Planning has sort of been my thing. Personally I like to have plan A, plan B, and plan C. It’s possible I will even go to Z. Plans continuously running through my brain how I think things will go, but if something crazy happens we will go with this or that plan. All the planning so that I can rely on me, myself and I. I am the master planner!! Waa haa haa (my power hungry sinister laugh). It is quite hilarious that God led me to be a nurse where a good day can turn in a split second to complete chaos. Even more hilarious is that He blessed my life to become a mother where one barfing kid can completely blowout the neatly planned day. Yet to further the hilarity he has led our family to foster parenting. It is one thing to mess with my work shift, another to have to change plans due to a sick child, this life in foster care has become a whole other ballgame of inability to plan.
God does humble us where needed. Honestly I have been broken to complete submission of the plans and expectations in this brain of mine. From one day to the next there are constant surprises. Continuous changes in parent visits, sibling visits, therapist scheduling and canceling, behaviors that change with no clue as to what triggered them. Will this child or that child live with us until adulthood? Will this parent turn their life around and heal or will they continue the vicious cycle? The constant change, chaos, turmoil, blessings, falling in love, heart brokenness, victories, defeats, dealing with choices of others… it all has brought me to expect nothing. I don’t know what will happen next. I just don’t know… Ok God you have me I surrender… Make my thoughts your thoughts… my plans your plans… my heart your heart… You see the bigger picture and I do not. You know what is best and I do not.
My job is to love. My job is not to predict the future. My job is not to judge. My job is not to be the fixer, but to point to the true healer. I can not even love within my own strength it is only the love of Jesus loving through me. I am just not capable of this kind of love on my own. My words must be led by the Holy Spirit or I mess them up out of my own frustrations. I can not deal with my own grief and loss without Jesus. I am a sinner in need of forgiveness each and everyday… I am no better than anyone…
One thing that I know, this life of welcoming the broken into our home has brought me to a place of surrender that I didn’t even know was needed. Who knew that being a little OCD, planner, lover of organization, lover of predictability, a bit on the “I will take care of this myself” side was such a barrier between God and I. Really I just thought I was responsible. No, my addiction to organization and planning actually was and is a form of sin in my life. This life has brought me to a deeper level of trusting God in each moment and love everyone while I have the chance and the time. There are no guarantees of tomorrow. A blessing and gift from God that has come from opening our home has been a deeper level of understanding what it means to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind… and loving my neighbor as myself… Still have a long long way to go. The journey is rough, but I am so thankful for the hard stuff!
This week as a foster mother has been a rough one. There have been moments that I actually said (not out loud), “Lord I am tired of trying to raise other peoples kids. I’m tired of dealing with the problems that I did not create.” I hate to admit that openly, but it is the honest truth. The love I have felt for every child within our care has been unexplainable other than the love from Jesus Christ Himself poured through me to them. This week has been a discouraging week. Discouraging behaviors and a discouraging system bring me to the point of feeling overwhelmed so often it seems. Our dear pastor preached this morning on discouragement and it was so needed.
So often it feels like it is all for nothing. There has been no difference made in anyone’s life especially the children. Our first two placements probably would not be considered “success stories” according to the world’s definitions.
Just when I feel so low God gives the gift of a phone call out of the blue from our first child placed with us. I was notified by our second placement of a charitable fundraiser that the kiddo is participating in. Both continue to check in. After a lot of attitude and pushing this momma to the limits the youngest child in our home tells me that she wants be a parent just like me when she has her own kids one day. A birth parent has now been to church six Sundays in a row and we exchange a mother/daughter-like “I love you” when saying good-bye. The devil sure wants to beat me down and make me quit, but God who is so full of Grace and Love shows me these glimmers of hope just at the right time. So often it seems like there is no difference being made. If a child can say that they know that when in our home they were truly loved then that is a success.
Thank you Jesus for pouring out your Grace on me. Thank you for pushing me to continue pouring out that Grace to others even when it is so hard. I am so far from being perfectly loving and therapeutic 100%, but God wants to use me despite how weak I am.
As the apostles continued to press on sharing the Gospel of Jesus this verse made me think of what I am learning in this ministry of Foster care. Acts 4:33″With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.”
