Lean not on your own understanding…..

I wrote this post a few weeks ago. When I got around to publishing I wasnt sure what to title it. And then it hit me. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I have written before on strange feelings that you experience in fostering children. There are so many. Strange not being necessarily bad, just weird, like butterflies in your stomach.

We had gotten to have our two previous foster boys with us for several days. Their grand parents were feeling under the weather so I was thrilled to offer some relief. We had little baby J a week and big baby K for the following weekend. I thought I was biting off more than I could chew. I mean 6 kids is one thing. But 3 of them under the age of 2 that’s another story. All in all it was a real treat. You really learn how to improvise with that many babies. “Here, have an appetizer while I fix your dinner. Puffs anyone?” Honestly the goal in my head goes something like this, “If we can keep the crying to a minimal it’ll all be ok. I’ll be ok. Here, have a go go squeeze.” I probably spent half our grocery budget in all that trendy baby junk but whatever, it works! And then Jason came home on Saturday with the big guns. Bubbles, chalk, and a slide. My hero! 😍

Back to the topic at hand though. As I watched Jason teach baby K, who is now totally a toddler, how to play teeball I felt mixed emotions. On one hand I felt a sense of happiness and Gods grace in this little guys life. Someone (us!) is teaching him teeball. Yet there is a sadness over the fact that we are filling shoes of his real parents. When I feed baby J his bottles and snuggle up to his precious face….. I feel privileged that I get to do this but I feel broken that his mommy isn’t. It’s good and sad all at once.

People often tell me, “I could never foster. I wouldn’t be able to let them go.” Honestly, it’s crossed my mind to respond, “Do you think I’m void of those emotions?” Usually I say something to diffuse the comment because I know people don’t mean what could be implied. A fellow blogger and foster/adoptive parent Jason Johnson has the perfect response, “Instead of letting the fear of getting too attached deter us, we should actually let the fear of these kids never feeling truly attached to someone drive us. These kids need people that are willing to love them enough to hurt for them if they ever have to let them go.”

We’ve only “let them go” 3 times so far and each time was different. We had our first placement (4 years ago) that we requested removal, that stunk. It was confusing trying to do what was right but fighting guilty feelings. Then we had a emergency placement. That was strange because two little girls came and went within a week and I have no clue how they are doing. Then came the boys. That’s been a roller coaster. In ways I have bonded with baby J like my own. And then there is K…. he has some quirks but something about him is equally endearing. I love these boys. God flooded me with peace when they left us. I pray for that peace to return. As their case moves forward and is coming to a close I am trying to grapple with what their future holds. I want to confidently place them in the sovereign hands of God but my mothering instincts and that pesky desire for control creeps in. I find myself wondering how all the choices that were made for them will effect them. I have this urge to spring into action, “What can we do?!?” And yet everything is out of my hands. And though Satan may tempt me to fear and worry, I am reminded Who’s hands they are in. And so I pray and I trust and I rest in the Fathers infinite love for those two little guys. And I cling to scriptures like this.

“Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them.” Psalms‬ ‭10:17-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Wherever He leads I’ll go…..or stay

We recently have returned from a wonderful, family filled week in Florida. Jason’s brother Mike is now married to Mrs. Jessica Graham. 🙂 Congrats to those two! So very happy for them. We drove down a few days early and enjoyed time with family and friends in Tampa. We then celebrated their union and marriage over the course of a long weekend in Orlando. As we drove home Sunday I felt I could burst from the precious time spent with the people I love most in this world. As I type about it my eyes fill with tears.

The last few days have been hard. I miss e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. This happens from time to time. I come home from drinking deeply (and non stop) family, friends, love, laughter, affection, all the good, God given gifts of relationship and then find myself home, isolated, and cut off cold turkey. My closest loved ones are 45 minutes away and it’s just far enough for loneliness to settle in comfortably. I remember how, in 2010, we sold our home in Brooksville to move CLOSER to family, only for God to bring us 508 miles away. He has always been gracious, especially allowing us to live in close proximity with our cousins those first few years, but in His sovereign mercy He brought us out a little bit further. And when the newness and excitement wore off I’d be lying if I said I’ve never thought about moving back. Back to Dallas. Back to Tampa. Back anywhere that someone who knows me inside and out resides. All along the way though God has confirmed we should be here. He’s revealed the great needs in this small community and that He indeed wants to partner with us in spreading His Good News to the hopeless. And there are many. Time and again the verse, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sister-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:28 I’m tempted to think life would be better in the company of my family or friends. We’d have more support, help in this ministry, more community with believers, etc. etc. All good things. But God has been clear. My love for Him must trump family, friends, and mostly, my personal comfort. God doesn’t always call us away from these relationships, but for us now He has. His Word also tells us, “We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God. It was all given to us by God’s own power, when we learned he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness.” ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:3‬ And we can trust that His will and ways are perfect. It may not always feel good but He is in control. I am grateful that family is only an 8 hour drive away and not an entire ocean. God truly knows how to stretch me without my breaking.

