Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A LOOK-BACK AT 2017

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Dare I write it, 2017 was a little rough around here. I've been thinking about all that happened with our house and the case and the kids. Wonderful, exciting, and great things sprinkled throughout the year--oh yes! For sure. But also lots of crazy.

We started the year still living with Bryce's parents--4 months total. In early February, we moved into our Tree House fixer-upper, still very much in the middle of a major home renovation. Lots of projects to complete after we moved in: build the kitchen pantry and floating shelves, paint the bookshelves, install light fixtures, get a new water heater, complete major septic work and tons of outside projects . . . just to name a few.

Throughout it all, life with five kids under the age of six is not for the faint of heart, let's just say that. Sometimes it felt like constant refereeing, constant training, constant wiping of bottoms and noses. Two still needed to be potty-trained. Started home schooling two kindergartners. To boil it down: life is lively with five!

Our foster-to-adopt case ramped up significantly in May--July and then again in November--December, bringing significant stress and worry. Total in 2017, we went to court hearings 11 times. That's two hours of travel each time, essentially half a day blocked out and quite the build-up of stress for me each time. Caseworkers and therapists and the guardian ad litem (CASA) came to visit 55 times throughout the year. We went to other important meetings, including ones with our attorney, 10 times. Court hearings or other important meetings were cancelled last minute 5 times (horribly frustrating).


(our children in summer 2017....look at how little they were!)


But do you know what is just as true but hard to quantify? The constant faithfulness of God and of our wonderful friends throughout the year: those who stepped in to help watch our kids, brought meals when my post-court pounding headaches were too much to handle, prayed fervent prayers on our behalf, helped us with house projects, loved on our kiddos, and the list goes on. We were blessed by 3 prayer meetings for the case. Such a deep encouragement to Bryce and I--definitely a highlight of the year for us. Also, within one week in the summer, God brought in the money for our personal attorney fees--and we didn't tell a single person that we were preparing to file. Just incredible.

It is God's quiet and steady hand of faithfulness that is so evident to me as I think about last year. Sometimes we can see Him best when we look back. Maybe that's why the Bible tells us to remember, to recount, to retell. So here I am reminiscing about 2017 and choosing to remember most His goodness and love despite the turmoil. There were two or three points in 2017 that we thought our children might be taken from us at any moment and our world turned upside down. But here we are, halfway through 2018: the kids are still with us and we're more settled in our home and all five are thriving and God is so very faithful. True, the case is still in limbo . . . but also true / more true is the faithfulness of God and I choose to focus in on that part. Friends, just look at what He has done.

Thanks for taking a little look-back with me at 2017.
I think I'm just going to call it The Year of Quiet Faithfulness.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

KEEP ON KEEPING ON

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God knows you question your courage
And some days I can't walk for stumbling
If we could only see what we're becoming

Some days it's a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other kind of day. Do you feel it? Not completely hopeless or without joy, but just never-ending plodding. For me, the foster case continues to bring frustration and delay. Some dreams are ending and steps must be taken to lay them to rest. New, difficult beginnings are coming. Helping five children navigate life and learning and siblings and trauma and emotions is not for the faint of heart. And the Tree House--oh, that dreaded project list feels like it will never end.

"Courage, dear heart." ~ Aslan (C.S. Lewis)

So keep on, keeping on, keeping on
And sing along, sing along, sing along

This refrain keeps resounding in my heart: keep on keeping on. It speaks to me of faithfulness. There are two parts to it: remembering His faithfulness and practicing the spiritual fruit of faithfulness in my own life. It's the courage to keep the faith and keep trusting and keep hoping, despite everything.



To the dreamers, wide-eyed believers
Hanging onto hope by a thread
To the soulful, heart open hopeful
Keep on charging ahead

I am reminded of the Israelites in Exodus chapter 14 when the Egyptians are behind them and the Red Sea is in front of them. The people cried out to God in fear. Three times God said, "I will gain glory for Myself" (v. 4, 17, 18)--it was essentially a set-up for God's glory. Moses said to them, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. ...The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still" (v. 13-14). Sometimes we are just hanging onto hope by a thread, but we keep moving ahead. We walk through those walls of water to the other side.

Let's remember that God gives the dreams and He fulfills them, in His own time and His own way and for His own glory. Keep dreaming, keep believing, keep hanging on, keep on charging ahead.

