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Forgiveness

“It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have to say the word… 

Forgiveness!”

There are so many things I would share with perspective foster parents or those who are curious to learn and understand more of the journey that foster parents walk on a daily basis.  One of the biggest things I think I would share would be the act of forgiveness.  Which, for us, this has by far been one of the hardest things to come to grips with.  I might add that my husband and I are at different places in this area of our lives.

Growing up I was taught to forgive quickly, never to hold a grudge and to move forward.  I really knew no other way, because that was HOW we were taught and HOW my parents truly lived.  As an adult, I still live by that today and tend to hold little in when it comes to not forgiving.  I tend to be less forgiving towards things and diseases rather than people.  That was all very true until we began fostering.

Up and to that point, I could forgive and walk away if needed, or I could forgive and move forward.  In this journey, that came a little harder.  It was, and still is an on-going process.  You see the word FORGIVE is a verb… it’s what you do, and it is something (I believe) you have to do daily.  You have to choose it, sometimes daily and sometimes by the second…it’s not easy, it messes with your thoughts and questions HOW you could ever offer someone that kind of grace when they have done what they have done.

“It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
Its always angers own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
Its the whisper in your ear saying Set It Free”

The grace we have is not ours that grace comes from the Lord.  He extends that beautiful gift to us, not only because we need it, but because we are to offer it as well.  I think once we understand that, we are able to extend that gift more freely.  Additionally, Matthew 18:18 tells us that what we bind on Earth, we bind in Heaven.  So with that thought, it is grace and finding peace that allows us to set it free!

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you erase what has happened, it doesn’t mean that you continue to ‘entertain the circus’ and allow yourself or your children to be continually subject to those actions, but forgiveness allows you to move forward, to see things differently.  There is much power in forgiveness, it is actually very freeing.  I also believe that while you may not want to ‘entertain the circus’ sometimes you must… against your own will… when you would rather walk away, well, run away!

“It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what its power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you”

 

In the realm of foster care, there MUST be forgiveness.  Not only for yourselves as adults, but to teach your children.  When you show them how to forgive, their lives improve.  They can ‘clear the bitterness away’ in their own hearts.  That can more effectively deal with their past, present and subsequently their future.  It doesn’t matter if it is a story of reunification or adoption, forgiveness is a MUST!  There comes a point where you have to understand that the biological parents are NOT the enemy, rather they are an opportunity.  As a Christian, it is our ‘duty’ to live out our faith.  To show mercy, love, give grace, and to offer them everything Jesus would offer us.  In essence we show them Jesus, we introduce them to this amazing savior who can right every wrong.  Not only do we offer that forgiveness to the biological parents, we teach the children in the process that there is something greater at work.  It truly is a powerful thing when the children can witness those positive, forgiving interactions between the foster and biological parents.

It’s not easy, it can take a long time, and it is even cyclical.  This song I have been referring to throughout this blog was written about a woman who lost her daughter in a car crash when she and a friend were hit by a drunk driver.  The families not only forgave this young man, they asked for a reduction in his sentence and shared Jesus with him.  Today Renee (mother of the child) and Eric (driver) tour the country TOGETHER sharing their message about the consequences of drunk driving and beauty of forgiveness.

I am sure that Renee never imagined this journey, nor did she ever imagine the depths and breaths of her forgiveness.  I am quite sure that she never imagined an artist taking her tragedy and turning it into a popular Christian song that shares a beautiful message of what can happen when we learn to love the unlovable and reach the unreachable.  If she can offer that forgiveness, if she can face the one who caused that unbearable pain every single day, then why can’t we as foster parents, why can’t we as human beings?

“Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible”

I feel that I have finally reached that point in our journey.  It took time, it was and is an on-going process.  I prayed, analyzed, cried, got angry, screamed, and went through every emotion imaginable.  NOT for my own pain, but for what children endure.  God broke my heart long ago for children.  I believe that’s one of the reasons I became a teacher.  I wanted to make a difference in the life of a child.  Now as an adult, having fulfilled my ambition to teach, and now our calling into foster care, I feel that same way, to make a difference in the life of a child.  I can’t change their past, but I can love them in their present situation and offer them the hope for the future.  It’s not perfect, it is often quite messy and at times unpleasant, but I found one thing to be true.  You can absolutely hate the sin and not the sinner.  And when the time comes and you are standing face to face with that person, you can offer them grace, and show them Jesus.  It’s a difficult lesson, but a powerful one and necessary one.  There comes a point where being angry isn’t being productive and your energy spent on that anger is damaging more than just yourself.