Psalm 61:1-5 has been at the forefront of my mind, jotted in my journal, and recited from my lips even at points when I wasn’t “feeling” it. In my sadness I have repeated it over and over and the Word of God has been faithful to restore my trust and confidence in Him.

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. For you, God, have heard my vow; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.”

Even as I want so badly to be with family I know in the depths of my soul, Jesus Christ is truly all I need. Sometimes it takes many shed tears and pleading with the Lord (and a few wasted hours on realtor.com) to remember that and have peace about it. Feelings and emotions can be so intense. But I know I have not been forsaken and that God is with me and goes before me. I hope if you are struggling with loneliness you will know that, too. Fight for your joy in Christ, through prayer and reading His Word. Even when you don’t think you have the strength, the faith, or simply dont “feel like it”, persevere at His throne of grace.

Psalm 68:19 “Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.”

For those particularly pesky bouts of melancholy blues I highly recommend When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper. You can download it for free at DesiringGod.org

Love like Jesus

There is something about fostering that I’m learning and have wanted to share. It’s something that I’m not sure gets talked about openly, because it’s a sensitive subject. I imagine it’s very hard to understand if you haven’t fostered or adopted, but I’m guessing it’s not unique to me. :-/

Before we stepped into fostering, the idea of caring for children in need just pulled at my heartstrings. For the most part, I thought that loving someone else’s child the way I love my own would come naturally. Especially since, for now, we have chosen to foster babies and toddlers. I just couldn’t imagine it being difficult to love a baby. Additionally, knowing that these children are coming from such broken places, I assumed the compassion I had would further fuel my love and affection.

I thought too highly of myself.

There are days when my affection does not flow naturally. My love feels forced and fake. I get irritated by behaviors that I didn’t contribute to. I forget about their trauma and being compassionate.

I am selfish and self serving.

Honestly, the thing that confronted me most (and God has been dealing with me ever so gently) is all the selfishness and pride that is bound up in my parenting. My kids aren’t perfect, but they are healthy, generally happy, mostly obedient, smart, funny, and beautiful. And though I KNOW that is all because of God’s sovereign grace and mercy, there are moments when I’m tempted to think, “Jason and I did such a good job. We are such good parents.”

Children in foster care come with so much hurt and brokenness and it manifests itself differently in each child. It takes awhile sometimes to see the unique God given beauty and wonderful characteristics that He has placed in them. They come dealing with trauma. They come with quirks. Right now we have a screamer. My point is, I have been enjoying my children and parenting out of the overflow of GOOD things. We haven’t had to walk through anything really tough yet with our children and so, for the most part, loving them, liking them, it’s been pretty easy. In foster parenting you are brought a child that has been hurt, had no structure, and no loving discipline. They exhibit odd and even frustrating behaviors that are not their fault, at that point you are confronted with your true motives in parenting. I’ll be honest, I like when our children make us look good. It is an “I will invest in you and you will yield a profit,” mentality, with the “profit” being you respond in a way that makes me feel and look good. I know, it is worldly and consumer oriented. I know that’s not what parenting is about. Children are not our accessories though often we treat them that way.

Here to serve, not be served.

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
Galatians‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God has revealed to me that if we are to be effective in fostering (AND parenting), we have to accept the good and the bad, the beautiful and the broken, just like he does.

Katie Davis makes a compelling observation in her book, Kisses from Katie:

It’s just different when it’s your own child who’s suffering. But should it be?…..I believe that this is a normal human reaction. I also believe it is wrong. I believe that every human being on this planet is God’s child, perfectly made and beloved and cherished by Him. I believe that His heart hurts, even more than mine when my baby is hurting, for each and every one of the hurting, dying, starving, crying children in our world. So I have to believe that if my heart was truly seeking to be aligned with the heart of God, that I would hurt for each of these children as well. But sometimes, I forget. Sometimes I’m busy. Sometimes hurting for my very own children feels like enough. I believe the world says this is okay. I believe it is wrong.

