I Can’t Convince Anyone to be a Foster Parent

A few years ago, we were scheduled to go onstage at church and talk about our experience as foster parents. We were only three months into this foster care gig…and why wouldn’t we be the perfect couple to speak into a microphone and convince others to follow in our footsteps?

When asked, I didn’t realize it would end up being on a morning where everything felt so hard.

Our 4 ½-year-old foster son was still wearing diapers. He would hide and poop, despite all our best efforts to potty train and bribe and encourage and incent. He was a trauma kid who whined more than he spoke in a normal voice, and he also arrived at our house with a stomach parasite…which he passed along to me. He wouldn’t say my name for weeks because he wasn’t planning on staying, and when he finally did, he spoke to me in a way that I could hear voices from his past that—quite frankly—scared me. But as much as we struggled to find our place with each other, I found myself loving him, wanting to protect him, sheltering him and helping him heal his broken little heart. It was all so hard. I felt poured out, emptied out and very much at the end of myself.

So on that Sunday, when he pooped in the corner right as we were running out the door and I had to pick him up and change his diaper, I pulled a muscle in my back and nearly lost my mind. If someone had handed that microphone right in that moment with the back spasm, I would’ve screamed, “Run! Don’t do it!”

Ah, the best spokespeople. The ones in the trenches.

But give anything time and things change. That day, all I needed was an hour. By the time I was handed the microphone on that worship stage, I was able to speak about fostering in a way that hopefully revealed the beauty and truth that comes from pouring yourself out on behalf of these vulnerable children. There’s a glory that comes from reaching the end of yourself because that is the place you see God.

Can I get a show of hands for who wants to sign up and do this messy and beautiful work?

Anyone? Why not?

I’ve never been able to convince anyone to become a foster parent. I can’t make it glamorous, no matter what I do to dress it up. Foster care is not just opening up your home to a child or another chair at your dinner table. It’s standing on the stage and asking you to trust God with an armful of unknowns and a whole lot of what ifs. It’s asking you to give up what feels comfortable and, in exchange, clumsily carry your cross and rejoice in suffering for your Savior.

See my PR problem here?

(Sharing over at the Faithbridge blog today. Click here to continue reading!)

 

Do Not Fear What They Fear

 

photo credit: pepe50 via photopin cc
photo credit: pepe50 via photopin cc

We just returned from spending several days together with 2,500 people in line with our hearts. The Christian Alliance for Orphans gathers every year to discuss/plan/pray/act on behalf of the orphan and foster care crisis during their annual Summit. We were blessed to be there for the second year in a row–a tradition I now cherish.

These people gathered shoulder to shoulder with us in Nashville and we all but sang our throats dry and wept a little and held hands up to the sky. We attended seminars and heard speakers, soaked in scripture and furiously scribbled notes on paper. Many of us tweeted snippets of wisdom, blogged from pews, looked around at each other in awe of what was happening in that space. We heard story after story after story. We heard about victories. Many, many victories. We mourned setbacks. Stories that break your heart. Stories that mend them up again. Ones that penetrate your heart with beauty that can only come from a redemptive Savior. Ones that remind us never to stop listening to the stories.

We were rubbed raw with reality. In a good way. My husband and I kept looking at one another and without needing to utter words, we confirmed that we were called. We were refilled and refueled. Commissioned and convicted. Energized to continue, one foot in front of the other until our family’s open arms contain a child or children that need them.

But even when you know what God is calling you to do, it does not make it easy. The unknown is frightening. Internalizing stories–the sad, the brutal, the tell-me-it-isn’t-true stories–it’s enough to make anyone stumble or become afraid.

But our God, our God, knows the skin we wear. It’s no surprise He speaks to our fears throughout His Word.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14)

Do not fear what they fear.

Do not fear what they fear.

Do not be frightened.

We are blessed.

This life–it is blessed but it’s not necessarily easy. But none of us are called to easy. We are called to a life that requires sacrifice and hard work. Not always fitting in or going with the flow. Sometimes limping. Sometimes being carried. Sometimes carrying others.

To whatever ministry we are called (the orphan, the needy, the widow, the foreigner, the stranger, the angry, the hurt, the unlovable, the frightened, the children, the elderly, our brothers, our sisters, all), we must be bold and courageous and unashamed by the blood and the muck and the dirtiness this world offers.

We must look into the eyes of those whom God loves, one at a time, and respond to the pain in this world. Run straight into it. 

This conference? A beautiful, stunning, heaven-sent reminder of a call. A call to all of us on this journey of showing Christ’s love to others. It takes on many forms but the result? It’s the same.

We are all called.

So, let’s remind each other. Let’s clasp hands with each other. Let’s run into it together with the end in mind. And respond to the pain, help others through it, help them learn to live again and love and be loved.

Let’s not fear what they fear. Let’s not. Let’s be a blessing and be blessed.

Lines in the Sand

photo credit: Lars Plougmann via photopin cc

photo credit: Lars Plougmann via photopin cc

There are two meanings for drawing a line in the sand. One is that you make a decision not to cross a certain point. No more movement forward, not one more step past it.

The other meaning is that a firm decision has been made and you cross that line and never go back.

Isn’t that interesting?

One line. You either stop right before it or go full-force through it.

We’re staring at that line right now. Actually, we’re staring at a lot of lines.

Lines in the sand, drawn by God. Our toes are inching their way forward–not out of stubbornness or fear–but just out of the sheer fact that some things take time. Some lines are closer than others. Some are on the horizon. But they’re there.

This weekend we are training to become foster parents. Come Sunday afternoon, a line will have been crossed.

Then we will do paperwork. And have background checks. And a home study. Physicals. These are other lines to cross in a few weeks. And we’ll cross them.

At some point in the near future, there will be another one. A bigger one. A major event like getting married or having a child or becoming a believer. The kind that divides the “before” and the “after”. This line is the one that holds the heart of a little one, who is hurting and scared and needing us.

I’m not sure how we will cross that line but we’ll do it. We may be on our knees crawling over it. And clasping hands with others who will help us through it. And raising palms to the only One who will be before it, in it, and after it.

What it looks like on the other side, only God knows. That’s an interesting phenomenon that comes when you decide to step over these types of lines. You can’t totally see over it and past it or through it. But I’m guessing that it’s beautiful. And hard. And messy. And undoubtedly worth crossing over.

We all have our own lines that we draw in the sand. Are you about to cross over one?