Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Praying through the Psalms

It's been a long while since I have been able to take the time to write.  God has kept me too busy living the foster life the past year to be able to take the time to write about it. This morning, however, I felt burdened to share in writing and the feeling just wouldn't pass.  I think the feeling might be springboarding off of the wonderful speakers and baptism we were blessed to be part of at church Sunday.  So many people in our church are serving children in so many ways.  One way that is currently growing by leaps and bounds is through the opening of homes to foreign exchange students. Imagine being a missionary in your own home.  God tells us to preach the gospel to the whole world. For many of my friends the world comes to them!  What an impact these students are making on our hearts! They have brought so much life and culture to an otherwise less than culturally exciting little midwestern town.   It has been a joy to see these kids from all over the world fit right into our youth group, families and hearts.

As my friends shared some of their experiences and asked for prayers for the kids who will be returning to their home countries at the end of the school year, I was both blessed and saddened thinking about the 15 kids who have literally brought different cultures to my own home over the past two years.  There is so much excitement over the exchange student program.  And rightfully so. Imagine imersing your family into the culture of a foreign student, learning about their home and family and introducing them to some of the delights and freedoms of our own country. With "My" kids however, the response is more often along the lines of , "oh, I could never do that."

 It was shared with us that the foreign students are among the top one percent in their home countries.  That's when my heart sank.  I can't make that claim for foster care.  "My kids" need homes and families too, but the struggle is often overwhelming.  "Advertising" for families to foster is less sparkley.  As much as I LOVE the exchange program, my emotions were stirred on Sunday to pray even harder for "My" kids.  Prayers for exchange students and foster kiddos are fervent  and necessary.

If there is one thing a new foster parent (or even a seasoned one) would ask me is a must have to be able to live the foster life I wouldn't hesitate to tell them that Prayer Is A Must!  Whether parenting bio kids, exchange students or fosters, there are no issues too big or small that we can't lay at our heavenly father's feet.   Last fall, we had a revolving door at our house.  Within four months, six kids came and went through our doors.  Each kiddo had his or her own unique story.  Each brought me to my knees.  By carrying the mommy emotions of 6 different lives in so short a period of time, my heart was bruised.  I couldn't carry that load.  I wasn't meant to.  It was too much for me.  Even though we didn't struggle with any severe behavior problems, the emotional weight of loving the kids and hurting for all of their hurts became too much.  I had to pray it all out and often.  I realized that I was drowning in their hurts.  One morning while reading through the Psalms (because many other parts of the Bible were just too much; I needed a balm, not a history lesson at that time.) I was blessed at how mmany of the Psalms seemed to have been written for my broken heart.  I think God spoke through David for such a season of heartache as I was in.  My Psalms are now all marked up in red colored pencil each time God gave me a prayer for one of "My" kids.  I pray that after reading this post that the next time you read the 23rd Psalm, you will remember to pray for those in the foster community.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

When new kiddos come into foster care they are almost always without a shepherd and always have many wants.  Many of the kids have never had an adult's guidance or care.  Most of the kids' wants are really needs.  We, as the foster family, are not only in the position to help meet a child's physical and emotional needs, but we are also given the opportunity to shepherd as well.  

Jeremiah 23:4
"I will place shepherds over them who will tend to them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor wil any be missing," declared the LORD.

1 Peter 5:2
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them - not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.

What an honor it has been to serve as a shepherd to 15 of God's flock over the past 2 years.  I pray often that God would make me a shepherd who is eagerly willing to serve.

He makes me lie down in Green Pastures

When I think of green pastures, I think of the lush green grasses in springtime.  We often have to mow multiple times a week this time of the year. It is just so green in Indiana right now.  Two of the kids placed with our family came to us having never slept in their own bed.  Theirs was a pile of dirty blankets on a cold floor. Thet told me over and over again how much they loved to lie down in their clean soft beds.  A few of the kids have also LOVED our back yard.  To them it was the next best thing to Disney Land!  I am overwhelmed when I think back to the places the kids came from and what we have to offer.  I have never thought of our 120 year old farm house as extravagant but to these kids the yard is definitely green here.  We have so much to offer.  More than we ever knew.