“I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me”

My final thoughts are simple, and while it’s not full-proof in my own life, and there are several situations that I would love to see changed, I can honestly say, in any situation I am involved in, whether it is family, friends, work, or foster care, I absolutely have come to a place of forgiveness in my life.  I hold nothing in any longer and pray daily that in spite of the forgiveness I have chosen, that it may not be reciprocated, and that is fine.  We all have fences that are in need of being mended, some choose freely to mend those fences and restore those relationships and others choose to mend those fences and walk away.  I never like to walk away, but I understand that sometimes it is necessary.  I also believe that even after you have chosen to walk away, there is always opportunity restore those relationships… at least that is how I see it.  Jesus wouldn’t turn you away if you chose to come back to him, he would restore that relationship, so why should I be any different!

Matthew 6:14-15 ~ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Song – Forgiveness by Matthew West

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Called, “Not” Qualified!

This is an exciting update… at least for me this is REALLY EXCITING!!!

Throughout our journey, I have found myself terribly bothered by certain things.  So much so that I have been praying and working towards making a change in the foster care system!   In an ideal world, I would overhaul any bad parts of the system, make it work FOR the children and ensure that anything else that needed changed, got changed!  I would also live out my “BIG DREAMS” of what has been placed upon my heart for kids in care!

A little over a month ago, I received a letter from our agency.  In the envelope where two letters. When I got to the second letter, I became so excited that I could hardly stand myself.  I had been praying so hard for an opportunity to make a difference in the realm of foster care!  The front of the letter detailed information about a newly forming Foster Care Advisory Board for our county!  I was so excited… until I turned over the paper and read the requirements to be considered for the position.  After looking at the requirements, I realized that I did not meet two criteria.  I also realized quickly that the deadline was the next day and you were to call for an application!  So when my husband got home from work, I quickly discussed it with him. Always supportive of my dreams and having knowledge of my career history, he convinced me to call for an application.

The next morning, I left a message with the gentlemen concerning the position.  Upon returning my call, we discussed my interest, my experience, and my concerns regarding the criteria. He encouraged me to fill out the application, as they had extended the deadline through the end of the month.  Of course, I was willing to throw my hat into the ring fully knowing that it may be a long shot.  A few days later I had received the application, I immediately filled it out and attached (since the application didn’t ask) a letter stating what I felt qualified me for the position.  I mailed it off the same day and honestly, put it out of my mind until the actual due date!   That day I gave it a moment’s thought and said, “Lord, whatever you have for me.”

Well, yesterday, I received a phone.  It was the same gentleman, He asked me for my email address, so that he could send me the information and meeting dates for the board.  Me being, well, ME, said, “Wait, so I am on the board?”  He replied, “Yes!”   It was kind of funny, I believe there was a chuckle with that yes as if I was asking a stupid question… I mean after all, I was (by their standards) not qualified.  Of course I was overwhelmed, humbled and excited!  Here’s my chance to do some SERIOUS work and help kids in need!  My first text was to my husband, his response… “WOW!”  I think we both thought that it was a long shot, but worth a try!  My second text was to our agency caseworker!  Of course she congratulated me and told me to get to work!  My third text was to my parents and well, they were just plain old proud!

I was so humbled, excited and completely overwhelmed to be a part of this.  I truly believe that this group can have an impact on HOW we care for kids!  I can’t wait for the new year and cannot wait to get started!  I am really looking forward to working with the county and others who share the same passion.  One thing was confirmed to me, HE doesn’t always call those who are most qualified, but HE certainly qualifies the called!  Part of me feels badly for being a doubting Thomas, or showing my insecurities like Gideon, worrying like Martha or being impatient like Sara.  God used each of these and many more.  Moses stuttered, yet he led boldly.  Now here I was praying to God and telling him of my lack of qualifications… yet there was no reason to feel insecure, to doubt, and worry because God already had a plan long before it was ever a desire in my heart!  My only prayer as I start this new adventure… is that I, along with the other board members make a difference in the life of a child!

 

Jeremiah 1:6-8 ~ “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

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For Everything There Is A Season…

I am honestly not sure exactly how to even start this blog entry.  There is so much swirling in my head, God is truly bringing things that have been on my heart into fruition.  I am excited and feeling blessed as we embark on these new endeavors that have been placed on our hearts!

When my husband and I decided to become foster parents we realized quickly that there were things that didn’t sit well with us.  As time has grown and our journey in foster care has taken its own path, we realize more and more each day how much change is needed FOR the children.  We are not speaking specifically to the children in our care, but more so in our own community and in the long-term, globally.

