Archive for April, 2013

At the End

There have been so many moments in this past week that I have wanted to sit down and recount the details of the ending of this season with my two sweet foster kids.  Some day I will put to words how their visit went, how crazy our last two weeks were, how our hearts ached and healed, and how our last morning was spent together.  Someday.  But tonight my heart is just so full I simply have to write about the goodness of God.  Honestly, it has very little to do with fostering other than that through foster care, God has renovated my heart so that now I can see Him in ways more personal and real than I ever thought possible.  I am changed.  I think my biggest fear in ending fostering two beautiful, but highly therapeutic kids is that I’m afraid I’ll revert back to the old me.  Old Shelly who was worrisome and controlling and impatient and insecure.  I don’t want to go back to that.  I have experienced the presence of Christ in my life and seen Him work.  He carried me through days I didn’t think I would survive.  He allowed me to mess up and then showed up with compassion and grace.  He forgave.

I used to hear stories of people talking about their close walk with God.  It was something more than just the way they read the Word and how long they spent.  There are people who claim to hear from God and who are so in tuned with His Spirit that they know what they should do and who they should talk to and where they should go.  I wanted that.  But I wasn’t sure how to get there.  Now I know.  The only way to get to that depth with Jesus is to come to the end of yourself.  When you realize that you have absolutely NOTHING to offer Jesus but are willing to do anything He calls you to, He shows up and moves and works wonders and miracles.  I have a deep faith now that I only used to hope for.  Things didn’t end how I wanted them to but it has literally shocked me how at peace I am.  It’s because I know…I have tasted and seen…that the Lord is GOOD.  He sees big picture; I see only what my finite mind can grasp.  And when you really, truly believe that God is good, than fear no longer rules your life.  I do not worry whether or not Sweet Pea and Buddy are going to continue to grow.  Or whether or not they’ll get to go to Church.  Or what they are eating or how school is going or how they are behaving.  I TRUST God!  Really.  I cannot explain it.  It’s like all of a sudden I do.  He is so deeply trustworthy.  I know this because He has chosen to reveal His presence to me time and time and time again.

And His timing is always perfect.  Step back a year…  My church had asked to run a story on how God had used Home Groups to radically impact my life.  I agreed to write my testimony, let them take my picture, and post it on the website.  The problem was, however, that my story never showed up on the web.  Old Shelly was taken aback.  Old Shelly wanted to know why her story wasn’t good enough to be posted for hundreds to read.  Old Shelly wanted recognition on how much God was using her.  So the story sat on a shelf somewhere with no recognition at all.

About a week ago I started getting texts from people saying how they liked my blog.  My first reaction was to think they were reading this one…about foster care.  But then details didn’t make sense.  That’s when I realized my story had finally been posted on my church’s website.  At the completion of fostering God allowed that story to be publicized.  I am so deeply humbled.  New Shelly knows her story has NOTHING to do with her but everything to do with Jesus.  Anything good at all, anything worth sharing, only has to do with Him.  He wrote such a better story than I could even begin to write.

And through that story being publicized, several women have regained contact with me in the Church.  I ate dinner tonight with a woman I haven’t talked to in close to a year and we talked on and on about the work that God had done and our vision and hope for the Church.  I’m going to try to NOT attempt to figure God out, but isn’t it so like Him to wait until I am finished fostering, and finished well, for Him to immediately open up another door for involvement in the Church?

God doesn’t let me rest.  And I’m okay with that.  He is so very worthy of my sacrifice.  Which if I think about it really isn’t even a sacrifice at all.  I’m the one that gets the JOY!  I’m the one that gets to see Him!

Bottom line in all of this:  Following Christ is the BEST decision I have ever made.  Trusting God enough to become a foster mom has radically transformed my life.  God used the kids to change me.  Faith, hope, and love.  I understand them now.  Not perfectly, but deeply.  To God be the glory!


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Fixing the Broken

About two weeks ago when I hit the start button on my dryer filled with my second load of clothes (out of a half dozen), the most horrendous screech let out and the hallway filled with the smell of burning rubber.  I immediately shut off the dryer, unplugged it, and laughed at another thing to add to my to-do list.  Today was the day I finally got to check off “Fix Broken Dryer” from the list. A nice old man who has been fixing broken appliances for the last 30 years met me over my lunch break, pulled out the dryer, and took the blessed thing apart.  I was picturing a broken belt or some other whatchamacallit and had already braced myself for the worst case scenario.  As I hoovered around him and watched him disassemble my lifeline to clothing my children, he gave a little chuckle and placed something in my hand.  “That’s your problem right there,” he said.  I opened my hand and peered at an inch and a half long pencil that had made its way from Sweet Pea’s jean pocket, to the washer, to the dryer, and somehow lodged itself in the exhaust fan.  That was it.  A tiny pencil caused all the ruckus!  But in the process of sweeping up a lifetime of lint and picking up renegade socks from where the dryer once sat, I noticed a water stain from underneath the washing machine.  This lead to the disassembling of that appliance which lead to the finding of the hot and cold water hoses being mismatched to the washer, the wiring being somehow messed up in the interior computer board, and finding out the hose to fill the machine had a leak in it somewhere.  Three problems on a machine I didn’t even know was broken.  My focus was on the “squeaky wheel” so to speak, when in reality that was not what needed the attention.

As I was thinking about my washer/dryer issues of this morning, it suddenly hit me.  Sometimes God allows something to be broken so through that brokenness something else may be healed.  If that tiny pencil hadn’t caused the dryer to make that horrific noise, I would never have found the bigger, internal issues my washing machine was dealing with.  I know I’m talking appliances here, but the same principle applies to the crazy life God has allowed me to have.