He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

Let's be real.  My house is not always quiet.  But when you compare to the households where foster kids come from, my house is an oasis of peace and predictability.  My teens are typical American kids, who sometimes play the Wii too loudly or fight among themselves.  We are not perfect.  But offering foster kids perfect is not what we do.  We offer them family.  Real Family.  We have faults, but no one gets hurt here.  No one is neglected.  We are in the business of restoring souls.  Sometimes we are the first link in the restoration chain, receiving the kids directly grom their birth families. Sometimes we build upon the work that other foster families started for us.  No matter where we are in helping to restore a child's life, we are blessed to be part of that process.

1 Chronicles 4:40
They found rich, good pasture, and the land was spacious, peaceful and quiet.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

It's a good thing that we, as the foster family have a guide to help us as we shepherd!  Without righteousness that comes from God, we could easily get quite full of ourselves in the work that we are doing.  So many people have come up to us over the past two years to tell us how amazing our family is "for taking those kids in."  Self righteousness could easily set in!  I am reminded here that we do this not for our name's sake but to honor and glorify God.  We are not super-parents. We are not trying to be heroes.  We are simply trying to follow the path God asked us to.

Psalm 25:25
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 31:3
Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

I wouldn't have believed some of the valleys my kids have come through.  If they had the words to tell me, "valley of the shadow of death" might have been their own words.  I have felt sorely inadequate to walk through the valley with them.  I do not have a counseling or social work degree, but I do have the one who guides me as a pillar of cloud by day and as a pillar od fire by night.  I have genuinely freaked out in my mind as the kids have told me parts of their valleys.  Is it easy? NO. But as soon as I regain my composure, take a deep breath and pray a quick breath long prayer, God's peace envelopes me and I press on walking the valley as long as a kiddo needs to walk there.  Sometimes after these talks, I just have to pray again and tell God, "I sure hope you were speaking through me, because I sure felt like I was winging that one!"

Isaiah 41:18
I will make the Rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys.  I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.

I'm am relieved that the "I" in this passage is God.  He may be working through me, but he gets all the credit for making the vally of death a place of refuge and peace.

I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.

Foster kiddos enter care with all kinds of fears. Many have seen all kinds of evil.  A child may be 8 years old physically, but 3 emotionally and 29 experientially because of the evils they may have endured.  But God places them with us so that we can comfort them.  Learning to trust and not fear is a process.  It doesn't happen overnight.  Just because you take a child out of danger does not mean their heart and brain are convinced they are safe.  With time, their fears can be replaced by trust.  With enough comforting hugs, warm meals, snuggly bed times, God allows us to comfort these kids in ways we have never had to comfort our own kids. 

Psalm 119:76
May your unfailing love be my comfort. 

My kids have been failed so many times in their pasts.  I pray that my comfort will not fail them.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Preparing the table for a meal is what I do.  When we have fosters in the house, we are more intentional about eating at home. (We don't go out that often anyway, but we are more intentional about showing the kids what family meal time looks like.)  Let me tell you about a time when some "enemies" showed up at our table!  A month or two after our first placement, we decided to grill chicken legs for dinner.  It was summer. My husband offered to grill, and what kid doesn't like drumsticks! Right?  As we quickly were learning that summer, these kids had missed out on LOTS of life experences.  The older of the two looked down at her plate and in disgust said, "What is THAT?" A chicken leg, I answered. "No, I mean that?!"  she pointed at it but didn't touch the bone.  The kids had only ever eaten processed foods.  They had never seen a piece of meat with the bone still in it.  They were both so horified that we had to take their plates into the other room, cut the meat off and bring it back without the bones.  Lesson learned!

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

When the kids come to us, their love tanks, (cups) are often on empty.  We have had the opportunity to take kids to the zoo, camping, to a concert, to the movies, and many other experiences that fill their cups.  It is a beautiful thing when, even if it is just for a moment, we get to see a child's cup overflow!  That moment when pure joy from an experience overflows from their heart into giggles, laughter or singing, we know God is restoring a soul!

Job 8:21
He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with joy.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

One of the hard truths in foster care is that sometimes kids do go back to hard places. Sometimes there are no happy endings.  Sometimes happy is delayed for months or years.  I sometimes think I pray for the kids more after they leave than when we are in the trenches with them.  It is an honor and a privelege to pray for "all the days of their lives."  

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Whether the kido is mine or a foster, ultimately we pray that they will experience God's love through us while they are here.  We pray that while dwelling in our house, the fosters will get at least a glimpse of what God's house will be like.  Our prayer is that all of our kids will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  What an honor it is to play a part in leading them there.

Psalm 4:8
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord make me dwell in safety.

Isaiah 32:18
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.