While that is not the purpose of my writing today, it was just too good not to share!  I often times find myself standing in awe of God and how HE calls us and for His purpose.  I also thought I would share the good before I shared something that has been heavily placed on my heart!

Over the past few weeks I have been hearing a lot of comments about how joyous or exciting it is to adopt.  While I would tend to agree with those comments, I also feel burdened to share the entire picture with you.  This week, via social media a fellow foster parent asked a question surrounding termination of parental rights (TPR) and feeling sad.  This seems to be the theme in my heart for the past few weeks.  So I thought I would take a moment to share with you the reality of what this leg of the journey looks like.  Again, I do NOT speak in specifics to our situation or where we are in our journey, this is me sharing my heart, and reality of not only myself but others as well.

The post on social media surrounding the case of termination of rights and whether or not we should feel sad has sparked quite a few comments of varying degrees.  As you may expect it varied quite a bit, from people who were elated that this occurred to people who were devastated and cried at the TPR hearing.  These are foster families I am referring to, not biological families.  I think that while I don’t find myself on either side of the spectrum, it is safe to say that like anyone grieving, there is no canned response as to how we are to react to this situation.

If you will, allow me to explain for a moment the process of (TPR) Termination of Parental Rights.  TPR occurs when the courts make the decision that the biological parents are unfit to care for their children. The termination process begins with a motion to move to TPR, at which time the judge grants the motion.  The county must then file the proper paperwork and advertise for any unknown fathers of the children.  A “Show-up” hearing is scheduled.  At this hearing the biological parents are informed of the intent of the courts to terminate their rights.  At that point, the biological parents have two choices.  They can consent to the termination at which time termination is granted and the goal is changed to adoption, or they can contest the decision.  If the parent contests the decision it then proceeds to a full court hearing.  From the show-up TPR hearing to the final TPR hearing things usually remain the same as far as visitations and any other items put in place.  Once the actual TPR hearing is held and the judge makes a decision to continue or terminate, nothing changes.  When the judge makes the decision to terminate the parental rights, all visitation is to end.  Appeals are filed, in our state the biological parents have 30 days to file the appeal from the date of the TPR hearing.  On average (again in our state) is about seven-eight months for the returned final verdict.  Once that final verdict is read, the adoption, IF a pre-adoptive family has been fostering for six months, will occur roughly within a month.  That is the general process, it may vary from state-to-state and you would want to speak with your agency caseworker, county caseworker, or child’s lawyer to have a better idea.

All of that brings me to the word, in Ecclesiastes 3:4 it is written that there is “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”  In this moment, it is a time to weep.  We weep for the loss our children are experiencing, we weep for the loss of the biological family, we weep out of sadness for the entire situation.  It is not a time to laugh or dance, it is a time of respect, a time to mourn a great loss in the lives of the children, even if they are not fully aware, there is loss!  It is also not a time to laugh and dance in the face of someone else’s tragedy.  Maybe it is a relief that it is over, but it is definitely not a time to celebrate!  Please don’t bash me on this, it is my opinion and I FULLY understand that there are so many scenarios, but at the end of the day, no matter how horrific the situation is, loss is loss and with that comes a tremendous amount of grief.

ALL of that said, the process of termination is NOT a joyous occasion, in fact it can be downright heartbreaking.  While outsiders (meaning people who have little or no experience and understanding of how the system works) this may seem wonderful and an exciting time… after all, they have been “rescued” from the trauma right?   NOPE, nothing could be further from the truth.  Typical children in care do not feel rescued or saved, typical children experience further trauma.  They must confront their past and look to the future… and attempt to heal and move on!

Yes, you read that correctly, they must confront their past, as they have more than likely been doing all along while in care.  Many of these children in care receive some sort of therapy (not all) and have dealt with the many issues they have going on.  Many have more than likely acted out in response to what they cannot figure out or make sense of in their minds.  It truly varies from child to child.  They must also look forward to a future with a new family and may ask themselves where they fit in, in all of this.  The children will have (depending on age) MANY questions.  They will want to know WHY and most frequently WHEN.  They themselves will go through the grief and loss process in their own way.  As their foster parents, you should fully expect to go through that as well.  As for the biological parents, I can’t even imagine the heartbreak.  Even with any of the reasons a parent can lose a child, I cannot imagine their pain and grief.

