Monthly Archives: June 2013

Fostering Hope – Day 10

The Overcomer

The lady looked older than me, but it turned out she was a couple years younger. She had 6 kids – the first was born when she was only a kid herself. They had been in foster care for several years. But were now back with her, and soon DHS would sign off on her as a mom.

At that point in the conversation, perhaps a normal person with manners and social grace would have just stopped – congratulated her and bowed out of the conversation. But I couldn’t help myself. I was compelled to know the whole story – to know HER. She had been on drugs – first painkillers, then marijuana, then meth. The guys she hung out with were mean, but they supplied her drug habit. Eventually it caught up with her, and the kids were picked up. She was devastated, but she was also addicted. For two more years she was unsuccessful in her struggle against it. Then she began to break free. She went through rehab – ALL the way through. Then a half-way house. Then outpatient counseling. Then she found a job. Then she got an apartment. Then she got her kids back.

What? How did that happen? These stories don’t usually have a happy ending. What was the key?

My parents believed in me. My friend believed in me. My counselor believed in me. My new boss believed in me. “You are an over-comer!” I said. Her eyes met mine, and she smiled.

When we begin to see people for who they were created to be, instead of who they are on the surface, it is easier to believe in them. And when WE believe in them, it is easier for them to begin to believe in themselves. I want to believe in people. In their potential. In the possibilities of their lives. In the awareness that a bad decision is not the same thing as a bad person. In the knowledge that we all make mistakes and none of us is perfect. In the hope that the future can be different than the past.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. Psalm 40:2 (NLT)

Fostering Hope – Day 9

Eye of the Storm

She sat quietly, blinking away tears, as she read again the mother’s day poem. Next to her lay a stack of construction paper cards and colorful trinkets made by her kids to honor the day. But this gift – it was different. It was straight from the heart of her daughter.

Her mind drifted back four years to the day the girl came to live in their home. They had interacted at the occasional family gathering, but this was a whole new kind of relationship. The nearly 13-year old brought very few physical possessions, but the emotional baggage that tagged along could have filled up the house. Abuse. Brokenness. Anger. Sadness. Distrust. Rage.

There had been many good days, that was sure. But many struggles as well. Often the relationship between the two was like being beaten by the wind and rain of a hurricane. Yet somehow they struggled together against the storm. Held onto each other. Survived. Cared. Healed. Redeemed. Loved.

The storm isn’t over, but on mother’s day they were able to rest for a little while. As words from a chosen daughter filled the heart of an adoptive mom.

You pulled me out of the dark; you saved me from could’ve beens.

You’ve been here with me, through good and bad, thick and thin

And haven’t given up.

You’re strong when I’m weak; you’re peaceful when I’m out of control

You’re my mom, my role model, my hero; I love you and

I wanna be just like you.

My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (MSG)

Fostering Hope – Day 8

Friday Night Lights

The shrill ringing of the phone interrupted my Friday afternoon daydreams. I didn’t recognize the number. The voice on the line was soft-spoken, but pressured. “Dr. Shropshire, is there any chance you could talk to the shelter? I just took a baby there, but the baby has a rash and they want me to take him to the ER first.” She paused.

“Tonight is my son’s very first football game. I’ve missed so many of his school events, but I promised him this time…” Her voice trailed off.

Being a case worker is way more than a job, it is a calling. To do it well requires tremendous personal sacrifice. Missing ballgames. Not getting home for supper. Midnight phone calls. Stress. Tears. I looked at my watch. Clinic was almost done. The shelter was on my way home. It would be easy to stop by there…

Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He al-ways keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in en-couraging love and helping out… Hebrews 10:23-24 (MSG)

Prayer for Case Workers: These things we ask for case workers: Strength to continue through each day despite weariness; courage to fight complacency; discernment to see the hearts of the families; and renewal to see each family as human, and every child as a child of God. Amen.

Fostering Hope – Day 7

The Invisible Moving the Visible

Her email asked how she could become more involved with helping foster kids. She wanted to volunteer at the shelter, or perhaps become a mentor. We met to discuss the options – find her a good fit. At 21, she seemed more mature than most 40 year olds I knew. I wanted to know more about her, and over several cups of coffee her story unfolded. Not too great of a childhood. Instability. Loneliness.

Abuse. Pain. Lots of pain. Then, at 14, it all changed. She went with friends to a church event. She didn’t even own a Bible. Had no context for the songs being sung or the message she was hearing. But soon she found herself moving toward the front of the auditorium. More importantly she found her soul moving toward her Creator. How did that happen? How did a kid who barely wondered if God existed wind up as a sold out follower of Christ? Depends on who you ask. Luck, perhaps. Or fate. But I would say it is an example of the invisible moving the visible. Of God reaching into humanity and interrupting the downward spiral of a family tree. God moves, in the lives of children who desperately need a refuge, a father, a comforter, a friend, a savior. We are invited to be a visible part of His invisible movement. Will you join Him?