'Cause when you feel it, once you see it, and you breathe it
It's unforgettable
When you know it, once you know it, and you hold it
It's unforgettable 
(For King & Country, "To the Dreamers")

Just sharing some ramblings from my heart today. I didn't have much to write about this week but wanted to pass on this bit of encouragement (needed it for myself!). Sometimes I'm just plain tired. I'm sure you are, too. But let us not grow weary. Friend, let's keep on keeping on.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

THE JONAH SYNDROME FOR FOSTER PARENTS

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Last week our pastor preached on Jonah 3 & 4 (highly recommend his entire Jonah series) and all I could think about during the message was: Oh my goodness, this is exactly what us foster parents are prone to do!

Jonah 1 - God says "Go!" but Jonah runs away.
     For the foster parent: God says, "Go foster a child." We run away and make all sorts of excuses.

Jonah 2 - God sends a storm and a fish to get Jonah's attention and to win him back.
     For the foster parent: God miraculously intervenes in our lives to capture our hearts for the orphan.

Jonah 3 & 4 - God says "Go!" (go now, go urgently). Jonah goes and the entire city is saved. And he is furious with God.
      For the foster parent: We go. We pursue a child(ren). But it doesn't turn out quite as expected.

After Jonah preaches to the city, they repent! This horribly wicked city turns from their sin. "The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth" (3:5). Mercifully, God relents from sending sweeping judgement on the city. But instead of celebrating such a grand display of God's goodness, Jonah fumes. His words reveal his true heart: "This is why I was so quick to flee . . . I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life . . ." (4:2-3). Jonah is obedient to God and knows wonderful things about God, but then proceeds to whine about the saving of an entire city. Twice God says to Jonah, "Have you any right to be angry?" (4:4, 9). And Jonah says, "I do" (4:9). Jonah struggles to surrender to the purposes of God in the world around him, revealing deep judgmentalism and hidden self-righteousness.




I think a foster parent might be able to relate to this heart-attitude a little too much sometimes. The Jonah syndrome can happen subtly. We step into foster care on behalf of a child, loving to the best of our ability and advocating on their behalf. We begin to think ourselves irreplaceable, becoming a sort-of savior for them. And their biological family? They are ignored, intentionally forgotten or perhaps secretly despised because of their treatment of these precious children and their part in all of the mess. "You can safely assume you've created God is your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do" (Anne Lamott).

We forget that God is sovereign, or rather we choose to ignore the kinds of sovereign that He is because it feels better (safer, comfortable, natural). God is sovereign in judgment--which, if we're being honest, we wish He would bring for that bio family. But God is also sovereignly merciful--which we are thankful He gives to us but certainly do not think they deserve. To our disappointment, often times "mercy triumphs over judgement" (James 2:13). Sometimes, God chooses to extend mercy but we go the way of Jonah. Our internal whining might look something like this: This is why I didn't want to start fostering! I knew that You are a gracious God, and I just knew you would forgive those bio parents and give them another chance! Now my heart is broken and I feel like dying inside. What about me? What about my investment in this? What about all of the terrible things they have done? Woe is me!

". . . it is in our virtuous behavior that we are liable to the gravest sins. . . . It is in this context of being responsible, being obedient, that we most easily substitute our will for God's will, because it is so easy to suppose they are identical . . ." Eugene Peterson

The Jonah syndrome means that we no longer see the humanness of the Ninevites--those other from us. We forget that, if not for the grace of God, we would be just like them. Without the grace of God, we would/could be just like the biological family of our foster children. Our foster parent platform becomes a pedestal for cynicism and self-righteousness, looking down instead of looking eye-to-eye. Sure, we might be really good people doing good work, but we lose sight of the grace that covers us and keeps us and sustains us. When the Sovereign God gives them mercy and compassion, then our Jonah-like-heart is revealed: "But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry" (4:1).

The book of Jonah closes with a haunting question from God: "Should I not be concerned . . .?" (4:11). Then there is silence. Jonah doesn't respond.

Oh, may God grant us rightly-placed concern, straight from His heart. May He help us supernaturally battle back from going Jonah-chapter-4 on our foster stories--living a good godly life but disconnected from God's heart for the world and each person in it. May mercy triumph over judgement in our own souls. May we live in such deep gratitude for the daily grace of God that it overflows in heartfelt compassion and love to all those in our path.