The Joy of Ministering to Birth Families

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

One thing that I have found surprising joy in with fostering is connecting with the birth families. I say surprising for a few reasons. For one, I admit, I pretty much think about adoption with every placement right away. “Could we adopt this child?” “What would that look like for our family?” “How does their name sound with ours?” Fostering is about reunification though. The initial goal is not adoption. It can lead to adoption but that’s not the intended purpose. Secondly, interacting with birth families is scary at first. You never know how the relatives of this child are going to respond to you.

I really want to encourage those that are fostering or thinking about fostering to embrace the ministry of the birth family. Because these kids are coming out of hard, tough situations. Some really bad, horrific even. But that doesn’t disqualify their family altogether. Sometimes, yes, there are no suitable family members. Not one. And thank goodness for the beautiful act of adoption and for the families who step into that role. But a lot of times there is family. Family who has been loving or fighting for what’s right. Family that wants to break cycles of abuse and addiction. And this is a unique opportunity for those of us as foster parents. To give people the benefit of the doubt. To encourage. To uplift. To point them to Jesus.

Baby E has family that loves him. Family that was there when I picked him up from the hospital. Family that has been here for him long before I was and pouring into him in ways that make him healthy and happy in my care. They long for him. They have attended every court hearing and are fulfilling every requirement to have him placed in their care. Today we met with them at the park. They were kind and caring. They were attentive to Baby E. Their children were so thrilled to see this little guy. They showered him with love and kisses and snacks and toys. And Baby E was happy to see them. He knows them and he knows he’s loved by them. What a tremendous joy to see this family reunited with this baby boy.

I stated in my first post about Baby E that we must resist the temptation to jump to conclusions. We must. Every time. Every placement. We can’t allow prior experiences with birth families to dictate how we respond to future ones. Which is hard. But every placement, every family, needs fresh eyes of grace.

I don’t know how normal it is for foster moms to get a baby and within 3 days attach their name to baby’s name just to see how it fits. You start dreaming of their future with you, and yours with them. Obviously I do this. I’m not saying it’s wrong. In fact, I wonder if it is Gods grace in allowing this little one to be loved as naturally as I love my own children. But given the opportunity we must make every effort to connect with the child’s birth parents and/or relatives. We have to give them opportunity. It can be nerve racking, talking with strangers that YOU have their family member. Baby E has my heart but he has a few others even deeper than mine. And the more I correspond with his family and see these adults AND children that love and cherish him, how can I not want him to go home to them? It would be selfish of me to want to keep him from that. They’re his family. So when we think about the hard thing of letting them go, think about the times we are giving them back to the ones who loved them first. What a blessing in this child’s life that there ARE people who came before us, his foster parents, that are doing whatever it takes to bring him home with them. I recognize this is not always the case. Sometimes these children return to unhealthy environments. Sometimes we do need to advocate fiercely for their safety. But a lot of times we need to strive to encourage and support the birth family. Maybe in ways they’ve never felt it. Ways Jesus would.

Today Baby E’s relative asked me, “How do you do this? Is it hard when they leave?” And I told him through tears, “Yes. But I think about, what if no one did it? What if no one was willing to bring this child to a safe place because they were too concerned about it hurting when they left? I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting E. Or meeting you. So I consider it worth it. And even though it will be sad when he leaves, it’s happy because he’s going to family that is striving to do what’s right for him.” I didn’t get to share my testimony of what Jesus did for me and how Jesus gives me the courage to do this and how Jesus mends my heart to do it all over again,…..yet. We have another visit for that. 🙂

But after spending that time with them I am so full of joy. Joy that comes from the love of Jesus. So Christians, foster parents, I implore you, to courageously, mercifully, and lovingly navigate the waters of foster care and birth families, for the JOY awaiting you. Because it IS so worth it.


Baby E

Sunday morning we got a call at 3 am. A 9 month old little boy needed a safe place to stay. He was at the hospital and I was told I could pick him up at 9 am. Jason and I had been up late having one of those long, deep talks about everything under the sun (or moon). So I was pretty tired but trying to fall back asleep after that call was rather difficult. So I prayed and dozed and awoke repeatedly all the way till 7 am. Then I began to get ready for an hour drive to go pick this little guy up. I had a lot more time to process and lift up this placement before meeting him and it was very cool to see how Gods hands were with me and him when we finally met.