“… (God), this original creation – the ‘wind hovering over the wa-ter’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life…” – John 3:5 (MSG)

Fostering Hope – Day 6

A Safe Place

When I was growing up, safety was the last thing on my mind. We didn’t lock our house, left our car running when we made a quick trip into the store, and walked everywhere without our parents. Not only was my community safe, my home was safe. There were no locks on bedroom doors; no worries about what might happen when my dad came home, or what my mom might be doing in the next room.

That’s not true for every child. She was 10 when I met her. She still possessed a child’s frame, with barely any evidence that she had begun the journey to womanhood. She looked fearful as she entered the exam room, and that fear increased in magnitude when I shut the door. I quickly explained that nothing would hurt, there wouldn’t be any shots – assuming that like most kids, her concern was about seeing a doctor. But the look on her face didn’t soften. I touched her arm, hoping to reassure her, but she recoiled as if I had punched her. I saw her glance quickly at the male medical student who was with me, and I began to understand her concern. He and I had reviewed her basic info before the visit – the police report stated that she had been sexually abused by a couple of male family members for the last year. She had finally told her best friend at school, who told the teacher, and now here she was.

Safe. At least from our point of view. But safety is not just a location, not just about being in a place where you aren’t harmed. It is a state of mind. It is being in a mental place where a door closing doesn’t cause your heart to race. It is being able to experience healthy, normal human touch without withdrawing. It is about being able to sleep without wondering when your night is going to be interrupted. Safety is more than separation from danger. It is finding a place where you are loved, accepted, and cherished. Where body, soul, and spirit can thrive. THAT is the kind of safety we must seek to provide.

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8 (NIV)

Fostering Hope – Day 5

Numbers

Numbers are an important part of our everyday lives. We use them to help us connect to others on our cell phones, to tell us which seat to sit in on a plane, and to help us find the correct highway. In the world of foster kids, one important number is the number of kids in custody. Thankfully, in Oklahoma that number has been declining, from 12,000 a couple of years ago to just about 8,000 today. There are lots of ideas about why the number is declining, and certainly lots of excitement.
And there should be.

That said, do not think for one moment that the work with these kids and their families is done, that DHS no longer needs the community to step up. I would argue the exact opposite.

There aren’t any fewer families who struggle.

Life is difficult. Parenting is hard if there are two of you and you aren’t worried about putting gas in the car or the next meal on the table. What if you are a single parent? What if it costs you more for a week of daycare than you earn in a week of work? What if a good day is one where the electricity and the water are both on at your house?

Look around you. On your block. At your kids’ school. Or the grocery store, or at church. There are hurting people everywhere. People who need to eat, need a ride, need a babysitter. Or perhaps they need the most important thing of all – a friend.

Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the home-less. Give clothes to those who need them… Isaiah 58:7 (NLT)

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to see the needs of those around me. Take away my busy-ness, my pride, my belief that my action or inac-tion will not make a difference. Give me your compassion. Give me your passion! Break my heart for those who are suffering. Every day. Amen.

Fostering Hope – Day 4

Orphan

“I ‘m not adoptable,” he stated flatly. “What?” I was surprised by his comment. “I’m. Not. Adoptable.” He repeated it more loudly, as if perhaps he thought I was hard of hearing. He was sitting on my exam table, and I had just been looking in his ears and asking him about school and friends and girls. Then the conversation turned to family. His parents had lost their rights years ago.

“I went to this adoption party, and I overheard some people say that I’m not adoptable because I am too old.” At that, tears welled up in his eyes and began to spill down his face. He took a few deep breaths and went on. “I met some people who wanted to adopt a son. They talked to me for a little while but then moved on to meet other children, and I overheard them saying that I was too old, that no one would want to adopt someone my age.” His eyes were dry now, but sad. “All I used to want was to be adopted. I don’t understand why no one wants me.”

My mind was spinning, quickly assessing my own family situation. Did I want to add a 15 year old boy with 10 years of foster care baggage to the mix? No. I told him that I thought he was perfectly adoptable, and that I was sure someone would come along who wanted him. It sounded lame even to me.

“Do YOU want me? Would YOU ever adopt me?”

I was frozen. Of course I wanted him to have a family; I just didn’t want the effort of being it. He could sense my struggle, and his face changed again, this time looking reserved and emotionless. “It’s OK,” he said. “My case worker says I need to spend the next couple of years learning how to take care of myself anyway.” Head down, I left the room and went on to the rest of my day, but I never forgot him.