No matter how horrific things may have been, no matter how much you may want to take the information you have gathered and want to demonize those losing their children, you can’t, well, you shouldn’t!  It does not come easily in saying that.  So if you are walking this journey and you haven’t reached that level yet, hang on, pray, it will come!  Everything in your body wants to SCREAM out for these children you want to hug the pain away, but you can’t, you must embrace the past, honor (YES, honor) their past and find a way to begin to heal and move forward.  You must realize that, even and a very young age, they are confused, angry and full of an entire bag of mixed emotions.  It’s not all bad, but it is part of the grief and loss process.  Children who are attached (there are children who do not attach) will have a more difficult time severing ties and beginning on a new journey!  For some kids, they have been in one, long-term foster placement where those foster parents wish to adopt them.  For others, they have bounced from home to home in hopes of finding forever.  Remember, each time there is a change in placement, a child experiences grief and loss.  What I think is common for ALL kids in care is that they truly wish to have permanency in their lives.  No matter the age and level of awareness as time moves forward they become more aware that it has been a “long” time and surely the judge will make a decision soon.  There are children who will seek to leave their past in the past and there are those who will leave kicking and screaming.   Either way, there is grief and loss.

My caution to friends and family and well, perfect strangers interested in ones journey, be careful/mindful in your excitement, it’s not always the season that family is walking through!  In fact, while most families walk this journey they tend to live in the land of ‘bitter sweet’ and that’s not always an easy place to live.

Yes, there is a season for everything and yes there is a time to grieve and a time to rejoice, but let the family lead you in that season.  Ask questions before blurting out how exciting this time is for everyone.  Ask how things are going, where they are in the process, ask them if there is anything you can do, but be gentle with your excitement, do not attempt to demonize the biological family because it is likely you don’t know the entire story.  My final advice, be mindful and respectful of little ears, they need and deserve the most gentle of care always, but especially during this time.  In the right season, there will be much rejoicing, and that will be for God’s glory!

Ecclesiastes 3:1 ~ There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens

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Christmas Contentment & Confusion!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. Right???

For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been one of my favorite times of year.  The birth of Jesus, the magic of the season, the traditions, family time and all that comes with this wonderful season fills my heart with hope and so much love… after all God sent us LOVE in the form of a baby!

In many ways, having children in our home this Christmas is a dream come true for my husband and I.  It is everything we have hoped for and desired since we married.  This year we are blessed beyond measure to have two beautiful and amazing children in our home.  Experiencing so many firsts with them has brought both joy and sorrow in our home!

I think it is often unrealized or goes unrecognized that many children, whether in care or not, do not have the joy of celebrating Christmas in the manner in which we may be accustomed to in our own little world!  Many think of children in third world countries when they think of children not having a Christmas.  The truth of the matter is, children in our own backyard, in our own neighborhoods, in our own country often go without ever knowing the joys of Christmas.  For them, there is no big feast, no traditions, no tree, no decorating, no caroling, no presents and no Savior to celebrate!  Yes, they may be exposed to these things at school or in some other form, but the idea and the tangible experience of it all is completely foreign to them.  The expectation and anticipation of waiting for Santa, waking up on Christmas morning to open presents and celebrating the birth of the one true king child means nothing to them.  They have never had Christmas, possibly never celebrated a birthday or any other holiday we typically celebrate.  For them, they are a stranger to these new experiences!

So how do we handle this “new” magical and special time of year?  How do we handle the trauma that is still at the forefront even though it is Christmas?  How do we honor their past and involve the children in our tradition?  How do we reduce the anxiety and confusion this time of year brings for many children in care?  I have said this a few times lately… OH, but for the grace of God we get through it.  We get through the accidents, the tantrums, the confusion, the worry, the excitement, the tears, the heartache, the past, with LOVE!

No, every moment is not horrible and much of it is pure joy, but there is never a day without something that happens, that draws us back to the heart of what we are doing!  We are called to love the children in our care, and we are called to help them through the most difficult time of their lives.  We are called to make their world a better place and to ease the pain of this journey.  Simply stated we are sharing God’s love and welcoming a child and in turn welcoming Him into our home!

I don’t intend to paint a picture that we are handling this journey perfectly or that when situations arise they are quickly handled and we move forward.  Some things are on-going while other things are a quick fix.  We try very hard to “think ahead” and to prevent any stressful or negative situations.  For example; we decided to place presents under the tree early.  In our home, we have gifts from us as well as the gifts from Santa.  So the gifts we purchased from us went under the tree a little over a week before Christmas.  We did this for a few reasons.  We decided that we would reassure the children that there would be gifts under the tree for them, we would get a gauge on their reactions, and handle any issues that may arise in hopes of them not surfacing on Christmas day.  The reaction was not quite what we expected, but we were thankful that God has given us the wisdom to think ahead and plan for best and worst case scenarios.  Nope, it’s not perfect, but we are anticipating, with excitement Christmas morning in our home!

