Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You Probably Don't Know!

          The couple pushed their shopping cart full of goods to the front of the store and began to look for a cashier that appeared the least busy. They began to lay out their items on the belt in groups. Inevitably, others began to get in line behind them. The young lady reaches into her diaper bag and pulls out a booklet of coupons. Each group of items represented a different coupon in her booklet. It was clear that those who had followed her into the line were not pleased when they discovered that the young lady was getting WIC for what appeared to be multiple children. Their looks of disgust could only have been more obvious had they expressed with their lips what they were thinking. One might argue that they were simply in a hurry and suddenly realized the couple’s groceries were going to take some time. However, the looks communicated a certain disdain.
            As the cashier began checking out the goods, she stated that the couple had gotten the wrong juice. The husband told the cashier that the coupon simply noted that he was to get a certain amount of juice and did not specify a brand. The cashier told him it was to be a certain name brand. He told her that he got the generic because it was cheaper and thought that would be fine. Instead, the cashier called in customer service to exchange the juice. As they waited for him to return, the air was getting thicker around them as the tension grew.
            After the customer service representative returned with the correct juice, the cashier noted that the couple had also gotten the wrong bread. The wife explained that she looked at the bread for about ten minutes trying to make sure she got the right loaf. The cashier called customer service once again to exchange the bread. As they waited the husband pulled out his Iphone and began checking his messages. Suddenly, he hears whispers about the fact that he both has an Iphone and is standing in line getting WIC. He tries to ignore the folks as the tension grows and grows. Finally, he looks at them and apologizes that it is taking so long.
            Finally, the bread is exchanged and the couple is ready to head out the door. They walk out of the store and get into a new car. It is quite a site, a man with an Iphone loading WIC into his new car.  Perhaps some think, “Why does he not get a job?” “It must be nice to have Obama use our money to pay for his groceries so he can have a new car and an Iphone.” “Maybe they should stop having children if they cannot afford to take care of them.” “Don’t they know what causes that?”
            If only they knew that the couple was very uncomfortable getting WIC in the first place. If only they knew that the wife went through a very uncomfortable experience at the WIC office. If only they knew that they dreaded going to the store. If only they knew that the couple went to the store, away from their town, in order to keep people from talking about them. If only they knew that the couple really does have several kids (6 to be exact). If only they knew that the couple knows EXACTLY “what caused that.” If only they knew that only two of their kids are biological. If only they knew that two of their kids came to them by adoption and two others are foster kids. If only they knew that the WIC was given to them in order to provide for their foster children. If only they knew me and my wife, that we are a ministry family, seeking by God's grace to love the least of these. If only all of us wouldn’t be so quick to assume that we know. 
           I would love to say that I am exempt from such poor assumptions. But the fact is, because of remaining sin in my heart, I am not. I too often come to quick and wrong conclusions.The fact is, I am reminded that like those in the check-out line, I am constantly in need of Jesus. Like the hymn writer said, "I need Thee, O I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dear Parent(s) of My Foster Child

About a week ago I was compelled to write this blog in which I plan to address some things that foster parents would say in a heart to heart conversation with their foster child’s parents. I surveyed several foster parents and compiled a short list of things that I will elaborate on here. I wanted to say before I begin that these statements are very general and not directed towards any one individual. Also, the things reflected upon will be my own thoughts, and since I am a Christian that will play a central role in what I write. This will be written as a Christian foster parent to the child’s parent(s). I understand that situations vary and not everything that I write can be applied to every case. With that said, here goes . . .

Dear Parent(s) of my foster child,

Until recently, you and I did not know one another. Now, our paths have not only crossed, but we have a new and very awkward relationship. Your children, whom I will assume you love very deeply, now live in my home and you don’t even know me. Because you love them, I am sure this is something that has caused you to lose sleep. I wanted to take a little time to say a few things that I pray will comfort you and be helpful to you as well.

1. The love of Christ compels me. I do what I do motivated by this one great thing. The Bible says, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
            I do not do this for the money. In fact, there is not really much money involved. Depending upon the age of the child, foster parents receive a small per diem which averages out to between sixty to eighty cents per hour.
            I do not do this for the accolades. In fact, there really aren’t any. In many ways foster care is a pretty thankless job. In fact, many people think we are crazy for doing this and some of them even tell us we are. It is also not uncommon for the parents of a foster child to show no appreciation, and to even treat the foster parent as an enemy.
            I have countless social workers make visits to my home. Your child’s case manager comes to my home, sometimes scheduled and sometimes by surprise. In addition, we are visited by your child’s CASA worker and the director makes occasional visits as well to inspect our home. We do not enjoy all of that. I mean, who really enjoys having government social workers in their home regularly?
            Again, the love of Jesus for us and my love for him is what compels me to take children I do not know into my home for foster care. It reminds me of the Gospel. When I was down and out and lost in my sin, Jesus Christ rescued me and brought me into his family as his own child. He will do the same for you if you will turn towards him by faith, acknowledging Him as lord and receiving Him as Savior.

