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Archive for May, 2012

I love a good redemptive story.  While other people cry at movies when someone loses their loved one or an animal dies, the thing that jerks my tears the most are movies and books and stories where something was redeemed or a relationship was healed or a person was found.  Those are the movies that make me sob.  I cry because it’s the ultimate thing that I crave.  I crave redemption for all the broken pieces of my life, for the broken people I love, and for this broken world that we live in.  I cry because there is something intrinsically beautiful about a life that has been turned around and set on a better course.  The deepest part of my soul longs to see more of those moments, to live in them, to experience redemption.

Tonight at Bible study (yes, after four weeks away I have returned!) Beth Moore talked about the reversal of destiny and the power of the moment when everything changes.  In Esther that moment was the night Xerxes couldn’t sleep so he got up and read the chronicles of his reign.  At that so subtle, almost insignificant moment, Haman and Mordecai and Esther’s lives were all set on a radically different course.  The reversal of destiny.  It’s a moment that suspends in time and turns a life into the greatest irony ever known…like Paul the persecutor becoming the persecuted; like fishermen becoming fishers of men; like buck-teeth-Beth Moore becoming one of the greatest speakers I know.  There is always one moment when the course of life changes.  It could be a blinding light on a road somewhere.  It could be the voice of Jesus saying, “Leave your nets and follow me.”  It could be a teacher telling you how beautiful you really are.

Or maybe it could be the moment all your belongings are put into the back of a borrowed SUV and you walk out of a group home into a new life.  Maybe, somehow, by some incredible irony of God, He is creating a reversal of destiny through me for my sweet Lydia.  Maybe that crazy, chaotic day I picked her up was the moment her destiny was changed.  Or maybe that day was the moment that will define the rest of my life.  Whatever the case may be, tonight I am thankful that my God is a redemptive God who can reverse the destiny of anyone, whether she is 8 or 30, and set her on a path toward something beautiful.

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More

God just loves to teach me lessons through life.  I told my dad the other day that I feel like now that I don’t spend time with God in the Word as much as I used to, God has stepped up the life lessons He teaches me.  That is so such the grace of God in my life!  Even when I don’t have time for Him, He constantly woos me and pursues me and teaches me.  But that’s another saga for another time.  Tonight the lesson I received was from an assignment a certain eight year old girl gave me.

Her new favorite game is “Boss.”  You guessed it.  She’s the boss, not me.  Probably why she loves this game so much.  She gives me assignments (“paperwork”, she calls it) and if I complete my tasks to her satisfaction, I get rewarded with piles of Monopoly bills.  Some days she gives me Math problems, sometimes she just has me scribble on her magnetic drawing board.  Sometimes she has me read stories or fill out old job applications that we had laying around.  But tonight her assignment was probably more an assignment from God.

“Write something about Jesus.”  I asked for clarification and she explained that I needed to pick one thing about Jesus and write it over and over again until it was time for her to go to bed.  Something nice about Jesus; one of His characteristics.  So, I chose “Jesus is able to do more than we ask or imagine”.  I started typing.  I wrote it once.  Twice.  A dozen or two times.  Then I stopped.  Lydia told me to keep going.  She’s the boss, so what could I do.  I started typing again.  Soon I had a whole page filled up with this one line.  I started capitalizing certain words to stress their point.  Then I actually started thinking about what I was writing.  JESUS is able…Jesus IS able…Jesus is ABLE…  Seventy-five times I wrote the phrase.  Seventy-five times I thought about those words.  After seventy-five times I actually began to believe those words.  Jesus is able to do more than we ask or imagine.  That means today, when I am about to lose my temper.  He can give more.  That means tomorrow when I have piles of work to do.  He can do more.  That means years from now when I am lonely or sad or confused.  He can heal more.  He has more strength, more love, more goodness, more patience, more glory.

He is more.

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Pants on Fire

So, my child has a problem with lying.  Not just lying about big things either, you know, like getting in trouble at school.  Actually she is pretty honest about those things.  She just lies about everything else, like how she learned to spell my name or sign the alphabet or multiply…at the age of three.  She lies about who pooed in the toilet and who pulled all her toys off the top bunk.  She lies about washing herself in the tub and brushing her teeth at the sink. Pretty much any story she tells about her past is a lie.  It has gotten to the point that I do not believe anything she says, and I hate that.  I hate that I can’t trust her, that there is a wall between us, and that for whatever reason she won’t just tell me the truth.

