Yearly Archives: 2013

Fostering Hope – Day 27 – My Favorite Color is Gray

My Favorite Color is Gray

She met the young couple during a spring break mission project. They lived at a local homeless shelter, and as she ate lunch with them one day, she began to connect with them. She heard about their pain, saw firsthand their poverty. And at the same time watched them hang onto each other for dear life.

The official project might have been over, but her calling was just be-ginning. She served them. She took them to the grocery store. Roped her fiancé’ and her friends and her church into helping with all sorts of projects, from job hunting to assisting with housing. When they found out their little family was growing, she rejoiced with them. Threw them a baby shower.

This kind of service isn’t free. She worried – a lot. Had some sleepless nights. Spent money on them instead of herself. And then one night the phone rang. It was the hospital. Someone had injured the baby, and he was very ill. Might not survive. She should come right away.

As she stood next to the crib holding the lifeless little baby, her mind raced through a thousand scenarios. Should she have helped them as much as she did? Maybe it was enabling. Or maybe she could have helped a little more and prevented such a terrible outcome. Should the baby have been placed in foster care? Social services was in-volved, and knew that the family was struggling, but they hadn’t seen any cause for removing the child. So many questions. So much pain. At such a high price. The baby’s mom touched her arm, and then fell into her sobbing, needing desperately to be held.

The world wasn’t black and white any more. It was gray. A terrible, but also wonderful shade of gray. As a young lady became the closest thing to God that a struggling family has ever seen.

I suspect that many more families will see God because of her and her new favorite color – gray…

Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do. 2 Corinthians 5:14 (MSG)

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org

Fostering Hope Day 26 Who Will Cry For Me?

Who Will Cry For Me?
She was 15, the eldest of 4 siblings. Life had not been kind. Her parents had died when she was 12, and after living with a couple of different relatives, her aunt had reluctantly taken them in. The basics were provided – food, shelter, education – but there wasn’t much emotional connection, so at a young age she took on the responsibil-ity of “mothering” her siblings.

I remember the first day I met her. She had just arrived at the shelter and was very upbeat and smiling. Which seemed strange. When I inquired why she was there, her eyes got more serious. Her aunt had gone on a trip and left them alone. She had tried very hard to take care of them. But they were beginning to run out of food in the house. She was worried, and asked their neighbor for help – the neighbor provided them some food, but also contacted the authori-ties and the kids were picked up.

She was OK with being at the shelter – OK with not having to stress about providing for her siblings. She was hopeful about the future – she wanted to be a pediatrician and hammered me with lots of ques-tions about college, med school, and what it was like to work with sick children. It was impossible not to fall in love with her spunk and her enthusiasm.

She came frequently to the clinic while I was there – at first just to hang out and talk. Then with some minor complaints – an occasional headache or stomachache. Then more serious ones. Weight loss. Sleeplessness. Depression. Her siblings left the shelter one by one, each to a relative. But no one wanted her. And her soul died. Her hope died. Right in front of me.

We cry when the body dies. But who cries when the soul dies? Who cries for foster kids? Who will cry for her?

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15 (NIV)

Prayer: God, I am so grateful that you love us even when we don’t feel loveable. Show us how to tell all 8046 foster children that they are unconditionally loved each and every day. Send me. Amen.

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org/

Fostering Hope – Day 25 – The Gift

The Gift

I saw her crying, and it caught my attention. It was family night at a local restaurant, and while my kids played, I was people watching. And that’s when I saw her. Crying. She looked to be early 30’s – not much younger than me. Next to her was a baby carrier with a small infant inside. He was a different race than the family, and I wondered what their story was.

Didn’t take much to get the story. They were foster parents who wanted to adopt. A month ago they had been called about a newborn who the worker felt certain would be adopted – the birth mother had a lot of history with DHS and had lost other kids. It was a done deal. At least in the minds of the worker and the parents. They went shop-ping. They bought baby furniture. Their friends threw them a shower. They celebrated. The baby came, and they fell in love. Took family pictures. Visited grandparents.

Then, a call. Can you bring the baby to the office? There is an aunt, and the baby is going to live with relatives. Devastation. Grief. An-ger. Loss. Exhaustion. Emptiness. The mom mustered enough en-ergy to say on the phone, “No, it’s supper time for my family. I will meet you tomorrow.” This was their last meal together. Family night at a local restaurant.

I bumped into them a month later, again at family night. This time smiles. Excitement. The mom came straight over to me and began filling me in. She had taken the baby to the DHS office. Along with diapers, and clothes, and bottles. And a photo album, filled with pic-tures of the baby. And one of them all together. She met the aunt, and the birth mother was there too. Both were amazed that she had brought all the baby items. But mostly they were amazed at the pic-tures. There was hugging – a lot of it. And gratitude, and tears, but this time they didn’t hurt so badly.

It was a reminder that moms love their children, even when they aren’t able to take care of them. That they are grateful for others who come along and love them, too, even if they aren’t able to fully ex-press it. That even in the face of loss and grief, love wins. It wins.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12 (NIV)

Prayer for Kinship Families: Lord, bless the kinship families who take in children who are part of their extended family. Give them the grace to change their lives to unselfishly love a child who is not their own. Keep them mindful that all plans are your plans, Lord.