Our small herd of animals are now bringing me tremendous conviction every morning. My alarm clock sets off the Pavlov’s dog phenomenon in our household each morning. We have four furry family members, two dogs and two cats. Each morning when my alarm clock goes off their hunger kicks in. I am a snooze button hitter and this drives them nuts. Our fat little mixed dog starts crying and getting anxious. Sometimes she jumps off the bed (yes she sleeps at my feet) her fat little body will not allow her to get back up so then the crying really ensues. Our three legged lab will start jumping up and smacking me with her one front paw. She often tries to physically pick me up with her nose. She will bury her nose under an arm, leg or my side and dig and lift with all her might. The cats jump up and pace on my pillow or my head. Once I am up there is no time to go to the restroom first. The four of them are just too pitiful. Salivating, jumping, spinning in circles, tails wagging, whole little bodies just a shaking, panting. They sprint toward the kitchen then come back toward my slow staggering legs. They often turn their heads to look back to make sure I am still coming along behind them. My husband often refers to me as “Dr. Doolittle” when he witnesses this morning routine. Their excitement over their morning meal makes me smile. Their excitement just recently started to bring conviction to my own spirit.
Do I get this kind of excitement within myself over being fed by God Himself! Do I jump and spin in anticipation at what He is going to teach me through His Word each day? Do I spring out of bed to read His word or when getting up to attend church on Sundays? I honestly can’t say I get near as excited as I should. Dear God help me to be more like my precious pets. Help me to hunger for your word and to be fed by you just like my animals anticipate their morning feeding.
John 6:35 “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
So instead of folding laundry and mopping a sticky floor I am taking a much needed break. Whether or not another soul reads these words, typing the thoughts and lessons God continues to work on in me is the most therapeutic. I guess yesterday I made the mistake of talking too much about the need to be part-time in my job as a registered nurse and stated that “momma’s tired”. The reply I got was “Well you are doing what you wanted.” As we continue our journey in foster-care some “get it” and some don’t. That is what it is and I really don’t expect anyone to “get it” or give any approval. That comment though brought out sincere truth of why we are in this. My rebuttal was “Actually truth be told it’s not what I wanted.” The reply back was, “but you have wanted it for a long time.” My reply back was “Actually God would not let up in calling us, I put it off for years knowing how hard it was going to be.” Truth be told if I separate what I truly want in my fleshly human self I would still live in our house we just sold, we would have our pool, I would keep working full-time, I would keep working long hours to have more finances to put our own two children through college, Mike and I would be planning and taking trips just us.” Then I remember saying “I wouldn’t change a thing as far as the people that have come into our lives because of foster-care.”
We would also be unsettled and miserable because we wouldn’t be doing what God has called us to. Our lives would make little if any impact on anyone else. It is so hard to explain why we do this in a way others can understand. It puts a strain on our marriage, our other relationships, our own physical, mental, emotional well-beings. We actually make our family very vulnerable to some crazy stuff. Compassion fatigue is very real and despite my best efforts I have suffered it with each placement we have had. My writing today will have a sad tone I’m sure because I am in the midst of some major compassion fatigue. Hence the desperate need to write!!
The thing is the deeper my relationship with Christ the deeper my understanding of his love for me and this hurting world. The deeper my understanding of how weak and insufficient I am on my own. The deeper my understanding of what He did for me and this broken world by leaving the Glory of Heaven. He came to this earth to be fully human to face, feel and experience all that we do in our lives yet never succumbed to the temptation of sin. He led the perfect example of the life he has planned for each of us. As Jesus came to serve and not be served (Matthew 20:28). Ultimately He gave his life as the ransom for our sins so that we can be saved from our brokenness of sin. He rose again as He had said proving that He is God.
My life truly is not my own and my purpose is to live for others. Life especially in the last 2 years has been a constant process. Trying to find balance like never before with continuous big life changes. I have such limitations. Because I am so weak, so limited, so unqualified God continues to reveal His strength and miracles. When it comes to what truly matters there just is no comparison to what I want as to what God wants for me. It may not be my way. I may not know most of the “whys” until I get to go home one day. What we are doing is not what I want. That is the truth. It is what God wants and I really can’t see anyone being able to do this right without God’s strength, Grace, and Mercy. Because God is God and I am not what He wants for my life far surpasses what I think I want.
Another lesson is just never tell anyone if your sick, tired, etc… Judgment usually follows. I can cry out to God “Lord I am so tired, I need you!”
Just recently I was told “Thank you for not judging me!” even yet more confirmation that God has me exactly where he wants me. Our purpose is to serve and to love. Our purpose is not to give our opinions and judgment. It is quite a relief actually to leave the judging to God. To be on the receiving end of judgment of others is pretty stinky and I pray that God helps me to always leave the judging to Him!!
