This is Not Our Home

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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.”

A Whole New Kind of Grief

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One never knows what a new year will bring.  This year has brought a whole new level of heart broken.  This picture is with puffy sad eyes of a turn of events breaking this momma’s heart.  Praise God for a sweet sensitive family pet that knew exactly what I needed in the moment. Sunday morning during our pastors sermon I had a short little prayer “God is it time to move forward with adoption…should I ask Mike about it again?”   The answer to my prayer was practically immediate and not what I ever dreamt or thought.  To protect privacy I can not write about the behaviors of our child that ensued immediately after our church service while we were still at church.  It was more of the tough stuff we have been enduring the last nine months with great intensity.  The afternoon improved and Mike and I once again were given apologies.  Once again we forgave without hesitation and then it seemed that what had become our “new normal” family life resumed for the rest of the day.  That night our child made a very dangerous, pre meditated and planned choice.  It was a choice that greatly endangered our entire family.  The realization was overwhelming that God was protecting us in a mighty way that night.

With prayer and consultation through the proper channels of foster care workers it became very evident that the next layer of healing would not be in our home for this young one.  God had answered my prayer with a big NO regarding adoption.  Not what I expected.  The message that followed was “you did exactly what I needed you to do and now it is time for the next step in the plan I have”.

This Sunday morning I sang the special music at our church.  It was a song that I had heard weeks prior that grabbed my attention in a powerful way.  As I listened to the words I thought “oh my this is my prayer that I have been praying through our journey!”  “These are the images of Jesus put to words in a song that have been sustaining me moment to moment.”  The song is “Abide With Me” by Matt Maher.  As my life journey continues my relationship with Jesus is deepening, but nothing has required a further growth and complete reliance on Him as our foster parent journey.   One of the images has been the image of Jesus on the cross carrying the burden of all the sin of all mankind.  As we have carried the weight of the EFFECT that sin has had on just one young life the understanding of the magnitude of Jesus’ love has blown my mind.  The burden has been so heavy and I have not been able to even carry one person that has been so sinned against without Jesus’ love.  The next image has been Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He prayed alone, abandoned by His sleepy disciples.  He prayed with great anguish knowing the magnitude of the weight he was about to endure.  His anguish was over the burden of sin and separation from God the Father more so than the physical torture.  Now with this week’s events there is a deeper level of Jesus’ pain that is becoming more clear.  Not only was he giving the ultimate sacrifice for those who would choose His healing.  He was fully obedient to carry the weight of those who would completely deny and reject Him.  This was something I knew, but haven’t had the depth of understanding as I now have.  To pour every ounce of love, energy, and sacrificial giving into a person who may not ever choose healing has been very eye opening.

God goes to extreme measures to reach each and every human being.  He will place people in the paths of others so that everyone has the opportunity to know the truth.  The workers are so very few.  (Matthew 9:35-38) As a follower of Jesus I feel so gracious and honored to get to be used by Him.  To understand that there is so much work to heal this broken world and that God would use someone so inadequate as me to touch the life of another humbles my soul.  God continues to provide a peace that nothing has been in vain.  That His purposes are eternal and we may not know on this side of heaven what work He has done through us.  If we went back in time to the day we got our license to foster the answer would still be “yes” to our first call.

We do need some time for “self care”, healing, and to pour love into our daughters.  We are not going to quit and still feel the call to open our home to children who have been hurt by this sinful broken world.  There are so many lessons that are priceless.  I will always love this child that is still learning how to receive true love.  Any child that has been in my care will always be one of my children.  This young life will remain in my prayers.  My hope is that one day I will be reunited with this young one in heaven.  I pray he will choose goodness, love,  and healing that only comes from Jesus.

Here are the words to the song “Abide With Me”.