The next time you read through the Psalms, take time to remember that David knew just what foster kids and their foster parents were feeling and needing.  Then take some time and pray God's words back to him on behalf of a foster child or parent that you know.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Things I Didn't Want to Learn

I have learned so much over the past four and a half months as a foster parent that thinking about all of it makes my head spin. Most everything that I have learned I read about years ago in college. Not a single undergraduate education major escapes college without a child development class or two! 

Most of what you learn in college about "the real world" doesn't really sink in though 'till you've experienced it in the real world. For most of us, the real world is safe, commonplace, and at times rather dull.  What my family learned these past four months was at times dangerous; we no longer feel common and it was definitely not dull!  If you need to add a little excitement to the routine of your life, consider taking in foster kids. 

In college I learned about the developmental stages of childhood. This past summer we learned that when a child is neglected or not properly cared for and loved, these stages get all messed up.  

In college I read about two things called Reactive Attachment and hoarding.  The past 4 months I saw both taking place.  In college [As well as up until the day before the kids came] I assumed that a family's love could easily overcome these behaviors.  I was wrong. Overcome, maybe.  Easily, not.  Time, LOTS!

Four months ago I learned that "rest" and the whole idea of needing rest and resting have to be taught.  I never dreamed I would meet a child with no idea how to rest.  Ever.

Four months ago I met children who used [and sometimes still use] food for emotional blackmail.  Whether binging or refusing to eat, children who have not been nurtured and sometimes not fed use food as an emotional weapon.  These same children can be overwhelmed by portion sizes. Large or small, the ammount of food on their plates can be traumatizing.

Four months ago I started to witness my own children at their servants' hearts' best as well as driven to their most fed up worst. Seeing them stretched and used was painful as well as prideful. They are, after all, still kids themselves.  Watching them suffer was painful but knowing that they were growing and maturing eased the pain a little.

Four months ago I learned that it is possible to love children that aren't mine.  2 weeks ago I learned how to let one of them go.

Four months ago I was optimistic that I had enough love [and discipline and cleverness and equal stubbornness] to begin to heal children who didn't fit a typical developmental mold.  2 weeks ago I learned that bandages aren't enough sometimes.  I learned that some wounds are beyond my love at this point.  I learned that I am just a bandage but the wounds I was trying to heal were not just surface scratches.  

Four months ago my pride was in tact.  2 weeks ago my pride was smashed in one hour.  2 weeks ago I wasn't enough.

2 weeks ago I had to surrender to the fact that I am not enough and I never will be.  I am not supposed to be.

2 weeks ago I had to admit that my family was not enough.

2 weeks ago I learned what it really means to surrender.  Throw up the white flag.  

2 weeks ago I felt failure.  I felt defeated.  I felt bruised.  

2 weeks ago I learned what it means to have nothing to hold on to except hope.  Hope that God has a bigger plan than what was unfolding before me.  Hope that what I was listening to wasn't the end of something but rather the beginning. I now cling to that bigger plan.

Without the hope found in God's bigger plan for my life and hers, I would feel like a failure still.

In the arms of a loving God, I am reassured that I didn't fail.  I did what God asked.  

In the still quiet times of reflection over the past 2 weeks, I have learned that circumstances not working out according to my plan do not equal failure.  They have allowed me an opportunity like never before to trust a really big God.

Over the past month I had prayed unceasingly for God to reveal his next step.  I prayed in anguish that "something's gotta give." I was at my wits end. I prayed and God answered. He didn't answer by calming the storm but by holding me though the tempest and waves that I thought I was drowning in. He reminded me that the water's never part 'till your feet get wet. I thought I was drowning but now look back and see Him holding my head just above the crashing waves. He reminded me that He often shows off the biggest when we totally surrender.

We had to surrender 2 weeks ago but not to failure; to hope. Hope that after what felt like 70 years of captivity, God's plan for a little girl's hope and future are secure in His hands.  Hope that the part we had to play in her life made a difference.  Hope that the seeds we planted will be watered and tended by someone else.  

Being asked to be "the first link in a chain" rather than the more noticible last link is just as honorable.  We can't see into tomorrow but we have learned to trust God's plan for it.

Another realization that we have come to is that we will likely be asked to go on this adventure [aka 13th floor] again.  We have learned much.  Maybe next time we will be able to use some bit of wisdom we learned over the past 4 months to some other child's benefit and healing.  

Maybe some of the things we learned, that we really didn't want to learn, will help us in the future.  

