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.

No comments:

Post a Comment