There’s not much rhyme or reason to it either.  After church yesterday I asked her what she learned and she chatted about the lesson and the skit and the games.  She honestly told me that, when asked to act like a bully for the game Catch Phrase, she yelled out, “Stop that you stupid MF” (only, of course, my child said the real words…in church…to a bunch of eight year olds).  She’s honest about things like that, things that she really could get in trouble for.  But minor things, no, she has to make up fanatical stories.  I don’t blame her though.  No doubt it’s a coping mechanism.  Perhaps in the past she did tell the truth and no one believed her.  Or maybe she likes telling stories from her childhood, the way she wishes it had been.  Maybe she lies because she wants to appear smart or so she can make new friends.  Or maybe she just lies because it’s easier than talking about life as it really is, here and now.  But, whatever the reason, I am so over it!

Part of having a therapeutic foster kid is that every day you are trying to come up with solutions to these problems.  I work hard at thinking of ways to not only pour truth into her, but draw it out of her.  I try to be consistent and strict and discipline, but overwhelmingly gushing with pride when she does anything remotely obedient or good.  I try to pour love over her life and spoil her with kindness.  I try to overlook her offenses and let her know she’s safe.  There is so much that needs to be re-taught and re-learned in her little life.  This is just one of those things.

So today I did what every good mom does.  I Googled.  I read some blog posts and articles on how to help a kid that lies.  I tried some of the techniques today and they worked remarkably well.  I explained to Half Pint first how she doesn’t have to be afraid of telling the truth, how I like to hear about her life as it really was.  I told her that I know when she’s lying and how I am disappointed and hurt when she does.  I tried to reason with her by explaining that she’s beginning to have the “boy that cried wolf” complex and our relationship is being broken.  I could tell she was beginning to mull these things over.  But what really worked was the moment I came home and posted a reward sheet (FINALLY!) on the refrigerator door.  Nothing captivates that sweet child like a little reward enticement.

Bingo.  Right after dinner she was telling me this story about her friend.  Apparently it wasn’t dramatic enough for her tastes, so she killed her off.  She was telling me how they used to play and ride bikes together until the moment her friend died…a slow, choking death while she was cooking dinner.  I asked Lydia if this were true.  She swore it was.  But as she walked passed the fridge she gave pause and looked at the sticker chart.  She looked at the reward system and did a quick calculation on how much she could earn if she told the truth.  She took a second thought.

“Actually…”  There it was.  The tiniest moment I had been praying for.  A moment of truth.  “I lied.  I’m sorry.”  Such simple words but the anger in my heart started to subside.  I praised her for telling me the truth, gave her a sticker, and smothered her in hugs.  Truth.  Thank you, sweet child, for telling me the truth.  That’s all I want.  It’s a step, and as you know, I’ll take every step we can get.

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Well, I was about to go to bed when I finally took some time to open up scripture tonight to read the context of a verse that has been hanging around in my head for the last few days.  I have been thinking a lot about what I walked away from for “the one”.  I left a growing ministry at church through Groups and KidSpring to fully devote my time to one child.  One little eight year old girl.  I left literally 99 plus kids at KidSpring and close to 30 women in my Home Group.  I stopped devoting time to students at Anderson University and even building relationships with my friends.  I left everyone for this one broken child.  And I was beginning to think I was wrong.  Isn’t it wrong to leave that many?  Isn’t it counter intuitive to leave a ministry that’s growing to pursue one in which I may never see the final finished product?  God was opening so many doors with church and then, BAM, here’s a child on my doorstep demanding every moment and ounce of energy I have.  Why?  Why did God let so much open to just slam it shut without me even getting to say good-bye?

Beth Moore in her Esther study may have put my thoughts into words tonight.

“Sometimes providence can be defined as times when God trumps your perfectly good plan with one of His own…then seems to disappear from it.”

God set the plan in motion for me to be more and more involved in women’s ministry and then seemed to disappear from it completely.  Not only that, but He seemed to call me there just long enough for me to get a pretty good picture of how passionate I am about ministering to women, only to pull me completely out of that world and engulf me with raising a child.  He purposely called me away from my ninety-nine to minister to the one.

So, back to tonight.  I was reading Matthew 18 where Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep is found thinking I knew the context well enough to really not spend that much time on it.  For someone who loves how Scripture beautifully weaves itself together, imagine how excited I was to find out that this passage was not talking about adults and sinners (like I had always thought), but about children!  Jesus said to leave the ninety-nine on a hill and go find the lost child.  The women that I left are fine.  They are on a hill, so to speak.  They are in good hands and they are safe.  My KidSpring kids, same thing.  Nothing missed a beat since I’ve been gone.  But the one?  Oh, what a precious story she is turning out to be!