Maybe we will be crushed again.

Maybe we will feel more successful.

But maybe not.

Maybe we will just be obedient.  And that's enough.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Baby Steps

My husband often reminds me at the end of a bad day to look back further than the present situation and to look at the big picture.  He helps me keep my perspective when the going gets tough.  If I look back beyond the moment, I can see more clearly.  In the moment we are either making progress too slowly or losing ground.  In the moment the many baby steps are not as noticeable as they are in hindsight.  In the moment I often want to bang my head against my pillow and cry, but if I take the time to look back and see the big picture, I can see how far we have come.  Baby Steps, he reminds me, Baby Steps. Progress is made in Baby Steps.

After only a month of having been a foster family, I can’t see the big picture yet.  I don’t know how far we’ll go.  I think we are making baby steps in the right direction, but I can only hope we’ll reach the destination we seek.

After only a month as a foster family I am already exhausted physically and emotionally.

After only a month as a foster family, I’m not sure if I want to do this again. It’s harder than I thought it would be.

After only a month as a foster family, I feel guilty for wanting my life back.  My uncomplicated, easy life.  We never realized how easy life was before taking two broken little ladies into our home.

After only a month as a foster family, I want to give my kids their life and their house back.   

After only a month as a foster family I can’t believe how much our lives now revolve around the little ladies. Their appointments.  Their counseling sessions.  Their parent visits. Their… Their…Their…   We have not even gone out to eat as a family in a whole month.  The girls are just not ready yet.

After only a month as a foster family I can only hope and pray that what we are doing will be worth it. 

The paradox at this point in our fostering journey is that this past month has probably been the healthiest, happiest and safest month of the girls’ lives.  Who wouldn’t want to serve to give them that? We have given them more security, food and fun than they have probably ever known consecutively.   We have given them their own beds and clean sheets.  Meals AND snacks AND dessert.  We even  gave them their own toothbrushes! (Yes, something one of the girls told me was “Mommy, I have never owned my own toothbrush before, Thanks!” )  Whose kid thanks them for letting them have their own toothbrush?!

When I feel like we are barely getting by each day in the midst of laundry, laundry and more (peed on) laundry I just want to cry.  When I feel like we are muddling through teaching the meaning of “No.” I wonder when we will ever get around to practicing numbers and reading.  

When I feel like all I do all day is say “no” ~ “No, you can’t play in the road.” “No, you can’t eat that, that’s trash for the garden.” “No, you can’t hang on and pull on your brother’s clothes.” “No, you HAVE to use toilet paper…every time.” No, No, No! I feel like a drill sergeant!    

When I feel like we are barely getting above teaching the most basic functions, one of the girls will say something like, “Mommy, you’re the best at cooking!”  “Mommy, you’re the best at crafts!” “Mommy, you’re the best…”  “You’re the best…”  My heart melts and I remember all of my dreams about what I wanted fostering to look like!   

When we are driving in the van and the girls ask for “That Newsboys song about the ‘King is Coming’" I know they are curious about the God we serve.  And then they ask who the King is and we get to tell them!  Then they ask if they might get to go to Heaven and meet him some day and we get to tell them about heaven!  And then they ask if heaven “is only for adults or do kids get to go too?”  We get to tell them how much Jesus loves children!  And then, only 2 days later they sing Newsboys as loudly as they can!

2 days later there were still peed on sheets to wash.  2 days later there were still tantrums to absolve.  2 days later there were still the emotional parent visits to conquer.  But, 2 days after asking who the King is, they told their older sister (who lives with a different foster family) at their parent visit that she can meet the King someday too if she gets to know Jesus! 

So, after only a month of becoming a foster family, is it worth it?  I think so.  Do I want the ease of my old life back?  Yes.  Do I want more alone time?  Absolutely!  Do I want to wash less peed on and pooped on laundry?  Um, YES!  Do I need adult, mom time desperately? YES!  But is serving in this capacity worth it?  I have to admit that it is.  I also have to admit that I have to ask myself this multiple times a day and hash my emotions out in prayer.   I figure that if God has asked me to take this on, he can handle my emotions over it!