I have a home, eternal home

but for now I walk this broken world

you walked it first, you know our pain

But you show hope can rise again up from the grave

Abide with me, abide with me

don’t let me fall, and don’t let go

walk with me and never leave

ever close, God abide with me

There in the night, Gethsemane

before the cross, before the nails

overwhelmed, alone you prayed

you met us in our suffering and bore our shame

Abide with me, abide with me

don’t let me fall, and don’t let go

walk with me, and never leave

ever close God abide with me

Love that will not ever let me go

Love that will not ever let me go

You never let me go

Love that will not ever let me go

You never let us go

And up ahead , eternity

we’ll weep no more, and sing for joy, abide with me

 

Crossing Bridges Foster/Adoption

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Right after our first foster placement came to live with us construction was started to rebuild a bridge on one of our main roads to town.  First the shoulder was repaved on one side so that the bridge could go down to a single lane.  After the shoulder was deemed drivable drivers could  cross on the narrow side as the other half of the bridge was torn down.  A stop light was set up so that two lanes of traffic could safely go down to the one. This at times added at least three minutes to our commute.  Our new family member has been the one to openly voice the most complaints about this inconvenience.  After months one side was finally completed then it was time to open the new side and tear down the old half that remained.   This project has taken seven months.  Both lanes are now new, smooth, and much safer to cross over.

The bridge has been very symbolic to me of the bridges we have been crossing as a family.  As we cross bridge after bridge with this life that has been so wounded it has been hard, narrow,  felt a bit scary, has taken a lot of waiting, has taken patience, and with each cross to the other side there has been relief for all of us.   It is amazing that as the bridge of this road neared completion we were finally starting to really see progress with this young life.  It has started with the mom relationship first.  Now as I give instruction and guidance I am not met with all the resistance.  There is not the scary feeling of walking along and the bridge is just going to completely crumble beneath.  As the foundation was laid for this new bridge structurally there has been a foundation being laid relationally in our home.

The relationship and understanding between the child and I is now trickling out to the rest of our family.  There are more glimmers of hope that this wounded person is starting to heal and gain control of the chaos within.  We are seeing more and more of who the real child is.  There are more and more opportunities to praise, compliment, and encourage. We are getting to see the awesome potential that God placed into this human being long before he was even born.  We have many, many, MANY more bridges to cross.  Winter is coming and the actual bridge might get icy.  With the child there will be slippery times ahead as well.

No matter what the future holds with “forever family” status.  We are now all forever in each other’s hearts.  There is a strong foundation that has been laid.

Family and relationships are tough no matter what.  Being a parent is tough no matter what.  My motto has now become cross each bridge with care and confidence.  God does provide the way to cross and there is blessing on the other side.

The cross Jesus died on for us was the toughest bridge ever to be constructed.  God made a way between us and Him.  The cross is the bridge.  Once we have chosen  to trust Jesus and cross over that bridge there is tremendous blessing and relief on the other side.

There are always bridges in life to cross, but with the foundation of Jesus they are secure and we can move forward with confidence.

Some days There is Just Nothing Left

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There are days as a wife, mother, foster mother, and nurse I really just want to quit.  Everywhere I am there are demands.  Everywhere I am everyone else’s needs must come first.  I heard myself saying the other day that I am just content if I get some decent sleep and actually get to eat a meal.

God keeps impressing on my heart to just be real.  To share my failures, my hurts, my pain, and His victories within me with the rest of the world.  Or at least whoever it is he leads to read.  I keep finding myself at deeper all time lows.  Sunday night I was at the point that all I felt I had left to give on this earth was my very breath.  I seriously was at the point not of self harm, but at the point of Lord I really just want to come home with you.  Can you take me now?

Our family continues to get attacked by Satan himself.  We have never had this much bombardment since moving forward with our foster care license last year.  It has only doubled since we said yes to our first placement after being licensed.  Each and every family member has been hit by these attacks.  The devil himself does not want our family to succeed.  The devil wants nothing more than to destroy this young one whose life was literally snatched out of his grasp.  The devil wants nothing more than for our family to split and be destroyed.  He wants our lives to only make an impact on others of destruction not hope.