This was so very convicting for me to read. But I believe she is right! Not only have I thought it was okay to love or hurt more for my children but more selfish than that, I have been all about what is good, beautiful and easy, and when faced with the uncomfortable, bad and broken I realized how shallow my love is. Thankfully God has placed His Holy Spirit in me and THAT is what makes it possible for me to truly love. I pray my heart would continue to align with His so I can love like He loves. We are here to serve and especially in the hard, broken places. It’s our job to show our children and other people’s children and ALL PEOPLE how Jesus loves.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭20:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Faith to let go

There are a thousand ways to magnify Christ in life and death. None should be scorned. All are important. But none makes the worth of Christ shine more brightly than sacrificial love for other people in the name of Jesus.- John Piper in Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than Waste it

Today Micaila and I made a little visit to see the boys. I had run across a few items of theirs and wanted to check on grandma, make sure she didn’t need anything before we headed out of town. I’m so thankful she is close, it was so sweet getting to see them. In my last post I wrote about the strangeness of having children for six months and then one day they are gone. It was surreal and I wasn’t sure how I was going to emotionally handle it. That’s the thing a lot of people say, “I would get to attached. I wouldn’t be able to let them go.”

God has been so very gracious.

I love that about him. You guys, can I just be honest with out getting on some sort of “soap box”? Sometimes I feel we choose not to do things because it seems like it would be too hard, too sad, too risky or too painful. We are so protective of ourselves that we miss getting to love and serve others. I’m here to tell you that you can entrust your heart, your fears, and your emotions to the Lord. I’m here to tell you that He will step in in ways that you can’t possibly imagine if you will just trust Him. He is not a God that wants to leave you broken hearted. He is a God that wants to offer hope and healing. Does it always look the way we thought it would? No. But we can still trust him.

God has flooded me with peace during this time in a way I could never muster up on my own. It is 100% a work of the Lord. And I am so thankful that we get to continue a relationship with the boys and their grandparents. Because what if this isn’t just about two boys….. what if this is about several family members that need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ?

I am praying more Christians would take the step of faith and serve these children and their family members who need Jesus in foster care.

If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right. To run from it is to waste your life.- John Piper, Risk is Right.

Please please check out this video!!

Time To Go

Fostering brings about so many strange feelings. One of the strangest is how it feels when it’s time for them to go. Our very first experience with this was three years ago and we asked to have a little girl placed in another foster parents home. I felt relief and guilt and sadness all at once. It was hard even though we knew it was the right decision. Today I am packing up all the belongings that the boys have accumulated in the last six months. They are going to live with a grandmother. Last night I finished a photo album of all the memories and mile stones they both had while here. They’ve grown and changed so much. It has been a crazy season for us. Going from three children to five and the fact that the boys are so close in age, it’s been non stop. We have had moments of joy and laughter and I have felt plenty of moments of inadequacy. Even in the most overwhelming times God has been there, affirming me through his people but mostly through his Word.

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:36‬ ‭


“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:58‬

So today as I packed all their things; their little clothes, their blankets, toys, presents we bought them for Christmas, and their memory book, and thought about all we’ve walked through with them…..I felt so strange. Not overwhelming sadness but not necessarily relief as we go back to “normal” for a little while. We took them to grandma and I didn’t have a complete come apart like I anticipated. I can attribute that to Gods grace. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:7‬ I am confident that grandma loves them and will care for them as we have, so that helps. Still, as we waved goodbye it’s almost like it’s not hit me yet. It feels like we will be back to get them in a few days. As I contemplated baby K’s expression as he waved at us I felt almost a sting in my heart,…. he doesn’t understand. He probably feels the same thing, “they’ll be back”. And maybe we will be. Grandma said to stay in touch. And I hope we get to. I hope this isn’t the end of our story with those boys. I hope we get to see more of Gods mercy and goodness at work in their lives. Because one thing is for certain, he loves them, his hands are on them, and he desires for them to know him. So we may not be their foster parents anymore but we certainly will never stop praying for them and we will always love them. Those boys will forever be in our hearts and I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve them.

“LORD, you will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from you.” Isaiah‬ ‭26:12

Nothing Special 

About a year ago Jason and I began talking and praying through whether or not we would step back into foster parenting. James 1:27 is pretty clear about Christians caring for widows and orphans in their distress and while we know you don’t have to be foster or adoptive parents to do this it was still heavy on our hearts. So we prayed and began pursuing what would be required to become foster parents again. Which in case you are wondering everything was required all over. We attended orientation, 20 hours of training, and began our home study. Around every requirement we saw opportunity for God to open or close the door and reveal His sovereign will. We encountered a few hurdles and lost paper work but ultimately God would say “yes” and we officially became foster parents on June 3rd. We already have our 2nd placement, two baby brothers, a one month old and a one year old.