I see small picture.  I see two kids about to leave me.  I see negative behaviors as Sweet Pea tries to detach herself.  I see a couple who don’t know Jesus.  I see all the little things that seem broken.  But God sees big picture.  Who’s to say that these two kids aren’t the “little pencils” that are going to unleash radical healing in the lives of their forever parents?  And my gosh, how much have I healed through being a foster mom?!  Areas in my life that I didn’t even know were broken, sin I didn’t even know I had…all of these came to light when I tried to “fix” my little kiddos.  In trying to help their pain, I find myself healing.  Why do I not believe God will continue to do this with their forever family?

God has this incredible ability to fix the broken.  To heal the brokenhearted.  To take pain and use it to help heal others.  The pain these two kids have had to endure is indescribable.  But God can still use it to wash and dry and change the world.

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Friday morning after the sky had cleared up from the hurricane winds that welcomed us in to Myrtle Beach, I took the kids out on the beach so they could collect shells and chase seagulls and feel the gritty sand underneath their feet.  This was the first time the kids had seen the beach.  I have tried to put every moment we were there together into my permanent memory.  A gray haired lady walked past as Little Buddy was sinking his feet into a pile of sand and I stood there laughing, taking pictures.  “Enjoy it while it lasts” she said with a look in her eyes that told the tale of children grown up and childhoods forgotten.  So I looked at him and clicked my mental camera as well as the one in my hand in hopes that this precious moment would remain forever in my heart.  That’s how our whole time at the beach was spent.  Me sentimentally following the kids allowing them to experience God’s creation at its finest, taking snapshots to capture every moment.

They grow up too fast.  And when you were only entrusted with their lives for a year, it seems more like the blink of an eye than the passing of days.  Ever since we told the kids last Monday that they were going to be adopted by the Robinsons, I have been clinging to every moment I get to spend with them.  News of the adoption hit them exactly like we thought it would.  Thankfully I had spent my lunch break on Monday taking my turn at tears so when Sweet Pea and her brother began to say, “No.  We want to stay with Miss Shelly,” I was able to keep my composure and help them process through their feelings.  They flipped through a photo book of the new couple, looked at their house and their neighborhood and their relatives.  Once Buddy saw they had a pool and two dogs, he was fine.  “That’s the gweatest!” he said with his sweet little lisp.  He played with his cars while our adoptions worker and I spent the next hour trying to convince Sweet Pea that this wasn’t the end of the world.  We told her how I was a foster mom, how wonderful it is to have a forever home (even though she said she would rather stay in foster care until she was 18 if it meant she could be with me), and how hard, but good, change is.  All was good until she went into a sad litany of all her wishes that never came true.  “I wished that my mom would get better so I could stay with her, and that wish didn’t come true.  I wished that I could live with Miss Shelly and now that wish didn’t come true either.  Not a single one of my wishes has ever come true.”  She was heart broken.  The worst for me was the moment she stood up, walked over to me, and looked me straight in the eye with tears streaming down her face and she said, “Miss Shelly, do you want to adopt me?”  I gave her all the pat answers I could come up with while avoiding her question.  How could I possibly answer that?  But she is too smart.  “That’s not what I asked.  I said, ‘Miss Shelly, do you WANT to adopt me?’  Yes or no?”  Oh how my heart ripped out of my chest at that moment!  So I answered the best I could while still avoiding those complex monosyllabic words: yes or no?

We made it through somehow and by Wednesday when the family called she was ready to talk to them and even doodled “I love the Robinsons” while she conversed with the mom.  A little piece of my heart was jealous but then I remembered how these children are not my own.  Gosh, it’s hard to let go!

So, at the beach, I clung to these two precious souls as much as I possibly could.  I’ll never forget the moment they saw the ocean for the first time.  Or when we found a sea urchin on the shore.  Or the way Sweet Pea built the Wall of Jericho instead of a sandcastle.  I’ll forever remember the way Little Buddy laughed as he ran away from the waves as they chased him over and over again onto the shore.  And I’ll never forget the way Sweet Pea hugged me when we stood in the water and posed for a picture together.  I’ll remember Little Buddy finally letting go of the edge of the pool and swimming like a shark as he chased my brother, how tightly he held my hand as I jumped him over puddles, and how beautiful my sweetheart looks when the wind blows her long blond hair in the breeze.  It was all so wonderfully sweet.

So to the lady with the gray hair, I will enjoy these moments.  I will cherish every hug and kiss and giggle for the rest of the time I have with these two kids.  Because soon they will be gone.  I got a glimpse of it today when the parents came to visit the kids in person.  My role is shifting.  I am fading into the background and two other people get to take the lead role.  Sometimes I think fostering is a lot like building castles in the sand.  You work hard, manipulate the sand and form it into something beautiful.  You take the time and energy to get everything just right.  But someday you know the ocean is going to sweep the sand up and spread it back out on someone else’s turf and it’s then their turn to take the sand and build something new.  I have gotten to build my castles and hopefully build them stronger and happier and more beautiful than they were before I was entrusted with the sand.  But in the end, the sand gets passed on.  The Ocean is still there.  Beautiful and vast, ferocious and unpredictable.  And when the time comes, It will sweep them up again.  Because in reality, the sand belongs to the ocean anyway.

So these last three weeks I have with these kids I will watch them slowly be moved from my house to another, from my life to another.  But God has so evidently shown me His presence and control and beauty that I am no longer afraid.  I trust Him.  And just like He has built these kids up thus far, I believe with all my heart He will continue to build their castles in the sand.

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