I have come to the conclusion that our new normal is that of being missionaries in our own home.  We didn’t need passports to serve; God brought the mission field to us. I bet missionaries feel a similar sort of loneliness that I am now feeling. A loneliness that stems from  leaving behind what they once knew for what becomes their new normal.  There is grieving and excitement all at the same time.  Serving no matter the cost is always worth it.  It is worth it but not easy or glamorous. I have to remind myself that only God sees the big picture.  He knows how these little ladies are like sponges soaking in all kinds of love and security.  And, it is just delightful when we see them soaking up the “King.”  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What we Learned Our First Week as a Foster Family

What a blur this past week has been.  It took 4 months to complete our foster training and 6 weeks before we finally got a call to take a sibling group of 3 girls. (Now down to 2 girls)

In the past 5 days we have learned more about grace, mercy and the need to stockpile applesauce than we ever imagined!

I'm typing this list so that in a few years. after we have become more seasoned as a foster family, we can look back and laugh over what some day we might come to think of as the "little stuff."  Right now, nothing is little.  We are in survival mode.  Me, as the mom.  My kids, with their new "siblings." As well as the girls who had the rug pulled out from under them a week ago last night.

Things we Learned After Our First Week As A Foster Family

  • When receiving someone else's kids, there probably will not be such a thing as "Love At First Sight."  Learning to love these kids will take time.  I really hoped some deep mothering instinct would kick in and I would instantly love the girls...but that's just not happening.  Love is a process...
  • Just because toilet paper is such a common place item in my family doesn't mean it is common for everyone.  Learning where and how to poop is a skill that I never dreamed I would be teaching this week.
  • Coloring books and water colors have saved my sanity and allowed us to be able to eat this week.  Without them, I would probably still be preparing the first meal for the girls.  This has been the ONLY way so far to keep them in a seat for more than 30 seconds.
  • Boundaries, rules and common sense HAVE to be taught.  And kids who have never been taught not only don't know basic rules in a family, but have no concept of them and don't even know they're breaking them.   We have had to teach things like, "Playing in the street is not ok." and "Biting the top off of a glass weather instrument and drinking what's inside is not ok!"
  • Hungry kids eat OFTEN!  Our girls came very hungry and malnourished.  They eat like little birds, a little at a time and VERY often!  We have had to teach that it is ok to ask for food; you don't have to steal and hide it.
  • Prayer is a must.  In my own strength I would be failing miserably, but with God all things really are possible!
  • There is NO down time...yet! 
  • Sleep and alone time are more precious than ever! The girls like to follow me everywhere.
  • A supportive husband is absolutely necessary!  Especially one who loves kids and loves to draw and has infinite patience.
  • I can't believe that we have already learned that not every placement works out.  When you have a 13 year old girl placed in your home with a 15 year old son of your own, there might be problems, especially when the 13 year old has no concept of appropriate relationships.  The 13 year old already has a new foster mom.  I feel both guilt and relief.
  • In the first week of a new placement, especially your first week of fostering ever, the social workers have become fast friends!  
  • There are kids in the US who have no idea what a dishwasher is or how cool automatic doors at Target are!
  • Having other foster parents to talk to is invaluable!  The need to vent to someone who won't judge you for your raw emotions is priceless and necessary!
  • Reading police reports about the new kids is necessary as well as excruciating!  
  • Working with medicaid is a new skill I am still learning.
  • Like we learned in our training, daddy is the hero!  The girls can't wait for their new daddy to come home from work.  Speaking of their new daddy...the girls have learned that daddy goes to work EVERY day and he comes home EVERY night. They had no concept that dads did this.  
  • Being called mommy and daddy by children who are not my own this soon is weird and cool at the same time.
Things My Kids Have Learned This Week...
  • Privacy that they didn't even know they had is gone.  Especially for my daughter whose bedroom turned into somewhat of a dormitory!
  • You have to have clothes on ALL the time.  No more running around in just underwear!
  • Stuff can be replaced.  Because the girls have no self control yet and touch everything, special treasures have to be hidden for a while.  It's been like baby-proofing all over again, but this time it's for a 6 and 8 year old.
  • Their problem solving skills are being honed as well as refined under pressure.  Sometimes that means its ok to go hide for a while and sneak chocolate with me!
  • Separate bed times are a blessing!  The time we have as a family after the girls go to bed will become VERY precious to us over time!
  • Not all kids react the same to the new kids being here.  They each have to accept the changes on their own at their own pace.   That means some have delighted me with their efforts while some have hidden.  Both are ok for now!
  • Patience, Patience, Patience.  Kids from broken homes don't come fixed.  
  • Fixing takes TIME!
  • Mom is breaking all the screen time rules we set as a family.  TV is one of few ways to get the girls to calm down.  Changing that also takes time.  
  • Psychology 101:  In homes like the one where the girls came from some parts of their brains just haven't been developed.  Parts that control social skills, moods and self control are now up to us to teach.  Time!