Matthew 18:10-14 follows verses 1-9 which is where Jesus says, “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.  But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  Then Jesus says…”If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?…In the same way your Father in heaven in not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

If I ever doubt that I am doing what God has called me to do, I need to look no further than Matthew 18 for the answer.  I have my “one”.  And for now, one is more than enough.

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I used to think I was patient.  Honestly, I did.  When people would ask me to describe myself, patient was always the first word I’d use.  I used to think I was this well settled, understanding, forbearing person.  But then something happened.  Three weeks ago something happened that put me in a new light to myself.  There have been so many moments the past few days especially that I feel like my skin has to physically restrain my muscles from lashing out at a certain sweetheart.  Oh, it’s easy to be patient when she’s cuddly or compliant or using her manners.  It’s easy to be patient when she puts her dishes on the counter without being told and gladly picks up her toys after playing.  It’s easy to hold my tongue and smile when she happily jumps into the bath and brushes her teeth and washes her hands.  But when the switch gets pulled and she becomes this disrespectful, manipulative, oppositional child, that’s when I internally transform from Jekyll to Hyde.  This normally occurs around homework time or in a nice public place like Toys R Us or Target.  Those are the moments she says things like, “I don’t like you” and “you’re mean” and “I’m not going to obey you because you’re not giving me what I want.”  Those are the moments I want to stoop to her level and be sassy back and make faces behind her head and adjust my attitude to match hers.  Those are the moments it is almost painful for me to speak calmly and correct her lovingly and to take those moments and turn them into something teachable instead of a wrestling match.  It is hard being patient.  It is hard biting my tongue and being the grown up.  It is hard being disrespected when you have given up so much to help a child.  So far I haven’t blown it.  So far I have not reacted in anger.  So far my voice has hidden my heart and I have kept my cool.  But being patient?  Oh, no.  Restrained?  Yes.  In control?  Sure.  Patient?  Heck no!

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My whole house smells like throw up.  Not just any throw up, but peanut butter throw up.  No matter how many times I wash my hands or change my clothes, the smell still clings to me reminding me of the drama of last night.  How in the world do mothers do this?  We went through every set of sheets we own last night just trying to get a little rest between episodes of sickness.  Lydia clearly does not understand the concept of staying calm and throwing up in a pan if you can’t make it to the bathroom.  By this morning, everything had been touched with remnants of yesterday’s meals.  Her stuffed animals, blankets, mattress, carpet, pajamas.  Even Lydia herself was covered in her own vomit.  Arms, hair, face.  We changed her clothes a half dozen times.  I went through wash cloths and towels and cups of cold water just trying to calm her down.  I pulled a pillow and blanket to the head of her bed so I could be right there the moment another wave of stomach pain came.  All night long we battled this virus.  I got covered in her own filth too.  My hands, my arms, my legs, my bathrobe.  Everything reeked of throw up.  My own stomach is still churning today from all that happened last night.

But in the midst of the vomit and smells and dirtiness of last night, I had a sudden realization of how very much God loves us.  We come to Him covered in our own filth and sin and unrighteousness, reeking of past failures, and God doesn’t tell us to wipe ourselves off and clean up our act before He rushes in and engulfs us in His arms.  We have nothing good to offer Him, yet He chose to send His Son to carry our infirmities and deliver us from our sorrows.  He was willing to wear our filth and hold on to us so we could wake up clean and new and redeemed.  The stench of sin can engulf us at times, but we have a Savior who came to make us white as snow.  Praise God for that bit of truth in the midst of some of life’s biggest messes.