When I arrived I was caught off guard by some of the family that was there. I wasn’t given the impression anyone was there with him. I was nervous to meet them. This kind of circumstance is not really ideal for greetings and pleasantries. Initially I was hoping to avoid it. “I can wait until they leave.” Of course they weren’t leaving. I looked for courage and grace from the Holy Spirit, recognizing God was sovereign in this and walked in the room. I assumed it was Grandma, she was understandably very upset. I could tell they really cared for this fella. One thing we must resist is jumping to conclusions. We just have no idea what brought these individuals to this moment. Seeing the family first hand as their tiny family member was released into my care, a stranger with DFCS, it gave me a perspective I hadn’t experienced before. I introduced myself to grandma and just wanted to hug her but opted for a touch on her shoulder. I sympathized with her, acknowledging how extremely difficult this is for them and that baby boy would be in very good hands. She was concerned but kind. I felt that we connected in that brief moment and she knew, even through her grief, he was going to be safe and loved.

The baby and his cousin were sitting on the hospital bed. I went over and got down to his level. Said hello and waited to see his reaction. He reached right for me, which is a blessing. As much as you don’t really want kids to be that comfortable coming to a stranger, I think it put everyone at ease that he wasn’t leaving in complete outward turmoil. I talked with the family for a short while and then it was time to go. It’s such a sad thing, walking away with someone else’s child, leaving his family in tears and uncertainty. But I’m grateful to have met them because they are impressed on my heart now. I know their names and faces and can sincerely pray for them.

I don’t know how long we will have Baby E. What we’ve learned so far is he’s all boy, active, and into everything. He has THE sweetest smile and big blue eyes, with the longest eye lashes I’ve ever seen. He grunts and laughs and gets really mad when he’s tired. Dressing him is slightly like wrestling an alligator. And every time I pick him up he wraps his arms around my neck so tight and buries his head in my shoulder, which is the best. Needless to say, I’m hooked. And yes, I know, we’re only 5 days in. 😉

The In Between

So this is really our first time being in between placements. Typically during any period of waiting I am super antsy. You know how it is when something new is on the horizon and you just wonder what it’s gonna be like and you can’t wait to get there to see. I think there have been many times in my life where I didn’t really soak up where I was because I became so preoccupied with the next chapter of life. Paul’s words of learning the secret of contentedness is something I have prayed I would learn. Philippians 4:12- “… I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, “

Well, praise the Lord, I think I’m finally making some progress in this area. And truly all the credit goes to Him. Since the boys have been gone I’ve really been able to enjoy and soak up this in between. I feel rested now that I’m getting a full nights sleep. The girls and I have been enjoying school together with no interruptions. We’ve been able to get out of the house more, see friends and visit the library. I stay awake later catching up with my husband and enjoying time alone. We’ve eaten less pizza because I actually have the energy to cook. It snowed last night and we played outside till 10:00pm and then stayed up till almost midnight playing cards with the kids. With the babies, I was so tired from the physical and emotional exhaustion that I simply could not hang out as freely as normal. And though the sacrifice is totally worth it, we are very much enjoying this time in between.

I’m grateful for the time to reconnect with my family. It’s also been a good opportunity for me to have some heart checks of my own. My times with the Lord have been so sporadic and I was reminded that my communion with God can not take a backseat to ministering to people. ““Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John‬ ‭15:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬ It’s so important to nurture our relationship with Christ because if neglected our service potentially can become about self. If I spend no time at the feet of Jesus I become preoccupied with my performance of the task, not my expression of love to Jesus and those I am ministering to in His name. I become Martha (Luke 10:40) distracted, worried, focused on what needs to be done, resenting everyone for not “helping” me. We are called into relationship with Jesus that is marked by love driven by desire, not duty. Doing ministry without spending time with Jesus is the equivalent to never spending time with your husband or children and saying that all your cooking and cleaning is for them. Does the action mean anything if there is no love and relationship backing it up? I want my actions to point to Christ. I want my love for Him to be the obvious reason for anything good I do. And loving someone requires spending time with them.

So during this time I want to seek and savor Jesus at every opportunity “Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalms‬ ‭34:8 NLT and enjoy the time and freedom with family and friends. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We are praying over the next little one God brings in our life and capitalizing on the opportunities to continue helping the boys grandma whenever possible. And for maybe the first time, I’m really enjoying the in between. 🙂

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

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