This morning on the radio one of my favorite Christian artists and his wife were actually live in the studio.  Chris Tomlin sang one of his newer songs “Jesus” live on air.  The tears just started streaming as I focused on my Savior Jesus and what He did for me, for my family, and for the whole world.   No matter how much I give up and give in.  No matter how much I forgive.  No matter how much life seems unfair.  Nothing can compare or even come close to what Jesus gave.  I can not out give Him.   So I need to stop and just keep looking to Him.  When I feel like EVERYTHING is on me and my shoulders.  When I feel so taken advantage of.  I need to stop and look to Jesus because no one carried a greater weight.   No one has ever been and continues to be so taken advantage of.   Jesus, my Jesus, my Lord, my weight carrier.   Jesus you love me like no other.  Jesus you put up with so much from me.  Jesus I take you so for granted and slip into  the “only looking to you when I really need you” pattern.  The truth is I need you every moment and with every breath I breathe!!!   Jesus is my sustainer!  Jesus is my victory!!  There is no one like you Jesus!!

We had a Really Good Day

After another rough week of tough behavior God has given yet another glimmer of hope.  It always seems to be when I cry out that I really don’t know if I can keep on that God allows me to see into a glimpse of His eternal hope.  He gives me a little peek at His plan for a child that the world has beaten down and has broken.  There are times that our family feels completely alone trying to piece together some semblance of a happy life for this life that has been so shattered.

There are definitely three notable triggers of poorer behavior, red dye, processed refined sugars, and video games.  In my opinion the world would be a much better place had these things not been invented.  One thing I have noted is that the last two times I have stated that screen time is up (after preparing our child with the time and how long allowed on it) the computer was turned off without any attitude or fight.  Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!!!  No anger and attitude!!!  Thank you Jesus!!!  I had no clue how braced I am for the utter defiance with nearly every word I utter.

Today after church it was just the two youngest children and myself so we made a plan to have fun.  It was too beautiful of a day to waste cleaning and getting organized.  After explaining the plans in detail several times backward and forward we set out.  There was initial complaining that was very obviously coming out of a source of fear of the unknown in the child.  Simple explanations, a little of ignoring some comments, and giving choices seemed to be working and for one of the first times I saw genuine emotional regulation in this child.

Part of our outing involved a short hike up to a cross on a bluff in our town.  Hiking has become a significant gauge of emotions, trust, confidence, physical well being, and much more for our child.  The hike was made with minimal complaints, our kiddo actually had fun and wanted to take pictures.  A very significant change from our very first hike.  His physical condition is far far better with much more endurance.  There was next to no drama.  Our child heeded my warning of some poison ivy with no arguing and followed instruction in avoiding it.  On the way down some fear of slipping started to overwhelm, but our child admitted that it was fear being felt and asked to hold my hand tight.  A very significant sign that human relational attachment is finally happening for this little one who has been deprived of it for so long.  My hand was all the comfort needed to press on and complete the task.   After the walk he stated that he really didn’t want to do that part of the day again.  I asked what was it that he would not want to repeat.  This time he openly stated “I was scared”.  My response was “yes, but you did it”!!  “You overcame your fear”.  His reply was “no, I really didn’t”.   I stated that “Yes you did because anytime you are scared and still go on to complete your goal you overcame your fears!!” Overcoming fear doesn’t mean we don’t still feel the fear.  We just don’t let it stop us from doing what is right, completing our task, or achieving the goal!”

We went on to have lunch at a outside venue which brought about anxiety for our child who wanted to eat inside with airconditioning.  Without resistance he chose his food and talked to other people around us with respect.  Once again Thank YOU JESUS!!!  Sitting near us was a very well trained dog that the owner and the dog showed off her many tricks she could do.  With our child getting to give the commands.  Later I pointed out that an inside restaurant wouldn’t have allowed that smart dog inside so it was a neat surprise with eating somewhere outside.

Our child got to go apple picking for the first time ever again with minimal attitude and defiance.  Then played well on the playground with other kids after.

As he held my hand so tightly during our hike out of fear yet also out of trust in me I couldn’t help but be reminded of whose hand I am grabbing onto.  Our child has no idea now, but hopefully one day will realize how tightly I am holding on to the hand of Jesus.  Hopefully he will learn in time that I have fears.  We all have fears and there is  only One that will always be there for us.  As our child learns how to trust us and have a relationship with us.  As he learns what family means I pray God will soften his heart to realize that He has a Creator God that loves him so very much.  How very awesome that it was reaching the cross today that gave us hope in our situation that some days seems impossible.  It is truly the cross that my hope rests in.  The cross that Jesus died on to save me.  The cross where he conquered sin and death.  The cross He carried for me so that He can hold my hand through this life and on into eternity!!

