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.”
Once again I am preparing myself to pack up another child’s room. Once again I feel the sting of grief. My hope is that as my heart is shattered into more pieces that God can use those pieces to love that much more greatly through me.
As Mike and I think and look back we feel no regrets. I pray and ask God was there something else that needed to be said or done. There is nothing, but a peace He gives that we did all we could. We loved whole heartedly we provided chances, forgiveness, teaching, true sacrificial giving of time, energy, and resources.
There has been nothing that has painted a better picture of what Christ has done for each and every human being than this ministry of Foster care. We are born into a sinful and broken world. Why are innocent children abused and neglected at such a young age? Why are so many people succumbed to addictions to drugs and alcohol? Why are we so prideful and full of ourselves? Why are we so selfish? Why are we so ungrateful? Why do people who show nothing but love and kindness get taken advantage of? It is all because of sin. God gave us all freewill. I can not make choices for any other human being and can only control my own.
We become comfortable in our situations of sin self inflicted or inflicted by others. It is what we know. It is why so many victims of domestic violence just keep returning to the abuser. When love steps in, when God calls to a person’s soul, we become uncomfortable. We start to realize there is something far greater and bigger than us and it is scary. The thing about our human nature is that so often we start to see and realize what true love, true abundant life can be and we sabotage it. We retreat back to old ways because it is what we know. Our sinful habits are what we think will make us happy. It is a deceitful lie that leads us down a painful and deadly path.
The image of Jesus dying on the cross taking all my sin and shame as well as every human being’s remains the strength that keeps me going. Christ was rejected by his very own. He is rejected every minute of every day. So many curse Him, turn their backs on Him, and run straight into the pit of destruction He came to save them from.
Oh, but when a person finally does realize their great and desperate need of His love and forgiveness that is when life truly begins. Life is hard and the consequences of our own bad choices are very hard. God gave us a way out of the pit. He gave us a way to true life through Jesus Christ. As my relationship deepens more and more I yearn for each breath I take to be for Jesus. Because of my own sinful nature I still have so much to learn about full surrender and trust. The more I breath Him in the deeper my peace, joy, and realization of how loved I am becomes.
My heart breaks when the love I give is rejected. I can only imagine how Jesus feels to have paid the penalty for all sin through death on the cross only to be rejected by so many. In fact the love I give doesn’t even come from me it is Christ loving through me.
So my eyes will continue to look that much more intently on Jesus and His way. Everything I do is for His Glory and not mine. God has a plan and perfect will. My hope and trust is that anything done for His Glory will not go in vain and that He will take the seeds planted and continue to water His truth on them.
Philippians 2:1-5 “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and one of mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”
As we continue on in our journey in Foster care one of the greatest lessons has been to expect nothing. The only guarantee and expectation that I personally have learned is that God is always present even when it feels like He is not. So actually going into this ministry and definitely in the throes of our ministry a thank you is not expected. We try to teach gratefulness, forgiveness, kindness, compassion, good work ethic, etc… with every opportunity. The expectation, other than knowing God will be present, is a personal one. Do I exemplify qualities that Jesus demonstrated for us? Do I show love, forgiveness, kindness, patience, gratefulness, do I work hard? My failures in these qualities happen daily so how can I expect someone who has had a rough start in life to have them. Why should someone who has had some rough and traumatic experiences at a young age have any reason to say thank you? It is not expected.
One never knows what is significant to another person when first meeting. Every person has a story and every person has something that is significant to them or longings that are significant. It is often a mystery and hard work to learn what is significant to another. What is significant to my neighbor may not be significant to me. Yet we are to love our neighbor as ourself. So how do we love others deep enough to truly make a positive impact? Start learning what is significant to them. It is an ongoing process in relationships with others that never ends. Love grows deeper and stronger the more you learn and act on what those matters of significance are. What is a passion, a joy, a hobby, what is the deepest need, what is the deepest longing of the other people in your life?
For our dear child that God has so divinely brought into our home there is a significance of time. We all need the time of others invested for a relationship to grow, but to some time means security. Toward the end of March I was asked about a specific date in April and if I knew what that day was. My brain was in total “der” mode as I couldn’t think of a birthday, sporting event, or historical marker. The next words gave me a clue as to what is significant to this dear one. “I will have lived here two months.”
