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.
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.”
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!!
For weeks now I have wanted to blog about what I see as far as true love and support from a foster parent’s perspective. Our situation has been purely a calling of God on our life as a family and as individual followers of Jesus Christ. It has been very eye opening to see who and where true love and concern has come from.
The only non-judgmental truly supportive concern and understanding has come from our church family our actual church and fellow believers that attend other churches. Jesus’ church of believers. It has been people that have had a true encounter with Jesus Christ themselves and have had God’s calling on their own lives that provide the unconditional support our family so desperately needs.
This blog is not to point fingers or to provide direct quotes of questions we have been asked. In general there is a lack of understanding as to why we keep on with all the sacrifices of time, finances, home, emotions, and actual abuse against us for someone who may never “get it”? Why do we keep on with all the inconveniences and scrutiny of “the system”?
This morning while working on the middle school girls Life group lesson God has helped bring this observation to a deeper level of understanding. The story of the “Good Samaritan” one that I have read in Luke 10:25-37 many times throughout my life provides the best answers to the questions we are asked.
God’s call on the life of those who choose to believe and follow Him is this… “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
How can a human being whose nature is all about self survival, preservation, pleasure and promotion give completely unconditionally to a stranger and possibly “the enemy”? It is all by the power of God’s love. It is coming to the understanding of how much God loves me even though I personally don’t deserve it. God has shown me an indescribable amount of mercy and it is only through Him I can show this kind of mercy to others. God has different plans for His people to show love to neighbors. His plan for our family for this season is exactly what we are doing right now.
This morning I was having a morning where I was fighting with my own human nature and feeling very tired of the “behaviors”. God’s word cut right to my core yet again.
I love a quote in the Wiersbe Bible Commentary I just read. ” The Samaritan identified with the needs of the stranger and had compassion on him. There was no logical reason why he should rearrange his plans and spend his money just to help an “enemy” in need, but mercy does not need reasons.”
I’m tired, I’m far from perfect, but God keeps speaking to my heart. He keeps telling me to press on, not to give up, and to give what ever it takes.
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!!!
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.