As our family presses on I pray we have many many more days like this one.  Days where true connections and happy memories are made.  Days that bring healing!

Our pastor quoted this scripture today and brought tears to my eyes.  The Word of God is good at cutting us to our deepest core of emotion.  “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”  Matthew 10:42 

The greatest reward will be greeting this child in heaven one day because we just kept holding on to Jesus!!!

Beaten Down…More Lessons as a Foster Parent

As we continue along this journey our family continues to learn more about ourselves and how to love the broken daily.  There are days that feel like Satan has literally whipped the tar out of us.   Mostly speaking for myself having felt beaten spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. Lately the battle has been intense.  The struggles are a strong indicator that we are exactly where God wants us to be.  Satan leaves us alone when what we are doing has no significant impact on the eternity of someone else.  When we are making an impact he throws his best shots at us.

One thing I am learning of myself is that I go from happy to extremely angry in 0.0002 seconds when the safety of others is compromised.  Threats of physical harm, hatred, and disrespect of life really ticks me off. It is sin that I despise.  The sins of hatred that exist in this world and I despise what it stirs within my own self.  How do we remain empathetic and therapeutic with a young little human being who has known nothing but chaos, hatred and abuse?  God continues to reveal more and more the effects of trauma, lack of parenting, and lack of nurturing on a human life to us. Reading all sorts of books still has no comparison to living it.  There is no cut and dry, no black and white, no easy answers.

There is so much I can’t share.  There are multiple conversations about life daily our child and I have.  This morning’s conversation I think it is safe to share.  One thing I have learned is that a traumatized child will turn to material objects as their comfort.  They can control them and break them.  They can keep them and those objects don’t pose a threat to them.  Human beings have failed them.  TV, video and computer games has been the nurture for this child.

I was talking to one of our dogs this morning in my high pitched, make the doggie hyper and happy voice.  Telling the dog how beautiful she is and how much I love her.  Our child piped at me “She is ugly!!  She isn’t happy!!”  My reply was “Well you can have your own opinion, but I think she is beautiful!”  The returning comment was “You think she is ugly!!”  Once again I reply “I think she is beautiful!”  “She is a living creature and all living things are beautiful because God created them.  Everything God has made is beautiful!”  Our little one asked “So do you think the TV is beautiful?”  My response was “No the TV is man made and really to me it is junk!”  He then asks “What about phones?”  My response again “They are junk and really not important either they are a tool to connect with other human beings.”  “What matters most are living beings created by God not things that were made by man.”  He then asked “what about flowers?”  I state “Yes they are living and we have to savor them and enjoy their beauty fast because they don’t live real long.”  Next was “Do you think the laundry basket is beautiful as he pointed to it?”  My reply “Was no not really it is just a tool to help the human beings I have in my life to care for.”

Children that have not been valued and loved unconditionally struggle with being able to value other people.  Children who have not been nurtured in love struggle with loving others.  Their hope has been placed completely in failing and fleeting material things.  This is a rocky journey and I fall some days.  This mom gets tired.  Some days I feel like our family is just in survival mode.  Then God will give us sparks of hope.  God will renew the spirit within me the more I lean on Him and trust Him.   Some days I feel like I am just hanging onto Him by a fingernail with a dark hole beneath me.  Then I  realize that underneath the unknown, the unseen, God’s other hand is right there to catch me and protect us.  God is good and we will continue to learn and press on.

When the “World” Lives in Your Home

It has been a while since I have had time to write a blog.  Partly because I have lacked the energy.  Partly because of lessons I am learning could breach confidentiality to blog about. To become more educated on the life and behaviors of a traumatized child I have been doing much more reading than writing.  Lastly the ups and downs are so frequent I really have not been able to fully wrap my mind let alone my writing around the emotion constantly surrounding our family daily.