We didn't just become foster parents this past week, we have become a foster family.  We are all sacrificing for the mission we decided to live as a family.  We are all tired and ready to throw in the towel at moments already, but we are also determined to press on and see what huge blessings God has in store for us by next week, or next month or next year.  We are living out one of my all time favorite verses:

"Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers - not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not for greed for money, but eager to serve; not lording over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."  1 Peter 5:2-3

Sunday, February 2, 2014

I could NEVER do THAT! But now we ARE!

So often I hear the words, "Oh, I could never do THAT?"

Usually those words come from moms who think that they could never stay home all day with their kids AND be responsible for educating them at the same time.

I try not to be sassy with these ladies or show too much disdain, because I used to be one of them.  When you are a licensed teacher who chooses to stay home with her kids and then has a child who struggles in school it is only natural for others to ask if you had ever considered educating him yourself.

I was asked that often 10 or so years ago.  My answer was always the same, "Heck no!  I'll kill him and be on the evening news by Friday!"  Why would I want to stay home with so challenging a kiddo and NOT be paid for it?! Of course, now I wish I had considered it many years sooner! :O)

I get the answer.  I answered it myself many times. 

I could never do THAT!   

I am at a place once again where moms are telling me "I could NEVER do THAT!"  We have recently announced to our friends and family that we plan to begin fostering kids in our area.  What I sense at times is that some people are actually thinking "Why would you WANT to do that?"  It's a good an honest question and one I have been pondering myself for over a year.  And to some extent the answer is who would WANT to do that?  I mean who would want to disrupt their own family dynamics to bring in a child who may come with more baggage than we already deal with?  Why would we want to stretch our finances any tighter than they already are?  Why would we want to tax our schedule any more than it is already is?  Why would we want to expose our kids to worldly issues they have not been exposed to?  Why would we want to have to go to court on the behalf of someone else's mistakes and bad choices?  Why? Why? Why?  The questions are endless.  

At our first Foster Care training meeting we were asked to tell the group why we plan to foster children.  I hate to admit that I was a bit flustered and unprepared to answer.  They wanted a 2 minute answer.  I have been processing this for so long that the answer is so much more than that.  Yes, there are more kids in need of a place to call home than there are willing homes available in Wells County, but that's only a small piece of a much larger puzzle.  

As I have spent much time in prayer and thinking through the answer to this question. I have also been amazed and blessed to see God's hand at work through every step of this process!

Sometimes we pray a prayer and have no idea how or when God will fulfill it!  

17 years ago when we bought our house, we thought it was SO large and only hoped we could fill it!  As we thanked God for this old house and property, we asked him to bless it not only as our home but that He would use it for his glory and purposes.  That is probably one of the first steps in our Foster journey. Back then, we had no idea how God planned to use our home!

Sometimes we live through a situation that we have no idea how God can ever use for his good purposes.

When I was a kid myself I had no idea that the dysfunction around me could ever be used for any good purpose. If my own childhood helps me relate to and love child in our home better than I could otherwise then I praise God for it.  

When I was asked to resign from my job a few years ago, I saw no good future purpose in it. I felt only betrayal and sadness over what I lost.  Months passed before I saw it as God's sovereign way of preparing me for this season.

Sometimes we pray desperate "What NOW?" prayers.

When I grew up I prayed all the time for a different family. 

When two of our babies went to heaven before taking their first breath on Earth, I prayed in desperation for God to give us children. What Now?

When I lost my job over something I didn't say or do I prayed in anguish.  Why did God take that from me? Wasn't teaching my mission from him?  What Now?

When our son became suicidal a few years ago I prayed fervently for protection.  What Now?

As I look back I can see God's hands not only lifting me and carrying me through all of these turbulent times but I see them hovering over me as well.  He not only carried me through the fires, he had refining purposes IN the fires.  I'm sure there will be future fires in our life, but we are presently in a season of rest that only God could bring.

The last 3 years have been such a season of restoration.  My son's health has been restored.  My "career" has been restored to more than it ever was before.  My family is all that I could have ever hoped or asked for!  

Now I am in a new season if "What Now?" prayer.  This new season has been one of expectation!  What's next God?  Why have you brought us to a time as this?  Why all the rest and restoration?  There's no way God is going to let a prayer like that go unanswered!