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org

Fostering Hope – Day 24 – Mosaic

Mosaic

At 16, she clearly had more street smarts than most people do at twice her age. On the surface, she was really kind of a mess to look at. Her skin bore the evidence of darker days, as superficial scars cov-ered her wrists and thighs. She had hoped that causing pain on the outside would alleviate the pain on the inside, but that only worked for a little while. She also sported a couple of not-very-well-done tattoos and several piercings that I could see. She grinned a little and mentioned that there were others, but I left that subject alone.

I wanted to know more about her. Her parents were drug addicts; high on whatever they could buy or steal most of her life. At age 7 she was living with them in a tent by a lake, and it was at that age she learned to smoke by sneaking leftover cigarettes when they were passed out. By 10 she was an alcoholic, and by 13 had used almost every street drug known. At some point she could no longer self-medicate her reality, and she began to think about ending her life. By anyone’s standards, her life was a pile of shattered pieces.

Then she met this boy. A really good boy. Who told her she was smart. And funny. And beautiful. And who believed in her. One by one, with patience and care, he began to glue her life back together. Piece by shattered piece. Until she was off drugs. And alcohol free. And in a GED program. And thinking about the future, and marriage, and being a mom someday. “My life is a mosaic,” she told me. “There are a lot of pieces, but now they fit together to make a picture.”

Not just a picture. A masterpiece. A beautiful work of art.

Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes. Isaiah 58:12 (NLT)

Prayer: Thank you Father for Your amazing love. Show these kids that whatever they have brought in with them to that shelter or foster home, You can wipe it clean. Show them there is love for them, heal-ing for them, and hope for them. Help them feel Your amazing grace. Amen

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org

Fostering Hope – Day 23 – Just Keep Going

Just Keep Going

She was 13 when I met her. She was polite but a little distant and suspicious of me – I suspect that she saw me as yet another adult with lots of questions to ask, but no compelling reason to care about or even consider her answers. I rattled through my usual list. Any major illnesses? Allergies? Medications? Feeling OK today? Then, a ques-tion that struck a nerve. “What grade are you in?” Her head dropped, and the walls defending her soul lowered for a second, revealing shame. “6th, but I am supposed to be in 7th”.

A common answer – I’ve heard it a thousand times. Educational delay is a common struggle for kids in foster care. The average foster kid is one full grade behind their peers by the time they reach 6th grade. The lack of life stability, both before and after they enter foster care, causes them to miss valuable chunks of school. They change schools frequently, often several times a year. And even if they are able to attend, exactly how are they supposed to pay attention? Can you imagine sitting through math class wondering if anyone knows it is your birthday? Could you learn about history and ignore the thought that your own life is likely sooner to be written on the obituary page than the history book?

My heart broke for her. “No worries – everyone here is a grade be-hind.” Her head snapped up, and her eyes met mine with a question.

“Everyone here is a grade behind,” I said again. “It’s because you have moved a lot, right? And every school has a different curriculum, dif-ferent schedule. Plus, it’s not like you haven’t had other things to think about. Don’t worry about it, just keep going. Keep learning. Keep showing up.” A faint smile, a brief hug, and then she was gone.

She needed what we all need. Acceptance. Validation. Encourage-ment. She needed to know that it was OK to keep going.

“They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 1:19 (NIV)

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org

Fostering Hope – Day 22 – Chronic

Chronic

In medicine, some health conditions never go away. They irritate and nag and keep you from functioning at full strength. They suck the energy out of you. Some life conditions do that too.

She was 17, and counting the days until her birthday when she could be “out on her own”. She was going to move in with a friend, she told me, and try to get a job, although she had only completed the 9th grade so far, and thought that being employed at a fast food restau-rant was her best option. She answered my questions in a somewhat robotic, monotonous voice, and she seemed almost able to predict what the question was before I had asked it. Until I asked about her family. Then the robot vanished. Her voice shook, and her eyes filled with pain.

Lots of it.

First in foster care at age 2. Back and forth between the system and home until she was school-age. Parent’s rights terminated. In several foster homes. Then adopted. Until it got hard. Then back into foster care. Now, almost on her own. But with no hope, no future, no life. Just pain. Chronic, long-standing pain.

An aspirin won’t fix that. Only one thing will – love. Massive, over-whelming, unconditional love. And she hasn’t found that yet.

God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. Psalm 9:9 (MSG)

 

Did you know?
Half of young adults who previously aged out of the foster system have a treatable mental health diagnosis, including depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, they are 1/3 less likely than their peers to have health insurance.

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org

 

Fostering Hope – Day 21 – The Protector

The Protector

The October sky was blue, but there was certainly a chill in the air. His small frame, covered with a thin, long-sleeve t-shirt, didn’t offer much of a barrier against the breeze. He sat on the steps of his home, trying to figure out what to do. At 6, he was the caretaker of his 3 and 2 year old siblings. He got them up in the mornings and fixed them breakfast – had an old burn stripe on his finger from touching the hot coils of the toaster. He knew how to make macaroni and cheese, and how to microwave soup and fix sandwiches. He made sure their noses were wiped, and he changed his little sister’s diapers the best he could. And he tucked them into bed at night. All the while his mom spent most of the day either passed out on the couch or away from the house, looking for her next fix.

