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.”

When We Sabotage Our Own Lives

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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…”

Two Months IS Significant

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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?

What Would you do if you had a Million Dollars?

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One of our daughters just asked me this question.  She then followed with would you buy a different house?  My first answer was no, I just want to have no debt.  We then discussed college expenses and saving then then conversation topic fizzled.

The conversation fizzled out, but the thought of this question continued to weigh on me.  A million dollars does not actually go far in our world today it could be a start.  My self evaluation question became, “If money were no object what would you do?”   Then cycling back to the house question my answer started to turn to a yes.

For years now God has put this burning compassion for children who have been rejected and beat down by this world on my heart.  For one year now we have been in the trenches of Foster Care.  The more of the true story and true pain I see this compassion just grows stronger.  This is definitely a mission field that leaves you feeling like your heart has been torn from you, stomped on then placed back into your body to keep powering through beat by beat.

So this is my vision as hard and crazy as it sounds.  As I sit here completely emotionally exhausted God will not stop calling on this broken heart of mine.  Yes, I would buy a new house.  I would buy a working farm or ranch.  I would want to buy it where there are amazing hiking places.  I would start a children’s home with the proper support staff.  I would hire people with the same compassion and broken heart for what breaks God’s heart.  It would be an amazing place with jobs for the children to be assigned to based on abilities and personalities.  Nothing builds self esteem like a job well done.  I would want to do therapy during hikes because who wants to just stare eye to eye with a therapist.  Something about God’s creation truly relaxes and can cause true communication and healing to happen.

Truthfully I am worn out from just having one child that is in care at a time.  Truthfully I do not have the resource within my own self nor financially to make this a reality.  This one question has started to develop into a dream that God’s timing and provision can accomplish if it is in His will and plan.   My heart aches for children who are “unwanted”, for children who push away the one’s that truly want to help, for the children who feel unworthy of love…  My heart is to give as many children new Hope and a new beginning through the love of Jesus Christ.  So if I had a million dollars or if money were no obstacle I would buy a new house.  A house of Hope!!!!

“Mercy does not Need Reasons”

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.

 

 

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!!!

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.”

 

Just Look How Far You’ve Come

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A couple weeks ago I took all three of my children on a hike in one of our local state parks.  Hiking is one of my most favorite things to do outdoors.  The bucket list of hikes I would love to take is extremely long and gets longer and longer instead of shorter.  This was our foster child’s first real hike ever I am quite sure.  There was severe whining and complaining the entire hike.  This was a very short hike compared to what this momma really loves to do.  All along the way there were little break throughs amongst the complaining and threats from our child.  “I can’t go any further!!!  Oh look there is the same kind of bug you and I saw that one time mom!”   “Oh I hate spider webs!!   Oh my legs are worn out!!!  Oh look at the cool butterfly!!”  All three children missed the beautiful deer that crossed our path right in front of us.  All the way were opportunities to teach about God, His creation, His love, and that in life we need to stop, listen, and look otherwise we miss the greatest blessings from Him.  As the hike grew more intense with inclines so did the complaining.  The story of the Little Engine that Could (one of my favorites)  came in handy that day.  With each step I encouraged “I think I can…I know I can!!”  At one point I turned and looked at our child to keep encouraging and I saw just how far we had come.  I said “Turn and look and see just how far you have already come!!  I know you can do this!!”

We reached the top to see the awesome view and the first response was “wow!”.   Then that hard shell of pride and survival methods from a harsh life went back up.  The guard had been let down just for a moment showing a glimmer of hope that love was winning this child’s heart.  The opportunity presented itself to explain that the reason I love hikes so much is that they are hard.  The girls started telling him how they have even watched me fall down on hikes. It is a goal that requires physical, mental, and sometimes emotional work.  All along the journey God provides little views of His Glory and His Blessings.  Once we have persevered and reached the goal then we get to see something beautiful that we never would have seen had we not made the long journey.   Each hike I have ever taken I have gotten to see more and more of God’s glory, His beautiful handiwork of His creation.

So it is with life and definitely parenting.  Anything truly worth anything takes a lot of physical, mental, and emotional work.  As God directs and leads down new paths it is so hard.  I stumble, hurt, cry, feel like giving up and then He shows little snipits of His glory.  Each new hurdle in life God reveals more and more of His Glory to me that I would have missed had I not listened and taken the path He directed.

Not only was this hike a teachable moment for this young precious child it was one for mom as well.  Just keep looking at how far you have come I can hear my Heavenly Father encourage.  Just keep taking one step and one day at a time and trust me.

It is always good to look back and see what God has brought us through and the prayers that have been answered.  The past is not a place to dwell, but to learn from and press on.

So a message to all parents and especially foster/adoptive parents.  Just look at how far you’ve come!!!

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

 

 

I Love You Because you Exist

There are daily life lessons to learn as a foster family.  So many I really can’t share.  Many things I have known, but God is driving a deeper and deeper understanding within me.

What a messy world we live in.  It seems that so many people desire to completely change who they are and are never satisfied within their own skin.  There is a desire and push within this world to completely change the things about ourselves that are clearly defined when we are born.  It is hard enough to figure out things like what school to go to and what career to choose let alone the things about us that are actually very cut and dry.

God continues to reveal to me the deep problem of humanity and what His cure for the problem is.  The greatest need of every human being is to know that there is at least one person that loves them merely because they exist.  A love that has no condition, a love that has no selfish goals, a love that is there even when we are underserving of it.  From the day we are born we are in need of this kind of love.  You cry I will be there, you cause me to be unable to meet my own needs at times…I will be there, you lash out at me…I will be there…   I will still look at you and smile, my eyes will light up when you enter the room.   We all need this kind of love and fewer and fewer are receiving it…even as a small helpless child many never receive this kind of love.

Love like this opens our heart to realizing that we exist because God cared enough to create us and plan our lives.    It opens our hearts to realize that God gave us free will because He wants us to love Him in return because we choose too.  Love like this opens our hearts to understanding that God sent Jesus because He loves us despite our wickedness, flaws, and our unworthiness.   God loves us just as we are because He is.

No matter the struggles and challenges the answer to the deep dark pains of this world is LOVE.   God is helping me love and understand on deeper levels daily…sometimes minute to minute.  To look at every human being with eyes of love merely because of their existence.  Because they are a creation of God.