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

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

Book: On a Wing and a Prayer

Right now the girls and I are reading about the missionary, Nate Saint, as part of their homeschool curriculum this year. We just finished reading a book on Cameron Townsend the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators. If you’re wondering, I order their books through My Fathers World and have been so pleased the last two years with their materials.

Reading about these early missionaries has been so refreshing for my faith. Their courage, strength, faithfulness and perseverance is astounding. Honestly it puts my modern day American mindset to shame. But I am grateful for these stories for both me and my children. We are learning so much about what it means to really give your life to Christ no matter the cost.

In a recent chapter we read about Nate reconstructing airplane wings in his small adobe home in Tuxtla, Mexico. He becomes very ill and is confined to his bed, alone, with no way to contact anyone for aid. The answer to his prayers for help come through a complete stranger. Phil Baer, a missionary, had only heard about some American man building airplane wings in his home and out of curiosity went to see it for himself. He found a very sick Nate and a very dirty home. He immediately takes responsibility for Nate, nursing him back to health and hand washing all his dirty laundry. This astounded me. It’s so simple and yet so amazingly selfless. They are strangers to each other! But they share the same mission, the Great Commission. We are even told Phil had a wife and new baby that he spent weeks away from while he helped Nate. And I suspect his wife wasn’t griping and complaining for him to return home. Sure, she probably longed for him to be back with them but I’m fairly confident she was just as willing to sacrifice for the sake of Christ and spreading the gospel. It’s so incredible! The people we are reading about are so sacrificial. They are willing to give up things that we hold so tightly to. Things like family, homes, jobs, comforts, conveniences, safety! Why? Because they BELIEVE Gods Word. They don’t just quote Philippians 3:8 they live it out, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” And so others can gain Christ as well. They don’t just come into relationship with Christ and keep Him to themselves, they HAVE to share this amazing Good News with the unreached. They have counted the cost and come to the conclusion that knowing Jesus and making Him famous to the ends of the earth is worth whatever.it.takes.

And I find myself asking the question….. Have we come to that same conclusion?

On counting the cost and expendability

I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks now. Today we read another chapter out of “A Wing and a Prayer” and I have to include a little from it. Nate Saint was a pilot for MAF, Missionary Aviation Fellowship. In today’s chapter he is in an airplane accident and survives with a badly broken back. Meanwhile, he misses the birth of his first child because he was in a hospital in Panama and his wife was too far along in pregnancy to travel with him. He’s about to be interviewed on Christian radio.

“During his many days in the hospital, Nate had been thinking about the idea of ‘expendability,’ and that was the subject of his radio talk…….. Nate used the term to mean that Christians need to offer themselves to be used up by God however He wishes to use them.”

He nearly died in a plane crash, missed his first child’s entrance into the world, was in a cast for 5 months and still could not wait to get back in a plane to serve missionaries and the unreached people groups of Ecuador.

Lately, the Lord has been teaching our family a lot about “counting the cost” (See Luke 14:28-33) and our commitment to Him and what He calls us to. Oh how we are in a perpetual state of learning…. And re-learning. 😉 As Christians we are representatives of Christ, ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 5:20) So this means everything we do reflects Him. Our choices can reflect him well or poorly. They can show great trust in Christ and strength through the power of His Spirit. They can show devotion to Him and the things he cares about. Or our choices can show a distrust in God and a lack of devotion to him. They can suggest he lacks power or that we don’t really believe what he tells us in his Word. It’s easy to quote, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” But admittedly, that’s easier to apply to running a marathon than let’s say, loving hard to love people or responding joyfully to the daily challenges of life. Over the last month our experience with fostering became,…. more complicated. I won’t be disclosing any details here and now. We still have our two little guys and they are doing great in our home. But, as I’m learning more every day, foster care is complex and messy. Our situation is not abnormal but that doesn’t make it any less difficult or overwhelming at points. And there have been moments where we have wondered (again) are we supposed to be doing this? Is this right for our family? Is this risking our children’s safety and wellbeing? Can we effectively serve a broken “system”? Is this worth it? I’ll be honest, we have been able to come up with plenty of reasons for why we could stop and why it would be “okay” and we would have lots of people support us if we decided to walk away from this. But for every reason to quit, God has given us reason to persevere. For every fear or concern, God has given us confidence that it is worth it.

Our reputation could be at stake.

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me.” Matthew‬ ‭5:11‬ ‭

It’s too risky. Aren’t we supposed to protect our family first?

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” Matthew‬ ‭10:39‬

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God]– he cannot be My disciple.” Luke ‭14:26‬ ‭AMP‬‬

The system is too broken. It’s not helping the families as it should.

“Tell all the nations, “The LORD reigns!” The world stands firm and cannot be shaken. He will judge all peoples fairly.” Psalms‬ ‭96:10‬ ‭

“For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone…….Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?” Lamentations‬ ‭3:31-33, 37‬ ‭

“The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” Psalm‬ ‭103:6‬

The thing is life is hard. Maintaining commitments is hard. But just because it gets difficult (or sometimes illogical) that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing it. For those of us who call ourselves Christians we actually are told to expect hardship and opposition and then we are given promise after promise of what our clinging to Christ and perseverance will produce.