Yes, Christmas is a magical time of year and YES it can be a positive thing, but remember, kids in care often have difficulty.  Not because they are not appreciative, rather because it evokes feelings, memories and differences in their world as they know it.  It may bring up the hurt and realization that they have never had a Christmas before… no tree and possibly no presents!  For others, it may evoke bad memories of abusive situations, lack of food or tradition in their prior home.  For others, they move forward as if nothing is different or bothersome to them.

No matter how they react, my advice is to love a little more, show a little more compassion, maintain structure and rules, and be willing to fight through the tears for their sake!  Be willing to be their “hero” during this difficult time.  I believe that someday, in some way they will look back on it and remember one thing… not the presents under the tree, not the food on the table, not the decorations or lights… rather the LOVE, the love in your hearts, your homes and the greatest love of all… Christ’s love… and in that, there is no greater gift!

 

From the bottom of our very grateful and blessed hearts, we wish you and your family a most blessed Christmas and adventurously wonderful new year!

 

John 3:16 ~ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

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Bunk Beds!

So after my husband shocked me with the idea that we would be willing to bring two children into our home, I spun into action preparing for two instead of one!  The “perfectly” decorated room for one has now become a room for two.  A “simple” change from a single bed to a bunk bed has changed pretty much everything in the room at this point!

After we agreed that we would take two, I began the search for bunk beds.  I figured this was a temporary fix until we decide to move (when the time is right) to a bigger home.  Not wanting to pay a ton of money, we searched for the frame on the internet at various stores, on craigslist, at yard sales and I even put an email out to all of my co-workers.  Finally this past Wednesday, I found a set that looked reasonable and right for the room on Craigslist.  The price was right and I was ready to go and see what they looked like in person.  An hour drive led to the purchase of the lovely solid oak bunk beds.  With a busy week, we knew that putting them together would have to wait until the weekend!

Saturday morning we got up and went to a few yard sales, as this seems to have become our Saturday morning ritual.  I am hunting for a sit and stand stroller, few other little items and whatever else strikes our fancy!   After we finished up on our morning “treasure hunt” we went to a local warehouse to purchase the second mattress we would need for the bunk bed and then it was home to scrub down the new bunk and put it together!

My hubby and I worked together to get the bunk all cleaned up and shiny!  We laughed as we wiped everything down with Murphy’s Oil Soap and commented on how our grandparents swore by the stuff!  The bunk looked like new and was ready to be built!  About half way into building it we realized that the ladder was on the wrong side and that there was NO way to quickly fix the problem.  We went back and forth over whether or not we could make it work or if we should just go and buy a new set.  Finally, I suggested that we just call my dad.  He has always been able to fix everything and well, I just really thought he could help!

Sure enough after a call to my mom, over they came!  Within minutes my dad had a plan and he and my hubby worked side by side to get it done.  My mother and I helped as well, but the guys outdid themselves.  A few small changes and a few little drill holes would make the bed like new and make it work in the room.  It was safe, sturdy and perfect for our needs.

Today, we returned the bedrail we no longer needed, finished up a few minor details on the beds and it was time to re-decorate.  Something I love to do!  I think it is safe to say that the room is ready, ready for two!!!

One thing is for sure, we are thankful for our parents and their help and support.  They are always there for us and support us in so many ways.  I appreciate my mom for many reasons, for her prayers, love, guidance and insight into parenting.  I appreciate my dad for his love and support and help in building and fixing things we are unsure of doing ourselves.  They really don’t know how much it means to us both.  I am also thankful for the relationship they have with my husband.

After they left on Saturday, I sent them both a quick text thanking them for dropping what they were doing to come out and help us figure this out.  My dad’s response was the best.  “No problem, very proud of the path you guys are taking, brings back memories.  Remember if it changes one life, it will be worth it.”  I could hardly respond as I cried.  Still his little girl, I needed that approval.  Those memories he had are of his childhood.  His grandparents, my great grandparents whom I never met, were foster parents and fostered over twenty six children.

I am thankful for the legacy that we have been left.  I am thankful that we are blessed with wonderful parents on both sides.  They pray for us, support us, love us and guide us in ways we never thought.  I know that any fears I have as a mother will be comforted by both my mom and mother-in-law and they will be there to love and “spoil” their grandchildren!

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ~Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.