I had planned to start a life I never expected. Yes, there have been painful years of surrender. I’m almost scared that it might get even harder. It probably will. But one painful purging after another has taught me the reality of His perfect love casting out my fears. Even the fears of what He might ask of me next.

A few weeks ago, my Father and I were having our time together and a thought occurred to me. If I could summarize what this season of surrender has been, it would be the night Jacob and God wrestled. God walked away the winner. Jacob walked away, well, injured. But better.  Better because He had a personal encounter with God. An encounter that would strip him of his pride.  An encounter that would lead to a great nation.

I’m not really sure what the purpose is for my current season of surrender. But I feel like I’ve been in a year-long wrestle with God. I doubt it’s to form a nation. But it is to prepare me. Even though I have no idea what for because He is still silent. Have you even noticed that God didn’t tell Jacob anything? He just wrestled with him. I think just maybe Jacob walked away thinking, “What in the world was that for?!” That pretty much sums up my thoughts. I have no idea what purpose all of this surrendering and wrestling is about in my own life. Maybe it’s just getting rid of things in my heart that need to be put to death. Maybe it is preparing for something. God has been silent. He has given me no answers. Or clarity. Or anything. Just silence. And more wrestling. My survival mantra has become, one day at a time.

In all of this, people in my life whom I dearly love have been experiencing His silence, as well. They have been painfully patient for God to act on their behalf. To see Him move. To see His purpose. To see a miracle. To see something. To see anything. Yet, He is silent. Painfully silent. And I wake up each day, hoping that today is the day we get to see Him move. You know, how the Israelites must have felt and experienced that 400 years between the Old Testament and the New, waiting for the Messiah. Good grief, I hope it’s not a 400 year wait for us, too.

I want to panic. I really do. I’m a planner. Short term. Long term. That’s one of those areas Him and me have been wrestling about. He doesn’t think I need to make my own plans. I don’t like that. But I can’t panic. No matter how hard I try, there’s peace. Isn’t that almost annoying? But here I am, limping away, just like Jacob. I hurt. I do not understand. He wins and I trust. I trust because I’ve learned something from my past seasons of surrender. He is good. Always good. Even when He is silent. And even when He is silent, He is not still nor distant. I must choose to be still, but He is most certainly at work. I may be blind to it all but He is in complete control. That doesn’t always make me feel better. There are times that I just want to scream (ok, I do scream), “enough already!” Enough silence. I need to see something. Anything. I get tired. Weary. Worn. But I am certain that His silence is not His blindness. In fact, just as He created all things with complete power, authority and order, He is at work the exact same way in my own life. So I trust His silent work, because I know He is good. Always and completely good.

Foster Life

WHAT FOSTERING IS TEACHING ME AS A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST

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The personal love of God.
Fostering as a Christian is greater and deeper than simply giving a child a safe place during the most traumatic season of their life. It is standing as an intercessor on their behalf. Accepting and understanding the personal love of God has always been a struggle of mine. I know God is love and I know He loves us. But it has been hard for me to personalize and internalize rather than generalize His love. He has been so graciously patient in helping me grow to learn His love for me.  What has begun to transform my own personal struggle with this truth has been witnessing how God intervenes for our foster placements. As we desperately intercede for our foster children, as we worry and pray and panic and cry out in desperation because we know, this child is NOT OK and NO ONE IS LISTENING, God moves and mightily says, I AM. There isn’t a way to express the burden a foster parent carries. On top of the endless documentation and paperwork, the all. the. time. DHS visits, the fire drills and the child constantly out of sorts because the second you get them settled into a routine someone who is not taking care of this child is deciding visits and changes in the case so this baby is never sleeping, the doctor visits because this child is sick all the time and the record keeping and the keeping every loving thing in your house locked up. On top of staffings and court dates and attempting to build a relationship with the bio parent who is the reason your life is now such a wreck. On top of keeping up to date on your own CEU’s and health and home inspections and cpr and first aid (so when exactly am I supposed to do all of that???) Oh and let’s not forget a scrapbook for your foster (what, my own 3rd child doesn’t even have one of those…) On top of taking care of your own kids and family. The foster parent carries the weight of the trauma this child is facing. It is a crushing burden. We preach to ourselves:  today, just survive today. But we never know how many today’s there will be. Because today changes in an instant in this broken system and all the work you’ve done to provide stability, safety and sanity for this child can be undone in a second. There are days we collapse to the floor in exhaustion not knowing if we can do this one more minute. Because our sanity is one more sleepless night or text from dhs about another change gone and it won’t be our foster child needing therapy, but ourselves. And just when we think we are about to call it quits, God steps in. No, it doesn’t always happen that the case goes the best way. But when I have begged God to bring truth to light on behalf of my foster child, He has, in His timing and in the best way possible. And something about seeing God love my foster child so strongly and specifically has radically changed my grasp on His love, for me. He does see me, He has proven so in seeing my foster children. And it has been the loudest whisper to my own soul of His fierce love of me.

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The sacrificial love of God.
Nothing has exposed my selfish nature more than fostering. I just want to sleep. I just want normal-my normal. I just want to be left alone and not hold this needy baby one more second. I just want my morning coffee and routine, just once.  I don’t want to have to figure out childcare just to take my teenagers to the movie. I don’t want to deal with all of this extra work. It’s a hassle and it’s hard. But one morning,  when I as catching a quick moment in God’s word, my reading was in Isaiah 53. And it hit me and humbled me.

“He Himself bore our sickness and He carried our pains.”
“The punishment that brought us peace was on Him.”

As a foster parent, I am bearing the sickness of this child’s trauma. I am carrying this child’s pain. What brings peace to this child is painful to me. It cost me my “normal” life. What did I think Jesus meant when He said, take up your cross? What did I think when Jesus said, lay down your life? What did I think living out the gospel meant? Because according to this passage from His Word, it most certainly does not mean, have your perfectly peaceful normal life as long as you go to church every week and are of good moral standing you are living the gospel.  To live as Christ is to die. To foster is to carry the punishment of the choices of another person so that this child can have peace. To foster is to carry the pain of this child so that this child can feel some sort of peace. And  Jesus walked all the way to the cross in order to bring me peace. He took on the sickness of my sin. He carried the weight of my shame. He laid down His life so that I could live. He gave up Himself. No it isn’t fair that I am carrying the burden of a parent choosing not to care for their child. No it isn’t fair that this system is broken and messy and many times makes this whole thing harder. But this child, this child chose none of this. This child made none of these choices. And yes, for this child to have peace it is painful for me. But carrying their pain in order for them to have peace, that is simply a glimpse of the gospel. And regardless of the stress and sacrifice of it all, what we as the foster parents endure holds no comparison to what the foster child endures. Rejection. Grief. Confusion. Anger. Brokenness. Trust and Attachment Trauma. Fear. Instability. Yes, when I compare the sacrifice to my normal, it seems and feels and IS significant. It is most certainly a death. A death to my world and my convenience and even my sanity. But it is small in comparison to the loss experienced by the child. We as foster parents are not martyrs and we are not victims. We are simply living out the sacrificial love of our Savior.  And so in exhaustion and weakness and brokenness, we get up and we keep walking this journey. Because if we want to follow Christ we must do so with a cross.

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