My oh my what a whirlwind the last couple months have been. My take away from all that has happened since the end of August is that if God tells you to sell your house and move just listen and do it! It wasn’t an overnight decision to put our house that was our “Dream home”, (those are big fat quotes representing the world view of success and materialism). To others it may have looked that way. God actually started planting those seeds as soon as we had gotten our first placement as foster parents. Everything about this calling has been a process. God working out one detail at time within each of our own hearts. It was an idea God worked on Mike and I individually with at first and then brought us together as a couple talking and thinking about it. Then the actual decision was fast! God said do it now! Now is the time!! So we did! We had started speaking with a friend that is a Realtor around the beginning of August and boom decided to put it on the market Labor Day weekend. The first two couples that looked put in offers and the house we ended up buying popped up on the market that very weekend. Within 6 days contracts were all set. The main point to our move was to downsize amount of expenses and maintenance so that we can be more available to the children God brings to us. The house we bought fits the need and the neighborhood is perfect for kids.
So that little bit of background leads to my real blog. So when we looked at our new house I had noticed a shower that was pretty funky. By funky I mean mildew stained gross. The home inspector noted it as a severely stained shower and took photos. Mike and I resolved that we were probably going to need to replace it quickly and I had already started pricing them at home improvement stores. The weekend we moved I started trying to clean the shower. First I sprayed my vinegar, Dawn soap, and lemon juice mix all over the shower and let it sit a while. In amazement when I went to start scrubbing I started to see a white surface begin to shine through. I did three layers of cleaners moving next to a name brand shower cleaner, then a product with bleach and even actual bleach for the base of the shower. Three layers of cleaning, a lot of elbow grease and about three hours of my time. The effort was worth it to hold off on that added expense for a while.
As I watched that shower become white again I started picturing how all of us are carrying the ugly, funky gross stain of sin on us. Some of us think we are too dirty and too far gone. Some of us don’t see our own dirt! There are two ends of the funky dirty sin spectrum. Our society and even churches can communicate to a person that they are just too bad, too broken, unwanted, discarded, worthless, beyond hope, and will never amount to anything. The next image that came to mind was Jesus taking the weight of all that dirtiness upon Himself as he hung bleeding and dying on the cross! For three hours right smack in the middle of the day the earth was covered in darkness as Jesus bore the weight of our shame and paid the price of our sins. Luke 23:44-46. He shed his blood and gave his life in order for us to be restored washed white and clean. Three days in the tomb and He arose. Three hours of darkness to finish the victory over sin then three days in the tomb rising again to prove He is the one and only God and the only one that can truly save us and heal us!
The world of foster care has opened my eyes and heart even that much more to the need of love and compassion our world has. Children, parents and families have been discarded as too broken and will never amount to anything. There is hope when love steps in. Only Jesus can truly heal and bring cleanliness to the dirty brokenness. Healing is possible to the hearts that are open and willing to be healed.
When I set out to clean that shower it was a last ditch effort I really didn’t think it would help and we were going to have to rip it out and throw it away. The shower gave up the dirt with time and sacrifice of sore hands, arms, and knees on my part.
How often do we look at other human beings and hold back giving love, as Christians how often do we selfishly hold back the Good News of Jesus thinking ah it will never work, they will never change. We don’t know! God does! We are just to love. Our previous foster placements are still in my heart God placed them for a certain amount of time for us to pour in His love. Nothing is wasted and I believe with all my heart God has a huge plan for every human being.
I don’t want to say much at this time, but now knowing the faces of our next placement we are seeing His purpose, plan, and timing being revealed. His ways are not my ways and I am so very glad. His ways are perfect and beautiful!!
Isaiah 1:16-18 Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight: stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
1John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
This week I was on vacation from the hospital which actually gave me the availability to help four families and six children ages ranging 1-17. It is so rare that so many childcare needs happened and happened while I just so happened to be available. God just continues to give affirmation that I am to invest my life and time in precious children!
One of the children that hung out with the Lucas family this week was a seven year old young man that LOVES sports. Anything that has to do with a ball he loves it! He and I went out to play some soccer on our kick board one evening. Loving the goalie position he wanted me to take shots so he could practice up on his mad goalie skills. At first I mostly kicked the ball to him. After several times he looked at me and asked “why do you keep kicking it to me?” So I asked “You want me to make it more of a challenge?” He nodded yes and smiled. So surprisingly this old gal pulled off some tricky shots. One of the shots I just kept dribbling the ball and then fired the ball to the goal while I was still looking off in another direction. Totally faked him out and scored. My buddy started laughing and admitted he wasn’t paying attention.
Taking advantage of a teaching moment I explained to be a good goalie you have to always keep your eye on the ball!
Keep your eye on the ball! As I watched my buddy dive for the hard corner ones and stretch tall to reach the high ones it made me start thinking. I felt kind of bad watching the little guy work so hard. Sometimes he still just missed the ball if he wasn’t watching. I took those opportunities to take those shots for those learning moments to always focus. As a follower of Jesus Christ I was thinking about my focus.