Most of the time he didn’t mind helping. He knew his mom had a lot she was struggling with, and he wanted to make it as easy on her as he could. He loved her very much, and as he shivered against the wind, his mind wandered back to days when she read him stories and gave him big hugs. When it seemed like she loved him. He hadn’t gotten that kind of attention for at least a couple of years. And his siblings never had, except from him. That thought snapped him back to the reality of the porch. He tried the door again, but it was still locked. His mom had woken up in a bad mood and was screaming and throwing things at his little brother. When he intervened, his mom had dragged him out on the front porch and locked the door.

He began to walk down the street, slowly at first, but then with in-creasing confidence, toward the fire station a block away. “Can you help me sir? My sister and brother are in danger, and it’s my job to protect them. Can you help me? We need a better life than this. There has to be something better.”

Courage is found in many different places. Sometimes it is packaged in the small body of a 6 year old. What about you? Will you be coura-geous?

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discour-aged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org

 

Fostering Hope – Day 20 – No Concerns

No Concerns

There are no concerns.” I stared at the paper, but the words didn’t change. “There are no con– I stared at the paper, but the words didn’t change. “There are no concerns.” There it was, my handwriting in black ink on the medical chart. In medical language it means that the patient isn’t sick. They don’t feel bad. Nothing is wrong. Normally that is a good thing. But this time, as I sat filling out yet another medical form for yet another child entering the emergency foster shelter, I found myself overtaken with emotion.

Anger. Disgust. Frustration. Sadness. Worry.

I wrote that there were no concerns. But that isn’t true. I have con-cerns. Lots of concerns. Concerns about these children and what they will think about and what they will feel when the lights go out at night and the shelter is quiet. About where they will live next, and whether the family who takes them in will treat them as their own or merely as transients. About whether their social worker will get to know them as human beings or just by a case number. About when they will see their family again, and whether that reunion will be filled with joy or anger or fear.

We should be concerned. And may that concern fuel our actions. May it compel us to get out of our comfortable lives where most of our concern is for ourselves, and to be concerned for someone else for a change.

They tried to heal my people’s serious injuries as if they were small wounds. They said, “It’s all right, it’s all right.” But really, it is not all right. Jeremiah 8:11 (NCV)

Prayer for The Church: Forgive us, God, for ignoring Your commands and pleas to care for the widows, the orphans and the oppressed – the very ones You hold dear to Your heart. Open our hearts to no longer turn our backs on these children. Move Your people to demonstrate Your love. Amen.

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org

Fostering Hope – Day 19 – Bloodsuckers

Bloodsuckers

I would guess she was early 20’s, although the fatigue in her face made her look at little older. Growing up in foster care had certainly not preserved her youth. She sat quietly, watching the toddler ex-plore every corner of the room. “Is parenting getting easier?” I won-dered. She nodded, and responded that they were in a pretty good place, past infancy but not quite to the terrible 2’s and 3’s. She en-joyed him – that was apparent. “You have a place to live?” Yes. “Enough food?” Yes again. “Friends your own age?” Hesitation, then no. “Why?” I asked.

They all want something from me, you know? Something I’m not willing to give. Drugs. Sex. Money. You name it. The people I know who are my age are a bunch of parasites.

The impact of her statement silenced me, and my mind raced to evaluate my own friendships. How valuable it was to have people my own age around me, who simply wanted to share conversations about raising kids, or maintaining a marriage, or shouldering the responsibilities of life. Friends on whom I could call for help without the ex-pectation of “payment” for their favor.

What value can be placed on unconditional love? On unconditional friendship? On offering to weave your life together with someone else’s simply because you are both human, rather than because they can do something for you. Want to be the hands and feet of Christ? Start by finding someone who needs a friend and losing yourself, your interests, your expectations. Start by falling in love with others.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)

 

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org

Fostering Hope – Day 18 – Deep

Deep

So I have this friend. And it turns out that we have something unusual in common. We both love foster kids, but that isn’t the un-common part. What sets my friend apart is that she loves the birth parent of her foster kids. In case you blew past that, let me say it again.

She loves the birth parent of her foster kids.

She believes she is called to do that – to create opportunities for a mom that has never had anything. To offer relationship that doesn’t have strings attached. Her husband believes it too. And her friends are starting to. In fact, she rounded up a whole army of people who are willing to go deep with her.

To get dirty. To work hard. To hurt. To get frustrated. To pray. To encourage. To support. To hope. And most of all? To love.
It’s really what we should be about.

For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love. Galatians 5:6 (MSG)

Prayer for Biological Families: Today, we lay before You the trials and tribulations of the biological families in the child welfare sys-tem. Grant them fortitude, faith, and patience. Give them the strength to put aside the past and look to the future; show them peace in chaos and wisdom in turmoil. Amen.

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org