As that day approached two days ahead I was handed a card. The card was going to be given on the day…no the day before…no the day before the day before…. The anticipation of this date in time demonstrated even more how significant two months in the same home with no threat looming of having to leave has been to this precious child. In care it is one day at a time never knowing what is going to change and happen next. Security is one of our basic necessities as a human being. We can provide words of assurance and love, but nothing speaks more than time and action. So our thank you was very unexpected, but significantly heart melting to us. It has been a wild roller coaster ride of a first year as a foster home. There truly has not been anything harder with a greater impact that our family has ever done. As God continues to mold, shape, and strengthen us as a family and me personally, my prayers have turned into how can I love more?
About a year ago my mom and I were shopping at Hobby Lobby to find some items for a few projects. Our foster care licensure process was nearing completion and one project was to add finishing touches to our spare bedroom. A year ago before our journey began when I walked past this picture and read it the tears immediately started to flow. This one little sentence seemed to sum up our call to foster children in need in the most perfect way.
That day I did not buy it as I had no clue who would fill the room and I was trying to just keep the décor simple and as gender neutral as I could.
When I wrote A Whole New Kind of Grief in January I had no clue why and what God had planned next. Grieving someone’s potential to such depth was new to me. As I write now I have had so much more of God’s plan revealed to me. As I write now I am in greater awe of His amazing attention to detail on every life. As I write now I am even more deeply humbled and thankful to be a part of His great plan.
Two weeks to the day of God giving such a definitive answer of “NO” to my prayer “Do we take the next step toward adoption?” I got a message from a friend’s husband about a need.
You see with our first child we could have no other placements probably never had we adopted. I had resolved to this was the one and only child God had planned for us to help, but as usual I was so very wrong. God gave us two weeks to digest all that had happened and then I get a message from a friend’s husband to call his wife about a need. We were not yet on the market as a foster family. Our bed capacity still was showing zero as I hadn’t even gotten to fully communicate with our license worker. As I listened to my friend tell me the story of the need I could feel my heart swelling with love and compassion once again. When asked do you know of a family that can help, all I could think was “all I know of is us”. God had opened our room up and it was specifically for this very need in this very perfect time that it was needed. Separately speaking to Mike and the girls I watched as each of their hearts did the same as mine. They all turned into a puddle of compassion. There are not strong enough words to express how proud I am of their willingness to love and follow God’s call in this ministry.
It has been amazing as we have been able to open our hearts and home to another. There has been a community of people to help this one life and that is exactly how it should be for a child in need. It indeed does take a village. Another amazing turn in the story is that our family gets to remain a strong support in the life of our first child. Of course I can not share too many details, but God provides the most amazing paths when our hearts are open.
This brings me back to the picture above. A few weeks ago I found myself at Hobby Lobby again. When offered to get some new décor for the room our newest family addition only requested a chalk board. While shopping along I again see this picture that I saw a year ago. This time I bought it! Our sweet new member of our family was more than happy to have it hung in the room.
There has been nothing in this life that has brought me to a deeper understanding of God’s love for us than this calling to love this hurt world through foster care. Our broken lives take us to so many unexpected places, but God’s plan through Jesus is to bring us all home. Jesus is the only source of true love and our home is our eternal home with him. As a child I always thought of “God’s Will” to be what job, career, who I would marry, if I would have children, etc… God’s Will is to completely open my heart to Him. There is no way I can love unconditionally the way that I have on my own. It has purely been opening all of my soul allowing God to completely love through me. Of course my own human nature has gotten in the way from time to time, but He continues to teach me how to rely on Him fully. God’s will for my life is to love others in such a way that they feel truly loved and “home”. Whatever amount of time, capacity, platform, or tool God gives it is all just a way for God to work through me. My life is to be a channel of God’s love to direct others to Him. He is our true source of love and our true home. God’s wish is for all of mankind to come back to Him. He is such an amazing God that He gives us a choice. He cares so much about the details of every life that He will provide opportunity after opportunity even in a life of tremendous pain to see His love. It may be a complete stranger offering a word of encouragement. We get to see God in small doses throughout our life and it is up to us to accept Him. As a follower and totally sold out to Jesus I get to be a part of God’s plan to reveal His love to our hurting and broken world.
Home doesn’t always mean to live in the same house. Home is knowing that you have at least one other person that loves you unconditionally with their whole heart. Home is knowing you have someone cheering you on in life. Ultimately home is knowing that there is a God in heaven that loves you in a way that no other can love you. Ultimately home is knowing that God planned you, wants you, has a purpose for you, and wants to spend all of eternity with you.
John 14:2 “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you.”
John 3:16 “For God so Loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
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.