2. I am not your enemy. In fact, I hope you will consider me both a friend and a partner. I am not trying to replace you. In fact, I talk about you often to your child and when I do I speak positively.
            Chances are you are angry at several people. Whether your anger is justified or not I do not know, but it is not justified towards me. You see, I am a volunteer. Because of the love of Christ, I went through the burdensome process of becoming a foster parent. I did not select your child. I was called to see if I could take your child in and I agreed to do so. When the social worker called and gave me a brief description of your child, I was torn between the knowledge of the extra responsibility that I would be taking on and the reality that this child needed someone to love him during this time in which his world has been torn apart. So, I decided to let that someone be me.
3. I love your child and you. I really try my best, by God’s grace, to love your child as my own. Because of the love of Jesus, I loved your child before I ever met him. At first, he was skeptical of me. He did not know who I was, but found himself suddenly in the home of a stranger. But, just as my love for him has increased more and more, he has discovered that I really care about him and he loves me too. I have tried to make life as normal as possible for him. In addition to making sure that all of his physical needs are met, I try to make sure that he knows he is safe and loved. Over time, we have become pretty good friends.
            Because of the love of Christ, I also love you. I hope that even through the awkwardness of our relationship we can become friends. It would be nice to be able to have such a relationship that you could trust that I am going to provide the best care possible to your child and I could trust that you are going to respect the position which I have been placed into as a foster parent.

4. Foster care is not my life. That simply means that I have a life that extends well beyond foster care. In fact, I have my own family. We are often very busy just doing life. As a part of my family, temporarily, your child will also be included in our family activities and will be living according to our schedule. I believe that constant communication with you is very important as it keeps you informed about what is going on in your child’s life. But please do not abuse that. I have to put boundaries in place to protect my family and our time. I do ask that you respect those boundaries.

5. I want you to succeed. I believe that the best place for a child to be is with his parents. I want your child to be reunited to you. I do hope that can happen. It is not my goal to keep your child permanently. You have some things to accomplish before reunification will be possible. I want to see you succeed at that. I do hope that you will work towards fulfilling the goals of the case plan laid out for you. By God’s grace, you can do it. You have been told what you need to do to get your child back. It is up to you to get it done. I know that some of it will not be easy. Some of it you might even consider to be unfair, but when I look into your child’s sweet eyes I know that he is worth your best effort. I will be in your corner cheering for you and hoping that you make it to the finish line. I will pray for you, that God give you strength to make it and that ultimately, you find in Christ the true victory you need.

Your child's foster parent

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pain, Snow, & a Ladybug

            Some of the sweetest fellowship we have with our Lord comes in times when we are hurting the most. Our Father is loving and compassionate and certainly does not leave nor forsake us when we hurt. Instead, He is right there to hold us and comfort us. 

            A couple of years ago, my wife and I experienced a particularly rough season. We were praying about whether or not we should adopt again. It was then that my wife became pregnant. We were excited and began to make appointments with a doctor. Shortly into the pregnancy my wife miscarried. That was tremendously painful. It was very deep and very personal. We had suffered the loss of a baby. I cannot remember ever watching my wife grieve so deeply. We had a ton of questions for God. We did not understand why. God seemed distant. Since we could not, in that moment, sense God’s presence we began to recall what we knew to be true about Him. We knew that he promised to never leave nor forsake us. We knew that He promised nothing could separate us from His love and that He causes all things to work together for the good of conforming us to be more like Jesus. Reminding ourselves of who He is, through His Word, helped us in those moments when the pain created a fog around our hearts and we could not sense Him. 

            We healed a bit and shortly thereafter my wife became pregnant again. Again, we made appointments with a doctor. We were certainly a lot more fearful with this pregnancy. Only a couple of months had passed since the miscarriage. However, we started making plans, thinking about names, a boy name and a girl name. We couldn’t help but walk through the baby section of stores and talk about what we liked. Then, it happened! Another miscarriage! Again, we were wading through what seemed to be an abyss of hurt and confusion. All of the pain from losing the first baby was so fresh and now it was compounded with grief of losing a second baby. These were our children, and though we had not seen them we loved them. Again, even though some days we did not want to, we reminded ourselves of who God is and of His promises. 

            On one of those days, it was snowing outside, a rare Georgia snow storm. My grieving wife was looking out the window at the snow. Suddenly, a bug landed on her. My wife would normally scream and swat a bug. But this was a lady bug, a lone lady bug. I guess all of her friends and taken cover for the winter. This one was certainly out of place. It was then that my wife heard from God. He reminded her again that He was there, that He had not gone anywhere. He reminded her afresh of His unfailing love for her. He reminded her that he wants her to run to Him, to draw near to Him. Like that little lady bug, he had not left but was right there in the storm. God sending that little lady bug was the beginning of tremendous healing for my wife and I.

            I thought about that this week during our recent snow storm. Especially, as I stood outside and watched my wife play with our little girl (our youngest child by adoption). Lydia’s name is filled with significance. Her middle name is Hope. It is a reminder that the Lord Himself is our hope, even when we feel hopeless. Her first name, of course, came from the Bible. Most of the time, however, we don’t call her Lydia. We call her Lydie-Bug. Yep, she is our lady bug. She reminds us of God’s faithfulness during the storms. And it was a glorious moment with the Father this week as I watched my wife and our Lydie-Bug laugh as they sled down the hill in our yard. He is good, folks!