In life I am one of God’s goal keepers. God is constantly sending people across my path every day that He wants me to catch and share His love with. My mind starts to wonder and regret how many people has God sent my way that I totally missed? How many people have I missed because I wasn’t focused on Jesus? How many times have I focused on myself, not looked to Jesus, and missed a person He sent my way to share His love with? Do I ask for the challenges? Do I ask him for people that are hard to love that I have to sacrificially dive or stretch myself to show His mercy and grace to? To be a true goal keeper for Jesus I need to keep my focus on Him. By doing that He shoots people directly to me that He needs me to share His love with, but I have to see them and reach for them. It is a responsibility that is humbling and such an honor. It is my purpose for living. My purpose is to love God and love people.
Matthew 22:36-40New International Version (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Last weekend our family took a camping trip in the midst of all this selling and buying a house business. My husband works midnights and had been awake for 38 hours at the time we arrived at the campground well after dark. It was a campground that was new to us so we had no clue where everything was located. My husband got quick little instructions from the guy that checked us in and no map was given to us. Needless to say we drove all around with one wrong turn and dead end after another. We stopped by the office again where I ran in got further instructions and requested a map of the campground. Even with that we lost the road we were on and could not really see the markers. We still ended up on the wrong site, but it all worked out. Miraculously our tent went up easily even in the tiredness and confusion. We had a nice no drama time other than the lostness we felt when we first got there.
If it weren’t for instructions from someone that knew the way, the map, and our headlights we probably would have ended up in the river.
This got me to thinking that this is such a picture of life. We are thrust into this world completely lost. When relying on our own strength and knowledge we really make one wrong turn after another. There is one light and only one light to guide us to our true home and that is Jesus Christ. Looking to His road map, the Bible, and getting instruction from others that are wise in His word are the best instructions. Most important is His light shining on our path in the direction we are to go.
The next morning we awoke to sunlight and could get a true perspective in how the campground was set up. Looking on with daylight it was no wonder we were confused. The road did disappear and the site markers were hard to find. Only with full day light could we truly know where we were. This reminds me of heaven one day when we get to see God’s Glory and plan in fullness. Jesus is the light of the world.
John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying,” I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Just recently Mike and I attended more Foster parent training focused on trauma. The trainer had us all participate in an exercise to help us to better understand the loss that children in care have endured. She gave us each five blank index cards and instructed the class to write one thing that is important to us on each card. Some wrote individual names I grouped my people which might have been cheating a bit. As I began to write God was my first card. Next I wrote husband, kids, extended family, and then friends. Not one material thing popped in my head as to what is truly important to me. So for the next step our trainer asked us to give up one card and lay it upside down on the table in front of us. As much as I love my friends that was the card I gave up. Then the next part of this exercise I watched as the trainer went around to each person and took all but one card. Everyone reacted with “aww you are mean!!”, there were a lot of sighs, gasps, and sad faces. As I watched this process I just kept saying/praying “Just please don’t take my God!!”.
Guess what card I had left? Yes it was my God card. I think I was the only one smiling in the bunch. The reason for the smile was that it is God who has given me everyone and everything in my life. Without God the creator my sweet husband, precious children, all family members and friends would not have ever been. I would not be. They are His to give and His to take. Everything on this earth is His. No matter what I do or how hard I work to earn something. It is God’s.
This point is driving home even deeper with me as our country and our world continues to be hit by natural disasters and wars. Right now so many people in the great state of Texas have lost family, livelihoods, and homes. We do not know from one second to the next what turns our life journey will make. We are to love and cherish all that has been given in the time that we have been given. Each moment is a gift of God’s.
So that brings us to this next step in our journey of Foster care. We now have our home on the market. As we have stepped into stories and lives of two children so far in our journey the reality of how much of me these kids need has really hit hard. As I have evaluated the hours I work and our finances God placed the question on my heart. “What are you really working for?” I can spend my life making very little impact on this world keeping my own little world maintained. Or I can work less maintaining my own little world and spend more time making a greater impact in the world we live in. Life is about people and relationships. In my fast paced job there is very little forever impact made. To provide love and safety to a broken young person and their family that can last forever. People need our time, our love, our encouragement, our hugs, our smiles, our true heart felt concern and help. People do not have changed lives for the better by me having a nice home. So we press on looking forward to the great things God is going to do. We press on as God plans for our life path to cross the life path of others. I pray God will use us to bring Him glory and point the world to His love and true healing He gives us through Jesus!!
Hebrews 13:14 “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”