Early last year, God started answering some of my expectant "What Now?" prayers in ways I didn't see coming!

By mid year, His answers made me know he was asking for action! 

After returning from Africa in June,  I had to ask myself, "What Now?"  Why would God have me go to the third world and not ask that question? So, God, Now that you showed me African poverty, what do I do about it?"  The answer didn't come right away.

Over the fall our local paper ran a series of articles about the meth problem in our area. One article in particular grabbed me!  It stated that there are not enough homes in our area for all of the misplaced children who have to be removed from these meth homes.  God reminded me of the prayer to use our house. He asked me if the offer was still good.  

Without spilling too many family skeletons out into my blog, God also used my mom's testimony to grow a love for someone else's children in me.  Last fall I heard my mom's whole testimony for the first time.  I knew bits and pieces of her life but not all.  Before she shared her whole story with others she had to share it with me first.  When she did I realized that my childhood was even worse than I ever thought.  It hit me that there were times when I could very well have become a child in need of foster care myself.  That was daunting to ponder over!  At the same time that God freed my mom from carrying this burden all by herself for many years, he laid it at my feet and asked, "What Now?"

I knew right away what all of these experiences had in common.  God has a new purpose for me and my family.  I knew I was at the point where I had to share my heart.

I wondered if God was laying this purpose and hunger on my husband and kids.  How do you just tell your husband what you think God wants the WHOLE family to do?  I prayed for 2 months before sharing this with him.  I actually got to the point where I had thought through so many What If situations that could make this a very bad idea that I secretly hoped he would balk at the idea and I could just keep praying about it!  :O)  Praying is safe!  Fostering could get messy.

But God's hand was all over and under this idea of "mine."  Within 24 hours of telling him what was on my heart, we had a social worker at the house and a mortgage size stack of paperwork to begin filling out!  The kids reacted just like I thought they would!  They were beyond excited!  Within a few days, my daughter had her 2nd dresser cleaned out so her new sisters would have room for their things!  My middle son told me to put the bottom bunk back on his bed so boys could have a home to learn about Jesus in as well!  

Is the moral of the story, "Be careful what you pray for! God might answer!"  or "When you pray with expectation, God WILL answer!"  

I think the moral is something more like, "If you pray, when God answers, He will provide!" 

All the What Ifs that my friends are thinking of when they tell me they couldn't Do THAT are the sames ones I am processing every day.  All of their concerns are God's as well.  God wouldn't give us a love for children we don't know without making a way for us to show it. He wouldn't give us a desire without making it possible for us to do this!  

It's true we couldn't do THIS on our own.  He will be there with his hands over, under and around us all the way!  

So what is the answer to the question, "Why did you decide to Foster?"

God wants us to!  

We prayed to be used.  

We are trying to be obedient.  

God will make a way!

If you have taken the time to read this post all the way through, you must be pretty interested in our journey!  We covet your prayers!  We are blessed that you will be part of the force that makes a way for us to love. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Nation Without Daddies

While reading history with my middle man this morning an idea came to me that I have never thought of before.

We are reading about ancient times during the lives of Moses, Joshua and Caleb.  This is one of our favorite times in history!  If you know my boys, you know why!

(If you do not know my boys, search this site for their names and you will know why this is!)

We were reading about the time period after the exodus when Moses was leading the Israelites through the wilderness.  As you may remember, it was at this time when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.  Josh's book (Abeka) mentioned that the nation-state of Israel at this time was the first "Nation Under God."  

There were believers in and followers of God before this time but never a nation that followed after God as a whole.  I have just never thought of that before.

This new nation was admonished by Joshua that as long as they obeyed God, they would be blessed and if they disobeyed, they would be punished. Throughout the Old Testament as well as throughout history, there have been many successions of blessings and curses.

The same is true today, of course.

Whether a nation chooses to acknowledge God or not, he did institute government.  The nations prior to the Israelites had leaders as well as government, however, they choose their leaders and rules themselves and rarely included God in on their decision making.  In most cases they eventually came to recognize their rulers as gods.  

When God gave the Ten Commandments it was the first time in human history that God directly involved himself in human government and laid down the parameters for how he wanted his people to govern themselves.  He gave them directions on how o relate to himself and how to relate to each other.  

God also established himself as the ruler.  If the Israelites obeyed his commands, they would have no need of an earthly king.  If you have read much of the Old Testament, then you know how long that lasted!

Ok, so here is where I really got to thinking!

