Author Archives: glenng

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Camp Reflections

CAMP REFLECTIONS DEVOTIONAL

Janel Pahl’s special treatments and decorative enhancements give her images a distinct, original look that is sure to be popular with art enthusiasts. Photography has been her main art for over 30 years, but recently, along with her photographs, she has added hand made papers, encaustic waxes and acrylic paints to create images with texture, depth and warmth. Janel was featured in Décor Magazine as one of 2009 Artists to watch for. She was quoted, “My style is focused on natural and dramatic lighting , which evokes emotion.” The creative treatments give the viewer a sense of reality, but also convey painterly effects with emotion. “My goal as an artist is to cause one to pause, take a second look and rest in a pure form of beauty.” Janel Pahl is a Master Photographer and a national judge for the Professional Photographers of America. In addition, she is a teacher of photography and has inspired aspiring and professional photographers around the world. She has presented her workshops in Canada, Italy, Korea, England,Ireland and throughout the United States. Her images have won numerous national and international awards. Along with her portraits, Janel’s fine art images are published with the Canadian art group, Winn Devon.

And yet, more than her amazing talent, she has this grace-filled, beautiful spirit. This will be Janel’s 18th summer to serve at Royal Family KIDS Camp in Costa Mesa, California. These reflections are just a small sampling of what she writes. She doesn’t write them to be read. However, every year her Camp Director, Bill Richardson, convinces her to share them at the Camp Counselor meeting on the last morning of camp. This year, we were able to convince Janel to give us a week’s worth of reflections for all of us to share.

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Fostering Hope – Day 30 – Old Made New

Old Made New

It was a balmy 95 degrees on the San Antonio river walk. As the boat drifted along on its half-hour sightseeing voyage, the captain was commenting on points of interest, and then he said something that caught my ear. He said, “Here in San Antonio, we don’t like to get rid of things that are old. We prefer to rehabilitate them, and make them into something that is new.”

At 16, she was used to taking care of herself. From the few stories she shared, I knew that life had been chaos, and I suspected that what she spoke barely scratched the surface of what childhood was actually like for her. Her family tree included generations of substance abuse and domestic violence. I asked how she coped and she laughed a little. “I used to smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day – started when I was 7. By 10 I was drinking alcohol every day. But that’s in the past – I’ve been clean for a year.” She went on to tell me that most people just saw her as yet another chapter in the old story of a broken family – a kid with no hope and no future. But then she met a teacher who was dif-ferent. Who paid extra attention to her. Offered to help her after school so she could catch up with her peers. Believed in her. Told her how she could be different from her family history. How she could be somebody new.

The truth is I’ve seen teens in foster care who I haven’t believed were fixable. Who I don’t spend much time with because the yield seems so low, so unlikely to be worth anything of value. Who I don’t love as much as I should because I don’t think it will matter. But we are not in this to throw out kids, to deem them as old and useless, but rather to REdeem them, to give them opportunities to be made new and useful.

God, give me new eyes today – ones that can see what is possible.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Prayer: Dear God, these are Your children. They were Your children yesterday living under a bridge, and they will be Your children tomorrow in a foster home. Only You know the divine plan for each of these children. Remind us gently and often that You will, and always have, taken care of that which is Yours. Thank You for loving these children. Amen.

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org

Fostering Hope – Day 29 – Heaven Meets Earth

Heaven Meets Earth

He was a three-and-a-half feet tall bundle of emotion. In a few short years, he had unfortunately witnessed much more bad than good, a fact that became painfully clear to his foster parents as he ran screaming through the house. As they struggled to settle his fears, their silent prayers were filled with doubt. What could they do? They weren’t equipped to handle a kid like this. Finally the screaming stopped, and there was silence, except for the quiet sobs of a little broken heart. The man fell to his knees. “We will never hurt you.” At these simple words the sobs stopped. Time seemed to stand still as child and adult locked eyes. Then the most unexpected thing – a sloppy, wet, little boy kiss planted firmly on his foster dad’s cheek. He ran off to play, leaving his caregivers stunned, realizing that heaven met earth for just a moment that day.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Psalm 5:11 (NIV)

Prayer for Foster Children: Now I lay me down to sleep, Lord these precious babes are yours to keep. Shield their hearts from fear and pain; pouring grace like gentle rain. As they close their eyes in slum-ber, we beseech you Father, for blessings abundant. Cover them in peace and faith, a hedge of angels before them place; banish the demons and evils too, and keep their hearts so pure and true. God bless one and God bless all, the innocent victims of the fall. Help me Father heed the call and love these hearts so very small. And when they wake by morning’s break, may joy and peace be theirs to take. Amen.

Did you know?
Fewer than 10% of all child abuse allegations are related to sexual abuse. Yet 25% of ALL WOMEN say they experi-enced sexual abuse as a child.

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org

Fostering Hope – Day 28 – Trust

Trust

I remember it like it happened yesterday. She was 14, and in my office for a check-up. We talked through some of the normal stuff that I like to know – how she is doing in this foster home, her school grades, whether she has good friends. Oh, and what about boys? On that day the conversation was easy, although it hadn’t always been. After a few moments of catching up, she handed me a notebook. The cover was faded blue and torn a little bit. It was also a little discol-ored, as if water had spilled on it. Or perhaps tears. I didn’t say any-thing, but my eyes must have asked the question. “It’s my story,” she answered. “My counselor made me write it, then told me I had to find someone I trust to show it to. I have carried it around a while, but I decided I wanted to show it to you.”

I opened the pages slowly, carefully. Contained there were stories, poems, and drawings, each representing a piece of her history. Sto-ries about her family, about loss and grief, but also joy and excite-ment. Pictures of her siblings, who she rarely saw but thought of of-ten. I sat next to her on the exam table as we thumbed through the pages, and she filled me in on even more details than the pages con-tained.

It was a holy moment – a sacred time. One that changed me. Like many people, somewhere between childhood and adulthood I quit trusting people. Got burned a few times. But the truth is that trusting people is part of our DNA. Without it we aren’t fully able to engage the humanity around us. Aren’t fully able to enjoy all that a relation-ship offers. It is not something to be entered into carelessly, to be sure. But if we are able to trust and be trusted, we will experience an unusual depth to our relational interactions.

That kid needed someone to trust. And I needed the reminder that so do I.

By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Ecclesiastes 4:12 (MSG)

http://www.fosteringhopeproject.org

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