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:35-39‬

In a country where prosperity abounds and comfort is king, we have a tendency to run from difficulty. We view a lot of life’s challenges as strictly negative and when the going gets tough we can easily justify throwing in the towel with a squad of well meaning cheerleaders affirming our decision, regardless of the commitment we once made and its implications. I don’t know what you are considering giving up on. I know Satan certainly wants us to give up on the things God calls us to. And while sometimes God may have us step away from something, we have to ask ourselves, “What will give God the most glory?”

And again, on being “expendable for God” in the words of Nate Saint, “Isn’t the price small in the light of God’s infinite love?”

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by Godʼs power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:3-9‬

Flexibility, Compassion, And Grace

The days we have visits, sometimes, are our most difficult days. Lets just say my flexibility gets really stretched and challenged. To be honest, by nature I am not that flexible. No doubt this once very tightly wound girl has become more go with the flow but I still like schedules, preparation, and order. Those are all good things but when you are working with families that come from hard places sometimes you just have to chuck it all out the window and pray for grace. God is working on me in this area.

The Cancelled Visits

We have already experienced many of these. We orchestrate our entire morning around getting the babies ready; Timing everything just right so they are perky and pleasant for mommy and daddy and then we get the call, “They won’t be making it today.” Well yes, that can be irritating. I typically am thinking of the ways I can capitalize on not having two children 1 and under. “Maybe I’ll take my kids to the park.” “Maybe we can go to the library.” “Maybe I’ll bury my weary soul in Gods Word for the.entire.time..” “Maybe I’ll go grocery shopping, or clean, or take a nap.” All those awesome plans get jettisoned and it usually takes me half an hour to move on and figure out how to re-work my day. Not to mention the disappointment in the parents. All the thoughts that run through my head. Primarily, “What could possibly keep you from seeing your children? What is more important than spending time with these sweet little guys?”

The Visit and the Aftermath

On the days where we have “successful” visits the babies come home a mess. They are tired, over stimulated, and very fussy. They’ve been passed from person to person, some they don’t know, some they do. I can’t even imagine the effects this has on a 1 year old. How confused he must be….

Grace and Perspective

It would be very easy for me to develop resentment towards the parents in both situations and to become negative and lack hope in them. Yes I do see a difference in the boys when we’ve gone a week with no visits and they have kept a consistent schedule. Yes I do wonder if they’d be “better off” staying with us. I am sure these thoughts are natural. But as soon as I start thinking that way God reminds me that He is bigger than missed visits and disrupted schedules. That He loves these boys and their parents, too. That He has all power to heal and redeem and change the trajectory of an entire family. So I reject the hopeless thoughts and the compulsion to try and control and I pray for the babies and their parents. I ask God to give us opportunity to invest in the mom and dad and pour His love out on them as He has so graciously on us. And then I wait expectantly for those opportunities to arise.

A Thank You And An Invitation

To the ones who are praying on our behalf, your prayers are felt and so appreciated. I know with out a doubt, there is no way we could do this with out prayer. Every time I hear “I am praying for you” or am sent a passage of scripture, my mind and heart are encouraged, strengthened, and directed to the One we are doing this with and for. Please keep praying!

To the ones who have brought us dinner, our bellies thank you. My restless body thanks you. And my children and husband are especially grateful for the back up cooks. It may not always occur to people that taking in foster children is a lot like bringing home a new baby. Especially when one IS a new baby 😉 We not only appreciate the night off from cooking but we love the company that comes with the meal.

To the one who babysat for us so we could take Caleb bowling for his 4th birthday, Caleb REALLY thanks you! 🙂 It’s tough being the baby prince and getting dethroned times two. But in truth, we all needed a breather, the time to reconnect as a family unit, the time to celebrate our little boy. Thank you for allowing us to do this with out dragging the little-bitty’s around a loud bowling alley. In fact, they thank you, too! They thank you for loving on them and keeping them in their new calm environment, on schedule, not a minute after bedtime. Everyone was happy! You are a tremendous blessing.

Thank you to the ones who have given clothing, blankets, bottles, pacis, car seats and money for all the other essential baby items. Because these sweet little guys came with absolutely nothing. And yes the state does reimburse for certain items but honestly, I haven’t exactly mastered going shopping with five kids so my sanity thanks you! Your generous example has been a source of edification and reminded us why we should be generous people. Thank you!

As my title says, this is not only a thank you but this is also an invitation to those who are wondering how they can be a support to children and families in foster or adoptive situations. These are just a few ways that you can be a huge blessing to a child and their care givers. If you know a foster family consider being a support to them in one of these ways. If you don’t know a foster family, consider going to your local DFCS office or a private Christian agency and asking if you can encourage and give to one of their existing families. This is something you could consider doing with your local church, small group, or even just a few friends. We are so incredibly thankful for all the ways people have loved on us and these two little ones.

I am linking Bethany Christian services because it is a national organization that likely you can connect with in your area. But there are several organizations like it so feel free to research and ask around and allow God to lead you to the right ministry. (We have chosen to work with the state this time.)

https://www.bethany.org/

I’m also linking their Safe Families ministry. I have a good friend who is a host family. Consider being a host family or a host family friend. 🙂

https://www.bethany.org/other-services/safe-families-for-children

If you have any questions feel free to ask me and I’ll do my best to answer.