Our nation, like the Israelites, tried to put God at the helm of its leadership when our country was being established.  We tried making him, his morals and his Word the ultimate authority in our lawmaking.  

Like the Israelites, who moved into Canaan after the Exodus, however, and who were more influenced by the Canaanite culture than they were the influencers,  Americans have been more influenced by the world than influencers on the world over the past century.

Just like the Israelites adopted the ways of the Canaanites, Americans have adopted the "ways of the world" that our founding fathers were trying to escape.  We no longer look to God and his Word for wisdom, we look to the world and to ourselves.  Where did that bit of logic get the Israelites...?  

The first and ultimate Father, ie "Daddy" has been eliminated from our government and culture.

Speaking of those Founding Fathers, they have been essentially eliminated from our culture too.  I'm not saying that the world will ever forget George Washington or Benjamin Franklin. I don't think that will ever happen.  We are just raising a generation (maybe even the second or third generation) of children who have heard of these men but have no idea what they stood for.  

The masses of our children are not being taught that George Washington wrote to his brother after almost loosing his life during a battle in the French and Indian war to tell him that God surely spared his life for a reason!  

The second set of Fathers "Daddies" (what they believed in and fought for) are being erased from our culture's memories.

I just happen to be reading a book right now that I picked up from the "free" pile outside of our church's library.  It's a 1990 copyright called, "Children At Risk: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Our Kids." 

I honestly thought it was going to be a parenting book with advice on rearing stubborn kids!  It is, in fact, more about what our culture is doing and has done to claim the hearts and minds of our kids.  It is amazing to read all of the stats from the 80's in the book and think that things are even worse today!  It's a GREAT read!

The section that I just happened to read last night was about families without fathers. With so many families ending in divorce and so many families starting off without two parents to begin with there are LOTS of "daddy-less" families in our nation!

As a woman, I know I am perfectly capable of raising my boys if their daddy ever leaves or dies.

BUT, As an adult child of divorced parents, I also know that it is NOT the best way.

There are many holes in my life today that are still empty simply because my daddy lived across town and not under my same roof. Except for the Grace of God, I could have easily been a statistic like many girls who go looking for love in all the wrong places simply because they lacked a father to show them daily love.

Alas, our nation also lacks fathers daddies in so many homes to nurture and train the next generation(s) as God intended.

We truly are living in a fatherless nation in so many ways.  

That thought was profound to me today.  It also deeply saddened me.  

We have forgone God's design for family.

We have forgone God's design for government.

We have also forgone God's design for godly leadership.

I know what God did to teach the Israelites that they needed to return to him.

I fear for what it will be like for our generation if God decides it's time for us to return to him.

We live in a Nation - State where our leaders think that the role that our fathers once filled should now be filled by the government.

I don't like it.  

I want my "daddy" back.

A New Perspective!

It has been a while since I have posted to my blog.  I keep searching for inspiration in life and in my head.  Nothing has come to my mind to write about for quite a while.  No jokes please!  Some of you know me well enough to make them!

As I have searched for ideas to write about I have come to realize that the whole focus of my blog needs a change.  

Over the past two years I have needed to say much about homeschooling my three kiddos who are just loaded with academic, social and emotional labels.  

There has been much for me to say about kiddos with lots acronyms that can be attached to their personalities and learning styles. ADHD, ASD, and OCD are just a few!

I really benefited from this season of writing about the kids from the "labels" perspective. There was much I felt I needed to share and equally as much that I just wanted to get off my chest. 

I think that season of focus is over, however.

Each time I try to think of something to write from that perspective I just come up blank. The longer we homeschool, the longer the labels just seem so unimportant.  The longer we homeschool the more I have been able to recognize my children as a whole and not as a set of "can do" and "can't do" labels.  

I am desperately trying to see them as God sees them.  

I want to know them as God knows them.  

I want to teach them with the end in mind, not from the perspective of what they can't do but rather from the perspective of what God has for them to do. 

With that being said, its time to change my perspective as a mom and teacher...

And it's time to change the perspective of my blog.

From today forward, my focus is on abilities rather than disabilities.

... on what we can do, not what we can't do.

...on how God sees my kids not how the world of academia sees them.

Even though no life is perfect with no regrets,

Even though there are moments when I wonder if I can do this one more day moment,

Even though I am not a perfect mom or teacher,

Even though I do have some regrets in the past,

When it comes to deciding to homeschool the kids for the long run, I have no regrets!