Now before your head starts spinning as you consider the ages and number of children currently in our home I just want to let you in on a secret.

We are normal.

We get tired. I am in fact, very tired. We need time outs to regroup. We all, Jason, me, and the kids, have to adjust to new visitors and how it throws off our groove. We are learning a new level of patience, we don’t just have it. We are learning new ways to sacrifice and share and love. We are not super parents. We are not saints.

All I can say we are is willing. God most certainly is our strength, joy, patience and provision. It’s just not us. It’s Him. It’s the Holy Spirit.

I have no idea when or what I’ll write about. Of course I have to be careful of not sharing personal information about the children but I do hope to write to encourage foster parents and also give insight to how others can obey the call of James 1:27 with out having to be a foster or adoptive parent. We have been loved on in so many ways by the body of Christ and my heart is full of gratitude for Gods people. We can’t do this alone and I hope to share about how we aren’t. 🙂

What if?

I have this photo album that I stick miscellaneous photos in and so there are pictures from when Jason and I were just married and living at the beach all the way through the years up to this past Christmas, which is what I was putting in. Those actually filled the album and so now I need a new one. I digress. When I opened it, it flopped to a spot that has been a tender place for me. Tender like a wound that on the outside looks healed but on the inside still has some work to do. Here laid photos of a little face I’ve had difficulty looking at, for many reasons, over the last 2 years. Maybe you have a hunch at what little face I’m talking about. It’s been just over two years now since we said goodbye to our first and only child we cared for through fostering. I will never forget that day when we had to make one of the most difficult and humbling choices to have her placed with another family. Overwhelmed just doesn’t seem to encompass my state but at that point I felt I wasn’t serving her or my family well. I wanted to hang in there but I didn’t know if I could. I didn’t know what the “right thing” to do was. Hang on or let go. I was unraveling. In the days, weeks, and months to follow I have asked God all sorts of questions.
“Were we not ready?”

“Why that way?”

“What was the purpose?”

“Did we do the right thing?”

“Did we damage her fragile situation more by having her moved?”

“Will we step back into that ministry?”

I have also continued to pray for that little girl. I pray that wherever we failed her, wherever any person has failed her, that God would reveal Himself to her and be her source of hope, healing, and strength.

Being foster parents was hard. Harder than we imagined, in ways we didn’t see coming.

So for a while now, I’ve looked back on those photos and it’s just been a big fat reminder of my inadequacy. Because toward the end, I struggled to even have affectionate feelings for her. That’s hard for me to admit here because that is a wretched feeling. I mean I’ll be honest, there are days I don’t particularly “feel” like being all lovey on my kids but they are my kids. I gave birth to them and because of Gods marvelous design it is natural for me to know beyond a shadow of a doubt I love them, even if I do feel crummy at the moment that I don’t want to hug all over them. With someone else’s child you question yourself. You think “what’s wrong with you, don’t you have a heart?!” And yet you are void of those feelings that make it easier to hug and hold this little child. I cried and prayed and reminded myself over and over that love is a choice, not a feeling. And I would hug her and hold her and sit her in my lap and just trust God would fill the gap. Today, for the first time, I looked at those photos and saw her sweet face and by her smile was reminded that she was a happy little girl and I remembered good times. I was having a moment when I didn’t feel like a complete and utter failure and it was sweet. And then it happened…..regret snuck in again. I thought “What if we had hung in there?” But as I sat there I knew deep down that God was in control, still is, and even through what is difficult He is sovereign.

“What if?”

Wondering “What if?” is a tricky thing. Sometimes it’s good. If applied positively to the future you can dream and aspire and accomplish wonderful things. But sometimes “What if?” leads us to fear, resentment or for me today regret. Regret isn’t all bad, we learn from mistakes right? And a synonym for regret is repentant which is Biblical. “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalms‬ ‭51:17‬ But regret that is condemning and guilt producing is not where God wants us to stay. Repent, yes. But as you repent and turn don’t forget to move forward. Satan wants regret to steal your joy and the future God longs for you to have in Christ. Don’t let him.

I don’t know what your “What if?” is. I don’t know if it’s inspiring or paralyzing, if it instills fear, anger or regret. The fact is we can not change our past. We can learn from it and we must trust God with both it and the future. Our choices do matter…. and I pray my choices today, (including how I choose to use my past) and tomorrow would reflect greater dependence and trust in a mighty, powerful, all knowing, and loving God. I pray that for you, too.

I love how John Piper puts it “Nothing can blow you over when you are inside the walls of Romans 8:28.”