The challenges have been tremendous, the test has been hard, there are daily sacrifices of all of our own needs and wants for this hurting human being.  There has been nothing in my life that has painted a more personal picture of exactly what Jesus did for me on the cross than foster care.  Each member of our family has been told “I hate you!” one minute then “I love you!” the next.  We all have been hit, kicked, spit at, and then hugged and kissed.    The complaints, demands, lack of gratitude, and harsh words are exhausting to hear even when you know it is out of pure fear and pain from the past. There really can be no comparison to Jesus and His perfect gift of love given to human kind.  Foster care has brought a much deeper understanding and appreciation for my Lord and Savior.  The perfect sinless Savior fully human and fully God took all sin of all human kind upon Himself as if it were His.  He knew what He faced in full as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.   The humiliation, unfairness, and separation from God the Father.  The feelings of fear, loneliness, pain, regret, guilt and shame never felt before would all be upon Him as He took on our sin.  Not to mention the most gruesome physical beating and tortuous death a person can experience.   Why would He do this for us?  Because the Glory of God and heaven is worth it.

Each of us Lucas’ has excepted Jesus as our Savior and Lord and that is our assurance that we will be in heaven one day.  Foster care has been a result of the relationship we have with Jesus.  Why are we doing this?  Because the Glory of God and heaven is worth it.  If one life is led to Jesus because of this small struggle we are enduring then it is worth it all.

Recently I was told  by someone that they didn’t think I knew what I was really getting into by getting into foster care.   My reply was I knew exactly what it was going to be and cost inviting the world into our home.  That is why it took me nearly 7 years to surrender to this calling.   It took me a lot more than one night in a garden to pray “Not my will, but thine be done.”  It took a lot of fighting with my own sinful nature and selfishness.

We have also been told that we don’t know what we are doing.   Truthfully every life is unique and each person’s trauma is different so who really knows besides God what each individual needs?   What I do know is that we don’t know what we are doing, but we are no longer sitting around in our safe little world.  We are doing!!!  It is not about us it is all about God and His Glory.  The fact that we are doing something for a hurting world with God equipping us more than qualifies us.

The deeper appreciation and relationship with our Savior has been a blessing.  The blessing of God’s Word guiding us, and our pastor and youth pastor’s sermons each week are a blessing.  The prayers of fellow believers have been a tremendous blessing. It is amazing how all the books I am reading are indeed helpful, but what has offered me the most help has been the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Just reminded of this verse by a fellow believer and friend.
Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

 

Guard Your Heart (written especially for teens)

Tonight our youngest daughter is going to her first sixth grade dance and our oldest is going to her first football game as a high school freshman. Thankfully neither one of them show signs of being overly concerned about boys or having a boyfriend at this point. One of my deepest regrets from my high school, college, and early twenties years is the focus I had on boyfriends and dating. With having a sister, two daughters, and being a girl myself I tend to have a better understanding of the girl viewpoint, but this blog can be for both male and females. The regret now is that I lost valuable time with Jesus. My focus and self-esteem weighed far too heavily on boy relationships. It is obvious looking back that I had parents praying for God to lead me to the right spouse, but I put far too much time and energy into being concerned about it. Definately not enough prayer time of my own for God to lead my life. You see the deeper our relationship is with Christ the greater our self-esteem in who God created us to be is. In a deeper relationship with Christ we don’t need the world telling us we are beautiful or giving us attention especially inappropriate attention. The road was full of broken heartedness leading to my dear husband and best friend Mike. There were so many lessons I learned the hard way. Alas God did lead me to a man that He continues to show me how He divinely planned us for each other. One of the most recent clues was our family vacation. The plans changed a few times as to who would be coming along with us on our adventure. In the end Mike was the only male. He had myself, my mom, his two daughters, and two of our family friends teen daughters. Yes he was surrounded. Girls age 11, 14, 15, 17, 41, and 64. Female hormones from one spectrum to the other. He handled it with masculine grace!! He truly is my teamate in life. I say teamate because it requires the both of us working together and giving one hundred percent to make our relationship work. The greatest warning signs I learned through my experiences were to beware of selfishness, conceitedness, boys that wanted to change me, power hunger, jeolousy,and control. A marriage can not work well if either side has an issue with these.

My prayer for my girls and all young people in my life is for them to guard their hearts. If their heart and focus belong to Jesus then they will remain under God’s hedge of protection. When we give our hearts to the wrong people and make them the idol and focus of our life it often will lead to poor decisions, heart ache, a destroyed self-image and self-esteem.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.