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Something has recently been bothering me, and I decided it was time to blog this one out.  Well meaning, loving, sweet people keep coming up to me once they hear that I am fostering and say things that they don’t really mean to say.  Oh, they think they mean it.  But they don’t.  Not if they really knew what fostering was like.  They have been blinded by the radio commercials and billboards and online ads that make fostering look easy and fun and utopian and so they come up to me and say things like, “Oh, that’s so exciting that you  have a new kid!  It’s going to be so fun!”  and “Aren’t you just loving being a mom?!”  People actually fight over who will get to be the first to babysit for my kid.  People who think that fostering is enjoyable have no idea what they are talking about.  Don’t get me wrong here.  Fostering is the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life.  But it is not fun.  Most days are not filled with laughter and pony rides and running through fields of flowers.  Most days are filled with putting out emotional fires, pulling teeth to get the most basic of personal hygiene taken care of, and praying to God that I don’t get another call from the principle telling me to come get my child.  Fostering is not a kid walking into your home, thanking you for the wonderful opportunity to be your kid.  It is not cuddle time on the couch with a book or long talks about what they are feeling.  Fostering is about picking which battle you’re going to fight at that moment and which ones you will just wait until the next time they come around to tackle.  So, for all of you out there considering fostering, make sure God has called you to do it.  Make very sure you are willing to commit to a child for better or worse for as long as God places them in your life.  Please, please, don’t foster…

  1. for the money.  I actually laugh (not in a funny way but shocked) when I think about the fact that some people foster for the money.  The three weekends that I did respite care I definitely came out in the negative financially.  Between buying kid friendly food, taking them places, buying school supplies and clothes, and entertaining them, the little bit that the government supplements you with is gone.  You will not get rich by fostering.  In fact, you can count your blessing if you break even.  Don’t for a moment think you can pocket that money or buy yourself a new pair of shoes or earrings or jeans and not have someone notice that the child you’re supposed to be caring for is suffering.  If you’re in it for money, don’t foster.
  2. because you felt an emotional response to a need.  This is a tough one.  I have listened to the incredibly compelling stories of kids in the foster care system and how desperately they need a loving home.  It’s easy to feel deeply for them.  It’s easy to get choked up and cry through a box of tissues.  In fact, I’d be concerned if you could hear about the need for good foster parents and turn a completely blind eye to it.  But a need does not equate a call.  Emotions do not equal expectation.  If you are considering fostering only because you’ve felt something stir in your heart, don’t foster.
  3. to fill the “baby void” in your life.  I had to fight this one hard in my own life.  I have always wanted to be a mother.  I wanted to hold my baby and love them and feel that bond that can only be understood between a mother and her child.  I wanted that.  I still want that.  But do not expect to find that in a foster child.  Mother’s Day was this weekend and I felt a little sting when Half Pint wanted to color a picture for her mom and buy a card for her mom and decorate stationary for her mom.  Her mom.  Not me.  She is not my child.  She has a mother, however bad she may be.  That child is not my baby.  You cannot put the pressure of expectation on a child hoping he or she will fill that void in your life to nurture and love and care for another human being.  If that’s why you’re considering it, don’t foster.
  4. to feel loved.  I thought I had worked through this one during training, but it’s still a hard one.  Foster kids do not love you right away.  They can’t.  Oh, it may seem they do for that lovely two week honey moon period you have when they first enter your care, but they don’t love you.  Not yet.  You will be tremendously discouraged and heartbroken if you think a child is going to form an instant attachment to you.  If you want to foster because you are lonely and want to feel loved, don’t foster.
  5. to be the hero.  And finally, please don’t foster if you are planning on being the savior.  If you want to be the one they make movies about and write books about and use as an inspirational story around the fireplace, don’t do it.  Don’t set yourself up for that kind of failure.  Heroes of that magnitude belong in comic books.  You cannot sweep into a child’s life and expect to be the hero.  They will come to you completely broken and in desperate need of healing, but you can’t fix them.  You cannot use your superpowers and make everything right again.  Their pain is real.  Their baggage is heavy.  Their hurt is deep.  You can’t wipe that away in a moment.  If you are wanting to be the hero, don’t foster.

So, what’s left?  Why in the world would anyone become a foster parent?  Fostering is a very special calling for someone who understands the cost and is willing to sacrifice everything for the cause of one child.  I told someone the other day, when I started fostering, I had to leave the 99 to go find the one.  It is hard.  Painstakenly hard.  But I promise you, even after just two weeks with my Lydia, if you are willing to foster for the right reasons, life will never be more rewarding.  You get to experience milestones in the life of a child.  You get to watch them struggle through areas and take baby steps toward healing.  You get to experience the moment when they do realize how much you love them and that you aren’t going to leave them, so they begin to open their heart back up to you.  And at the end of the day, you have the incredible satisfaction of knowing that you are doing the work of God by loving the modern day orphans when they are unable to give you anything back in return.  If you are courageous and faithful and have strong community in your life, foster.  If you love children and want to give them their best chance of finding healing, foster.  If you want to show a child the love of Christ in the most tangible way possible, foster.  It will be the hardest, best thing you’ve ever done.

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