And I didn’t sleep for a week. And I felt like a fraud. And I have always wondered if he should have been MY son.

If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal – 1 Corinthians 13:1 (NIV)

Prayer for Older Children: Today, we are specifically lifting up the older children in state custody. Father, life has been hard for these children. Love them as only You can. Place people in their lives who can give them hope for the future, and show them what a future with You can be. Amen.

www.fosteringhopeproject.org

Fostering Hope – Day 3

Someone Else’s Child

He was a big man, with a full beard and broad shoulders and calloused hands that looked like they knew a good days’ work. He didn’t say much, just listened to my questions and nodded as his wife supplied the answers. “We think he was born on time, and he seems pretty healthy, but we don’t know much else. We heard that his mom was very young, and that she wasn’t in a very good position to take care of him.” This baby was lucky, moving from the hospital straight to their home. I knew that a half dozen other babies were lying at the foster shelter as we spoke, waiting for a place to go.

He edged closer to the table, watching my every move as I examined the infant, as if he were concerned I might miss something or be too rough. Only when the boy was wrapped snug in a blanket and tucked safely in his wife’s arms did he relax a little. “How long have you been foster parents?” I asked. “Four years,” he replied. “Seven kids, and I miss them all. I wonder what they will grow up to be. If somehow I was able to have an impact on them. Never knew I could love someone else’s child like that.”

It is a special thing to be a dad. But it is a divine calling to be the dad of someone else’s child. A holy opportunity. Are you up for it?

…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save people from their sins”…When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:20-21, 24 (NIV)

Prayer for Foster Families: Father, bless those families who have selflessly stepped out on faith and followed your Biblical commands to care for someone else’s child. May these children grow and prosper while in their care. Amen.

www.fosteringhopeproject.org

Fostering Hope – Day 2

Where Am I?

I hate moving. When I was a kid, my family moved every year or two, and it always made me sick. Hugging the toilet sick. The whole time the U-Haul was being loaded.

I didn’t really get any pleasure out of seeing my new bedroom or exploring a new neighborhood. Mostly I spent the first few days worrying. Wondering if anyone knew where I was. Would I be able to get on the right bus at school? And off at the right stop? I didn’t even know my address – how would the bus driver? Would my grandparents be able to find us for my birthday party? And how would Santa know where we were?

Those nerves could be largely settled by one simple thing – getting mail. Not mail for my parents, mail for ME. Mail meant that someone knew where I was. Mail meant I wasn’t lost. Mail meant I was thought of. And, if I was lucky and it was from my grandparents, it usually included stuff – stickers, toys, activity books, crayons – you get the picture.

Foster kids move a lot too – an average of 4 times in 20 months, and among kids who age out of foster care at 18, a third moved more than 8 times while they were in custody. Each move means a new house, new neighborhood, new school. Each move means you lose stuff that matters to you – stuff like pictures and drawings and stories you have written and favorite CD’s. Each move means new rules – new bed-times, new chores, new ways to fold the towels and make your bed.

And, they wonder if anyone knows where they are.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. Psalm 139:1-5 (NLT)

www.fosteringhopeproject.org

Fostering Hope – Day 1

Home Away From Home

M y boss waved at me impatiently. We were headed to tour the shelter – a small clinic was located there, and he wanted me to become its physician. We drove a few miles, and then parked in front of a low brick building with no sign. We took the tour. Offices. Dorm-style bedrooms with a small dresser. A half-court gym that reminded me of my own grade school. As buildings go, it wasn’t too bad. A little institutional, but not too bad.

Then I saw them – children. Everywhere.

Babies. Toddlers. Kids. Teenagers. Moving in small groups through the halls and rooms, led by direct care staff from lunch to naps, school to free time. A few days ago they were at home with their families. Now, because of what their families have done or neglected to do, now they are homeless. Motherless. Fatherless. And maybe, hope-less. Sure, they have food and shelter. But this was no home. There were no homes. No families waiting to hold them, to comfort them, to encourage them. They were practically orphans. Kids whose parents are alive, but aren’t present. Aren’t there to bandage your knee when you fall down, or tuck you in at night. Orphans. American orphans.

I was horrified. I didn’t sleep for days. And I knew without a doubt that I would be back here. That I would do something about this.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27 (NLT)

Prayer for Shelter Workers: Lord, give these workers the ability to see beyond the hurt, scars, and fears and truly love and care for these children. Renew their hearts for their difficult jobs and refresh their spirit to bestow compassion and love to each who cross their paths. Amen.

www.fosteringhopeproject.org